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Restoring the “Pure Gospel” to Europe: Mission Efforts of Churches of Christ in Europe Following World War II

Many religious bodies anticipated that the end of World War II would present unprecedented missions opportunities. Leaders in Churches of Christ also recognized the opportunity for mission work in the war-ravaged nations of Europe, and this brought about a dramatic and exciting shift in their missions efforts. This article highlights some of the initial church planting efforts in Europe undertaken by missionaries from Churches of Christ during the postwar period and then focuses on the missionaries’ expectations and attitudes, the motivations that propelled their work, and the preparation, strategy, and methods employed by these missionaries.

Even before World War II ended, religious bodies in the United States and beyond knew that the war’s conclusion would present unprecedented missions opportunities. Baptist military chaplain Dudley T. Pomeroy wrote, “The greatest opportunity in Christian Missionary History will be presented to the Church with the Coming of V-Day. . . . Just as American Industry has led the world at war, American Christians must take the lead in Christian Enterprizes [sic] in the post-war world.”1 By October 1946, various denominations had raised or were in the process of raising millions of dollars for missions and physical relief in the wake of the war.2 In July 1947, the International Missionary Council hosted a missionary conference in Whitby, Ontario, that was attended by over one hundred representatives of forty nations “to discuss the Christian World Missions in the light of post-war realities,” inspiring Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor H. C. Goerner to proclaim that the world had entered a “New Day for Christian Missions.”3 Unsurprisingly, Churches of Christ4 also recognized and responded to the new opportunities.

Prior to World War II, Churches of Christ had been involved in limited ways in foreign missions, primarily with a few missionaries working in what would have been considered “pagan” areas (Africa or Asia) of the world.5 World War II brought a dramatic and exciting shift in mission work in Churches of Christ, as church leaders quickly recognized the opportunity for mission work in the war-ravaged nations of Europe. As with other faith fellowships,6 members of Churches of Christ who had served in the armed forces in Europe returned with reports of the great need in Europe for missionaries. One young soldier wrote back, “Germany needs the gospel about as much as any other place that I have been. . . . In my last talk with a German whom I know he said, ‘You need to send good Christian soldiers over to help us.’ ”7 Harold Paden, who had served in the Tenth Mountain Division fighting in Italy during the war, recalled, “It took time and the experiences of WWII for God to get my attention and make me understand His need for me in Italy. . . . Who would go teach the Italians?”8 Optimism ran high regarding such opportunities. L. R. Wilson wrote, “Today the opportunities for spreading the gospel are greater than at any time in our past history. As a result of the many contacts which have been made and our increased methods of transportation and communication, we now have the opportunities of carrying the gospel to every nook and corner of the earth, which would have been exceedingly difficult before the war.”9 Churches of Christ mobilized for the challenge of taking the gospel to Europe. Less than five years after the close of the war, missionaries from Churches of Christ had established churches in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and France.10

This article highlights some of the initial church planting efforts in Europe undertaken by American missionaries11 from Churches of Christ during the postwar period before focusing on three major components of this flurry of missionary activity: (1) the missionaries’ expectations and attitudes; (2) the motivations that propelled the work; (3) the preparation, strategy, and methods employed by the missionaries.

Initial Church Planting Efforts

The Netherlands was the first nation in Europe that Churches of Christ entered after the war. In the summer of 1946, seventy-one-year-old Jacob C. Vandervis and Bill L. and Bonnie Phillips arrived in Holland and began their work.12 It was almost a year before they had their first converts, establishing the first congregation in Haarlem. Converts in Amsterdam had traveled to Haarlem for worship on Sundays, and the first family to be baptized was the H. Bakvis family, residents of Amsterdam. The Bakvis family hosted weekly Bible studies in their home, leading to the baptisms of four others and the establishment of a congregation in Amsterdam. By 1950 the missionaries reported twenty-eight members in two congregations.13

Switzerland was not initially targeted for mission work by Churches of Christ. Rather, missionaries planning to work in Germany would first go to Zurich to await permission to enter Germany. Under the leadership of Delmar Bunn, who had arrived in Switzerland in the summer of 1946, they rented a room for worship services, hosted an evangelistic campaign and weekly Bible studies, and were able to establish a small church with the first conversion in 1948.14

Before the arrival of full-time missionaries in Germany, US military personnel had begun a congregation in Munich and baptized about fifty Germans. However, according to Bob Hare, the vast majority fell away “because they were converted to loaves and fishes instead of to Christ and because of inadequate teaching.”15 The most well-known pioneer of mission work in Europe from Churches of Christ was Otis Gatewood (1911–1999). In June 1945, the elders and deacons of the Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas, met with Gatewood and his wife, Alma, and decided to send them to (West) Germany as missionaries. On June 17, 1946, Gatewood and Paul Sherrod, one of the leaders of the Broadway church, left the United States to conduct a two-month survey trip to several European countries, ultimately choosing Frankfurt, Germany, as the city where the work would begin. On May 16, 1947, the Gatewoods and Roy and Jaxie Palmer left the United States to begin mission work in Germany. Lieutenant General Lucius Clay had permitted two missionaries from Churches of Christ to enter Germany for permanent mission work; these were the first permits granted to any American religious group to send missionaries into Germany. Leaving their families behind in Zurich, Gatewood and Palmer entered Germany on June 6, 1947. They immediately secured a hall for worship services, and on the first Sunday, June 15, twenty-two people came for the English worship service, thirteen of whom were Germans. In late 1947, additional permits were granted, and Gatewood and Palmer were soon joined by their families, the Loyd Colliers, Bunn, Herman Ziegert, and Kathryn Patton. The work grew steadily, and in 1950 Churches of Christ in Germany claimed over one thousand members in nine congregations.16

The initial catalyst for beginning work in Italy was Harold Paden and his experience serving in Italy during the war. Harold convinced his brother Cline of the need, and together they began planning for their mission work.17 In 1947 and 1948, Cline Paden and Bill Hatcher took a six-week survey trip to Italy, visiting Genoa, Milan, Rome, Naples, and other cities. As a result of that trip, interested individuals selected Rome as the city where the mission work should begin.18 In 1948, Gordon Linscott, who had also fought in Italy and spoke Italian, and his wife, Peggy, arrived in Italy to begin the work and to prepare for the arrival of others.19 In January 1949, a team consisting of Cline and Jo Paden, Harold and Bettye Paden, Wyndal Hudson, Bill and Peggy Hatcher, Jack and Rosetta McPherson, K. D. (Dale) and Tillie Pittman, and Joe R. Chisholm sailed from New York to join the Linscotts in Frascati, about twelve miles southeast of Rome.20 The group rejoiced in the first baptisms by March; by June, the Frascati church had over fifty members.21 In 1950, Carl Mitchell and Howard Bybee joined the work in Milan.22 Despite various forms of opposition and persecution ranging from heckling, slander, assaults, stonings, attempted bombings, legal threats, and imprisonment, the missionaries soon established congregations in Rome, Milan, Florence, and several other cities.23 In Frascati, the missionaries established an orphans’ home “not only to care for homeless youngsters but ultimately to develop gospel preachers.”24 By 1950 these efforts had resulted in over two hundred converts.25

Yvonne Noel was the first convert in Belgium.26 Through her work and the efforts of Jacob Vandervis, who would travel from Holland, at least sixteen Belgians had been converted before the first full-time missionaries, S. F. Timmerman Jr. and his wife Maxine, arrived on September 19, 1948.27 Noel assisted Timmerman in the early days, and though she eventually fell away, Timmerman credited God with using her to begin the work in Belgium.28 After preaching only his second sermon, Timmerman baptized his first convert in Pepinster on September 26.29 Timmerman also discovered about twelve Polish people who designated themselves as the “Church of Jesus Christ.” After ascertaining their beliefs, Timmerman invited the Poles to be united with his Belgian body of believers, and the Poles accepted.30 By 1950, Timmerman reported congregations meeting in Pepinster, Liege, and Verviers. Eventually, the Timmermans also started a congregation in Brussels.31

As in Germany, US military personnel in France started some temporary English-speaking congregations during the war years, but no permanent congregations were established until the postwar arrival of full-time missionaries.32 The first missionaries to France from Churches of Christ were Melvin Anderson and Maurice Hall and their families, arriving in Paris in November 1949. Hall had served as a captain in the army in the occupation zone of Germany and had been influenced by the work of Gatewood and Palmer in Frankfurt. He had also visited France during his military service.33 Several Christians studying or working in Paris agreed to assist the missionaries in the early phases of the work.34 Within a week of their arrival, the missionaries began worship services in homes. For about six months, services were conducted in English until the missionaries learned French well enough to have services in French.35 One early breakthrough in France came in the summer of 1950, when the missionaries conducted several gospel meetings. Timmerman came from Belgium to conduct a revival in Paris, and a French Pentecostal evangelist named Hubert Knevals attended. After several discussions with him, the missionaries decided they agreed on the major doctrinal points, and Knevals consented to work with them, thus providing a boost to their early efforts. Three others were baptized at the conclusion of the meetings.36 By late 1950, the church in Paris reported nineteen conversions. In addition, Anderson was making regular preaching trips to northern France, where a few others were converted.37

Thus, by the end of 1950, the first congregations of Churches of Christ had been established in at least six nations—the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, (West) Germany, and France. There were no fewer than twenty congregations and perhaps twelve hundred or more members.38 The bulk of these were in Germany.

Expectations and Attitudes

The sense of optimism that characterized the United States following the victories of World War II was shared by Churches of Christ, and this optimism was reflected in the expectations regarding the new mission efforts to Europe.39 Though occasionally tempered by the realization that things might not go as well as expected,40 in general, the missionaries and their supporters had high goals and grand visions of what they believed could be accomplished in Europe. They were not simply thinking about quick successes but imagined what results their efforts could bring over the years. “I began to visualize Germany as we hope it to be ten to fifty years from now,” wrote Kathryn Patton in a letter from Frankfurt.41 Paul Sherrod predicted “that the church is on the eve of a globe-encircling expansion, perhaps as great as any time in history” and suggested that it was “not unreasonable to work and expect to have several thousand missionaries out supported by churches in America.”42 B. Sherrod anticipated, “When we get to Europe, I hope we can get churches started and have 1,000 to 2,000 members, and they will be strong enough to start their own mission work.”43

Each missionary saw his or her particular field as one in which great things would be accomplished. The elders of the Sherman Street congregation in Denver, Colorado, wrote of the work in Belgium, “We think that there is no field in the world today that offers a richer opportunity for preaching the gospel than the little nation of Belgium.”44 Expectations were especially high for Germany and Italy. Of Germany, Carl Spain wrote, “The Lord is adding to the church daily such as are being saved, and the situation promises to be very much like it was in Jerusalem in the time of Paul.”45 Almost from the start, missionaries in Germany planned to build an auditorium that could seat between five hundred and a thousand people. Gatewood said, “We are greatly worried because we are nearing the seating capacity of the largest auditorium available to us in the city. . . . The greatest problem is the erection of a church building.”46 Gatewood also stated, “We believe that before many years have passed Frankfurt, Germany, will not only be a radiating center for the gospel in Germany, but into other parts of Europe and the world.”47 Cline Paden articulated the expectations for the work starting in Italy in a front-page headline in the August 30, 1950 issue of the Christian Chronicle: “Prospects of Becoming Largest Non-Catholic Group in Italy in the Next Ten Years Not Unlikely.” Just two weeks earlier, Carl Mitchell said he believed “there can be a church of several hundred here in two or three years’ time.”48 Those who ran the orphans’ home in Frascati believed there would be “no limit to the growth of the church of Christ in Italy when these boys leave” the home.49

These lofty expectations were intimately related to the ideals of Churches of Christ as a restoration of the New Testament Church. The movement’s historical tension between the plea for unity and the plea to restore “the ancient order of things” can be seen in the writings of the missionaries to Europe.50 These missionaries expressed interest in establishing unity with other religious groups in Europe and actively sought out groups with whom they might join forces, but they gave greater emphasis to the restoration ideal. Thus, unity could only be achieved when these groups accepted the missionaries’ concept of truth. Missionaries in France discovered an indigenous group in Strasburg, whom Maurice Hall described as “very close to the truth in most points of doctrine and life.” They referred to themselves simply as “Christians” and desired “to restore the church of Christ.” However, he was concerned that they differed from American Churches of Christ “mainly in the matter of music and the Lord’s Supper.” In addition, the missionaries found it necessary to teach the Strasburg group their understanding of baptism by immersion.51 The missionaries and the French evangelist Hubert Knevals disagreed on “one or two minor points,” but when the Frenchman accepted the American position, the Americans accepted him as a coworker.52

Regarding Timmerman’s discovery of the Polish group in Liege, Belgium, he discovered that “they were opposed to all forms of sectarianism, that they believe in holding conscientiously to the Scriptures, that they teach and practice the truth on baptism, that they hold no particular notions regarding the Holy Spirit and his work, that they follow a simple New Testament pattern of worship, etc.” He went on to report that “there was only one point on which their former practice and the New Testament did not agree.” The Polish believers were not in the practice of celebrating the Lord’s Supper each first day of the week. When they accepted Timmerman’s understanding of weekly communion, unity was achieved.53 The missionaries in Italy denied reports that they were fellowshipping a conservative group of Italian “Brethren,” pointing out that the “group’s use of instrumental music in worship and other denominational forms . . . made it impossible to fellowship them.” They did express hope, however, that they could “bring these people in line with New Testament doctrine and practice.”54 Regarding “restorationist” type groups in Germany and elsewhere, Bob Hare cautioned, “By far the majority of the groups whom we have contacted . . . have proven to be of little value as far as being able to lead them to the truth is concerned.”55

If the efforts toward Christian unity were limited, the efforts toward restoring New Testament Christianity in Europe were front and center. Roy Palmer declared, “It is our purpose to plant the plea for a restoration of New Testament Christianity firmly and steadfastly in Germany.”56 In the view of the first missionaries to Italy, the church had fallen into apostasy at Rome, and Churches of Christ now had the opportunity to bring a restored church in all its purity back to Rome and the rest of Europe. Bill Hatcher claimed that in “about the year 325 A.D., the Roman Catholic Church reared its ugly head in Italy and the apostacy [sic] from the truth of Jesus Christ began.” He was convinced that Italy was “desolate as far as a known member of the body of Christ is concerned” and believed that if missionaries preached the same gospel in Italy that Paul had preached, missionaries would “reap the same harvest today—simple New Testament Christians, and churches of Christ.”57 Cline Paden suggested that “shortly after the days of the Apostles, Italy had known nothing but Catholicism,” but “now for the first time since the Apostasy is an effort being made to bring the Church back to the very scene of its departure.”58 He wrote of the vision, “We believe that it is fitting and proper that we start in the very place where the church had its falling away,” and he spoke of plans to convert a “family to simple New Testament Christianity.”59 Otis Gatewood issued the challenge for evangelizing Italy, “Here we go, Brethren, into a country that has resisted the reformation movement and has not come in contact with the restoration movement.”60 He also wrote, “Here in our generation the pure gospel of Christ was returning to a nation that had heard the preaching of the apostles.”61 While sailing for Paris, Hall wrote that he and Anderson were about “to become the first preachers of the simple gospel to that land in nearly two thousand years.”62

Closely related to the restoration plea was the emphasis on maintaining doctrinal purity.63 At the first Lubbock Lectures, Robert Alexander insisted that the “first thing” that needed to be considered was that the work “must be done definitely in harmony with the New Testament pattern of teaching and practice” and that any missionary who “gets out of line with that pattern” should be called into account.64 One eldership reported that it would “take a fighting stand against any premillennialist or premillennialist sympathizer who would go to Belgium,” and the elders expected their missionary not to fellowship any coworker who might have premillennialist sympathies.65 At the second Lubbock Lectures, Roy Palmer insisted that “young men must be trained to preach the simple gospel of Christ in its purity.”66

Missionaries spoke of the “pure gospel of Christ”67 and “pure Christianity,”68 which was finally being brought to Europe, “where the church went into apostasy,”69 and where the fields were “fouled up with other false doctrines, but false religions have been uprooted.”70 Gatewood believed he and his co-workers were enjoying success in Germany because they were “teaching [the Germans] the Word of the Lord instead of the philosophies of men which they have been so accustomed to hearing in the churches.”71 The missionaries perceived Protestantism to be a poor substitute for what they were offering.72 Likewise, Gatewood expressed that many Italians who had rejected Roman Catholicism were prepared to accept “the truth.”73 Timmerman reported that a “very intelligent” young Yugoslav woman raised in a Catholic institution “came to see the abuses and errors of that religion and finally found the right way.”74 The common sentiment was expressed in statements that, in many places, one could “not find a single church of our Lord, nor one true member of His body.”75

Additionally, the missionaries evinced a strong anti-Catholic sentiment. Raymond Kenney suggested that in Germany, areas that were less influenced by Catholicism “might be more receptive of the Gospel.”76 Gatewood blamed Catholicism for ignorance and poverty and denounced it as a “corrupt institution.”77 Hatcher wrote of Roman Catholicism’s “rear[ing] its ugly head” and accused the Roman Catholic Church of “spread[ing] its erroneous doctrines abroad.”78 Linscott, who was involved in extensive relief work in Italy, considered relief work done by the Catholic Church to be no more than political stunts.79 Cline Paden referred to the “Catholic propaganda machine” that had built barriers against Protestantism,80 and he expressed his opinion that Catholics were “idol worshippers” who “seemed to worship mechanically.”81 He recommended, “Let us work and pray that Catholicism will not last for 36 more popes.”82 Of course, this attitude is not surprising. It was simply a reflection of the common attitudes of Churches of Christ (and Protestants in general) in America at the time.83 These attitudes were reinforced by the persecution the missionaries in Italy faced in the early years of their work.


We can identify at least several major ideas which either motivated missionaries and church leaders or which they used to motivate others to become missionaries in Europe in the period following World War II.

First and foremost, leaders and missionaries from Churches of Christ perceived the Great Commission as a command to be obeyed. Maurice Hall declared, “Jesus said for us to ‘Go’; we MUST go!”84 Bybee wrote, “I felt that foreign mission work was imperative because the Lord said to go into all the world.”85 Others pointed out that while Churches of Christ had emphasized the “baptizing and teaching” part of the Commission, they had not obeyed the “going into all the world” part, and the time had come to obey all of the Great Commission.86

These early missionaries to Europe truly believed the world was lost, and it was up to Churches of Christ to take the saving message of the gospel to the world. Hall called attention to “40,000,000 lost Frenchmen,”87 and Hatcher challenged, “Think of it, brethren, forty-five million people [in Italy] starving without the Bread of Life . . . [are] facing a never ending eternity.”88 Keith Coleman declared, “[O]ur mission is primarily to save souls.”89 Sherrod summarized the thinking: “There are perhaps two billion people in the world today eternally lost. . . . [T]hose who have not heard of Christ are lost and without hope in the world, and also Christ is depending on us to take the word to them.”90

Although it was always secondary to people’s spiritual needs,91 missionaries were motivated by the great physical needs of the people of Europe. Otis Gatewood called attention to the obligation of Christians “to bind up the wounds” of the German people: “Isn’t it the duty of the Christian to love his enemy; feed him when he is hungry; clothe him when he is naked?”92 Indeed, as discussed below, the missionaries were active in various forms of humanitarian work.

Sometimes shame and comparison to others were employed as motivating factors. According to Hatcher, “One of the greatest shames that will ever be brought against the body of our Lord is that we have made no greater effort to take the gospel into all the world as the Lord commanded us to do.” Churches of Christ had condemned Catholicism but had not “lifted our little finger to tell these people” about the true gospel.93 Hall referred to the warning of Ezekiel 33 about the watchman who failed to warn the people.94 Gatewood challenged his American brethren, “If they [Mormons] think that it is worthwhile to send 125 missionaries there, do we not love the people of Denmark enough to send two evangelists to teach them the Truth.”95 Sherrod exclaimed, “How puny have been our efforts to bring the gospel to the WHOLE world.” He pointed out that if members of the Churches of Christ were as zealous as Seventh Day Adventists, they would send thousands of missionaries to the fields.96 Gatewood warned, “Every denomination will be going and we’re going to have to compete with them.”97

The opportunity was immediate. People in Europe were in need, and they were apparently receptive to the message of the gospel. Writers sensed that Churches of Christ had never had such a wonderful opportunity in Europe, and it would probably never be repeated. Palmer suggested that the time presented “Our Greatest Opportunity.”98 Sherrod insisted that “the fields are white unto harvest. . . . When grain gets ripe, it may fall and be ruined if the harvest is delayed.” He continued, “The church may never again have such wonderful opportunities as now.”99 The idea was to strike while the iron was hot.

Although it is not often mentioned, Sherrod called attention to the motivation of God’s love for all: “Christ died for all—white man, red skin, yellow, black. . . . ‘But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Rom. 5:8).”100 Carl Mitchell mentioned love for lost souls as an important motivation and quoted Joe Gibbs, who insisted, “The very basic motivation was concern for, a love for lost souls.”101

An interesting motivation was that by bringing the gospel to Europe, the church could potentially prevent future wars and open a pathway to lasting peace. For example, Wilson suggested that “the best way to prevent [the conquered nations] from attempting war upon us in the future is to convert them to the Lord Jesus Christ. If we can make Christians out of any appreciable number in the next generation, it will go a long way towards cementing us together in love and brotherhood. . . . In no other way can we hope to put an end to carnal warfare.”102

Preparation, Strategy, and Methods

Up to the years immediately following World War II, little academic work in missiology had been done in Churches of Christ. Missionaries from Churches of Christ generally had little training in areas such as cultural adaptation or contextualization of a message.103 According to Phillip Elkins, “most of the efforts were made by men who had no experience in foreign missions, and practically no one had any special training to provide the guidance that was needed.”104 It would be easy to view early missionaries as well-meaning but naïve. One should remember, however, that in many ways, these missionaries were pioneers, and they were paving the way for others to follow.

Many of these early missionaries did, however, enroll in Christian colleges to receive at least some training; one would presume that most of this would have consisted of training in biblical studies, though several also studied languages. Furthermore, many of these missionaries had extensive training and experience in ministry and evangelism before going to the mission field. Hall, who had previously assisted with mission work in the Philippines in 1945, and Anderson studied at Abilene Christian College, where part of their education included the study of French.105 Cline Paden studied at Abilene Christian, and Harold Paden studied at Pepperdine, while Hatcher studied at both of those schools, plus Harding College. All three served as ministers in US churches before going to Italy.106 Bybee ministered in congregations in California and had spent six months studying the Italian language before his departure.107 Gatewood had begun preaching at the age of fifteen, had studied at Abilene Christian, and had been a church planting domestic missionary in New Mexico and Utah. After deciding to do mission work in Germany, he went to Pepperdine, accompanied by Jacob Vandervis, to prepare for preaching the gospel as a foreign missionary.

