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For many of our contemporaries, no one sums up missionaries of an earlier era like Nathan Price. The patriarch in Barbara Kingsolver's 1998 novel, The Poisonwood Bible, Price tries to baptize new Congolese Christians in a river filled with crocodiles. ...

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Lewis Archer

February 15, 2014  8:29am

Thank you for a wonderful article. I've served as a missionary and heard here in the States from those who denigrate the contributions of those who have served. It is great to find work validating what I've seen with my own eyes.

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Mark Taylor

February 14, 2014  11:36am

I was fascinated to see that Woodberry's PhD adviser cautioned him that he was pursuing a topic that would be very unpopular in the academ world. How ironic that the secular academy--which purports to strive for objective truth--would be offended by a research project that might paint a picture at odds with the academy's own preconceived anti-missionary ideas.

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Evelyn Sims

January 30, 2014  4:48pm

Thankyou for your thoughts re 'conversionary Protestantism' Salaam, we need the same in our western churches too, political correctness has watered down the clear clarion call to salvation. E Staley Jones said 'we cannot grow in Christ until we are in Christ', and more than ever, we need to hear the 'how to' as well as the 'what' of the Gospel.

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audrey ruth

January 29, 2014  9:19pm

I've read a good bit of info in recent years telling how strongly South Americans have received the preaching of God's Word by Bible-believing Christians. As I understand it, these are not primarily foreign missionaries, but are S. A. people who have received the Gospel, then in turn have taken the Gospel to their people. I do know some North American men who were born in S. A. to Christian missionary parents, and they have told of the fruitful work their parents were able to do, leading many people to the Lord - that work continues today, led mostly by the people to whom they ministered. Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, and three other young men went to Ecuador as missionaries in the 1950s, were martyred there, then their wives shocked the world by staying on to continue the ministry they had begun. That entire Auca tribe was changed when they received the Gospel.

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Betty Lewis

January 29, 2014  4:33pm

I would be interested in seeing information about Latin America. Even though most of the countries were (and continue to be) officially Roman Catholic, they have always had Protestant missionaries.

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audrey ruth

January 29, 2014  2:24pm

It has become politically correct to throw around the word "colonialism" and equate it with missionary work, i.e. the Great Commission. *However*, if one actually READS the Great Commission (the last couple verses of Matthew 28; Acts 1:8, etc), he will see that Jesus' command to take the Gospel to the whole world has NOTHING to do with colonialism, period. Instead, the Great Commission is for the purpose of giving EVERY person on the face of the earth the opportunity to hear the Gospel that they might know who Christ Jesus is, that they might be delivered out of death and darkness into His marvelous Light, that they might choose Life and avoid eternal destruction, living a life of spiritual abundance from now throughout eternity. "God is not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance."

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audrey ruth

January 29, 2014  2:23pm

In Billy Graham's autobiography, Just As I Am, he says that one of the major regrets of his life was of a day he played golf with John F. Kennedy. As they rode together, JFK asked him a serious question about life, and Billy Graham failed to adequately answer him from God's Word. Not long after that, JFK was assassinated. I think it is wonderful that Billy Graham was given a unique opportunity to speak the truth of God's Word to many political leaders - not just Americans, but leaders of other nations as well. How desperately they NEED to hear and respond to God's Holy Word! How desperately the people under them NEED humble leaders who will bow and seek God's wisdom because they realize how desperately they need the Lord's guidance!

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Salaam Corniche

January 29, 2014  1:53am

Thank you CT for publishing this challenging article. It strikes me that Dr. Woodberry used the phrase "conversionary Protestantism" as the underpinnings for his research. That is to say, he is not afraid of linking the call to conversion with the leaving of an old creation, an old way of life, an old religion, and old thinking constructs into the new. This flies in the face of some contemporary mission "gurus" who like to do some fancy tap dancing and suggest that conversion put on the shelf as an option, if at all. Thanks to Dr. Woodberry's alignment to scripture in this point. "....they turned from dead idols to the living God..." Shalom

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Gordon Battaliou

January 28, 2014  9:36am

CT reported in March, 2011 that Billy Graham said he regretted having become involved in politics at some stages during his career. He said he would not do it again , if he had his time over.

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R Marsh

January 28, 2014  8:16am

It's a real stretch to call Trevor Huddleston a Protestant - he was Anglo catholic and why did one of the most oppressive and racist regimes arise in Sth Africa where Protestant missionaries were active? Speaking from an Australian perspective the dreadful state of many Aboriginal people cannot be blamed on missionaries but neither could it be argued that missionaries have caused a rise in the fortunes of Aboriginal people. The USA's own history with native peoples rights and black rights appears not to fit the theory either.

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S Wesley Mcgranor

January 27, 2014  9:49pm

This article is based upon horrible postmodern deconstruction and also the American myth. The Great Commission was supremely exemplified in British colonialism. There is no more a shining steward in history then this.

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kj adams

January 27, 2014  6:52pm

Disciple Nations Alliance has written extensively on this subject, as has Francis Schaeffer way back in the 1970s. I thought this article and Bob Woodberry's work were great, but DNA has been trying to advance this school of thought among missionaries and sending churches for several decades. If anyone is interested in how to approach this goal from a very practical standpoint, I would suggest Disciple Nations Alliance and Darrow Miller's work.

