On December 6, 1888, the movement (that had begun in 1886 at a summer conference in Mt. Hermon, Massachusetts, under the direction of D. L. Moody) was officially organized in New York City under the name Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions. A fivefold purpose was developed:
To lead students to a thorough consideration of the claims of foreign missions upon them personally as a lifework; to foster this purpose by guiding students who become volunteers in their study and activity for missions until they come under the immediate direction of the Mission Boards; to unite all volunteers in a common, organized, aggressive movement; to secure a sufficient number of well-qualified volunteers to meet the demands of the various Mission Boards; and to create and maintain an intelligent sympathetic and active interest in foreign missions on the part of students who are to remain at home in order to ensure the strong backing of the missionary enterprise by their advocacy, their gifts and their prayers [John R. Mott, Five Decades and a Forward View, Harper and Brothers, 1939, p. 8].
The slogan “The Evangelization of the World in This Generation” became the great watchword of the SVM. This was misunderstood by some, notably Gustav Warneck, the German historian-theologian of mission, who thought it was an arrogant statement that all the world would be Christianized. It was branded as superficial and naïve. However, W. R. Hogg has correctly placed it in perspective as follows:
The majority of its detractors (most of them Continentals) apparently failed to grasp its true meaning. It did not prophesy nor suggest as possible the conversion of the world in this generation.… The overwhelming majority of students to whom it was meaningful ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more