Interestingly, at Pepperdine, Gatewood also taught personal evangelism and mission work and was one of Hatcher’s teachers.108 Alma Gatewood studied at Harding, Abilene Christian, and the University of Colorado.109 Timmerman had been preaching regularly from the time he was seventeen years old, studied at Harding College (where there were no missions classes), and had helped establish a church in Oak Ridge, TN, where he served for four years prior to his becoming a missionary.110 Coleman graduated from Harding and then studied for three years at Wheaton, taking courses in Greek, Hebrew, German, and “courses which would help him meet modern unbelief.” He preached and did mission work for several congregations in Arkansas and Illinois before moving to Zurich to continue his study of the German language.111

In order to gain information about the situation in Europe, several people took survey trips to Europe to “spy out the land” and to discover receptive areas. As mentioned, Gatewood and Sherrod toured several countries, and Cline Paden and Bill Hatcher toured Italy.112 Bunn spent thirteen months in Zurich, “taking advantage of learning opportunities there.”113

Although Elkins has claimed that “Most [missions] spokesmen [for Churches of Christ] assumed that physical identification is unnecessary,”114 these early missionaries did recognize the importance of learning the languages of the people with whom they worked.115 The challenge, which came from Switzerland, was, “Who will choose Switzerland as a field and come soon to begin preparing for the language.”116 As mentioned previously, Floyd reported that upon arrival in Switzerland and “preparatory to entering mission work in Germany,” Coleman would spend time studying the German language. Floyd also noted that Coleman had already studied German at Wheaton College.117 Lucian Bagnetto (who later did work in Germany) pointed out how silly it would be for someone using broken English to try to convert an American and that the same principle applied in Europe.118 Of Germany, Raymond Kenney wrote, “In order to reach the German people . . . one would need . . . to master their language.”119 Gatewood reported in July 1947 that he and Palmer “spend several hours each day studying German.”120 Gatewood reported that before the missionaries in Germany could speak fluently, they would write their sermons in English and, after having them translated, they would read them in German.121 However, by 1950, several missionaries were considered “well gifted and experienced in speaking the German language.”122 In Italy, Wyndal Hudson was so determined to learn the language that he moved away by himself to the town of Perugia, where he lived with an Italian family.123 S. F. Timmerman, who became fluent in French, emphasized the importance of learning the languages of the country where one worked: “If you can’t speak people’s language, you can’t know what they think.”124

Thus, although training in missiology was lacking among the early missionaries to Europe, many did have significant educational training, often at Christian institutions of higher learning, ministerial experience, and commitment to language learning.

The strategy of the missionaries to Europe tended to include four major components: (1) securing a physical location for meetings and ministry;125 (2) providing humanitarian aid; (3) engaging in evangelistic methods of outreach; (4) nurturing new converts and preparing future leaders.126

The earliest missionaries from Churches of Christ to Europe were convinced that buildings were essential to launching and sustaining their work. Several workers even delayed their departure for Italy until property had been purchased because they felt “that it would be inadvisable to try to make a beginning there without a meeting place, and other facilities almost essential to a successful start.”127 One cannot peruse the journal articles of the time without being struck by the number of references to the need for buildings.128 In Paris, Hall and Anderson sold their cars so they could pay the lease on a building they were trying to secure.129 One of the first things the missionaries in Frankfurt did upon their arrival was to rent an auditorium that would seat two hundred people. In 1948, after reporting that in Frankfurt, the missionaries were now renting an auditorium that would seat about six hundred, Otis Gatewood announced that “[w]e have promises that we can start erecting a new church building before too long.”130 Actual construction on a building in Frankfurt began on May 15, 1950.131 It appears that to the missionaries of that time, it was almost inconceivable that any work could be successful without a building.132

Because of the physical devastation of Europe, humanitarian work was a natural component of ministry.133 The missionaries shared Gatewood’s conviction “that it was impossible for us to do the work that we should do unless we did something to help [the people of Europe]. It is hard to tell hungry people about the love of Jesus when you have plenty of food and do nothing to try to feed them.”134 American members of Churches of Christ responded to pleas for aid and sent thousands of packages of food and clothing to the missionaries, who then distributed them to the poor.135 In Italy and Germany, orphan homes for boys were established to provide places where homeless boys could live and be taught the gospel.136 Some missionaries adopted orphans themselves.137

Humanitarian work set the stage for proclaiming the gospel.138 Gatewood reported of the Germans, “They have seen Christianity in action, and now they are anxious to hear about it. Our work in teaching and preaching so that they might hear has begun.”139

The missionaries used a variety of evangelistic methods to make contacts and to lead people to conversion, including the following: inviting people, especially those who had received packages of food and clothing, to church services,140 visiting their religious neighbors’ worship services,141 talking to people on the streets and in their homes,142 conducting Bible classes for non-Christians,143 holding large evangelistic meetings,144 practicing hospitality,145 providing Sunday school for children between the ages of four and twelve years and conducting vacation Bible school,146 translating and passing out tracts and handbills,147 using correspondence courses,148 preaching over the radio,149 putting religious articles in newspapers and circulating their own newspapers,150 and going house to house or visiting people who had shown particular interest at the large meetings and conducting personal studies with them.151

Beyond mere conversion, the early missionaries to Europe recognized and addressed the need for nurturing new converts and training future leaders.152 They held regular classes for new converts to be grounded in the faith and allowed some of the young men who had been converted to help with the classes and with church services.153 In addition to basic principles of Christian faith and life, classes in Germany, for example, also addressed such topics as the work and qualification of the elders, giving, and the responsibilities of church work.154 The major purpose of the Frascati Orphans’ Home was to train Italian boys to become leaders in the “New Testament” church in Italy, and in fact, some of them did.155 In Germany, the missionaries began a visitation program to get acquainted with the new members and ascertain their spiritual or physical needs.156 They also started a Bible Training School in which students were instructed in Old Testament, New Testament, Greek, personal evangelism, church history, and English. Especially for boys, they initiated a three-week Bible training program in the mountains.157 According to Bob Hare, “the chief aim of [the Bible Training School] was to develop teachers, preachers, and leaders for the church.”158 In France, a formal “Bible School of Paris” was established.159 Unfortunately, in many cases, actual leadership was never effectively transferred to nationals.160

Perhaps one of the most disturbing practices for training new converts was sending them to the United States to attend one of the Christian colleges.161 This practice was widely accepted as “the proper way to strengthen the work” in the various churches.162 Based on reports from brethren who had visited Germany, Switzerland, and Holland, Robert Alexander stated, “One of the best things they can do, as quickly as they convert good men and women is send them back here to the U.S. where the Cause of Christ is strong and educate them so they can go back.”163 Otis Gatewood urged a group of boys in France to move to the United States to study. As early as 1948, three young Germans, Helmut Proconow, Fred Casmir, and Dieter Alten, had been selected to attend David Lipscomb College in Nashville.164 By 1950, the plan was to send the three back to Germany and to recruit at least one more to come to Lipscomb for training.165

Concluding Observations

The years immediately following World War II saw American Churches of Christ engage in a flurry of missionary activity in Europe. For the first missionaries, two of the strongest motivations for going were a sense of obligation to fulfill a command coupled with a deep conviction that Europeans needed the true gospel.166 Inspired to restore the “pure gospel” in lands that had not received it since the days of “the apostasy,” these first missionaries set out with a sense of expectant urgency. Although they knew little about modern missiology, these missionaries did have significant prior ministry experience and enjoyed remarkable early success. However, despite rich historical precedent for restorationist-type movements in Europe,167 the restoration plea, as articulated by early missionaries from Churches of Christ, lost traction in the following decades, and the work stagnated.168

Though the results of mission work by Churches of Christ in Europe have been mixed, it should be emphasized that the need for the gospel in Europe remains. According to D. A. Carson, “Europe is by far the ‘darkest’ continent, as measured by the percentage of the population without evangelical faith—certainly under 3 percent.”169

Allen Diles served twelve years as a church planting missionary in Prague, Czech Republic, and while there, completed the ThD in Church History/Historical Theology at Charles University (2005). Stateside, he has served as an elder in two congregations, and in 2018 Allen was part of a team that launched the Living Way Church of Christ in Searcy, AR, where he leads the missions ministry team. He has been teaching at Harding University since 2005 in the areas of Biblical Text, Missions, and Church History. He has published several scholarly articles and book reviews and is the author of Let Truth Prevail: An Introduction to European Christian Renewal Movements (ACU Press, 2021). He and his wife Laurie have two sons.

1 Dudley T. Pomeroy, “The Church Aggressive,” The Review and Expositor 42, no. 3 (1945): 294. Pomeroy served with General Patton’s Third Army during the latter phases of the war (290).

2 Methodists had raised $25 million, the Presbyterian Church, USA, was in the process of raising $27 million dollars, Northern Baptists were engaged in raising $14 million, Lutherans had set a goal of $10 million, Episcopalians of $8 million dollars, and Southern Baptists were raising over $3.5 million. See Cornell Goerner, “Saving the World to Save America,” The Review and Expositor 43, no. 4 (1946): 422.

3 H. C. Goerner, “The New Day for Christian Missions,” The Review and Expositor 46, no. 1 (1949): 13.

4 Historically, this fellowship of churches was intended to be non-denominational (or undenominational) “Christians only” who eschewed any denominational identifiers and often referred to themselves with a lower-case “c”—churches of Christ–to indicate that they were merely churches that belong to Christ. Modern scholarly convention, however, uses an upper-case “C” to identify this fellowship.

5 Phillip Wayne Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions: An Evaluation of Churches of Christ (Austin, TX: Firm Foundation, 1974), 94–96, lists 143 missionaries from Churches of Christ between 1886 and 1939. Of these, eighty-four worked in Asia, twenty-four worked in Africa, seven in South America, seventeen in Mexico, four in Hawaii, three in the Mediterranean, two in the Caribbean, and two in Europe. Cf. C. Philip Slate, Lest We Forget: Mini-Biographies of Missionaries from a Bygone Generation (Winona, MS: J. C. Choate Publications, 2010). Of the seventy-one missionaries discussed by Slate, forty-three worked in Asia, eighteen in Africa, six in South America, and four in Hawaii.

6 See, e.g., the story of the Presbyterian Navy chaplain Robert P. Evans in Allen V. Koop, American Evangelical Missionaries in France 1945–1975 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1986), 1–2, 7.

7 Raymond J. Kenny, “Germany as a Field for the Gospel,” Missionary Messenger 24 (1947): 5, 6; emphasis original.

8 Quoted in Carl Mitchell, “Italy: Fifty Years of Progress (1949–1999),” n.d., unpublished manuscript in the author’s possession. A copy of the manuscript may be found in the missions files housed in the Center for World Missions at Harding University.

9 L. R. Wilson, “Now That the War is Over,” Firm Foundation 62 no. 39 (1945): 2.

10 Few accounts focusing on the work of missionaries from Churches of Christ in the years immediately following World War II have been published. An important published account is that of Otis Gatewood, Preaching in the Footsteps of Hitler (Nashville, TN: Williams Printing, 1960). Examples of unpublished accounts include several masters theses, e.g. Robert Lee Hare, “Missionary Work by Churches of Christ in Germany, 1946–1955” (MA Thesis, Harding Graduate School of Religion, 1956); Joe Edward Gibbs, “Missionary Work of the Churches of Christ in Italy, 1949–1957, Viewed in the Light of the New Testament” (MA Thesis, Harding Graduate School of Religion, 1958); Maurice C. Hall, “History and Methods of Mission Work by Churches of Christ in France” (MA Thesis, Harding Graduate School of Religion, 1959); Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions, is an important published work, but his focus is primarily on the years 1957–67. Other than chapter 15 of Earl Irvin West, The Search for the Ancient Order, A History of the Restoration Movement 1919–1950, vol. 4 (Germantown, TN: Religious Book Service, 1987), several recent histories of Churches of Christ give little attention to mission work following World War II, and when they do, it is usually in the context of how the mission work related to the controversies of pre-millennialism and church cooperation. See e.g., Robert E. Hooper, A Distinct People: A History of the Churches of Christ in the 20th Century (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1993), 172–77, 207–9; Richard T. Hughes, Reviving the Ancient Faith: The Story of Churches of Christ in America (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 233–38; David Edwin Harrell Jr., The Churches of Christ in the 20th Century: Homer Hailey’s Personal Journey of Faith (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2000), 80–86.

11 Congregations consisting of US military personnel were also established. For example, in a letter dated October 8, 1945, James W. Daniel mentioned that a congregation had been meeting in Paris for over a year (James W. Daniel, “Activities of the Church in Paris, France,” Firm Foundation 62, no. 46 [November 13, 1945]: 9), and another group met in Frankfurt for the first time on September 23, 1945 (Max Watson, “European Christian News,” Firm Foundation 62, no. 44 [Oct. 30, 1945]: 9). This paper focuses only on congregations that were established by missionaries working with European nationals.

12 Mac Lynn, ed., Churches of Christ Around the World (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1990), 126, 181. Vandervis was converted from Mormonism in Salt Lake City, Utah, by Otis Gatewood. See Otis Gatewood, “France,” The Lubbock Lectures on Mission Work, ed. M. Norvel Young (Lubbock, TX: Broadway Church of Christ, 1946), 52, and Gatewood, Footsteps, 244. William Richardson joined the work in Holland in 1947. See “Richardson on Way to Holland,” Christian Chronicle 5 (Aug. 13, 1947): 1.

13 L. Arnold Watson, “Holland to Have 2nd Congregation,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 793; The Gospel for Holland (tract printed in 1951), 1–9. This tract was located in 1992 in the Abilene Christian University Library Vertical Files for Missions. The files have since been rearranged. There is some discrepancy between pages 4 and 9 as to how many members there were in 1950. Page 4 states there were twenty-eight and page 9 states there were twenty-five.

14 Loyd Collier and Delmar Bunn, “The Work in Zurich, Switzerland,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 14; Gatewood, Footsteps, 35, 42; Otis Gatewood, “Oh Lord, Open our Eyes,” in The Second Lubbock Lectures, Germany for Christ, ed. M. Norvel Young (Lubbock, TX: Broadway Church of Christ, 1948), 7–8.

15 Hare, “Missionary Work in Germany,” 45.

16 See Gatewood, Footsteps, 35-52; Otis Gatewood, “Church Begins in Frankfurt, Germany, with Twenty-Two Present,” Gospel Advocate 89 (July 17, 1947): 526; Otis Gatewood, “One Year in Germany,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 653; “Gatewood to Return to U.S.,” Christian Chronicle 8 (July 12, 1950): 1; M. Norvel Young, “Large Audiences Hear Gatewood Speak; Gifts Swell Building Funds,” Christian Chronicle 8 (Nov. 1, 1950): 1–2; M. Norvel Young, “Admit two Missionaries to Germany,” Gospel Advocate 89 (May 22, 1947): 365; Hare, “Missionary Work in Germany,” 47–54; Paul Sherrod, “The Field and the Need,” Gospel Advocate 89 (Oct. 2, 1947): 777.

17 Gibbs, “Missionary Work in Italy,” 4.

18 Gibbs, “Missionary Work in Italy,” 10–13; Cline R. Paden, “Plan for Work in Rome,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 287.

19 Gibbs, “Missionary Work in Italy,” 16; Mitchell, “Italy.”

20 Gibbs, “Missionary Work in Italy,” 19; Mitchell, “Italy.”

21 Mitchell, “Italy.”

22 “Bybee, Mitchell Leave Today for Milan, Italy,” Christian Chronicle 8 (July 5, 1950): 1. Carl Mitchell, interview with author (April 22, 2009). Mitchell married his wife Frankie in 1953, and they began working in Florence.

23 Gibbs, “Missionary Work in Italy,” 29–179, details the opposition and persecutions of the early years; see also Mitchell, “Italy.”

24 Gibbs, “Missionary Work in Italy,” 24.

25 West, Search for the Ancient Order, 389.

26 Floyd H. Horton, “Work in Belgium,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 943.

27 “Timmermans Plan to Enter Belgium,” Christian Chronicle 6 (July 7, 1948): 1; Floyd H. Horton, “Horton Reports on Belgian Progress,” Christian Chronicle 6 (Oct. 13, 1948): 1.

28 S. F. Timmerman, interview with author (Nov. 27, 2007).

29 Horton, “Horton Reports,” 1.

30 S. F. Timmerman, “Polish Christians in Belgium Unite with Liege Church; Claim Thousands More Members in Poland and Russia,” Christian Chronicle 8 (Aug. 23, 1950): 1.

31 Daniel T. Ward, “More Baptisms, Another Church Begun in Belgium,” Christian Chronicle 8 (Aug. 23, 1950): 6; Timmerman, interview.

32 Hall, “History and Methods,” 17–18. For a detailed account of the early years of the work in France, see “History and Methods,” 15–71.

33 Ibid., 19.

34 Ibid., 23. These were J. Lee Roberts, William Green, and A. B. Clampitt and his wife and daughter, Margaret.

35 Ibid., 26. The first teaching in French was done in a children’s class taught by Margaret Clampitt (ibid., 28).

36 Timmerman, “Well Publicized Paris, France Meeting Results in 3 Baptisms, Prospects,” Christian Chronicle 8 (June 21, 1950): 1; Hall, “History and Methods,” 29. I have found Knevals’ name spelled various ways, and have chosen to follow Hall’s spelling.

37 Elton Swafford, “Another Worker Sought to Join Evangelistic Forces in France,” Christian Chronicle 8 (Oct. 4, 1950): 5. One of those conversions was Hubert Knevals, “the preacher who acknowledged error.” See also Hall, “History and Methods,” 29–30.

38 I arrived at these numbers by totaling the figures given above.

39 For the optimism within Churches of Christ, see Hooper, A Distinct People, 181–206. See also Harrell, Churches of Christ, 81.

40 As preparations were being made for Italy, Paden,“Plan for Work,” 287, had warned that the work in Italy had “all the ear marks of a disappointing work.”

41 Kathryn Patton, “My First Impression of German Work,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 490.

42 Paul Sherrod, “The Field and the Need,” (Oct. 2): 780; idem, “The Field and the Need,” Gospel Advocate 89 (Oct. 9, 1947): 794.

43 B. Sherrod, “Monday Afternoon Roundtable,” in Lubbock Lectures, 39.

44 Horton, “Work in Belgium,” 943.

45 Carl Spain, “Desperate Needs in Germany,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 893.

46 Gatewood, “Observations on the German Work,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 412.

47 Otis Gatewood, “Teaching is Major Aim . . . All Else A Means to This End,” in Second Lubbock Lectures, 58.

48 Carl Mitchell, “Mitchell Tells of Personal Work in Italy,” Christian Chronicle 8 (Aug. 16, 1950): 7.

49 Quoted from a pamphlet for the Frascati Orphans’ Home, printed ca. 1950. This pamphlet was once located in the Abilene Christian University Library’s vertical files for missions (located in the Center for Restoration Studies). Those files have gone missing.

50 For one historical example of this tension, see the discussion regarding Thomas and Alexander Campbells’ decision to adopt believers’ immersion, knowing that it would create barriers to unity between their followers and the paedobaptists whom they wished to win over, in Robert Richardson, Memoirs of Alexander Campbell (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing, 1897, 1898; reprint, Germantown, TN: Religious Book Service, n.d), 1:391–398. See also the discussion of this tension in Mark Weedman, “Assessing the Declaration and Address: Hermeneutics vs. Unity in Stone-Campbell Movement Theology,” Stone Campbell Journal 14 (Spring, 2011): 21–32.

51 Hall, “History and Methods,” 18; Otis Gatewood, “France, Monday Night—August 26, 1946,” in Lubbock Lectures, 56. Regarding the Lord’s Supper, the French group was using fermented wine and leavened bread, both of which were unacceptable to the Americans.

52 Timmerman, “Well Publicized,” 1. The “one or two minor points” of disagreement are not described.

53 Timmerman, “Polish Christians,” 1. Timmerman reported that “the leading man among them” had already reached the conclusion through his own private studies that weekly communion was the biblical practice. Likely, Timmerman’s support proved decisive in convincing the entire group.

54 Gibbs, “Missionary Work in Italy,” 73.

55 Hare, “Missionary Work in Germany,” 29. See also the account of Gatewood and Sherrod’s attempts to find grounds for fellowship with British Churches of Christ, during which they discussed such doctrinal issues as the phrase “mutual ministry” and the word “Minister” with a capital “M.” They disagreed over the concepts of open communion and the emphasis on baptism or the need for re-baptism. In spite of such disagreements, however, they were able to accept one another as brethren (Gatewood, “Our Visits with the British Brethren,” in Lubbock Lectures, 14–21).

56 Roy Palmer, “Our Greatest Opportunity,” in Second Lubbock Lectures, 83.

57 William C. Hatcher “The Call of Italy,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 590.

58 Cline Paden, “Italy and Christianity,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 37.

59 Paden, “Plan for Work,” 287; quoted in Otis Gatewood, “Specific Problems of Doing Work in Germany,” in Lubbock Lectures, 117.

60 Otis Gatewood, “The First Worship in Italy,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 38.

61 Gatewood, “First Worship,” 31.

62 Hall, “History and Methods,” 25. Watson, “Holland to Have 2nd Congregation,” 793, noted that the establishment of a congregation in Amsterdam would give Holland “two congregations, New Testament in pattern.” Cf. Ellis McGaughey’s claim: “It is regretted that the Cause is very weak in Wales. I know of only one other place in Wales where loyal brethren meet besides Newport. In this section many large towns and cities . . . [are] all without a church of the New Testament pattern” (quoted in P. Sherrod, “Bro. McGaughey Reports from Wales,” Gospel Broadcast 8 [1948]: 758); Cf. also the comment that missionaries in Belfast, Ireland, called on “many people . . . who know little or nothing about simple churches of Christ in their effort to restore New Testament Christianity” (quoted in M. Norvel Young, “Seventy-three Baptized in Belfast,” Gospel Broadcast 8 [1948]: 804).

63 Doctrinal purity in this case did not refer so much to the great doctrines of Christianity, such as the oneness of God, the incarnation, or resurrection of Jesus, though they would have been assumed. Rather, these missionaries, reflecting concerns of the fellowship as a whole, believed that it was important to have the right understanding of such issues as premillennialism, the purpose of baptism, the frequency and the method of the Lord’s Supper, and titles given to preachers.

64 Robert Alexander in “Round Table Discussion, Tuesday Afternoon, August 28, 1946,” chaired by B. Sherrod, in Lubbock Lectures, 82.

