At the time of William Carey, there were probably only a few hundred Protestant missionaries in the world. They never numbered more than a few thousand during the following decades. By 1900, even after a second burst of Protestant missions, there were only 15,000 European and American Protestant missionaries throughout the world. Those who went had short careers; many died within the first two years on the field. Thus the numbers remained quite small.

But the magnitude of the modern missions movement must not be measured by the number of missionaries. It must be measured by the growth of the church.

In 1800, perhaps 1 percent of Protestant Christians lived in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. By 1900, this number had grown to 10 percent. Today, at least 67 percent of all active Protestant Christians live in countries once considered foreign mission fields. And the church is still growing rapidly, even explosively, in many areas—Korea, sub-Saharan Africa, Singapore, and the Peoples’ Republic of China.

Consider this remarkable turnaround. Only 200 years ago, Protestant Christianity was almost exclusively Western. Now Protestants are strongest in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. From a Christian standpoint, the modern missionary movement has turned the world upside down.

What caused this movement? Why did it start?

Powerful Pietists

The first European Protestant missionaries to Asia landed in India almost a century before Carey. Bartholomew Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plütschau were Pietists from the University of Halle (in Germany) who went to the Danish colony of Tranquebar in India in 1706. More than fifty Pietist missionaries from Germany followed them to India during that century.

Pietism also influenced the young Count Nikolaus Ludwig ...

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