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R KRUSE

January 27, 2014  11:53am

As the son of colonial era missionaries from the UK to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in the late 1940's to early 1970's I am so encouraged by this article. My parents did not get everything right and it's easy to be critical in hindsight but they did a great deal of good with great sacrifice. To have what I experienced confirmed by research is thrilling, to say the least.

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J G

January 27, 2014  10:13am

A great story of valuable, paradigm-shifting research. But CT, why did your cover story subtitle say "They were also the greatest force for modern democracy"? The article had much more to say about a modern liberal society: education, equal rights, rule of law, etc. These things can be absent in a democracy (witness India), so equating them with democracy is misleading. As for "greatest force", the research showed that the effect passed the text not just for association but causation also, but it did not prove "greatest". CT, watch your over-eagerness. And while these accomplishments are laudable, I thought missionaries are to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not western style liberal society.

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Gordon Battaliou

January 26, 2014  3:23pm

Missionaries can cause more trouble than good when they become diverted from their task of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, to becoming involved in local and regional politics. This is what happened to John Mackenzie in Botswana with the Khama dynasty. Had Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland come into political union with South Africa in 1910 , they would not have remained so backward in social and economic development as they did under British Protectorate political status. Their schools, clinics, communications, etc. were appalling in comparison with that provided in South Africa . The missionaries overstayed their welcome in these poverty stricken states, with the result that the Gospel never became indigenous and well established there. Colonial missionaries, like David Livingstone, played little part in developing a genuine church among the local tribes. The Apostle Paul preached Jesus Christ , and then moved on to let the Gospel take root among the natives.

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Daniel Devadatta

January 26, 2014  7:22am

Great piece. Woodberry's father (Dudley) was my professor at RBC; before he moved to Fuller. Speaking from an Indian context; this is right on. Dr. Ida Schudder, an example of an American missionary, started the Christian Medical College Hospital and College, Vellore. My grand-pa taught there for close to 40 years and I was born there, incidentally. The influence this one institution has had on health care in India is phenomenal. It is a premier hospital for care (consults the Indian government to this day) and most desired institution for training. In 2010 I personally spent two months in training. I was housed at the very place she started (an old British East India Company building). She started with one bed in that building caring for patients; mostly discarded sick women. Today, CMCH has 6,500 day patients treated; along with thousands of patients in the residential departments. Anybody who looks at health care in India would use CMCH as an example & model.

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Paul Richardson

January 25, 2014  4:44pm

As an American “change agent” living in Southeast Asia who is involved in an organization that builds Christian schools and trains up national teachers in Southeast Asia and India, this article was a pleasure to read, all the way up to the concluding sentence, “Woodberry would temper our triumphalism, to be sure, reminding us that all these positive outcomes were somewhat unintended…” Why does the writer assume that missionaries in the past blindly stumbled into these far reaching outcomes? This statement just plays into the continued widespread stereotype of stupid missionaries. Could it be possible that many of the missionaries of past generations were strategic thinkers, long term planners, who cared for people holistically, who started schools and launched mass literacy programs with a careful eye toward not only personal, but societal outcomes that they knew would only be seen generations down the road? www.mustardseed.org

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Benjamin Starr Paul

January 25, 2014  4:00pm

Thanks for the article. I am the grandson of William Paul Sr. a Tlingit man who was headed for the ministry until God made him a lawyer. Some of his accomplishments are documented on Wikipedia, and in the documentary "The Land Is Ours", 1997, recently pub. "The Alaska Tlingit, Where Did we Come from" and other mss yet unpublished. (I'm working on it). William Paul was largely the product of Presb. missionaries like Sheldon Jackson and many others. He went to Carlisle Indian School, and Whitworth Coll. 1908. Some call him the father of the ANB and the Alaska Native Claims Act of 1971, the largest peaceful redistribution of wealth in the history of mankind. I have many Native friends from many tribes, and I often hear missionary bashing. But not so much from the Tlingit of SE AK. The good brought to the Tlingit and Haida and Tsimshian people by missionaries is undeniable if one just takes the time to learn the history, and if it gets properly recorded and taught. Ben Paul, KunuXnusti

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Stanley Armes

January 25, 2014  12:53pm

I agree with the main theses of this article. I sympathize with David Thomas' comments above. Missionaries, like anyone are sinners saved by grace alone. They were imperfect but they had a tremendous love for the Gospel and Jesus. Some had improper motives and reasons for going to the field. I would say for the most part this article has to do with those missionaries who went for the proper reasons. Not for greed or exploitation. I speak from experience, We have been missionaries in Africa since 1977, recently retired. My parents missionaries in Africa from 1951- 1983, My grandparents in Korea 1922-1945. None of these people were perfect but they did have a tremendous love for Jesus. From these 3 families alone we can confirm the main thesis of this article. I could also give many examples of other families as well.

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John Mulholland

January 25, 2014  9:21am

"Arthur Davis, serving with his wife Tamie in Dodoma, Tanzania, as a missionary to university students, has some doubts and questions about Woodberry's work, and still more the triumphalist tone in this report about that work. Says Davis, one must not make Woodberry's study "... a catch-all statement about the nature or value of Western missionary movements." See Davis' essay, "4 dead-end ideas ...." at the following link. http://meetjesusatuni.com/2014/01/25/4-dead-end-ideas-after-reading- the-missionary-roots-of-liberal-democracy/

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