65 Horton, “Work in Belgium,” 943. “Premillennialism,” which refers to a variety of systems of belief that hold that Jesus Christ will return to earth and establish a physical one thousand-year reign on earth, was hotly debated within Churches of Christ for several decades in the early to mid-twentieth century. For an overview of the controversy, see Hughes, Reviving the Ancient Faith, 137–67.

66 Palmer, “Our Greatest Opportunity,” 83.

67 Hatcher, “Call of Italy,” 590.

68 Otis Gatewood, “Opportunities in Italy,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 92.

69 Paul Sherrod, “Why We Have Not Done More Effective Mission Work in the Past,” in Lubbock Lectures, 37.

70 Sherrod, “The Field and the Need,” (Oct. 2): 780.

71 Gatewood, “Observations,” 412.

72 Gatewood, “Opportunities in Italy,” 92.

73 Gatewood, “Specific Problems,” 118.

74 Daniel T. Ward, “5 Nationalities Witness Baptism in Belgium City,” Christian Chronicle 8 (1950): 1.

75 Hatcher, “Call of Italy,” 590.

76 Raymond J. Kenney, “Germany as a Field for the Gospel,” Missionary Messenger 24 (1947): 5.

77 Gatewood, “Opportunities in Italy,” 92; Gatewood, “First Worship,” 38.

78 Hatcher, “Call of Italy,” 590.

79 Gordon Linscott, “Report from Italy,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 851.

80 Paden, “Plan for Work,” 287.

81 Paden, “Italy and Christianity,” 34.

82 Ibid., 37.

83 For Protestant/Evangelical attitudes toward Roman Catholicism in the first half of the twentieth century, see Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, Is the Reformation Over: An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005), 37–40; 48–58.

84 Hall, “History and Methods,” 25.

85 Quoted in Carl G. Mitchell, “Preparation of Missionaries in Churches of Christ,” (M.A. Thesis, Pepperdine College, 1963), 3. In the sources, references to obedience to the Great Commission are numerous.

86 P. Sherrod, “The Field and the Need,” (Oct. 2): 777; Olan Hicks in “Round Table Discussion, Tuesday Afternoon,” 84.

87 Hall, “History and Methods,” 26.

88 Hatcher, “Call of Italy,” 590.

89 Keith Coleman, “Practical Answers to Interesting Questions,” in Second Lubbock Lectures, 76.

90 P. Sherrod, “The Field and the Need,” (Oct. 2): 777, italics in the original.

91 See, e.g., Gibbs, “Missionary Work in Italy,” 24. According to Hare, “Missionary Work in Germany,” 60, “Everything which was done in Germany was aimed at one objective: to get the gospel of Christ into the hearts and lives of those people.”

92 Gatewood, Footsteps, 13.

93 Hatcher, “Call of Italy,” 590.

94 Hall, “History and Methods,” 25.

95 Otis Gatewood, “Gatewood Says Denmark Offers Great Door for the Gospel, with Interested Persons Now in Field,” Christian Chronicle 8 (July 19, 1950): 1.

96 P. Sherrod, “Why We Have Not,” 38; Paul Sherrod, “The Field and the Need,” (Oct. 9, 1947): 794.

97 Otis Gatewood, “Report on Germany,” in Lubbock Lectures, 102.

98 Palmer, “Our Greatest Opportunity,” 82.

99 Sherrod, “The Field and the Need,” (Oct. 2): 780, italics in the original. Furthermore, it was important to go before false doctrines solidified.

100 Ibid., 780.

101 Mitchell, “Preparation of Missionaries,” 7–8.

102 Wilson, “Now That the War is Over,” 2. See also Otis Gatewood, “Europe’s Need for the Gospel,” in Lubbock Lectures, 11–13.

103 E.g., Gary Holloway and Douglas A. Foster, Renewing God’s People: A Concise History of Churches of Christ (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2006), 114, state, “These missionaries were zealous and courageous but generally untrained.” But see Chris Flanders, “The Beginning of Missionary Training in Churches of Christ (Part 1),” Restoration Quarterly 61, no. 1 (2019): 27–38, and idem, “The Beginning of Missionary Training in Churches of Christ (Part 2),” Restoration Quarterly 61, no. 2 (2019): 65–76, which describes some early attempts at academic missionary training in Churches of Christ while also pointing out the general lack of training prior to World War II. Cf. Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions, 57: “It should be recognized at the outset that most of the missionaries of churches of Christ went overseas without having made a study of methods for sharing Christ in another culture. They were therefore without any theory of missionary methods.”

104 Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions, 14.

105 Hall, “History and Methods,” 19–20. Hall also studied German at Abilene (see Gatewood, Footsteps, 243).

106 Gibbs, “Missionary Work in Italy,” 8.

107 “Bybee, Mitchell Leave,” 1.

108 Gatewood, Footsteps, 180–196, 244–45.

109 Ibid., 183. Alma Gatewood had also been a school teacher and had helped in establishing the first African-American congregation of Churches of Christ in Abilene.

110 “Celebrating the Life of S. F. Timmerman,” funeral program obituary, Jan. 2, 2010, (in my possession).

111 William Floyd, “Coleman Sails for European Work,” Gospel Broadcast, 8 (1948): 985.

112 See also Hall, “History and Methods,” 19, regarding survey trips.

113 Lloyd Collier, “German Boys to Lipscomb College,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 790.

114 Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions, 22.

115 The criticism of Holloway and Foster, Renewing God’s People, 114, that “[s]ome could hardly speak the language of the country when they arrived,” seems a bit harsh. It is common in many cases for missionaries to learn the local language after arriving on the field. But see Philip Slate, Lest We Forget, 33, who suggests language learning was “a practice many missionaries in the post-World War II era neglected.”

116 Collier and Bunn, “The Work in Zurich,” 14.

117 Floyd, “Coleman Sails,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 985.

118 Lucian Bagnetto, in “Monday Afternoon Round Table,” in Lubbock Lectures, 42.

119 Kenney, “Germany as a Field,” 6.

120 Gatewood, “Church Begins in Frankfurt,” 526.

121 Otis Gatewood, “Work in Germany Grows Rapidly,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 23.

122 “Fourteen Weeks of Meetings Planned in Germany; 9 Men to Do Preaching in Tent Series,” Christian Chronicle 8 (July 5, 1950): 7.

123 Wyndal Hudson, “Marlin and DeHoff Visit Italy Work,” Christian Chronicle 8 (July 12, 1950): 4.

124 S. F. Timmerman, interview.

125 Missiologist David J. Hesselgrave, Planting Churches Cross-Culturally: North America and Beyond, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000), 208, has remarked, “No doubt about it, the bottleneck in many an effort in church planting is the meeting place. . . . [M]ost of us who have been involved in pioneer efforts over a number of years will confess that an adequate building is usually a big boost to growth.”

126 The first two components were intended to contribute to the third.

127 Paden, “Plan for Work,” 294; italics added.

128 According to Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions, 19, “The most frequent appeal from missionaries in the church periodicals was for Americans to supply funds for church buildings.”

129 Malcom P. Hinckley, “Long Lease Taken on Choice Paris Building by Workers Who Sell Cars to Pay Cost,” Christian Chronicle 8 (1950): 1.

130 Gatewood, “Church Begins in Frankfurt, 526; Gatewood, “Work in Germany Grows,” 183.

131 Paul Sherrod, “Building Construction is Underway in Frankfurt,” Christian Chronicle 8 (May 31, 1950): 1. Initial construction was to provide an auditorium that would seat two hundred people, with plans to expand to an auditorium for up to one thousand people.

132 See Paul Sherrod, “Let us Build in Germany,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948): 77; The Gospel for Holland, 1, 5; Gatewood, “Observations,” 412; West, Search, 380–81.

133 Even before leaving the US, those who went to Italy devised a three-point strategy that began with humanitarian aid: (1) Build an orphanage; (2) distribute food and clothing; and (3) begin in Rome (Paden, “Plan for Work,” 287).

134 Gatewood, “Relief and Welfare Work,” Second Lubbock Lectures, 17.

135 Ibid., 14-27. M. Norvel Young, “An Opportunity in Germany,” Gospel Advocate 89 (Aug. 7, 1947): 591; John Allen Hudson, “The Situation in Great Britain,” Gospel Advocate 89 (Sept. 4, 1947): 675; Gatewood, “Church Begins in Frankfurt,” 526; Carl Spain, “Desperate Needs,” Gospel Broadcast 8 (1948); 893; Hall, “History and Methods,” 26; West, Search, 381–82.

136 Gibbs, “Missionary Work in Italy,” 24; Mitchell, “Italy;” Gatewood, Footsteps, 45-51; West, Search, 380-82, 389; Hare, “Missionary Work in Germany,” 67–74.

137 Hare, “Missionary Work in Germany,” 83.

138 Another form of community service consisted in offering English classes, which also provided evangelistic opportunities. Hall, “History and Methods,” 81; Gatewood, “Work in Germany Grows,” 183. Harold Paden, “5 Baptized by Harold Paden in Northern Italy,” Christian Chronicle 8 (July 5, 1950): 8, reported that although missionaries in Milan had offered English lessons, “our students in these classes became so interested in the Bible that they soon abandoned the English classes to study the Word of God.”

139 Gatewood, “Church Begins in Frankfurt,” 526.

140 Otis Gatewood, “Paper Issued in Germany Stresses First Principles,” Christian Chronicle 8 (July 5, 1950): 4.

141 Hall, “History and Methods,” 80–81. Hall referred to this as “going to the synagogues.”

142 Gatewood, “Church Begins in Frankfurt,” 526; Otis Gatewood, “Summer Meetings in Germany Will Carry Gospel into Many Cities During 14-Week Period,” Christian Chronicle 8 (July 12, 1950): 5.

143 Paden, “5 Baptized,” 8.

144 Timmerman, “Well Publicized,” 1; Gatewood, “Summer Meetings,” 5. Hall, “History and Methods,” 80, notes that evangelistic meetings were often set at times that did not conflict with other religious groups’ services.

145 Hall, “History and Methods,” 81, 83. Hall mentions that one month his wife, Marie, had served seventy-five meals to visitors in their home.

146 Wyndal Hudson, “Marlin and DeHoff,” 4; Hall, “History and Methods,” 83; Collier, “German Boys,” 790, mentions that “some of our young Christian women teach these classes,” but it is unclear as to whether he is referring to American women or German converts. Given that on the same page he uses the phrase “the young men of the church” to refer to German converts, it is likely that the phrase, “young Christian women” also refers to Germans.

147 Keith Coleman, “Expanded Paper and Baptisms Mark German Work As Busy Summer Progresses,” Christian Chronicle 8 (July 5, 1950): 1; Hall, “History and Methods,” 89; “Fourteen Weeks,” 7.

148 Hall, “History and Methods,” 88.

149 Ibid., 89.

150 Coleman, “Expanded Paper,” 1; Gatewood, “Paper Issued,” 4; Wyndal Hudson, “Marlin and DeHoff,” 4, Hall, “History and Methods,” 84, 87

151 Mitchell, “Mitchell Tells,” 7; Gatewood, “Summer Meetings,” 5; Paden, “5 Baptized,” 8. For more on the methods missionaries used, see also Hare, “Missionary Work in Germany,” 141–58, where he discusses the use of buildings, tents, correspondence courses, Bible and tracts, church publications, and radio programs.

152 As Edward R. Dayton and David A. Fraser, Planning Strategies for World Evangelization, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 217–18, have noted, “A strategy that calls for evangelism and does not call for adequate teaching will eventually fail. If our strategy brings people into relationship with Christ but does not help them to grow so they become propagators, we have failed.”

153 Collier, “German Boys,” 790. We have noted above, that it is likely that young German women were learning to teach children’s classes as well.

154 M. Norvel Young, “Summer Plans Call for Tent Meetings, Bible Classes for German Christians,” Christian Chronicle 8 (June 7, 1950): 6.

155 Gibbs “Missionary Work in Italy,” 24; Mitchell, “Italy.”

156 Collier, “German Boys,” 790.

157 Hare, “Missionary Work in Germany,” 74-82; Young, “Summer Plans,” 6.

158 Ibid., 74. The program was designed for a three-year course of study, though many students did not stay that long. The school was discontinued in 1955 (“Missionary Work in Germany,” 79, 81).

159 Hall, “History and Methods,” 86.

160 According to Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions, 20, prior to 1957 elders had been appointed in only one country that he researched.

161 See Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions, 20–21.

162 A. R. Holton, “Nashville Church Calls Meeting for Work in Germany,” Christian Chronicle 8 (May 31, 1950): 1.

163 Alexander in “Round Table Discussion, Tuesday Afternoon” 82.

164 Collier, “German Boys,” 790. Proconow had come from the boys’ home in Frankfurt, and both Casmir and Alten had been assisting the missionaries in the relief work.

165 Holton, “Nashville Church Calls Meeting,” 1. Hall, “History and Methods,” 35, 86, mentions that at least three young men from France were sent to study in the States. At the 1948 Lubbock Lectures, only Gatewood and Olan Hicks expressed a note of caution about bringing new converts to the States for training, fearing that they might never return to their home countries. Gatewood, “Practical Answers,” Second Lubbock Lectures, 72–74, proposed the idea that American churches could support new converts while the missionaries trained them in their home countries.

166 Neither of these factors appears to carry as much motivational weight today in our more ecumenical, pluralistic, and post-modern world. It remains to be seen whether a new and more compelling motivational factor for twenty-first-century missionaries will be found.

167 On various restorationist type movements in European history, see R. Allen Diles, Let Truth Prevail: An Introduction to European Christian Renewal Movements (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2021).

168 By the end of the twentieth-century, Mac Lynn reported that Churches of Christ claimed only 3,586 members in the six nations of Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Italy. In Germany, which had nine congregations and over one thousand baptisms by 1950, Lynn reported only 1,035 members in sixty-four congregations, and thirty-two of these congregations were English-speaking and made up primarily of US military personnel. In the Netherlands over five hundred people had been converted through forty years of mission work, and yet in 1997, Churches of Christ claimed only 376 members. See Mac Lynn, ed., Churches of Christ Around the World (Nashville, TN: 21st Century Christian, 2003), 16-18, 376; Lynn, Churches of Christ (1990), 76, 181. Nevertheless, in the decades following World War II and then following the end of the Cold War, Churches of Christ have been successful in establishing congregations in almost every European nation, though the degree to which they thrive is uncertain.

169 D. A. Carson, “Conclusion: Ongoing Imperative for World Mission,” in Martin I. Lauber and Scott M Manetsch, eds., The Great Commission: Evangelicals and the History of World Missions (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 184.

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What Can’t Be Embargoed: US-Cuban Church Relations

The first part of the essay highlights important persons and events during (1) the early history of the Churches of Christ in Cuba, (2) Cuba’s three decades of virtual isolation from foreign workers and resources in the wake of the Cuban Revolution, and later (3) the period of reconnection with North American churches following Cuba’s weakening restrictions on religious organizations in the mid-1990s. The second part of the essay analyzes four elements that make Cuba’s Churches of Christ unique in Latin America, namely, Cuba’s political history, her proximity to the United States, the influence of the Afro-Cuban religions, and her resilience in the face of economic hardship. The author concludes with an appeal for churches in North America to honor the autonomy and abilities of Cuban churches.

Beginnings Of Churches Of Christ In Cuba

When discussing the history of mission work in Latin America of the a cappella Churches of Christ, Cuba deserves a special mention. Cuba was the site of the first formal mission work in Spanish-speaking Latin America. José Ricardo Jiménez arrived in 1937. His was the earliest recorded work among a cappella Churches of Christ.1 It should be noted that the Foreign Christian Missionary Society (FCMS) had a work in Cuba beginning in 1899; this work was transferred to the Presbyterian church via a comity agreement in 1917.2 At that time, the a cappella churches were technically part of the same movement as the FCMS. However, when the a cappella churches separated from the Disciples of Christ in 1906, the FCMS identified with the Disciples of Christ.

In many ways, the work in Cuba restarted in 1987 when Spanish journalist Juan Antonio Monroy visited the island. Monroy was the first non-Cuban member of the Church of Christ freely able to visit the Cuban churches since the Cuban Revolution in 1959. For almost thirty years, the Cuban churches had lived in virtual isolation from the outside world. During those years, membership in Churches of Christ had dwindled from approximately 5,000 members in 1959 to about 300 at the time of Monroy’s visit. Of the 100 or so congregations that existed when the revolution began, only nine remained at the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. Since that time, the restoration of abandoned works and establishment of new congregations has created a great need for leadership development.

The Beginnings of the Work in Cuba

Early mission work in Cuba was principally carried out by two Cuban-American men: José Ricardo Jiménez and Ernesto Estévez. Through their work, Churches of Christ were planted from the westernmost province, Pinar del Río, to Guantánamo in the east. Jiménez was the first to arrive, and among his first projects was the establishment of a radio presence. That was how he made his first contacts outside of Havana. Through appeals to churches in the United States, he raised financial support for missions in Cuba. Jiménez dedicated himself to radio work for more than a quarter of a century.

On July 25, 1948, the church purchased a building in downtown Havana on a main street named “10th of October.” The building could hold more than 100 people. It continues to serve as a meeting place for the church to this day. According to the national registry of churches, this church building also serves as the church’s national headquarters. Officially registered church buildings were also established in Consolación del Sur (Pinar del Río Province), Matanzas, Jovellanos (Matanzas Province), and Santiago. After the end of the Cuban Revolution (January 1, 1959), when the government forbade church gatherings outside of officially registered properties, these buildings became crucial to the church’s continued existence.

Use Of Media In Outreach And Training

Jiménez also established a Christian magazine, Revista Cristiana. He purchased a printing press for this and other publications. The slogan of the magazine was “Restoring the Church to Its Primitive Purity: Apostolic in Faith, Practice, and Worship.” On the back cover was printed:

No book but the Bible

No creed but Christ

No name but Christian

No theory but the gospel

No objective but service

In Christ: Unity

In opinions: Liberty

In all things: Love and tolerance.3

When Estévez arrived in Cuba, he dedicated himself to translating tracts from English into Spanish. He also printed a set of notebooks focused on doctrinal training for preachers. These were important in establishing a base for the teaching of consistent doctrine in the churches throughout Cuba.

Reynaldo Manrique, a preacher in Matanzas, published El Obrero Cristiano (“The Christian Worker”), containing literature he translated from English as well as some original material. These were printed on a mimeograph machine and distributed across the island. After the Revolution, when the mimeograph ceased to function, one engineer-turned-preacher, Fernando Oliver, built a new machine himself.4 Over the years, the churches also received materials from World Bible School and from the Baxter Institute in Honduras.5

The Cuban Revolution And Its Effects

On July 26, 1953, a group of young people, led by 26-year-old Fidel Castro, attacked the Moncada headquarters in Santiago, Cuba. The assault was unsuccessful. Castro was imprisoned, and later pardoned and exiled. Following a brief stay in Mexico, Castro returned on the yacht Granma with a group of eighty men, ready to lead an armed revolt. On January 1, 1959, Castro entered Havana in triumph. This began a new period in the history of Cuba.

At the time of the Revolution in 1959, an estimated 5,000 members of the Churches of Christ met in one hundred different locations. Six of these meeting places were buildings used exclusively for church gatherings. These church buildings were located in Consolación del Sur (Pinar del Río Province), Havana, San Antonio de los Baños (Artemisa Province), Santa Cruz del Norte (Mayabeque Province), Matanzas, and Jovellanos (Matanzas Province).

Following the Cuban Revolution, the first report to Churches of Christ in the United States about the work in Cuba was published on March 31, 1959.6 Jiménez and Estévez wrote an open letter to the churches in the United States, urging them not to rush to conclusions about the nature of the revolution. They requested that churches continue funding their work as they saw nothing but increased opportunities in a Cuba where the government was now separated from the Catholic Church.

During the initial years after the revolution, the church flourished under the new government. For example, a new congregation in Santiago received official recognition in 1959. Churches in the United States, however, were not so optimistic. Funding for the work in Cuba began to evaporate. The reports from Jiménez and Estévez show a certain desperation during this time. They were able to purchase vehicles and buildings for the church, as well as continue their radio ministries, but they were unable to find Christians in the United States willing to continue their support. Letters sent to former supporters were all in vain. These missionaries found it harder and harder to provide for their families and for the work of the church.

Jiménez was able to broadcast radio programs for two years after the revolution, but he discontinued the programs in 1961 for lack of funding. This troubled him greatly, for he knew that the work would not advance as it had without the support of the radio programs. Estévez, facing health issues and advancing age, decided to return to Tampa, where he died a few years later.

As late as 1965, Jiménez was still sending letters to various churches, telling them that his work had not been hindered in any way, nor had Churches of Christ experienced any opposition from the government. He argued that the government was only restricting those religious groups that had involved themselves in political affairs. He pleaded with his brothers in North America to restore their support, especially so that he could continue with the radio ministry.

The political climate changed once again in 1965. New restrictions were implemented that had a direct effect on the Churches of Christ in Cuba. Excessive fines were levied against local churches based on accusations that they had falsified their reports of funds, members, and property. Several places of worship were closed, notably in the provinces of Pinar del Río y Matanzas. During this time, Jiménez reported that the government only allowed formal religious meetings in legally recognized church buildings. All other religious gatherings were forbidden.

Jiménez passed away in 1974. As in many countries, all churches in Cuba are required to have a structure of elected officials who deal with the government. Fernando Oliver took over the leadership of the church with the help of several other church members. For health reasons, Oliver eventually left Cuba to live in Florida.7 Ammiel Pérez, a preacher from Havana, replaced Jiménez as representative of the Churches of Christ to the Cuban government.8

New Ties With Christians In Other Countries

In 1975, the Cuban Church of Christ renewed contact with the outside world through letters that were sent by Ernesto Estévez to Juan Antonio Monroy in Spain.9 Monroy, a Christian journalist and evangelist employed by Herald of Truth, published these letters in Restauración, a Christian journal Monroy published in Spain. In 1976, Restauración reported that the Church of Christ in Cuba had 5 meeting places, 240 members, and 10 preachers.10

Monroy had been baptized in 1950 by a Cuban missionary to Morocco. His dream was to visit Cuba and preach to the people there. A door opened for him in 1985. He was invited as a journalist to the inauguration of Daniel Ortega as President of Nicaragua. While there, he had the chance to meet Fidel Castro. Monroy spoke with Castro, expressing his desire to visit the churches in Cuba. As an ex-Communist turned Christian journalist, Monroy had always been denied a visa to Cuba. Castro told Monroy to apply again.

When Monroy returned to the Cuban embassy in Madrid, he was granted the long-desired visa. His dream came true on March 13, 1987, when Monroy arrived on Cuban soil. At this point, he had preached throughout Latin America but not in Cuba. This was the first of many trips.

