At certain times during the Christian era, social, spiritual, and political forces have converged to create an environment primed for a revival. Such an alignment occurred exactly 150 years ago—seemingly a most unlikely time for God to do a new thing.

In Britain, Queen Victoria ruled over a vast bureaucratic Empire, but even outside the British sphere of influence, the Victorian Age was characterized by a love of orderliness and a sense of upper-class Anglo-Saxon superiority—what Rudyard Kipling infamously labeled "the white man's burden." Notably, it was also the time of the industrial revolution: a birth of factories and mass production. Their era's prosperous, mechanizing mood affected not only the way Victorians treated their servants and made their furniture, but also the way they preached the Gospel.

That is, until 1854. In that year, three men launched ministries that would shake their comfortable churches to the core.

Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)

The first rule of medicine is that a doctor should do his patient no harm. It might equally be said that the first rule of evangelism is that anyone preaching the Gospel should not condemn his listeners. What the pioneering missionary Hudson Taylor found upon arriving in China in 1854, however, was that the Western missionaries who had preceded him openly disdained and criticized their Chinese flock. His response changed missions then and now.

When the Taiping Rebellion broke out in 1851, its leaders claiming to embrace Christianity, Western mission societies had jumped at the chance to enter the country with the blessings of a new regime. Taylor, the son of a Methodist preacher, joined the rush, landing in Shanghai just before his 22nd birthday.

Once ...

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