Soon after this first arrival in 1987, Monroy met with a group of preachers at the church headquarters in Havana on 10 de Octubre Street. He also traveled to the other seven congregations that remained in Cuba.11 After Monroy’s visit, other foreign workers began to arrive, bringing financial assistance to the Cuban churches: Dryden Sinclair, Bill Stough, Harris Lee Goodwin, among others. In 1993, one group of North Americans held what they called “the first religious campaign since the Cuban Revolution,” preaching in nine different locations and baptizing 94 people. The reality, of course, is that this was the first religious campaign led by Christians from the United States. By that time, evangelistic campaigns had been held in Cuba for decades, and Juan Monroy had conducted several before 1993. After 1993, members of the Churches of Christ in the United States began to visit Cuba in ever-increasing numbers.12

A New Beginning

In the early ’90s, the government authorized the establishment of house churches, called casas culto. This led to an explosion of meeting places in every province of Cuba. Soon, the number of believers in Cuba doubled.

In the beginning, house churches could have no more than 25 people at any given meeting. However, the growth of these groups couldn’t be stopped, and the government eased this regulation, allowing churches to meet for study and prayer. Initially, they were not allowed to sing in these meetings. Again, these restrictions were eased over time.

These new freedoms coincided with the return of North American Christians to the island. Suddenly, Churches of Christ in Cuba had freedom to evangelize, to meet, and to grow. They also had resources needed for these activities. Dozens of preachers in Cuba began receiving regular financial support from churches in the United States around this time.

Leadership training has been a major focus for foreign groups working in Cuba. Such training has come in different forms: mass media, church conferences, and formal academic training. In 1995, Herald of Truth began transmitting radio programs to Cuba from the Cayman Islands. Around that time, José Antonio Fernández began working with Herald of Truth as follow-up coordinator. Later, broadcasts were conducted via shortwave from Quito, Ecuador and via AM frequencies from Florida. Since 2011, Herald of Truth radio programs have been reaching Cuba via AM radio on Transworld Radio out of Bonaire. The difference in response between shortwave and AM frequencies has been dramatic, nearing 300 letters per month. In 2014, the local post office requested that Fernández collect his mail every day, or else the quantity of letters would exceed the available space.13

Since 2006, the main radio program Herald of Truth has broadcast to Cuba is “Read the Bible” (Lea La Biblia). Instead of an overtly evangelistic format, the program focuses on providing tools for reading and studying the Bible, preparing Christians to have more confidence when interacting with God’s Word.

In 1998, the first national youth conference was held in the city of Matanzas. This soon became an annual event. Later, a men’s conference and a women’s conference were added. These conferences have been instrumental in edifying the church and strengthening ties between congregations in different provinces.14 They have also been important sources of training for the churches. Because of space restrictions, a limited number of participants can attend. Those who do attend typically take copious notes, returning to their home congregations and sharing what they’ve learned. I have had Cubans come up to me to discuss conferences I’ve given several years previously.They remember more about the content of these talks than I do!

One unforgettable moment in the history of the Church of Christ in Cuba occurred in 2001, when the Cuban government allowed the church to use the National Capitol Building in Havana for a national preachers meeting. It was the first time in recent history, and possibly in the entire history of Cuba, that a religious conference was held in the Capitol. Five hundred and fifty church members participated in the event, coming from all parts of Cuba as well as the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Spain, the United States, and Venezuela. High-ranking members of the Cuban Communist Party were present to welcome the group and to recognize the work being done by the Cuban churches.15

“This Is Cuba”

In October 2022, I made my thirty-eighth trip to Cuba. I’ve visited every province in Cuba. I co-authored a book on the history of Churches of Christ in Cuba. Yet, I will never present myself as an expert on the subject of Cuba nor of the church in Cuba; the situation is too complex for an outsider to understand. I have learned from my colleague and friend, Tony Fernández, a preacher in Cuba, that if someone asks why things have to be done a certain way, the best answer is: “This is Cuba.”

Four elements combine to make the situation of the churches in Cuba unique when compared with other Latin American contexts. Cuba’s political situation is the first element. At first glance, it would seem that what makes Cuba unique is the socialist system they have been under since 1959. However, I think we need to look back to Cuba’s colonial days: first as an official colony of Spain for 400 years and later as an unofficial colony of the United States for 60 years. The international community has viewed Cuba as a property to be possessed by others, and this outlook has influenced how Cubans view themselves and their country.

In addition, the socialist system in Cuba can be hard for foreigners to understand. It is difficult for Cubans to grasp as well, but they have learned to accept it and adapt to it. For 500 years, they have been forced to deal with regulations and restrictions enforced by foreign powers. When their own government creates seemingly irrational bureaucratic procedures, Cubans have learned to work within that system.

The second element is the proximity of Cuba to the United States. There is an expression used in Cuba (and Mexico): “Poor Cuba. So far from God; so close to the United States.” This proximity, combined with the colonial attitude of the United States toward Cuba, has led to a love-hate relationship. The antagonism between the two governments dates back to the founding of the independent Cuban state, when Washington’s diplomats, backed by US warships, rejected the first Cuban constitution and forced the Cuban delegates to write a new one granting the United States special privileges in Cuba (including the leasing of the Guantanamo Bay naval base). After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, Cuba worked with the Soviet Union to oppose the United States. In response, the United States government has maintained a policy of economic aggression toward Cuba for the last 60 years.

In contrast, the peoples of each country view their neighbors favorably. Research by the Pew Research Center in 2016 indicated that 73% of the United States population wants to see an end to the economic embargo of Cuba.16 For many Cubans, the United States represents an escape from their current difficulties. At one men’s conference, a church leader said of another Christian: “He’s gone to a better place. . . . he moved to Miami.” Everyone laughed at the joke while generally agreeing with the sentiment.

The third element is one that can be easily overlooked: the strong influence of the Afro-Cuban religions, often collectively called santería. In February 2021, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom observed that approximately 70 percent of Cubans observe at least one practice based on Afro-Cuban religions.17 These religions are a syncretistic mix of African spiritism and Catholicism. They mainly developed within the slave culture, as slaves needed to appear to embrace their masters’ religion while desiring to maintain their heritage. These slaves accomplished this by assigning the names of Catholic saints to African gods, masking the true nature of their worship. For example, the patroness of Cuba is Our Lady of Charity (La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre). For Catholic authorities, she is a manifestation of the Virgin Mary, who appeared to two Cuban fishermen in the city of El Cobre. For followers of santería, however, she is a representation of the African fertility goddess Oshun (for whom the Osun River in Nigeria is named). The Catholic virgin and the African goddess Oshun are both celebrated on September 8 in Cuba; for many Cubans, they are one and the same.

The ethical dilemmas created by the ongoing economic crisis represent the fourth element that needs to be considered. For many people, the harsh realities of life in Cuba force them to choose between following the letter of the law (civil and religious) and providing for those they care for. As is true in many places, the poor often define ethics and morality in relative terms rather than absolutes. The black market, prostitution, taking advantage of foreigners—all of these are seen as what has to be done to survive. Emigration is an accepted practice, even when it involves abandoning family members. In the last two years, the situation has become more extreme. Many traditional social safeguards have ceased to exist. Shortages of food and basic necessities have become more common. Desperation has grown, leading to an escalation in crime, an increase in family violence, and a rise in suicide.

Together, these four elements work together to create a situation that requires much forethought. For example:

Cuban officials may be somewhat uncooperative in light of the fact that we (United States citizens) come from a country that has the stated goal of overturning their government.

  • Travel to Cuba and work on the island has to be done within legal frameworks established by two governments that are antagonistic toward one another.
  • Non-Cuban Christians must accept that Cubans may have ulterior motives in their dealings with foreigners. These people may be looking for a way to escape to the United States. They may be seeking financial help. They may be working for the government, observing the movements and actions of foreigners.
  • Non-Cuban Christians must remember that Cubans have a long history of accepting one religion on the surface while clinging to their traditional religion.
  • Christians from other countries must keep in mind the economic differences between them and many of the Cubans they meet. This socio-economic distance is often much greater than the physical difference between individuals from the two homelands.

These elements come together to create a situation in which even the most experienced observer of Latin American affairs can feel a bit lost. Many church leaders with a history of working with Christians in other parts of Latin America have made serious mistakes in Cuba, because they have not recognized the unique nature of Cuba. For example, one biblical institute has been labeled as a human trafficking organization in Cuba because their representative in Cuba does not follow proper procedures when helping students leave the country. Since some of those students (who leave Cuba on tourist visas) have not returned to Cuba, the government feels this institute is engaged in illegal emigration.

Implications Of This Unique Cultural Setting

Far too often, non-Cuban Christians approach the Cuban churches with a lack of cultural sensitivity. Rather than learning about the complexities of the Cuban context, these Christians suppose that what has been true elsewhere will be true in Cuba. In addition, Cuban Christians are often treated as if they were children in the faith, although Churches of Christ in Cuba have existed for at least 85 years.

For the work of Churches of Christ to thrive in Cuba in the coming years, we have to let Cubans lead the way. The creative response of the Youth Conference team to the COVID crisis is an excellent example. At the height of COVID quarantines, Cuban national Liudmila Bencosme and her daughter Susana had the idea of using WhatsApp for the annual youth conference. The young people could not gather, but they could listen to audio files via WhatsApp and share messages of encouragement with one another. The virtual event was so successful that the Jóvenes de la Iglesia de Cristo (Church of Christ Youth) WhatsApp group is still active.

The later adaptation of that model to the work of the Texas International Bible Institute (TIBI) shows that Cubans can take resources provided by Christians in other countries and adapt them to their needs. Bencosme, who had taken on the responsibility of coordinating TIBI’s activities in Cuba, began distributing course materials to students via WhatsApp. Internet bandwidth is expensive in Cuba and connection speeds are often slow. Yet, in March of 2022, TIBI reported that 62 students had completed ten or more courses via WhatsApp.18

Just as Cubans across the island can maintain cars from the 1950s with little to no access to parts for those cars, so Cuban churches can lead the way in adapting Christianity to their context. One example of what this can look like is the support the University Church of Christ (UCC) in Abilene, Texas, provides to the Versalles congregation in Matanzas. Rather than supporting an individual preacher, UCC has come alongside the Versalles church to support the outreach efforts of this local congregation. The Versalles church regularly sends out teaching teams to more than fifty congregations in their province. UCC provides funding for this effort without stipulating how the money is to be used. The Versalles church reports how they’ve used the resources but does not have to ask permission to use them as they see best. Sometimes the money goes toward fuel so that members can visit the different mission points. Some of the funds help cover the expenses for preachers who go from place to place. Sometimes, especially during COVID, the money was invested in the church’s farm so that food could be produced to feed needy church members.

Christians from other countries also need to give the Cuban church freedom regarding the doctrine of the church. On the Mission Resource Network blog, Dan Bouchelle quoted an elder from Botswana as saying, “When the Missionaries came, they brought us the Bread of Life in the plastic bag of western culture. We ate it in the bag, never really tasted it, and now we are constipated.”19 Churches that support works in Cuba must allow the Cuban church to take the Bread of Life and put it in a Cuban bag, which may or may not look like the bag we are using. As non-Cuban Christians, we need to let them strip away the trappings of US culture and apply the gospel to their own context.

Far too often, foreign Christians seek to strip away the plastic bags others have provided, seeing them as legalistic and rigid. But instead of then serving the Bread by itself, we repackage it into a new, shiny, more progressive plastic bag, one that fits our views and interpretations.

Too many teachers go to Cuba wanting to push agendas of change instead of providing the Cubans with the tools they need to decide for themselves how the gospel fits in their situation. They may reach the conclusions that we have reached about, for example, the role of women, the use of instruments, and a hundred other topics. Or they may reach different conclusions. As North American Christians wishing to partner with Cuban Christians, our job as outsiders is not to decide for them. Our job is to equip them with the tools they need to study and decide for themselves.


The Lord is doing great things in Cuba. As the number of trained Cuban leaders grows, they are taking more responsibility for the direction of the future training of the church in Cuba. Given the complexities of the situation there, this truly seems to be a positive development. It is now up to Christians in other countries to step into an auxiliary role, providing resources as needed but allowing the Cubans to make their own determinations about the future of the work on the island. To God be the glory!

Timothy Archer is the Director of International Ministries for Herald of Truth, where he has worked since 2006. He has spent three decades working in Spanish ministry, including 15 years in Argentina. He has authored or co-authored six books in English and three in Spanish. Tim is an elder at the University Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, where he attends with his wife Carolina.

1 J. W. Treat, “The Work In Latin America” in The More Abundant Life: Being the Abilene Christian College Annual Bible Lectures 1961 (Abilene TX: Abilene Christian College Students Exchange: 1961), 264.

2 Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, n.s., 19 (Philadelphia: Office of the General Assembly, 1919),

3 La Revista Cristiana 1, no. 1 (1950).

4 Personal correspondence with José Antonio Fernández, preacher in Cuba.

5 Ibid.

6 J. R. Jimenez and Ernest Estevez, “A Brief Report on the Cuban Situation,” Firm Foundation (June 2, 1959): 341.

7 Jose Antonio Fernandez and Timothy Archer, A History of Churches of Christ in Cuba (Abilene, TX: Herald of Truth Publications, 2015), 43.

8 Erik Tryggestad, “Cuban Officials Recognize Work of U.S. Churches,” The Christian Chronicle, June 2002.

9 Monroy, Juan Antonio, Juan Antonio Monroy: An Autobiography (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2011), 165.

10 Fernandez and Archer, 45.

11 Ibid., 46–47.

12 Ibid., 49.

13 Fernández and Archer, 50.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid., 49.

16 Alec Tyson, “Americans Still Favor Ties with Cuba after Castro’s Death, U.S. Election,” Pew Research Center, December 13, 2016,

17 Kirsten Lavery, “Factsheet: Santería in Cuba—UCIRF,” United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, February 2021,

18 Steve Austin, “Progress in Cuba,” Texas International Bible Institute, March 2022,

19 Dan Bouchelle, “Taking the Bread of Life out of Its Plastic Bag,” Mission Resource Network, April 25, 2022,

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Vietnam Mission Program: Positivity and Collaboration to Negativity and Sectarianism

For six of the eight years USA troops were in Vietnam during the American War, the Vietnam Mission Program (VNMP) was also present. The VNMP was the joint effort of eighty-four Church of Christ congregations from the USA and Vietnam. Together, these congregations served the Vietnamese people and American soldiers through a range of evangelistic outreach and benevolence programs. The VNMP had five primary missionaries who served in Saigon and the surrounding areas. At the start, there was evidence of ecumenical efforts by these missionaries and reports of positive attitudes about the work and Vietnamese people. However, over time sectarian and hostile attitudes emerged. This article provides an in-depth look at the work, mindsets, and attitudes of VNMP missionaries in Vietnam during the American War, along with speculations about the changes in these mindsets and attitudes over the years.

Mission work often inspires cooperation, be it with locals or other missionaries.1 The willingness to cooperate in missions was a development of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and is part of ecumenism: the ability and willingness of different denominations to work together. For example, at the 1910 Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, Protestant mission agencies in Britain, Europe, and the United States of America, including churches of the Stone-Campbell movement, came together and called for “denominational bodies to avoid duplication of efforts and unite in evangelizing the non-Christian world. Many associates within the Stone-Campbell mission organizations embraced this ecumenical vision, but others did not, producing new missions ‘independent’ of missionary societies and separate from missions of the US Church of Christ.”2 Thus, there is a historical pattern of some Churches of Christ participating in ecumenism and others holding onto sectarian attitudes.

Sectarianism is an extreme attachment to a sect.3 Commonly within the Churches of Christ, sectarianism refers to the belief that only Churches of Christ members will go to heaven. A lesser extreme of this attitude is manifest in the unwillingness to work with other denominations and judging them for what they consider to be incorrect beliefs.

The tension between sectarian and ecumenical efforts was evident among Churches of Christ missionaries in Vietnam during the American War.4 In this mission field, Churches of Christ congregations did not officially join with other Protestant denominations, like the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA), which was working in Vietnam simultaneously.5 Rather, American Churches of Christ created their own mission effort, the Vietnam Mission Program (VNMP).6

The VNMP was a joint project, starting in 1964, with multiple Churches of Christ around the United States. By the program’s end in 1972, sixty-eight stateside congregations and sixteen congregations and service members in Vietnam were recorded as participating in the program.7 The idea came at the request of Z. R. Daniel, William H. Oliver, and John Young, elders of the Royal Oak CoC in Royal Oak, Michigan. Royal Oak Church of Christ sent Maurice and Marie Hall, former missionaries to Germany and France who also taught at Michigan Christian Junior College,8 to investigate the missionary potential in Vietnam in 1962. The program started in 1964 with the Hall family and Phil Carpenter moving to Saigon to begin mission work.9 Phil Carpenter graduated from Michigan Christian College in 1963, and he was supported by Averill Avenue Church of Christ in Flint, Michigan.10 Wayne Briggs was the VNMP official missionary from 1966 to 1969, and Ray Cox replaced him and served until the program’s end in 1972. Shortly before Briggs returned to the USA, the program transitioned from the leadership of Royal Oak Church of Christ to Lennon Road Church of Christ (Flint, Michigan) in 1968, which ran the program until its close in 1972.11

Literature Comparison

Before exploring the VNMP more, one literary source needs to be discussed: The Stone-Campbell Movement: A Global History’s summary of “Operation Saigon.” According to The Stone-Campbell Movement, Operation Saigon started with Maurice Hall, Marie Hall, and Phil Carpenter in 1964. Two years later, thirteen more missionaries joined the original three in Saigon. The highlight of the mission work was a world radio program under Phil Nhon, and humanitarian relief, done with the help of military congregations. Additionally, the operation built an American-Vietnamese International School and had homes for orphans under the care of The Village Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, OK. The Stone-Campbell Movement claims there were seventeen Churches of Christ congregations by 1968. Unfortunately, that was the year that many missionaries left due to war escalations, and the number of missionaries dwindled by 1972 to only a few people. All the missionaries had left by April 25, 1975, when the North Vietnamese Army captured Saigon.

Is Operation Saigon the same as the VNMP? Possibly. Within the Christian Chronicle archives, there is only one reference to Operation Saigon in a recruiting article published on October 15, 1965. The article reported that missionaries Maurice C. Mall, Leonard Seake, Phil Carpenter, Lynn D. Yocum, and Gene Conner had laid “the foundations for ‘Operation Saigon,’” which other missionaries could join.12 With the notation that “Mall” was a misprint of “Hall,” the time frame and names would match the VNMP.

There is a further crossover with the mentioned radio program under Phil Nhon, the American-Vietnamese International School, and the Village Church of Christ orphan programs. According to this research, these programs are connected to or are part of the VNMP. For example, in an evaluation report, Maurice Hall discussed the start of the radio program, describing how Vietnamese Christian Phil Nhon is the right choice for the program due to his MA from the University of Saigon and his work as a translator, Bible scholar, and preacher. He had been part of Vietnam’s CMA (National Evangelical Church) but switched and was baptized and accepted into a Churches of Christ congregation.13

The mailbox addresses for the two groups are another potential connection between Operation Saigon and the VNMP. According to the Christian Chronicle, applications to join the operation could be sent to Church of Christ Mission, Operation Saigon, APO, San Francisco, California 96243. The “Saturate Saigon” program said their address was: Maurice C. Hall, Box 100, APO, San Francisco, 96243.14 While Operation Saigon did not give a box number, and the two had mail sent to different names, they shared a similar location. Of course, various overseas mission works may have used the same system due to convenience or other factors. Regardless, it is another connection between the two names.

Despite these similarities, differences between the VNMP and Operation Saigon are evident. One point of difference is in numbers. The Stone-Campbell Movement reported seventeen congregations created by 1968.15 However, according to a letter from the elders and staff of the VNMP in 1972, there were twenty-two congregations in 1968.16

Another interesting point of difference between Operation Saigon and VNMP regards their attitudes toward safety. Regarding Operation Saigon, The Stone-Campbell Movement notes, “The US Churches of Christ that supported the work in Vietnam recognized that it was a very dangerous place,” after which it goes on to describe the bombing of the US Embassy in Saigon in 1965.17 Yet, the “Saturate Saigon” program, connected to the VNMP through the missionary Lynn D. Yocum, encouraged people to sign up for the short-term mission trip to Saigon in May of 1966. Yocum, whom the Christian Chronicle also identified as an Operation Saigon missionary, described the situation: “The truth is that we go about our daily tasks without a great deal of concern or worried of threat to our safety. Some people have a picture of constant chaos present in the streets of Saigon, complete with the rapid fire of machine guns. This, however true in the past—both in Saigon and Los Angeles—, is not true now. If it were true, certainly the hundreds of tourist visas to Vietnam would not have been approved by the US government.”18 Thus, at least in one case, there was a difference in attitudes between that recorded by Williams, Foster, and Blowers and the missionary’s reports.

The most significant evidence for the connection between Operation Saigon and the VNMP comes from a letter from the leaders of the VNMP in 1972, who state that the VNMP began with the Orphan Care program, which Royal Oak Church of Christ, the Village Church of Christ, and others participated in during early 1966.19 The Stone-Campbell Movement claims the Village Church of Christ’s orphan homes for Vietnamese children were a part of Operation Saigon. If true, at least part of Operation Saigon became the VNMP.

In conclusion, it is possible that Operation Saigon was the work’s initial name and evolved into the VNMP. Alternatively, perhaps Operation Saigon was the popular name, and by 1966, VNMP became the official name. It is equally possible that part of Operation Saigon became the VNMP while other parts remained separate. Given the clear overlap but some differences, I claim the third possibility is more likely than the other possibilities. Regardless, there is more to the mission work done in Vietnam during the American war than The Stone-Campbell Movement reports.

Purpose and Importance

Five paragraphs are the extent of the The Stone-Campbell Movement’s coverage of Churches of Christ mission work during the American War. This short description could be considered relatively long, as the textbook describes the entire Stone-Campbell movement from its conception and development in 1830s to the late 1990s. However, there is an opportunity to add more depth to those paragraphs and learn more about mission work in Vietnam during the American War, not only about whom the missionaries helped and how many converted but about the missionaries themselves—their attitudes, thoughts, and work processes.

In this article, I pull out a magnifying glass and examine a specific area and time. It allows readers to consider the less studied human elements of mission work—the attitudes and collaboration efforts—of missionaries. It also provides a case study of historical accuracy about the tension between sectarian and ecumenical work in the Stone-Campbell Movement. I have found that the VNMP was characterized by shifting tensions between ecumenism and sectarianism, as well as missionaries’ positive and negative attitudes as the war progressed. Although the VNMP started in 1964, the Center for Restoration Studies at Abilene Christian University has records starting in 1966, which is this article’s point of departure.

Beginning: Hope and Collaboration (1966–1967)

War Dates: In 1966, the USA increased their troops in Viet Nam, and in 1967 they invaded the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Between 1966 and 1967, two years after the VNMP started in 1964, over twenty-nine missionaries arrived in Vietnam, including Wayne Briggs, the VNMP-appointed missionary.20 Among those arriving and those stateside, there was an attitude of positivity and possibility about missions in Vietnam. For example, missionary Ralph Burcham wrote, “The Vietnamese are most receptive, and the time is ripe for a harvest of souls.”21 Similarly, Ira Y. Rice Jr., a missionary to the “Far East,” shared in his newsletter, “I had the distinct feeling that we were witnessing of [sic] the best-conceived and best-set-up missionary efforts in the entire history of our brotherhood.”22 Churches of Christ missionaries during this time appeared to be organized and filled with zeal to serve those in Vietnam.

Service in Vietnam occurred in various forms. In 1966, Maurice Hall reported programs involving Christian education, orphan care, and radio work. Vietnamese evangelism was done in prisons and through children’s classes. Churches of Christ missionary Lynn D. Yocum organized one evangelism program called “Saturation Saigon,” a short-term mission trip to preach to the local people in Saigon.23 Like Yocum’s advertisement, most newsletters noted little stress regarding the war and more concern over the work in Vietnam.

Besides evangelism, there was also a good amount of benevolent work occurring. The focus of the Churches of Christ benevolent programs between 1966 and 1967 appeared to be on orphans. According to Briggs, the Orphan Program encouraged participation from stateside congregations, who sent clothing, money, gifts, and candy for the children. Perhaps too much candy was sent, he reported in one newsletter. In 1967, a reported on hundred seventy-three orphans were being cared for in the Saigon area, Central Vietnam, and Da Nang. The Orphan Program had a 70% growth in six months.24

However, the missionaries did not do all this work alone but collaborated with others. Yocum noted working in his community with a Chinese man who spoke nine languages. He also had the support of military brethren. His classes included military, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Montagnard people.25 Mission and outreach efforts included all people.

While the newsletters reported no military-specific mission work or outreach, there were examples of service members working with missionaries to serve the Vietnamese. One of the best examples of this was with the Hieu-Duc Vietnamese Christians. A war attack destroyed their church building, and the congregation in Saigon, with the USA Marines, helped them rebuild their meeting place afterward.26 The Vietnamese Christians were also involved in evangelism efforts, going where foreigners were not welcome. For example, Burcham wrote about a Mr. Bao, who moved to Bien Hoa to minister to his fellow Vietnamese there. He had baptized five people at the time of Burcham’s report, and one of the new believers was a former Buddhist monk.27

The sincere desire to serve and minister to the Vietnamese and others in Vietnam was evident in newsletters, particularly through prayer requests. Wayne Briggs even included prayer requests for the Viet Cong (northern communist Vietnamese soldiers), their lost souls, service members, and Vietnamese people.28 There was hope that the gospel and their work could reach every soul they came into contact with in Vietnam.

The mission efforts brought new growth among various people groups in Vietnam. By 1967, new congregations were reported, including one in the Nha Trang base with service members and one in Cholon with Chinese residents. In addition, there were twelve reported congregations among the Vietnamese, two of which were confirmed to be new, and four of which were in Saigon.29 Programs expanded, and evangelism and collaborative efforts between Vietnamese, US servicemen,30 and Churches of Christ missionaries were proving fruitful.

Transition: Shift in Ministry Focus (1968–1969)

War Dates:1968 began with the Tet Offensive as the Viet Cong launched attacks around Saigon, Hue, and Khe Sanh. Two months later, the My Lai Massacre by US troops occurred, and by May, peace talks started. In November, the US halted the bombing. Then by September of 1969, President Nixon withdrew 550,000 US troops, and Ho Chi Minh died and was succeeded by Ton Duc Thang. In the USA, there were widespread anti-war demonstrations in November and December.

Between 1968 and 1969, the VNMP was in transition. The program shifted from the management of the Royal Oak Church of Christ to Lennon Road Church of Christ, and the Orphan Care program was entrusted entirely to The Village Church of Christ.31 Additionally, the primary missionary of the program, Wayne Briggs, returned to the USA and was replaced by Ray Cox.32 Lastly, before the end of 1969, the mission work became solely military-focused.33 In a newsletter, Lennon Road Church of Christ described its desire for the VNMP to center on sharing the gospel by establishing congregations, urging worship, providing counseling, and performing hospital visits.34

During the transitions, there were still signs of positive attitudes and collaboration. However, there were also signs of judgment, negativity, and sectarianism. For example, a former missionary, Maurice Hall, wrote a scathing article for Contact magazine about the laziness of new preachers who stopped at the sign of “red tape” in countries including Vietnam. He said, “The trouble with preachers and elders and other Christians is that they are too often concerned about the invisible barriers.”35 However, one newsletter spoke of Vietnam’s problems as a lack of well-trained workers and steady support,36 which contrasts with Hall’s blaming of people’s trepidation. Still, both signaled a negative view of their current situation.

Negative and positive themes were also evident in the mission work. While the Orphan Care program closed, evangelistic outreach persisted. For example, a new missionary, Dan Skaggs, arrived in Vietnam focused on evangelizing and training Vietnamese leaders; attendance in Saigon doubled with his arrival and work.37 Also, in 1968, Briggs started a popular cookie program for service members. The program, which involved stateside Christians mailing cookies and Bible tracts to hospital service members, aligned well with the VNMP’s new mission focus and continued after he returned to the USA.38

Even with the structural change brought about by Lennon Road Church of Christ taking over the VNMP, there was increased military and Vietnamese collaboration. One example of this collaboration came from military congregations financially supporting Vietnamese preachers’ education. For example, thanks to the military congregations’ support, Vo Thanh Duc became the first Vietnamese minister to attend Philippine Bible College (PBC). The same congregations supported Nguyen Dan Bao, who was scheduled to return from PBC a few months after Vo Thanh Duc.39 Y Kre Mlo, a Rhade Tribesmen evangelist who worked with missionary Lynn Yocum, was also enrolled in the PBC—supported by a combination of various Christians in Vietnam.40 Both Da Nang Airbase and Bien Hoa Airbase also supported other Vietnamese pastors.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese outreach continued. For example, the Duc Pho base requested more Vietnamese Bibles in a newsletter update, while Da Nang base noted they were the Vietnamese Hu Duc congregation.41 In Saigon, Nha Trang and Da Nang, there were joint worship services between Filipinos, Koreans, Americans, and Vietnamese.42 Therefore, even though official mission work shifted to the military, there was an ongoing collaboration between the Vietnamese and the military personnel.

Despite positive work between servicemen and Vietnamese, collaboration with non-Churches of Christ members or groups varied. For example, there was one episode where the missionaries struggled to deal with military authorities. Believers at Tay Ninh wrote that the military authorities threatened to close the congregation unless official endorsements from the USA came immediately. However, they reported that they were able to use their personal contacts to get the needed paperwork in time.43 This struggle against the military authorities contrasted with Briggs writing a few months later for people to trust the military-assigned chaplains and use them to spread information about Churches of Christ gatherings.44 Thus, in some places, there could be collaboration, but in others not so much.

Additionally, during these transitional years, the sectarian trait of fear of judgment began to show. For example, in one of Brigg’s later newsletters, he shared the sign on a church vestibule saying, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” While this sign was on the newsletter, thus likely read by other church members and not used in propaganda against other denominations, it is still an example of judgmentalism and fear being used as a tactic for repentance, a standard sectarian tool. However, Briggs also showed some ecumenical characteristics. For instance, he republished an article on baptism written by the CMA, giving it a positive endorsement.45 Both of these things occurred in the same newsletter, demonstrating that even though Briggs had some level of a judgmental attitude, he also had ecumenical tendencies.

By contrast, Cox’s newsletters were heavily sectarian.46 His writing highlighted the belief that only Churches of Christ members went to heaven and an unwillingness to work with other denominations. For example, in his newsletter a few months after Briggs’s vestibule-sign article, Cox wrote negatively about Catholicism, from which Christ of Christ members had saved another soul.47 Such evidence suggests that the staffing change contributed to the shift toward sectarianism.

Despite the end of some programs and structural changes in the VNMP, the mission work progressed. Between 1968 and 1969, there was a one hundred percent increase in the Vietnamese church, as reported by Briggs. Hieu Duc had the most growth as its Vietnamese congregation doubled in membership and had eight baptisms in three months.48 Additionally, newsletters reported progress among military personnel. For example, according to the 1969 March newsletter, there were ten baptisms since October in Tay Ninh. Furthermore, the American Vietnamese International School, which Churches of Christ newsletters viewed as a mission effort, increased its enrollment to over 300 students.49 Also, a new congregation started in Chu Chu.50 In sum, despite transitions and shifting attitudes, people still came to know Christ as the war continued.

Ending: Negativity (1970–1972)

War Dates: In 1970, peace talks ceased, the fight against communism spread to Cambodia, and South Vietnamese forces joined in the conflict in Laos. A major North Vietnamese offensive in 1972 was halted by US bombing. By January 1973, there was a ceasefire agreement, and USA forces withdrew. Then in 1975, Saigon was captured, and the war ended.

Between 1970 and 1972, the work of the VNMP had shifted entirely to the military. The work included the following: contacting Christians and placing them in contact with other Christians in Vietnam; encouraging Christians to teach others; assisting military Churches of Christ congregations; assisting families and chaplains; counseling, special visits to individuals upon request; periodic visits to units and bases; endorsements; newsletter to armed forces members; the Herald of Truth’ religious retreats and special preaching series; hospital visits and cookie distribution; weekly fellowship and devotionals in Saigon; lodging in Saigon for visiting service members and missionaries; audio-visual material and publication; sermon tapes; college information; and R&R and leave information.51 The congregations at military bases continued to hold services and other events during these years. The Tan Son Nhut Airbase hosted classes every night of the week in 1970. The newsletters offered tracts for servicemen to give out and Bible correspondence courses.52

There were reports of mission work with the Vietnamese done by base congregations who self-reported their work. Cox printed their reports in his newsletters, which may have indicated his approval or simply been following a policy to share what others reported to him. The Tan Son Nhut Airbase provided money to Lynn Yocum and Y Kre Mlo for a car to do mission work with the Rhade Tribe.53 The Da Nang base started a new project in Hieu Duc, helping a Vietnamese Christian man care for orphanages; they added another room to the existing orphanage and gave him Vietnamese Bibles.54 Additionally, Long Binh supported a Mr. Bao in his mission work.55 As none of Cox’s newsletters contained evidence of him working with Vietnamese members—which was not his job as the VNMP focused on the military—the newsletters highlighted his espoused sectarian views. Given those two things, he likely did not inspire the little work done by servicemen and Vietnamese people or other missionaries.

Cox’s newsletters demonstrated a struggle to relate to and work with Vietnamese people. In one newsletter, Cox asked for prayers for the Christians, US service members, and missionaries in Vietnam but left off prayers for any of the Vietnamese people themselves.56 The idea that missionaries forgot the Vietnamese was echoed in a later newsletter by a Christian, John E. Rogin, from the Phu Cat base. He wrote, “Viet Nam has tremendous growth possibilities if those of us who are sent over here have the proper teaching and are given the faith to take with us. . . . I feel too many times they [Vietnamese people] are overlooked and forgotten by the people back home.” After that article, Cox began to request prayer for the Vietnamese people and peace in Vietnam.57

Two years later, the extreme negativity and dislike towards the Vietnamese was evident in Cox’s January 1972 newsletter, where he wrote an article titled, “Viet Nam Mission Work, Anyone?” He described the Vietnamese as being poor, constantly jealous, having disgusting ways, and wanting money. Unfortunately, though, his dislike was not contained only to the Vietnamese. In the same newsletter, he published an article about an American lying to him about attending a photography school and how terrible it was that the Mormons had more converts than Churches of Christ.58

It is possible that Cox was not alone in his negative opinions of the Vietnamese. Nguyen Dan Bao, a Vietnamese evangelist, published an article in Cox’s newsletters about the evil bewitching Vietnamese women who wanted American money. “America is honest,” he wrote, “Vietnamese women is plenty [sic] of ruse.”59 While this paper cannot prove that Cox’s and Bao’s negativity about the Vietnamese people was widespread, since there are few newsletters from others available to analyze, the fact that Cox published the article could be taken as evidence of his agreement with Bao, and therefore, further evidence of his negative opinion of the Vietnamese people. More so, the fact that Cox saw the news of withdrawing troops positively, which he published in his 1972 March newsletter, demonstrates how pessimistic he was about his work in Vietnam—he was happy about the troops withdrawing even though it meant his work ending. Alternatively, he was happy about the withdrawal because his work was almost ending.60

The newsletters also focused more on traditional Churches of Christ elements. For example, Cox wrote a page-and-a-half article about why communion must be done every Sunday.61 In addition, there were articles on why Churches of Christ members should not worship with other Protestants and how not all worship was acceptable.62 These articles were followed by another titled “What Not To Teach Service Members Going Overseas.” In Cox’s words, people should not teach service members that “God loves them and will be with them, no matter what circumstances.” Rather, they should be taught to read the Bible and go to church when possible.63 There is no doubt that in his article he meant they should go to a Churches of Christ congregation.

A level of judgment and fear also underlined most of the newsletters. For example, in two newsletters, there was a cartoon with a judge wearing glasses. Beneath the cartoon judge, it read, “No one will be excused from God’s judgment; and no one will be too busy to be there.”64 Additionally, there were short questions about testing Bible knowledge with the declaration that if someone missed one question, they needed to go and study their Bible more because the questions were from the sixth-grade curriculum.65 Another example of judgmentalism included Cox writing, in response to a few service members/missionaries going home, “We find almost all should be leaving with their heads downcast having brought shame and reproach to the precious name of our Lord. It would be far better if they would not indicate Christian or Churches of Christ on their personnel data forms than to be a disgrace to the Lord’s body.”66 Cox had no issue using fear and judgment in his newsletters, letters which, due to their nature, were likely used to raise support and bring awareness of his work.

Besides judgmentalism, the outlook on congregational work became increasingly negative, although there were some positive reports from congregations. Base congregations increased and decreased in numbers based on rotation.67 The Pleiku base struggled with finding a permanent location.68 Nevertheless, there was a new congregation in Chu Lai in 1970 and a few baptisms in 1971.69 The cookie program was often praised and utilized. Interestingly, while previous newsletters provided information on how to donate to the mission work, his newsletters now specifically requested financial donations.70 By March of 1972, only two congregations were noted as sending in money to the VNMP, and only six base congregations were listed, compared to the fifteen mentioned in January.71 Thus, while the number of congregations decreased and membership fluctuated, there were still things to praise amongst the bases. Without much fanfare, the VNMP ended in 1972.72


Why the shift toward negativity and the increase in sectarianism? One possibility is that the worsening of the war caused an increase in military mission focus, sectarianism, and negativity; evidence of this comes from comparing military dates with events in newsletters. For example, the VNMP’s transition to Lennon Road Church coincided with the 1968 Tet Offensive, which saw many missionaries leave. After this, the VNMP employed Ray Cox, and newsletters became increasingly hostile the longer he served, and as he served, the war worsened.73 Thus, perhaps the stress and struggle of serving overseas “got to him” and darkened his attitude. Unfortunately, there is no way to confirm this save for an interview with him or reading his journal if he had kept one at that time.

Another explanation for the increased negativity and sectarianism in the newsletters is that they reflected Churches of Christ sentiment in the USA.74 Firm Foundation articles from 1964 to 1971 followed similar feelings and themes as the VNMP newsletters. The January 1964 article was filled with positivity; the editorial wrote about a “spirit of aggressive optimism” for church planting and building. There was a focus on living spiritually and a call for unity over “bickering and strife.”75 By January 1969, however, the magazine presented the world more negatively. An editorial claimed that forces were at work to stop the truth, and preaching had lost its power. Most Christians reportedly did not live for Christ and argued about titles like “reverend” being unscriptural.76 The following year, in January 1970, this critique of the world and other Christians continued. One article discussed how it was the “Devil’s Decade.”77 January of 1971, the editorial discussed the spiritual depression that might be at an end but critiqued the World Council of Churches and spoke against all ecumenicalism, modernism, and liberalism. According to the author, the only thing to do was fight back by preaching the Bible.78 Thus, if the Firm Foundation indicates American Churches of Christ attitudes, then there was an increase in sectarianism matching Cox’s attitudes in his newsletters.79

More Research

As with any research, more questions arose from the work. Besides the questions surrounding sectarianism and negativity, there are questions about other missionaries. For example, what were the attitudes of other VNMP missionaries, like Maurice and Marie Hall or Phil Carpenter, whose newsletters were not in the archives for me to analyze? Outside of the program, other mission work by Churches of Christ missionaries in Vietnam was likely occurring at the same time. Was this the case? If so, did they overlap at all or interact with each other? How did they compare?

Additionally, it would be valuable to compare this research to other historiographies like The Stone Campbell Movement: A Global History. Finally, there is need to evaluate Churches of Christ mission work alongside other Protestant mission work, like the CMA, which was also active in Vietnam at the same time. How did the CMA compare with the VNMP or other Churches of Christ missionaries? Where were the overlaps? Did CMA or other groups struggle with sectarian or negative attitudes like Churches of Christ missionaries? More research might form a more precise image of historical mission work in Vietnam, which is valuable for its own sake and for the lessons that it might offer to current and future missionaries.


This article has offered an in-depth look at the work, mindset, and attitudes of Churches of Christ missionaries connected to the VNMP during the American war. At the program’s start, there was a collaboration between various denominations and groups. At this time, the newsletters rang with positivity about what God was doing in the country. Shifts in attitudes began between 1968 and 1969, during transitions with the VNMP.80 Various programs closed. Wayne Briggs, the VNMP missionary, returned home and was replaced by Ray Cox.81 At this time, the ministry switched from the care of the Vietnamese to military mission work.82 Between 1970 and 1972, the newsletters and documents became increasingly hostile, evincing a rise in sectarianism and judgmentalism. Despite the attitudes expressed by VNMP missionaries, the military congregations and the Vietnamese were still collaborating at the local level. As the US involvement ended in the war, so did the VNMP’s work.

Overall, the mission work of the VNMP experienced highs and lows. Some months saw baptisms, and others saw congregational membership decreasing. Some programs ended, and others persisted. Through it all, there was a tug-a-war between ecumenicalism and sectarianism among the missionaries and their attitudes surrounding the work.

Ariel Bloomer lived and did mission work in Vietnam between 2017–2019 while teaching ESL. Previously a social worker and ESL teacher, she has moved into ministry full-time. She recently graduated from the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University with a Master of Divinity and Masters of Arts in Modern and American Christianity. Her thesis, “Tính Thống Nhất Trong Sự Đa Dạng: Hanoi International Fellowship Ethnography,” (master’s thesis, Abilene Christian University, 2023),, is focused on her church in Vietnam and the concept of unity in diversity versus unity and diversity.

1 I claim this based on my own observations from being in the mission field and talking with missionaries.

2 D. Newell Williams, Douglas A. Foster, and Paul M. Blowers, eds., The Stone-Campbell Movement: A Global History (St. Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press, 2013), 115.

3 See Jutta Jokiranta, “Sects, Sectarians,” The New Interpreter’s Dictionary Of The Bible S-Z, vol. 5 (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2009), 151, 152; Cambridge Dictionary, s.v. “Sectarianism,”; Roger Scruton, “Sectarianism,” Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Political Thought, 3rd ed., (Credo Reference: Macmillan Publisher Ltd, 2007). Sect refers to a group that as has split from the main group because joint membership is impossible due to differences. These differences can be related to schools of opinion and/or customs. There is a negative connotation with this term. Sects hold various degrees of tension with their environments and counterparts.

4 Vietnamese people refer to the 1955–1975 war with America as the American War. Americans refer to this conflict as the Vietnam War.

5 Williams, Foster, and Blowers, The Stone-Campbell Movement, 254. The Churches of Christ missionaries were aware and interacted to some extent with these mission organizations. For example, one newsletter notes that CMA had been working with five tribes in the Rhad Tribe of Montagnards in the Central Highlands of Vietnam for the past twenty years (Lennon Road Church of Christ, “Viet-Nam Newsletter,” Michigan, n.d., VF—World Churches – 59700.A Vietnam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX. Based on dates within the newsletter, the estimated date is 1969).

6 The newsletters, conference reports, and other material on the VNMP were found in the Center for Restoration Studies archives at Abilene Christian University. Without their staff’s assistance, especially director Mac Ice, and access to the archive, this research would not have been possible.

7 Elders and Staff of Viet Nam Mission Program to Brethren, San Francisco, CA, n.d., F–World Churches–59700.D Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX. Based on the dates within the newsletter, the estimated date is 1972.

8 Z. R. Daniel, William H. Oliver, and John Young, Vietnam: A Report (Abilene, TX, 1966), 9, Stone-Campbell Books, 387,

9 “Report On Viet Nam Mission Conference,” Memphis, TN, 1966, VF–World Churches–59700.D, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

10 Daniel, Oliver, and Young, Vietnam: A Report, 10.

11 Amos Ponder to Contributor, March 19, 1968, VF–World Churches–59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX; Elders and Staff of Viet Nam Mission Program to Brethren, San Francisco, CA, San Francisco, CA, San Francisco, CA, n.d., F–World Churches–59700.D Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

12 James W. Nicholas, “American Young People Urged to Take Mission to Vietnam,” Christian Chronicle, October 15, 1965.

13 Maurice Hall, “Maurice Halls Resign Work in Saigon—Gives Evaluation Report,” 1966, VF–World Churches–59700.A Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

14 Lynn D. Yocum, “Saturation Saigon Information” (n.d.), VF–World Churches– 59700.D Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX. Based on the dates within the newsletter, the estimated date is 1966.

15 Williams, Foster, and Blowers, The Stone-Campbell Movement, 281–82.

16 Elders and Staff of Viet Nam Mission Program to Brethren.

17 Williams, Foster, and Blowers, The Stone-Campbell Movement, 282.

18 Yocum, “Saturation Saigon Information.”

19 Elders and Staff of Viet Nam Mission Program to Brethren.

20 Lynn D. Yocum, “News and Notes from Viet Nam,” Nha-Trang, Viet Nam, n.d.), VF—World Churches—59700.D Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.; Ralph Burcham, “Don’t You Be in the Dark about VIETNAM,” n.d., VF—World Churches—59700.A Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX. The connection of the other 28 missionaries to the program is unknown. Based on dates within, the estimated date for “News and Notes from Viet Nam” is 1966, and “Don’t You Be in the Dark about VIETNAM” is 1967.

21 Burcham, “Don’t You Be in the Dark about VIETNAM.”

22 Ira Y Rice Jr., “Far East Newsletter,” Hamden, CT, 1966, VF—World Churches—59700.A Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

23 Yocum, “Saturation Saigon Information.”

24 Burcham, “Don’t You Be in the Dark about VIETNAM.”

25 Yocum, “News and Notes from Viet Nam.”

26 Wayne Briggs, “Saigon, Viet Nam—November/December, 1967,” Royal Oak Church of Christ, Royal Oak, Michigan, January 19, 1968), VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

27 Burcham, “Don’t You Be in the Dark about VIETNAM.”

28 Briggs, “Saigon, Viet Nam.”

29 Burcham, “Don’t You Be in the Dark about VIETNAM.”

30 Servicemen is used here in keeping with the language reflected in the reference materials.

31 Wm. H. Oliver, “Viet Nam for Christians,” Royal Oak Church of Christ, Royal Oak, Michigan, January 19, 1968, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

32 Wayne Briggs, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, March 1969, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX; idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, April 1969, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

33 Ray Cox, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, December 1969, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

34 Elders and Staff of Viet Nam Mission Program to Brethren.

35 Maurice Hall, “Faith, Red-Tape, and Conflict,” Contact 15, no. 2, (1968), p. 9-15, VF—World Churches—59700.A Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

36 Lennon Road Church of Christ, “Viet-Nam Newsletter.”

37 Wayne Briggs, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, May/June 1969, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

38 Briggs, “Saigon, Viet Nam—November/December, 1967.”

39 Lennon Road Church of Christ, “Viet-Nam Newsletter.”

40 Ray Cox, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, September 1969, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

41 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, March 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

42 Cox, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” September 1969.

43 Briggs, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” March 1969.

44 Wayne Briggs, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, May/June 1969, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

45 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” May/June 1969.

46 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” March 1969.

47 Cox, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” December 1969.

48 Briggs, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” May/June 1969.

49 Lennon Road Church of Christ, “Viet-Nam Newsletter.”

50 Briggs, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” April 1969.

51 Elders and Staff of Viet Nam Mission Program to Brethren.

52 Ray Cox, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, May 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX; idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, September 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

53 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” May 1970.

54 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, August 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

55 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, October 1971, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

56 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” May 1970.

57 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, June 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

58 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, January 1972, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

59 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” March 1972. A brief moment should be given here to better understand the context into which Bao writes about Vietnamese woman. The socioeconomic impact of the US soldiers in Viet Nam should not be underestimated. Amanda Boczar, An American Brothel (Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 2022), looks explicitly at this context from the view of the US administration, the Vietnamese administration, and sex. The book describes the relationship between Vietnamese women and US servicemen: “Through the close contact of wartime employment, instances of intercultural dating, marriage, prostitution, and rape became regular occurrences between service members and local women” (1). Early on, there was an “enforcement of morality,”(18) but that soon fell to the demand for sex from soldiers. The Johnson administration “swept the issue aside” (19). In comparison, the Nixon administration made laws to smooth out the transactions and friction between servicemen and the South Vietnamese government. When the soldiers left, the economy collapsed since their presence had caused a spike in the black market. Involved Vietnamese women and mixed children received terrible treatment and re-education at the hands of the new administration (191, 194). Therefore, one could argue that women were acting as Bao describes them because of the impact of American servicemen, making them less of the valiant force he portrays in his letter.

60 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, March 1972, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

61 Ray Cox, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, April 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

62 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, July 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX; idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, August 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

63 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, November 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

64 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” July 1970.

65 Ibid.

66 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, August 1971, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

67 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, August 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX; idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, December 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

68 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, April 1971, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

69 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, September 1970, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX; idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, June 1971, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX; idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, August 1971, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

70 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” April 1971.

71 Idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, January 1972, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX; idem, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” Lennon Road Church of Christ, San Francisco, March 1972, VF—World Churches—59700.B Viet Nam, Center for Restoration Studies, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

72 Elders and Staff of Viet Nam Mission Program to Brethren.

73 Lennon Road Church of Christ, “Viet-Nam Newsletter.”

74 The changes came from those of the leading churches. Perhaps Royal Oak Church of Christ had more of an ecumenical spirit and was more positive about mission work than Lennon Road Church of Christ. This could explain why the missionary chosen by Lennon Road Church of Christ, Cox, was more sectarian and negative than his predecessor Wayne Briggs. I made an attempt to contact Lennon Road Church of Christ in Michigan, but the church currently residing at their old address had no knowledge of the Church of Christ or what became of it. Nor is there a Lennon Road Church of Christ in the area. Therefore, while I was able to locate Royal Oak Church of Christ in Michigan, no comparison could be made.

75 “January 1964,” Firm Foundation 91, no. 1 (1964): 3280–86.

76 “January 1969,” Firm Foundation 86, no. 1 (1969): 7401–8.

77 “January 1970,” Firm Foundation 87, no. 1 (1970): 2–8.

78 “January 1971,” Firm Foundation 88, no. 1 (1971): 2–8.

79 I was able to access copies of 1969 and 1970 Spiritual Sword editions. These were overtly sectarian. Because only a two-year period was accessible, I do not use them as evidence for the correlation discussed above.

80 Oliver, “Viet Nam for Christians.”

81 Briggs, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” March 1969; ibid, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” April 1969.

82 Cox, “Viet Nam For Christ Newsletter,” December 1969.

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Resistance, Redemption, and “the Powers”: Applying the Sermon on the Mount to Corruption and Racism

In order for the church to flourish, disciples of Jesus must be trained to resist the evil “powers that be.” This is a challenge, though, because the people of God experience different cultural obstacles, and even their ability to resist is distorted by the powers themselves. The authors first explore ways of framing our understanding of the powers before presenting the Sermon on the Mount as a “resistance text.” Finally, they investigate the effects of the fallen powers in both Mozambique (specifically corruption) and in the United States (specifically racism), showing how Jesus’s teachings can help name the powers and provide practical strategies for resisting them in those contexts.

A discouraged Mozambican church leader opened up about his frustration: “It sure seems like evil is winning. And it’s not just the evil out there in the world—there is evil within the church, too. A fellow church leader is taking money that belongs to the Body of Christ and some church members are letting him get away with it! How is it that greed has possessed him and others in our community? How good is our good news if we can’t find a way to resist what is bad?” I (Alan) have heard many similar laments among the Makua-Metto people of Mozambique. But these conversations are certainly not unique to that part of Africa. Cries for a solution to the power of darkness in our lives can be heard all across the globe.

In Paul’s letters, he uses the language of the “principalities” and “powers” to describe what the body of Christ was up against (Eph 6:12). The Apostle uses this language to help the church see the ways that the good news of Jesus is at work in addressing the problem of evil and darkness. In short, the “powers” are divinely created spiritual forces at work in the world. They are “at one and the same time visible and invisible, earthly and heavenly, spiritual and institutional.”1 Like human beings, they too are fallen. And, though it may surprise us at first, the bigger story of redemption to which Paul bears witness includes how God is working to redeem all of creation—even the powers that be. As N. T. Wright explains in reference to Col 1:15–20:

So where do the “powers” come in? . . . First, in the great poem . . . we find the vital starting point. All things were made in Christ, through Christ, and for Christ. All things—including the “powers”! . . . God intended his world to be ordered, not random; to be structured, not chaotic. . . . What went wrong was that human beings gave up their responsibility for God’s world, and handed them over to the powers. . . . On the cross, Christ has defeated these rebel powers and stripped them of their ultimate power. Now he seeks to reconcile them, to create a new world, ordered by the power of the love of God.2

In this article, we will explore ways that the church should understand and engage the fallen powers. We believe that a first step is finding language to talk about the powers, learning to unpack a vocabulary unfamiliar to many. Although Paul’s letters are certainly helpful for this task, we suggest that the Sermon on the Mount interpreted as a “resistance text” against the powers is an underappreciated resource in framing the discussion. In the Sermon, Jesus gives us both language and strategies to help us flourish, even in enemy-occupied territory. In the second and third sections of the article, we will look at the effects of the fallen powers in two places: the problem of corruption in Mozambique and the challenge of racism in the United States. We will see how the Sermon on the Mount can help name the powers and provide practical strategies for resisting them in those contexts.3

Understanding the Powers and Unmasking their Strategies

Though many readers of the New Testament only consider two active entities within its pages, Fleming Rutledge reminds us that there are in fact three: “God the creator of the world, the Enemy who has invaded and occupied the world, and the human beings and other creatures who are held in captivity by the demonic occupier. Those are the three agencies in the New Testament scenario.”4 One significant problem, however, is that many Christians today are not sufficiently familiar with language about the powers to appreciate and understand the agency of the Enemy in the world today. For example, Westerners sometimes talk about “team spirit” or about a corporation that has been taken captive by (the power of) greed, but we rarely articulate the agency at play in such instances that works against the kingdom of God. To aid us in our exploration, we will rely on N. T. Wright, Walter Wink, Marva Dawn, and Charles Campbell as conversation partners before turning our attention to the Sermon on the Mount, setting the stage for the rest of the article.

Wright provides three guideposts for discussing the problem of evil using powers language. First, we need to remember the holistic nature of God’s justice.5 God is concerned with more than individual salvation; God wants the whole world to become the place it was intended to be when God formed it in the beginning and called it “good” (Gen 1:31). Second, we must recall that the line between good and evil runs right through every human heart. It would be inappropriate to think of good and evil as merely “us vs. them.” Instead, we must recognize the brokenness in each of us.6 Third, it is helpful to see the atonement as an event. God deals with the problem of sin, death, and Satan through decisive action.7 Wright notes, “What the Gospels offer is not a philosophical explanation of evil, what it is or why it’s there, not a set of suggestions for how we might adjust our lifestyles so that evil will mysteriously disappear from the world, but the story of an event in which the living God deals with it.”8 These three guideposts allow us to find our bearings as we begin the journey of understanding and engaging the powers.

It is hard to overstate Walter Wink’s influence in introducing and shaping the way “powers language” is used today to speak about the problem of evil.9 Wink asserts that the powers “are at once good and evil, though to varying degrees, and they are capable of improvement. Put in stark simplicity: ‘The Powers are good. The Powers are fallen. The Powers must be redeemed.’ ”10 Evil, then, is not merely a personal issue; it is both “structural and spiritual” as individual actions are linked to massive systems that take on a life of their own.11 Wink calls this “overarching network” of fallen powers the “Domination System,” a web of corruption that is “characterized by unjust economic relations, oppressive political relations, biased race relations, patriarchal gender relations, hierarchical powers relations, and the use of violence to maintain them all.”12 The “demonic character” of these powers “rests not so much in their transcendent nature or personal agency, as in their capacity to control the imaginations and behavior of human beings, individually and communally.”13 Our goal, then, becomes even more ambitious than becoming “free from the Powers.” Instead, life in the Kingdom of God aims “to free the Powers.”14

Despite her misgivings about some of Wink’s conclusions,15 Dawn draws from his work and offers deeper insight into the nature of the powers in relation to the people of God. She observes that because human beings comprise the church, and because the line between good and evil cuts right through every human heart, even churches, who were made to have a “unique role” in redeeming the powers, can be impacted or hijacked by evil spiritual forces.16 She writes, “Our churches operate as fallen powers when the gospel is no longer a stumbling block, when the ‘foolishness’ and ‘weakness’ of God outlined in 1 Cor 1–2 are discarded in favor of status, position, wealth, popularity, acceptability to the modern or postmodern minds, or power.”17 Dawn suggests “the overwhelming pressures on church leaders to be successful” and the “reduction of the gospel for the sake of marketing” as two examples of this phenomenon by which congregations might participate in the Domination System.18 Tragically, we can also add examples of more systematic corruption in congregational leadership that have led to the exclusion and abuse of women, children, people of color, the poor, and the disabled. Indeed, until Jesus returns, even the body of Christ is not immune to the evil grasp of fallen powers. Though this reality could lead us to despair, Dawn believes that the church still has significant reason to hold onto hope. First, God continues to tabernacle among God’s people by the power of the Spirit, despite human weakness.19 Second, as she so confidently reminds us: “Always we must remember that the powers can be changed . . . because Jesus Christ already is Lord over them.”20

Our survey thus far has remained mostly theoretical. Perhaps the best way for us to grasp the nature of the fallen powers’ work in the world is to take note of their various tactics. Charles Campbell describes nine different strategies that the powers have used throughout human history to sow seeds of corruption and disunity:

  1. Negative Sanctions
  2. [Supposed] Rewards and Promises
  3. Isolation and Division
  4. Demoralization
  5. Diversion
  6. Public Rituals
  7. Surveillance
  8. Language and Image
  9. Secrecy21

One could identify additional tactics that the powers use, but Campbell casts a wide net. Much of the evil we see in the world today is connected to one or more of these nine strategies. Although the powers have implemented their strategies in new ways over time, the underlying principles of corruption remain the same—from Jesus’s day until now. In the first century, the Roman Empire publicly scourged and crucified anyone who defied Caesar’s dominion (Negative Sanctions, Public Rituals).22 In the colonial era, Europeans removed African peoples from their homelands and isolated them from their family members in order to keep them enslaved in the Americas (Isolation and Division).23 In the digital age, corporations distract consumers with entertainment and advertisements, keeping the masses blissfully unaware of the unfair business practices to which their spending contributes (Diversion, Language and Image).24 We could list many more examples. The centuries of success that the fallen powers have had using these nine tactics are overwhelming. Such continuity, however, also means that the most powerful methods of resistance throughout church history can be effective against the Domination System today. We can, therefore, look to the New Testament for guidance on how the twenty-first-century church might work to overturn systems of corruption and injustice.

The bedrock of Christian ethics—of how disciples of Jesus ought to live in a fallen world and resist the powers that be—is the Sermon on the Mount.25 These chapters (Matt 5–7) form the most comprehensive block of moral teaching in the Gospels. As we will show, the Sermon itself is a resistance text (a point amplified once we take note of the narrative context in which the Sermon is placed).26

Claiming divine authority, Jesus calls his hearers in the Sermon on the Mount to a way of living that is, as Jonathan Pennington puts it, “topsy-turvy and dissonance creating . . . Jesus’ wisdom and way for human flourishing are not portrayed as the natural outflow of human thinking and reflection. It is an irruption into this world.”27 Jesus’s sermon is an affront to the powers and systems of this world; he presents a yoke of flourishing that stands in contrast to the yoke of oppression that the powers have to offer.28 Wink reminds us that Jesus “repudiated the very premises of the Domination System: the right of some to lord it over others by means of power, wealth, shaming, or titles.”29 Jesus’s yoke empowers his disciples to reject the world’s binary of choosing between participating in violence or passively accepting it as one’s fate, and he calls us to embrace a non-violent “third way.” For example, Jesus’s exhortation to go the second mile is not encouraged “in order to build up merit in heaven, or to be pious, or to kill the soldier with kindness. He is helping an oppressed people find a way to protest and neutralize an onerous practice despised throughout the empire,” offering a way “in which the people at the bottom of society or under the thumb of imperial power learn to recover their humanity.”30 Jesus’s instructions for contextualized resistance “are, of course, not rules to be followed legalistically, but examples to spark an infinite variety of creative responses in new and changing circumstances.”31 He trains his followers to resist the powers in ways that reveal their brokenness (shining light on their strategies) and open up the possibility of their future redemption. Interestingly, after Campbell describes the powers’ nine corrupt strategies, he also moves to the Sermon on the Mount.32 In the next two sections, we will explore how the Sermon on the Mount provides alternative strategies for resisting the fallen powers in two places: the problem of corruption in Mozambique and the challenge of racism in the United States.

The Powers and the Makua-Metto People:
Naming and Resisting Corruption in Mozambique

In Mozambique, conversations about power dynamics are salted with the word aproveitar (Portuguese for “take advantage of”). People at every level of leadership or power assume that they should aproveitar their position for personal gain. This kind of corruption severely limits development. It was not uncommon for my [Alan’s] Makua-Metto friends to express frustration because attending nurses at the hospital might refuse to treat a sick child unless they were given a “tip.” Bus drivers would have cash on hand for traffic officers in order to keep themselves from being held up at road stops. We also knew high school students whose teachers would expect a “gift” in order for a student to pass their class, regardless of the quality of their schoolwork. How should disciples of Jesus respond to everyday experiences of corruption and abuse of power?

The Sermon on the Mount includes some of Jesus’s most practical teachings on the way that disciples ought to deal with everyday expressions of the problem of evil.33 His most challenging instruction, though, may be that of “nonviolent resistance.”34 Jesus’s teaching in Matt 5:38–42, given to a people living under an oppressive Roman regime, also speaks to the situation of abuse and corruption in which the Makua-Metto people find themselves.

Although a full cultural and rhetorical analysis of this passage is outside the scope of this article, a few observations about this text should be noted before we address its application. First, Craig Keener notes that “turning the other cheek summons disciples to neglect their honor and let God vindicate them when he wills.”35 Jesus does not instruct his disciples to become the proverbial “doormat;”rather, he provides a radical example of openhanded generosity to teach the principle of active nonresistance and non-retaliation in response to the backhanded blows and insults from those enslaved to the powers of evil.36

Second, in societies shaped by honor and shame, like the Mediterranean world of the New Testament as well as the Makua-Metto context,37 “a disciple must be so secure in his or her status before God that he or she can dispense with human honor. Such a person need not avenge lost honor because this person seeks God’s honor rather than his or her own (5:16; 6:1–18). If their lives are forfeit when they begin to follow Jesus (16:24–27), they have no honor of their own to lose.”38 Although the Roman soldier uses power and “forces” one into service, “ ‘going the extra mile’ is not only a case of submitting to unjust demands but also of exceeding them—showing love to one’s oppressor, although one’s associates may wrongly view this love as collaboration with the enemy occupation. It is bending over backward to show that one loves and takes no offense.”39 Jesus put this Kingdom ethic of engagement with evil into practice as he “supremely modeled this attitude in the passion narrative.”40

Third, Keener summarizes the rhetorical flow of Jesus’s argument this way: “If nonresistance means disdaining one’s right to one’s own honor (5:38–39), one’s most basic possessions (5:40), and one’s labor and time (5:41) when others seek them by force, one must also disdain these things in view of the needs of the poor (5:42).”41 Keener’s point about generosity to the poor is certainly applicable, but what if v. 42 is normative for the way disciples of Jesus should engage everyone on the socioeconomic spectrum: not only the powerless, but also in dealings with the powerful?42 Hagner states that this verse furthers “the line of thought in the preceding verses by teaching a charitable response to all who may ask for something or who may ask to borrow. In these illustrations, it is no longer a matter of response to mistreatment, or even to forced conduct, but to straightforward requests.” Jesus’s ethic applies to both justifiable and unjustifiable requests; in either case, we are called to respond with radical generosity in a way that is “alien to the perspective of the world.”43

Though the Makua-Metto people do not have to deal with the exact same ethical cases that Jesus references, they do need the same kingdom imagination to map a response to everyday evil in their own context.44 The history of Mozambique in general and the province of Cabo Delgado in particular has been shaped by communist ideology.45 Following the trends of other nations, this means that “top-level corruption . . . [and] lower-level corruption, which occurs in the daily encounters between lower-rank functionaries and the rest of society is not only extremely wide-spread, but appears to be inevitable.”46 Corruption is a problem in Mozambique, an expression of evil that severely limits development and impacts everyday life.47

In order to understand that from the Mozambican perspective, I (Alan) conducted individual interviews (20–40 minutes) with four church leaders and then discussed these findings with small groups or classes of mostly men (thirty-seven participants total). After conducting qualitative interviews about engaging the evils of corruption in this context and triangulation of the principles gleaned from the data in small groups, it was clear that Jesus’s instructions in the Sermon on the Mount provided a helpful resource for navigating the problem of corruption. Our interviews began by summarizing Jesus’s teaching in Matt 5:38–42 and asking participants to analyze its application to the ethics of gift-giving, bribery, and extortion. Out of those conversations a flowchart was developed and presented to groups of church leaders as a potential framework (see below).

Interviewees appreciated how Jesus’s instruction deals practically with life under a corrupt rule, offering direction for people who are on the underside of power. We discussed different scenarios and how various areas of life are shaped by these dynamics—from police stops, to processing documents with the local government, to getting treatment at the hospital, to dealing with school teachers and administrators. We discussed the struggle to do Christian ethics and appropriately distinguish between different exchanges:

  • Bribery – “any gift or services given or promised by a client to a certain ‘power holder’ . . . in order to encourage him or her to violate a duty or moral obligation”
  • Extortion – “the power holder’s intention of obtaining any pecuniary gift from a client as a condition to dispense duty or services”
  • Gift-giving – Since, “prior to this modern bureaucratic system, most of the world operated on a gift economy that relied upon reciprocity and patronage, in countries where . . . officials are not properly compensated, there is a general understanding that they are permitted to look for compensation elsewhere, and the practice of what Western missionaries call ‘bribe’ is actually understood as part of their commission or a ‘tip in advance.’ . . . In reality, these . . . payments for services . . . do not fall under the category of bribes since in most cases they do not coerce officials to violate a duty (such as giving a visa without proper documentation), but only to ensure service.”48

Interviewees and participants agreed that starting the interaction as friends opened doors for proper exchanges between the powerful and powerless, as gift giving is appropriate under the right circumstances.49 Asking, then, is in the mode of friendship. But when the powerful use force and manipulation to get what they want, that is extortion—an evil perpetrated by the powerful on the powerless. Bribery, on the other hand, is manipulation of the powerless. Here both parties are complicit—this is also a distortion of God’s image and is a reflection of the image of the corrupt power, Mammon. In practice, the difficulty comes in distinguishing well among these three in everyday life, as the lines between them are often blurred. We also discussed the role of the conscience and determined that certain interactions may leave us feeling “icky” because we have not done the right thing or because we have been abused. Our reading of Matt 5:38–42 speaks to those distinctions and provides a map or guidelines for Christian ethics and the powers among the Makua-Metto—giving to those who ask of you (treating them in friendly terms)50 and turning the cheek when the powerful have taken an abusive stance.51

Mozambique’s problems with corruption have arisen because the powers have overstepped their boundaries and human leaders have not reflected God’s glory. The struggle to discern appropriate strategies of engagement and proper use of power should be done with wisdom.52 In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:38–41), Jesus gives people who were under the corruption and abuse of Herod and the Roman powers a way to respond to gift-giving, bribery, and extortion that also fits this African context. His teaching is helpful for the Makua-Metto church’s work of naming and disarming the powers of evil today.

The Powers and Generation Z:
Naming and Resisting Racial Injustice in Memphis, Tennessee

In order to resist fallen powers, followers of Jesus must first name them. If the truth goes unspoken, then all of the fallen powers’ strategies remain at their disposal. For the church to expose the corrupt ways of the powers is to disarm them; this is the first step in tipping the scales and reversing the status quo for the downtrodden. Though truth-speaking is only the beginning of the long path toward justice, the journey cannot begin without it. After all, it is the belt of truth that holds the armor of God together.53

In the late spring of 2020, as the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd came to light, racial injustice came to the forefront of white Americans’ consciousness once again.54 Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by a white father-and-son duo after they pursued Arbery, having suspected him of committing some crime.55 Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was murdered while she was asleep in her own home: several white police officers, searching for another suspect, forced their way into her residence and shot her eight times.56 George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed when a white police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly eight minutes after arresting Floyd for allegedly passing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.57 Neither Arbery, Taylor, nor Floyd were proven guilty of any wrongdoing before their lives were cut short. In the wake of these killings, millions of Americans participated in marches and other demonstrations across the country in order to protest racial inequality and police brutality in the United States.58 The community of Harding University (our alma mater) was directly affected by such racial injustice in 2018 when Botham Jean, an alumnus of the school and a native of Saint Lucia, was murdered by a white police officer in his apartment in Dallas, Texas.59 Many Americans at the time expressed their outrage over the unjust slaying of Jean, but the nation’s response surged to a new level following the murders of Arbery, Taylor, and Floyd.60

During the summer of 2020, at the height of these mass protests against racial injustice in America, I (Logan) was serving as a youth minister in Memphis, Tennessee—a city long-acquainted with the fallen power of racism and the hard work of racial reconciliation. Though current events should not commandeer the ministry of the church, its ministers must always follow the Spirit’s leading as their congregations seek to navigate the cultural storms stirred up by the powers that be. Thus, the squall of Arbery’s, Taylor’s, and Floyd’s deaths, which sparked millions of social media posts and nearly as many opinions,61 necessitated a response from our youth ministry leaders. What were American youth ministers called to do in order to guide teenagers through the cultural tumult around them?

Speaking the truth sheds light on corruption. It is vital for redeeming the powers, and it is the first step in living a virtuous life. Jesus makes this clear in Matt 6:1–21, the heart of the Sermon on the Mount.62 In this well-known section of the Sermon, Jesus lays out three scenarios in which hypocrites—who Matthew later identifies in ch. 23 as the powerful first-century Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees—abuse their privileged position as interpreters of Torah by corrupting the true intent of the Law and using it to their own advantage. In the first, the Pharisees announce their giving to the needy with trumpets in order to boast of their generosity (vv. 2–4). In the second, they pray loudly in public to put their supposed piety on display for others to see (vv. 5–7). In the third, Jesus describes Pharisees who fast and let it be known by their sunken faces (v. 16). All three scenarios show how, just as church leaders today can become co-opted by fallen powers, the Pharisees had become corrupted by the power of legalism.63 The Law, given by God to instill wholeness through humble righteousness, had been hollowed out by the Pharisees’ lust for power and the communicable disease of hypocrisy. Jesus condemns such behavior, not because the Pharisees “really do not give alms, pray, and fast, but because they do so without a whole heart.”64 Jesus condemned them as a cemetery full of whitewashed tombs (see Matt 23:27–28).

The good news of the gospel is that virtue, too, is viral.65 Just as Jesus sparks creativity in responding to corruption in the secular world (Matt 5:38–42), so too does he open up opportunities for redeeming the powers within the community of God’s people. In Matt 6:1–21, he sheds light on the void within the hypocritical heart and offers ways to cultivate a fruit-bearing life defined instead by humility and integrity: giving, praying, and fasting in order to gain treasure in heaven, not the fading reward of earthly praise (vv. 19–21).66 When disciples of Jesus name the work of fallen powers in the world and resist their corruption by together practicing the righteousness and justice they preach with integrity and Spirit-filled creativity, restoration begins to take place.67

Like the Pharisees’ hypocrisy in Jesus’s day, racism in the United States will continue to exist so long as corrupt power structures remain hidden behind façades of righteousness and equality. As Jemar Tisby writes, “The festering wound of racism in the American church must be exposed to the oxygen of truth in order to be healed.”68 Of course, no single action will completely reverse racism in Memphis or in any other community today.69 Still, in the cultural moment that my co-minister (Fawn Taylor) and I (Logan) faced in the summer of 2020, we recognized that we had the responsibility to address racial injustice with our youth group in order to shed light on the powers that be. As two white youth ministers, our aim was to facilitate a conversation—to speak the truth by naming the fallen power of racism—and then to set an example by listening to the voices of students of color in our youth group. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic70 put obstacles in our path, but we found a way to gather together in the same room—masked and physically distanced from each other—with a small group of students. We invited everyone else in our youth ministry to join the conversation via online video conferencing. Fawn started the discussion by naming aloud the racial injustices so prominent in our culture: “Yes,” she said, “even fifty years after the changes brought about by the civil rights movement, people of color experience racism in the United States today.”71 For the next half-hour, we listened to students speak about how they had witnessed or experienced the power of racism at work in the world. Our conversation was sobering, as our truth-speaking revealed the ways in which injustice lurks, even among the students we love so deeply. Yet, because of our gathering that night, our youth group went home having been reminded of the Christian hope of redemption—even in the face of the fallen powers. Together, we made a mutual commitment to resist racism together: by listening to the experiences of women and men who face injustice due to the color of their skin, by working to educate ourselves and others on the history and ongoing reality of racism in the United States, and by publicly denouncing the fallen power of racism whenever it rears its ugly head in our churches or in our communities.72 The problem of racism in America is far from eradicated, but interpersonal commitments like these—in which Christ followers strive to be salt and light in their local communities—are necessary steps in exposing, disarming, and redeeming this fallen power.73

Historical instances of Jesus-followers engaging the fallen powers by living out the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are helpful for Christians today. The work of Reverend James Lawson during the Civil Rights Era stands as an inspirational example of fallen power resistance. Lawson was an activist who played a pivotal role in the nonviolent protests of the 1960s. He recognized the importance of Christ-like radical resistance in the face of the fallen power of racism. The racial injustices in the United States at that time were clear to Lawson from his own experience as a Black American. He became a pacifist at an early age because of his mother, who encouraged that his every action be guided by love.74 After he spent three years in India learning Gandhi’s principles of nonviolent resistance, Lawson returned to the United States and implemented these countermeasures against the strategies of the fallen powers in the American south.75 In 1959, Lawson began conducting workshops on non-violence, training protestors to resist racial injustice in creative ways: “In his workshops, small groups of students, [both black and white], engaged in role-playing exercises. Some played angry white racists pounding on protesters while calling them racist epithets. Lawson taught them to withstand the taunts, slurs, and blows of the segregationists and to protect themselves without retaliating.”76

In 1962, Lawson moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to become the pastor at Centenary Methodist Church, where he continued his civil rights efforts.77 Six years later, he led a committee focused on improving the unequal working conditions of Black sanitation workers in the city.78 The mayor at the time, Henry Loeb, refused to cooperate; as a result, the sanitation workers went on strike. Lawson organized nonviolent protests, including a sit-in at City Hall, where union members, ministers, and other justice-seekers were met with brutality by police officers who clubbed and maced the nonviolent protesters.79 Lawson then invited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Memphis and speak in order to shed light on the injustice that the sanitation workers faced.80 It would be Dr. King’s last speech before his assassination on April 4, 1968.

Two weeks later, after pressure from President Lyndon Johnson, the Memphis City Council approved a measure recognizing the labor union, increasing the sanitation workers’ wages, and improving their working conditions. Union leader Jerry Wurf, reflecting on James Lawson’s role in the civil rights movement in Memphis, said, “What Lawson never understood was the degree to which he was hated in Memphis. They feared [him] for the most interesting of all reasons—he was a totally moral man, and totally moral men you can’t manipulate and you can’t buy and you can’t hustle.”81 In the heat of the moment, James Lawson never backed down from his commitment to nonviolence and creative forms of resistance. His integrity provided the necessary foundation for his church and his community to redeem the fallen powers that be. Just as salt and light transform the spaces they inhabit, Lawson brought about significant change in Memphis through his creative methods of resistance—from inequality toward justice, from racism toward kinship, from fallenness toward restoration. In following Lawson’s example, the church can live out its calling to be driven not by a spirit of fear, but by the spirit of Christ’s love.


We must remember the ultimate hope of the church’s resistance: redemption. As Paul writes in Eph 6:12, “Our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh.” Therefore, our aim is never to vanquish. With Spirit-filled discernment and integrity, the church works to create opportunities for the fallen powers and those whom they have co-opted to repent and to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). We are called to have, as St. Isaac of Nineveh writes, “merciful hearts,” that are, like God, aflame for all of creation: for humankind, birds, beasts, even demons—a list to which we may also add the fallen powers.82 The powers were created good; they have fallen; they must be redeemed. In their redemption is their transformation: from racism to kinship, from corruption to friendship.

A few years ago, the network of churches with which my (Alan) mission team worked in northern Mozambique experienced conflict centered around the behavior of a toxic church leader. After multiple attempts using a variety of strategies to address the issue, my colleague decided to try a different approach. He took a basin of water and a towel with him to a regional gathering, and there in the presence of many church members, he approached the man at the center of the conflict and offered to wash his feet. This church leader publicly refused to have his feet washed and, by all accounts, something in his authority and influence broke in that moment. His pride and commitment to retaining his own power at all costs were put on display for all to see. I was not present for this meeting, but in several interviews and conversations, the story was told in the same way. No one could explain the details of this power encounter or describe exactly what took place, but everyone was certain that something had happened at the spiritual level, impacting the dynamics of the group. A creative form of nonviolent resistance revealed the allegiance of this church leader to the fallen powers and opened up an opportunity for redemption and change within the corrupted system.83

The Sermon on the Mount has been and should remain an impetus for resisting and redeeming the powers that be. For example, the Golden Rule (Matt 7:12) has played a powerful role in the history of Christian opposition of racism,84 and Jesus’s third way of creative, nonviolent resistance in first-century Rome charted a path for dealing with the oppressive power of corruption.85 Christ’s Sermon, his kingdom manifesto, is a survival guide for disciples living in enemy-occupied territory. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’s “Rules for Radicals,” his “Rules for Rebels,” and a text that needs to be seen as our “Real Rules of Order.”86 By creatively applying Jesus’s teaching in ministry contexts like Memphis and Mozambique, God’s power is at work, even in our weakness—even when our best, most faithful efforts seem to fail and may end up costing us, like Jesus, our very lives.87 Even in death we can, like Jesus, be successful in naming and resisting the strategies of the powers, disarming them and working for their redemption in our churches and communities.

Alan Howell, his wife Rachel, and their three daughters resided in Mozambique from 2003 to 2018 as part of a team working among the Makua-Metto people. Alan (MDiv) served as the Visiting Professor of Missions at Harding University from 2019 to 2023 (Searcy, AR) teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in the areas of biblical studies, cultural competency, theology, and strategy. He is the Director of Church Relations at Mission Resource Network (

Logan Thompson (MDiv) has worked in full-time youth ministry since 2015. He is the youth minister at the Mansfield Church of Christ in Mansfield, TX, where he lives with his wife, Maryn, and their two daughters, Joanna and Noah Beth.

1 Walter Wink, The Powers That Be: Theology for a New Millennium (New York: Galilee, 1999), 24.

2 N. T. Wright, Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 17–20.

3 In a previous article, we looked at how the lens of honor and shame allows us to see more clearly the multi-dimensional solution that Christ’s atonement provides. In this article we will zoom out in order to gain perspective on the scope of the problem created by sin, death and Satan working together. For more on the implications of honor and shame for theology, specifically the doctrine of the atonement, see Alan B. Howell and Logan T. Thompson, “From Mozambique to Millennials: Shame, Frontier Peoples, and the Search for Open Atonement Paths,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology 33, no. 4 (2017): 157–65.

4 Fleming Rutledge, Advent: The Once & Future Coming of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018), 18.

5 See N. T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 64.

6 See ibid., 38–39. Wink, The Powers, 165, notes, “As we begin to love the enemy within, we develop the compassion we need to love the enemy without.”

7 “[The last supper] wasn’t a theory, we note, but an action (a warning to all atonement theorists ever since, and perhaps an indication of why the church has never incorporated a specific defining clause about the atonement in its great creeds). Perhaps, after all, atonement is at its deepest level something that happens, so that to reduce not to a proposition to which one can give mental assent is a mistake at a deep level” (Wright, Evil, 91).

8 Ibid., 93.

9 See D. Seiple and Frederick W. Weidmann, ed. Enigmas and Powers: Engaging the Work of Walter Wink for Classroom, Church and World, Princeton Theological Monograph Series 79 (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2008), xviii.

10 Wink, The Powers, 31.

11 “Evil is not just personal but structural and spiritual. It is not simply the result of human actions, but the consequence of huge systems over which no individual has full control” (ibid., 31).

12 Ibid., 39.

13 Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld, Ephesians, Believers Church Bible Commentary, (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2002), 356. See Marva J. Dawn, Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God, Schaff Lectures at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001), 2.

14 Wink, The Powers, 199.

15 Wink’s work, though foundational, has been met with criticism. Dawn moves past Wink’s tendency to demythologize in order to build off of his helpful, core observations. She writes that “Wink is insightfully on target when he summarizes the church’s task in relation to the powers as this: ‘to unmask their idolatrous pretensions, to identify their dehumanizing values, to strip from them the mantle of respectability, and to disenthrall their victims’ (though he fails to mention the Church’s primary role in proclaiming Christ’s victory over the powers)” (Dawn, Powers, 16). “Ultimately,” Dawn notes, “Wink seems to have reduced the powers to the problem of violence (which is, of course, partly what they are), but the way of Jesus is much more than nonviolence, and the battle against the powers includes exposing many more diabolical methods and much larger forces. Wink’s collapse of the supernatural world of evil makes one wonder how much he has collapsed good and God” (ibid., 17).

16 Ibid., 120.

17 Ibid., 91.

18 Ibid., 75.

19 See Dawn, Powers, 44–45.

20 Ibid., 88.

21 See Charles Campbell, The Word Before the Powers: An Ethic of Preaching (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 33–43.

22 See ibid., 33, 37–39.

23 See Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 32–35; cf. 90–91. Tisby notes, “Of the more than 600,000 interstate sales [of enslaved people] that occurred in the decades prior to the Civil War, 25 percent destroyed a first marriage, and 50 percent broke up a nuclear family” (60). See also Campbell, The Word, 34–35.

24 See Campbell, The Word, 37; 40–42.

25 For an exploration of ethics rooted in the Sermon on the Mount see, Glen H. Stassen and David P. Gushee, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2018).

26 Lindsey Paris-Lopez notes, “The Sermon on the Mount is a call to resistance. It has always been subversive and counter-cultural” (“The Sermon on the Mount: A Theology of Resistance,” Sojourner, February 10, 2017, The Sermon on the Mount is surrounded by language of power and authority. In the preceding chapter, Jesus successfully passes a power encounter with the devil (4:1–11), he begins to preach after John’s imprisonment (v. 12), and Matthew describes Jesus’s ministry as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision for addressing the powers of darkness and death (vv. 13–17), Jesus calls disciples to join him in this resistance (v. 18–22), and then Jesus heals many people, including some who are demon possessed (vv. 23–25). After the Sermon on the Mount, the people are amazed at Jesus’s powerful, authoritative teaching (7:28). This is followed by three healing stories. The first one is about navigating Jewish social spaces and authority structures (8:1–4), while the second healing story deals with power and authority in Gentile spaces (8:5–13). The third healing story is personal for the disciples as Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, followed by more healings of the demon possessed and concluding with another reference to the prophet Isaiah (8:14–17). Even within the Sermon on the Mount itself, we see powers language present at the center of Jesus’s discourse—the Lord’s Prayer—in which disciples are taught to petition for deliverance from evil (5:37).

27 Jonathan T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017), 270–71.

28 It is interesting to note the similarities between Matthew and the Didache, as well as the fact that the word teleios shows up in the Didache only twice. “In the first instance (Did. 1.4), it describes one who behaves in a way that accords with Matthew 5:39-42,” the part of the Sermon on the Mount we will look at in the next section of this paper. “In the second instance (Did. 6.2a) it is ascribed to the one who is able to carry ‘the whole yoke of the Lord’” (Pennington, The Sermon, 78n28).

29 Wink, The Powers, 65.

30 Ibid., 108.

31 Ibid., 110.

32 See Campbell, The Word, 48–51.

33 For more on the Sermon on the Mount and the topic of Jesus as teacher in Makua-Metto culture see Alan Howell and Robert Andrew Montgomery, “Jesus as Mwalimu: Christology and the Gospel of Matthew in an African Folk Islamic Context” International Journal of Frontier Missiology 35, no. 2 ( 2018), 79–87. Although a full discussion of the relationship between Torah interpretation and the Sermon on the Mount is beyond the scope of this article, it seems clear that Jesus was contextualizing Torah for his disciples to learn to live the good life even under Roman oppression. In this article, our attempt is to continue that trajectory and find pathways for wise discernment and creative resistance in relation to expressions of the “powers that be” today.

34 Wink, The Powers, 99–100, also makes this distinction.

35 Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 197. This trust means that disciples are relying on God as the divine Patron. See Alan Howell and Robert Andrew Montgomery, “God as Patron and Proprietor: God the Father and the Gospel of Matthew in an African Folk Islamic Context,” International Journal of Frontier Missiology 36, no. 3 (Fall 2019), 129–36.

36 “A backhanded blow to the right cheek did not imply shattered teeth (‘tooth for tooth’ was a separate statement); it was an insult, the severest public affront to a person’s dignity” (Keener, Gospel of Matthew, 197).

37 See Andrew Mbuvi, “African Theology from the Perspective of Honor and Shame,” in The Urban Face of Mission: Ministering the Gospel in a Diverse and Changing World, ed. Harvie M. Conn, Manuel Ortiz, Susan S. Baker (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), 281. While power-fear dynamics are rightly understood as important in shaping the Sub-Saharan African context, that should not “hinder us from seeing the significant presence and interrelationship” of honor-shame (Sandra Freeman, “Honor-Shame Dynamics in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Mission Frontiers 37, no. 1 [2015]: 32–33). For more on honor and shame in Africa, see Ruth Lienhard, “A ‘Good Conscience’: Differences between Honor and Justice Orientation,” Missiology 29, no. 2 (2001): 131–41. Her descriptions of how Jesus “played the game” of honor and shame are especially interesting (138). See also Alan Howell, “ ‘Old Man” as Cipher: Humor and Honor-Shame Rhetoric for Reading Philemon in Mozambique,” Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Practice 11 (2020):

38 Keener, The Gospel, 198.

39 Ibid., 199–200.

40 Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, Word Biblical Commentary 33a (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 131.

41 Keener, The Gospel, 202.

42 “The last verse of the pericope (v 42), although somewhat similar in form to v 40, seems to broaden the application beyond the initial statement not to resist evil. Here we seem to move to a general spirit of charity to anyone who asks or who wishes to borrow, not simply behavior toward those who have treated one unjustly or in an evil matter” (Hagner, Matthew 1–13, 130).

43 Ibid., 131.

44 Pennington refers to the need for “localized wisdom” as the principles Jesus offers to live by in the Sermon on the Mount must be applied to the realities of that context (Pennington, The Sermon, 197–98).

45 The province of Cabo Delgado, where most of the Makua-Metto people are located, is one of the more complicated political regions of the country. It, along with the neighboring province of Niassa, was the location of the post-independence government’s highest concentration of certain communist experiments. Sarah LeFanu, S is for Samora: A Lexical Biography of Samora Machel and the Mozambican Dream (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 6.

46 Maria Łoś, Communist Ideology, Law and Crime (London: MacMillan Press, 1998), 167.

47 According to the Mozambique Corruption Rank 1999–2021, Trading Economics, 2023,, “Mozambique is the 147 least corrupt nation out of 180 countries, according to the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International.” The Mozambique Corruption Report states that, “Forms of corruption range from petty bribes to deeply entrenched clientelistic and patronage systems. . . . Corruption is particularly prominent in public procurement and the tax and customs administrations. Even though a relatively well-established legal framework is in place, many loopholes exist. For instance, the Anti-Corruption Law does not cover all forms of corruption (e.g., embezzlement is not covered). The judiciary is generally considered corrupt and is subject to political influence, impeding the effective enforcement of the law. Gifts and facilitation payments are common when dealing with officials.” (GAN Integrity, accessed January 2, 2023,

48 Following Jason Richard Tan, “Missionary Ethics and the Practice of Bribery,” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 47, no. 3 (2011), 278–82.

49 We are indebted to Asante Manu for this observation.

50 This then could be linked to the way of the Kingdom (asking, seeking and knocking) in Matt 7:7–8.

51 The messy process of doing theology and ethics is not a “once for all time” solution. As the dynamics and culture change, the church in Mozambique must continue to assess how to be faithful to God in resisting the powers in culturally appropriate ways.

52 For a helpful exploration of power and powerlessness in rural development, see Deborah Ajulu, Holism in Development: An African Perspective on Empowering Communities (Monrovia, CA: MARC, 2001), 99–134.

53 As Dawn, Powers, 138, observes in her exegesis of the divine panoply in Eph 6, Paul “lists truth first because it affects everything.”

54 For many or most Black Americans, racial injustice is always at the fore.

55 Tyler Olson, “Georgia Shooting of Ahmaud Arbery Spurs Outcry,” Fox News, May 7, 2020,

56 Kay Jones, “A Kentucky EMT was shot and killed during a police raid of her home. The family is suing for wrongful death,” CNN, May 13, 2020,

57 George Fitz-Gibbon, “Here’s Everything We Know About the Death of George Floyd,” New York Post, May 28, 2020,

58 Larry Buchanan, Quoctrung Bui, and Jugal K. Patel, “Black Lives Matter May be the Largest Movement in U.S. History,” The New York Times, July 3, 2020, We should note, however, that despite the magnitude of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests following the death of George Floyd, civil unrest over racial injustice is not a new phenomenon in American culture.

59 “Harding University Dedicates Memorial in Honor of Botham Jean,” KATV News, September 29, 2021,

60 Buchanan, Bui, Patel, “Black Lives Matter.”

61 Monica Anderson, Michael Barthel, Andrew Perrin, and Emily A. Vogels, “#BlackLivesMatter surges on Twitter after George Floyd’s death,” Pew Research Center, June 10, 2020,

62 As Pennington, The Sermon, 222, observes, the Lord’s Prayer is at the very center of the Sermon, and “we should expect that [it] has much to teach us about the whole.” In light of the reality of fallen powers in the world, the prayer’s opening petition in v. 10 (“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”) takes on even greater meaning.

63 Some readers may wonder whether every sin is one of the powers. Although all individual sins or sinful attitudes are not powers, per se, they are influenced by the powers to some degree. In this instance, the power of the Law has been corrupted into the power of legalism.

64 Ibid., 236.

65 As Wink, The Powers, 75 notes, “Jesus regarded holiness/wholeness as contagious.”

66 As Pennington, The Sermon, 211, notes, throughout this section of the Sermon “the invitation to heart-deep righteousness is based on the appeal to gaining a lasting reward from the heavenly Father.”

67 At the end of the Sermon, Jesus highlights the priority of the interior life by offering the image of a healthy tree that bears good fruit (Matt 7:15–20). Visible evidence of the redemption of fallen powers always begins with the inward virtue of Jesus’s followers, flowering into expression and action in their communities.

68 Tisby, The Color of Compromise, 15. Erin Dufault-Hunter uses a “Screwtape Letters” approach, leveraging the language of the demonic to help highlight the seriousness and the nature of the problem of racism in American churches. Erin Dufault-Hunter, “A Letter from the Arch-Demon of Racialization to her Angels in the Churches of the United States: How Whiteness Secures our Success in Overcoming the Enemy,” in Can “White” People be Saved? Triangulating Race, Theology, and Mission, ed. Love L. Sechrest, Johnny Ramirez-Johnson, and Amos Yong (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2018), 318–25.

69 The fallen power of racism has spun a monstrous web in the United States, implementing myriad strategies to do so (see Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America [New York: Nation Books], 2016). Throughout American history, the powers have utilized all nine strategies to uphold a status quo based on the color of one’s skin. Many of these tactics come together in the phenomenon of scapegoating, in which people in power place undeserved blame on a powerless group or individuals in order to maintain a false sense of order (Negative Sanctions, Isolation and Division, Demoralization, Diversion, Public Rituals, Language and Image). For more on this concept, see René Girard, I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, trans. James G. Williams, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 154–60. Scapegoating and the associated strategies listed here are particularly evident during reconstruction and the Jim Crow era (see Tisby, The Color, 88–110).

70 The fallen power of disease is undoubtedly part of the Domination System, too. See Wink, The Powers that Be, 39ff.

71 Tisby, The Color, 19, observes, “History demonstrates that racism never goes away; it just adapts.”

72 Tisby, The Color, 192–212, suggests these paths of resistance and more in the conclusion of his book.

73 In his immensely practical book, How to Fight Racism: Courageous Christianity and the Journey Toward Racial Justice (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Reflective, 2021), Jemar Tisby lays out three ongoing practices that are vital in reversing the effects of racism in our society—Awareness, Relationships, and Commitment—which together form the acronym “The ARC of Racial Justice.” Tisby writes that these three practices “need not exist in perfect balance [since] the goal [of the model] is to keep all three areas in conversation and tension with one another” (4–6).

74 Peter Dreier, “ ‘A Totally Moral Man’: The Life of Nonviolent Organizer Rev. James Lawson,” The James Lawson Institute, June 26, 2017,

75 Ibid.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid.

78 Ibid.

79 Ibid.

80 Ibid.

81 Ibid.

82 Hilarion Alfeyev, The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian, Cistercian Studies Series 175 (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 2000), 42–43.

83 For a powerful example of another foot washing story, one that addresses racial divides in the Pentecostal churches in Memphis see Darrin Rodgers, “The Story Behind the Foot Washing at the 1994 ‘Memphis Miracle,’ ” Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, July 13, 2011,

84 Kendi, Stamped, 52, notes that in the influential 1688 Germantown Petition Against Slavery, “the inaugural antiracist tract among European settlers in Colonial America,” the Golden Rule is introduced into the argument and then went on to take an important place: to “forever inspire the cause of White Antiracists.” For more on the impact of the Golden Rule see ibid., 74, 208.

85 Wink says, “To such victims [Jesus] advises, ‘Stand up for yourselves, defy your masters, assert your humanity; but don’t answer to the oppressor in kind. Find a new, third way that is neither cowardly submission nor violent reprisal.’ ”

86 Here we are playfully adapting the titles of two very different texts: Saul D. Alinsky, Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals (New York: Vintage Books, 1971), and Henry M. Robert, Rules of Order (“Robert’s Rules of Order,”

87 Dawn, Powers, 131, highlights two essential paradoxes in resisting the powers: “The first is that to counteract the principalities and powers requires a battle, but one that is essentially and entirely nonviolent because it is against the powers and never against the people who might be aligned with them. The second is that the battle requires our active engagement, but it is always God’s work through our weakness.”

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A History of Missions in Churches of Christ Campus Ministries

College students have proved a significant sending force in the modern missions movement, most notably with the Student Volunteer Movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Those in Churches of Christ are no different, with state school campus ministries playing a significant role in missions efforts, particularly after World War II. This article examines the place of missionary mobilization, overseas campus ministries, and international student ministries in twentieth-century Churches of Christ campus ministries.

The link between the college campus and the world’s peoples has always been strong, and the contemporary American campus is no exception. From early collegiate missions societies across the East Coast to present-day missionary mobilization, the college campus has been a substantial player in world missions. Arguably no greater missionary movement has occurred in the history of the modern church than that of the Student Volunteer Movement, which began on American college campuses. Out of it, influential leaders like John Mott laid the foundation for missions on the domestic campus through international student ministry. In the twentieth century, Churches of Christ built on the foundation previously laid by others.

Cross-cultural ministry is only a portion of the larger story of twentieth-century campus ministry in Churches of Christ, yet it is a significant portion. The days of Bible Chairs and Campus Evangelism (1918–1970) saw a heavy focus on ministries sending and receiving full-time missionaries. The Discipling Movement (1971–1988) was a remarkable yet controversial period that saw a substantial impact on campuses around the world. Post-Crossroads (1989–1999) efforts increased the focus on international student ministry.1 This paper examines the history of missions in Church of Christ campus ministries, beginning with precursor efforts in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and focusing on missionary mobilization, overseas campus ministries, and international student ministries throughout the twentieth century.

Precursors to Church of Christ Efforts (1886–1917)

Three main organizations in the early twentieth century paved the way for Church of Christ efforts: the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM), the Chinese Students’ Christian Association (CSCA), and the Committee on Friendly Relations Among Foreign Students (CFR). John Mott was the primary figure that tied them all together. Just before Mott was a college student at Cornell, mobilization efforts in England led several influential Cambridge student-athletes to give their lives to missions. J. K. Studd, one of the so-called “Cambridge Seven,” spoke at Cornell in January of 1886 with words that would forever change the course of Mott’s life, saying, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.”2 That night, Mott consecrated his life to Christ, like thousands more would in coming years. As the leader of the Cornell YMCA, he was invited later that year to the first international campus ministry conference at Mount Hermon, Massachusetts.3 In an attempt to impact the lives of younger students with more collegiate years ahead of them, only underclassmen were invited, except for Robert Wilder of Princeton. Wilder, who had been invited because of his significant impact at Princeton, suggested that a night be given to speaking to the needs of foreign missions.4 Robert’s sister, Grace, had prayed that 100 men from the conference would commit to missions; following the night with a missions focus, students began discussing the call to the mission field, signing their names to a commitment to go, “willing and desirous, God permitting.”5 Throughout the month-long conference, ninety-nine students committed, with the hundredth student signing his pledge during a farewell prayer meeting.6 The group then commissioned Wilder and a few others to mobilize more. They rallied 1,000 others in one year, and the Student Volunteer Movement was born.7 Formalized in 1888, Mott was made chairman, though this would not be his only position of global leadership.8

As SVM gained momentum, so did the need for international student ministry. In the early twentieth century, the largest group of international students coming to America was Chinese, so C. T. Wang formed the CSCA in 1908, which in three years grew from six to over eight hundred.9 Although Chinese students represented the greatest need, students from hundreds of other nations were coming to the United States as well, which led to the formation of the CFR by Mott in 1911.10 These early international student ministries provided a safe transition to students’ new homes, companionship with others, and opportunities for spiritual growth with the hopes of a Christian witness upon their return home.11 Eventually, these organizations would lose their evangelical focus, but not before sufficient strides had been made in missionary mobilization and international student ministry across American campuses.12 By 1918, the year campus ministry began in Churches of Christ, the effects of World War I on European colleges were only increasing the influx of international students to the United States and, with it, the global vision of American evangelicals.13

Bible Chairs and Campus Evangelism:
Sending and Receiving Full-Time Workers (1918–1970)

Churches of Christ began ministry on college campuses in 1918 at UT-Austin.14 Before Disciples of Christ and Churches of Christ had officially separated in 1906, Restoration Movement churches had established a campus ministry at the University of Michigan in 1893, though this came to be associated with the Disciples.15 For the first few decades, campus ministry operated through the function of a Bible Chair, in which “college students could take religious courses . . . at the [church] facility, and credit might (or might not) be given in their degree program.”16 Though historical data on campus ministries in early decades is scant, the creation of the National Bible Chair Lectureship in 1957 and Bible Chair Journal in 1958 provides a picture going forward.17 By 1958, Churches of Christ had ministries on twenty-nine campuses and were experiencing great momentum.18 Like campus ministry, the mission field saw little activity from Churches of Christ in the first half of the twentieth century, though this increased exponentially following World War II. At the end of the war, Churches of Christ only existed in fifteen countries. However, by 1960, seventy countries had churches, with forty hosting almost two hundred American missionaries.19 Until 1970, it would be the sending and receiving of these vocational missionaries that would remain the greatest missions focus of Church of Christ campus ministries.

In a later era, Dennis Files reminded campus ministers that the call of the Great Commission might mean that they not only mobilize students to the mission field but that they themselves go. However, early Church of Christ campus ministers needed no such reminder, as many of them were missionaries themselves.20 One of the most successful campus ministers of the twentieth century was Bob Davidson, who served students at Texas A&M starting in 1954. After a brief stint in campus ministry, Davidson left for Thailand, where he served as a missionary and saw many conversions before returning to work as a campus minister at A&M Church of Christ in 1970.21 Over the following decades, he would build on his experience as a foreign evangelist to lead a ministry that was often one of the largest in the nation. Part of that involved taking students on short-term mission trips, including some back to Thailand, through “Aggies for Christ in the Orient.”22 Jim Woodroof, though not a campus minister, would later serve alongside Davidson as the preaching minister at A&M Church of Christ after ten years in New Zealand.23 The year after Davidson left for Thailand, Wayne and Shirley Harris arrived in Lubbock, Texas, where Wayne led the campus ministry at Texas Tech. However, they, too, would leave for the mission field, heading to Denmark in the fall of 1961, with the belief that their time overseas would strengthen their leadership of college students upon their return.24 Robert Skelton was likewise a missionary, well-known in Churches of Christ for his work in Salzburg, Austria, from 1956 until he assumed the campus ministry position at Texas A&I in 1964.25 The following year, Leon Crouch left the campus ministry position at Texas Tech to plant a church in Liverpool, England, and Joe Watson left Oklahoma State for South Africa.26 In 1966, Gary Adams arrived in Cisco, Texas, to direct the Bible Chair after ten years of work in Holland.27

While many Bible Chairs were led by full-time campus ministers, other church leaders often contributed in various ways. Two influential leaders were elders Wayne Long of University Avenue Church of Christ (Austin, TX) and Frank Trayler of Edinburg Church of Christ (Edinburg, TX). Long, a professor at UT Austin, planted the first Church of Christ in Thailand during a temporary stint at the University of Bangkok.28 Upon Long’s return to the United States, University Avenue began looking for a missionary they might sponsor to continue long-term work in Thailand. This search led to the support of Parker and Donna Henderson as the first full-time missionary couple in Thailand from Churches of Christ.29 Trayler’s experience in Latin American missions uniquely equipped him to teach Bible Chair courses in Spanish. His work led the ministry at the largely Hispanic Pan-American College to grow to two hundred twenty-six in 1969, one of the largest in Churches of Christ at the time.30 During this time, campus ministries not only received missionaries, but those former missionaries (and other campus ministers) empowered and motivated students to pursue a call to missions.

One of the primary ways ministers at the time mobilized students was through their teaching. The first reference to such came in the fall of 1960, when the campus ministry at Texas Tech held a missions-focused small group with current and former missionaries leading discussions.31 Years later, the ministry at the University of Georgia would follow suit.32 Likewise, Tarleton State would host a similar “Mission Study Supper” with students hearing from influential missiologists such as Dr. George Gurganus.33 Students in campus ministries were urged to pursue vocational missions and to use the skills they were attaining at state schools for the sake of the Gospel cross-culturally, and many rose to this task.34

The short biographical entries of American Church of Christ missionaries in the 1964 book A Missionary Pictorial give a helpful picture of efforts at the time. Although many more of the nearly three hundred missionaries listed at the time came from Christian colleges than state colleges, thirteen of those were trained at state school campus ministries.35 However, the exact number of missionaries sent out as graduates of campus ministries is hard to discern since at least two from Eastern New Mexico (and possibly more from other campuses) were left out of the work. Stephen Eckstein Jr.—often regarded as the most prolific campus minister the Churches of Christ have seen—has long been revered for his teaching ability, and his ministry at ENMU was one of the most effective missionary-sending ministries, with six former students serving overseas in the mid-‘60s.36 Students from other campuses served later in the ‘60s and, thus, were not recorded, like Jim Pinegar and David Grimes, who left Memphis for Zambia and East Asia, respectively.37 Others shared the gospel around the world for a short time, such as John Coleman, who lived in Pakistan thanks to the Texas A&M Intercollege Exchange Program.38 Though international student ministry and overseas campuses ministries received attention during this time, it was the heyday of missionary mobilization.

The international student ministry these ministers and students engaged in gained momentum during the Campus Evangelism movement. “Campus Evangelism” was an organization formed in 1966 under the auspices of Broadway Church of Christ in Lubbock, Texas.39 Building on the strategies of parachurch ministries like Campus Crusade for Christ, Campus Evangelism sought to promote a new model of campus ministry across the country focused less on scholarship and more on evangelism.40 International student ministry had already been carried out a few years prior, particularly at Oklahoma State, where the aforementioned Joe Watson helped lead outreach and saw frequent church attendance by international students.41 Campus Evangelism, though, helped elevate international student ministry nationwide. The methodology of international student banquets and a mindset of bold evangelism were readily picked up by other ministries. New Mexico saw forty-five students attend a banquet, and Tennessee Tech set a goal of reaching one hundred international students in a school year.42 Georgia even had four international students living at its student center.43 Even still, the greatest days of international student ministry would lie ahead.

The Bible Chair and Campus Evangelism years would also see the start of overseas campus ministries that would reach their height in the ‘70s and ‘80s. As early as the late ‘50s, Church of Christ missionaries reached out to college students abroad.44 In 1960, Bible Chair Journal surveyed campus ministers and received a favorable response regarding future attempts at planting campus ministries overseas.45 By 1970, Churches of Christ had a campus ministry in Italy, Japan, Korea, and Switzerland, but this was only the beginning.46 Though Campus Evangelism would die after just a few years due to increasing controversy and a subsequent lack of financial support, it gave birth to a movement that would bring even more controversy and, with it, an even grander global vision.47

The Discipling Movement:
Reaching Campuses Worldwide (1971–1987)

Likely, the most influential campus ministry in Churches of Christ was a pilot project of Campus Evangelism planted at the University of Florida in conjunction with Fourteenth Street Church of Christ, later renamed Crossroads Church of Christ.48 Chuck Lucas, the campus minister (and later preaching minister) at Crossroads, rose to prominence after seeing incredible growth through the implementation of intense evangelism, followed by one-on-one discipleship of new converts, a practice common in the “Shepherding Movement” of charismatic churches in the ‘70s.49 In ten years, the church grew from one hundred in 1968 to over 1,000 in 1978.50 Also, Crossroads trained an incredible number of ministers who also saw growth on other campuses; in 1980, ten of the twenty-seven Churches of Christ that baptized over one hundred people had ministers trained at Crossroads.51 Around that time, Kip McKean, a convert of the ministry in Florida, began leading ministries to colleges in Boston that would see even more significant growth by the mid-‘80s. Far surpassing Crossroads, Boston saw almost 1,800 baptisms in the first six years, coming to be seen as the center of the movement.52 Thus, the “Discipling Movement” (or “Crossroads Movement” or “Boston Movement”) was born.

Despite all this exciting growth, controversy followed the Discipling Movement. Even by the early ‘80s, before the explosion of the Boston Church of Christ, multiple books had been written on the movement and the perceived control over disciples’ lives by their disciplers.53 Newspaper articles from Gainesville spoke of a “Reputation of Aggressiveness [and] Mind Control” that accompanied the church’s growth.54 Even still, the passion for world evangelism emanating from the movement was hard to deny.

Although the international student ministry would experience its greatest focus in the ‘90s, the high evangelistic fervor of the Discipling Movement meant that no other period would see as much fruit among international students. In some ways, the old methodology was carried over, with ministries still utilizing events like international banquets.55 At the same time, a more direct approach was taken, with ministries often starting evangelistic Bible studies geared toward international students on campuses like Oregon State, Ole Miss, and Ohio State, the first of which even held them in Spanish.56 Florida International University also had a Spanish evangelistic Bible study and a Spanish service on Sundays and saw forty-one international student baptisms in one year alone.57 In 1979, three different ministries converted students from Hong Kong, which sparked a desire for a directory of international students across the country who might connect with one another.58 Over the next two years, the campus ministry at Alabama A&M and Alabama-Huntsville converted students from Nigeria, Iran, the Bahamas, and Japan.59 The directory, inspired by these conversions and more at the turn of the ‘80s, found that Church of Christ campus ministries had one hundred and eighty Christian international students alone, not to mention the number of students coming to faith.60 Not only did these students come to faith, they were sent back to their home countries to reach others. One of these, Oswaldo Bustillo, was converted at the University of Washington in 1979; upon his return to his home country of Honduras in 1981, he helped a missionary-led church grow from twenty-five to ninety-five and become self-sufficient.61 The missionary impetus toward international students on campus carried over in students’ hearts as they moved to take the gospel to college students across the world.

As mentioned before, overseas campus ministries began in the Bible Chair days. The first of these began in Milan, Italy, in 1963 under the direction of Dr. Fausto Salvoni.62 Other ministries in Japan, Korea, and Switzerland soon appeared in directories.63 In the aftermath of Campus Evangelism and during the rise of the Discipling Movement, other ministries not necessarily associated with Crossroads still contributed to a growing global focus. Though not always viewed in the same light of missions as other ministries due to the long-standing prevalence of Churches of Christ in Canada, the rise of Canadian campus ministries in the late ‘70s is still noteworthy. In 1974, a ministry was established in Ottawa for students of Carleton and Ottawa universities.64 Soon thereafter, ministries arose to students at Edmonton campuses and the universities of Calgary, Regina, Saskatchewan, and Victoria.65 In 1982, another ministry not affiliated with Crossroads arose in Nigeria at the University of Ife, thanks to the efforts of Jide Oguntimein, an Ole Miss campus ministry grad and Ife faculty member.66 Graduates from three different ministries also attempted to start a campus ministry in Guatemala.67 Neither the Nigerian nor Guatemalan ministries were listed in directories, so exact numbers can be difficult to determine, but the greatest number of overseas campus ministries according to directories of Campus Journal (previously named Bible Chair Journal and later Campus Crosswalk) came in at 13 in the summer of 1983.68 Soon after, ministries would begin setting their eyes on the largest campuses in the world as targets of ministries. However, it would be members of the Discipling Movement who would begin to reach them.69

By the mid-‘80s, Boston Church of Christ was the new epicenter of the movement due to their increased growth and the firing of Chuck Lucas from Crossroads following “recurring sins.”70 Although Boston did not specifically set out to start campus ministries on the major campuses of the world, as they planted churches in major world cities, they focused their evangelism heavily on young adults, and campus ministry remained a major factor in the movement.71 In 1982, Boston Church of Christ sent Kevin Darby to Sydney, Australia, where former LSU campus minister Mike Fontenot served.72 However, the first church fully planted by Boston was born in July of 1982 in London, England, under the leadership of James Lloyd and Douglas Arthur.73 Unlike some other Boston church plants, its connection with campus ministry and church planting prior to some of the greater controversy surrounding Boston led to its listing in directories alongside other overseas ministries.74 In the fall of that year, the Boston Movement held its first World Missions Seminar to increase giving and workers for cross-cultural church plants.75 Over the next five years, Boston Church of Christ would plant churches and reach thousands of college students in Toronto (August 1985), Johannesburg (June 1986), Paris (August 1986), Stockholm (October 1986), and Bombay (November 1986).76

Along with the international church plants, Boston “restructured” a collegiate church in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1987.77 “Restructuring” was a practice Boston soon made common, particularly in the United States among churches formerly affiliated with Crossroads, in which leaders would willingly step down and move to Boston to be trained, and the Boston church’s eldership would assume remote authority.78 By this point, the mounting critiques of what mainline Churches of Christ felt to be unbiblical doctrines and un-Christlike pride and spiritual abuses were leading Churches of Christ and Discipling Movement churches to view themselves as two distinct groups. Though Boston churches would not become the “International Churches of Christ” until 1993, shifting views on baptism, ecclesiology, and authority in the fall of 1987 drew a line in the sand.79 By 1988, Campus Journal no longer listed Discipling Movement ministries as their own. The International Churches of Christ’s global impact was far from over, but 1987 marked the end of their place in Church of Christ campus ministry missions.

Post-Crossroads Efforts:
The Height of International Student Ministry (1988–1999)

Looking toward the end of the 20th century, collegiate Churches of Christ sought to recover from the turmoil of the Discipling Movement without departing from their global vision. The immediate break caused by the Discipling Movement led to a quick decline in the number of campus ministries, overseas ministries notwithstanding. Nonetheless, in 1988, building on the foundation Wayne Long set in Bangkok in the ‘50s, Russ Pennington established a campus ministry at nearby Rankhamhaeng University, then the largest in the world. More plans were established for a campus ministry in Hungary, led by a team from Oregon State to campuses in Budapest.80 In 1994, plans were also made for a campus ministry in South Africa. In 1997, Tim and Debbie Martin began a campus ministry in Vienna, Austria, to build on prior efforts of Christian faculty.81 Even still, the global vision of the late ‘80s and ‘90s shifted from overseas campus ministries to short-term mission trips and international student ministry.

One of the most significant forces in campus ministry missions post-Crossroads came thanks to Let’s Start Talking (LST). LST was formed in 1980 to equip college students to spend six weeks overseas sharing the gospel through free conversational English programs in partnership with local churches, which would carry out follow-up work.82 Particularly in the ‘90s, LST gained traction with campus ministries. In the summer of 1991, over one hundred workers went to nine European countries, many of whom came from state school campus ministries, including the ministry at California Polytechnic State, which held Bible studies in a former Communist seminar building in East Germany following the fall of the Iron Curtain.83 By 1995, LST sent students from a dozen different state school campus ministries to Europe, Asia, and South America.84 Other ministries took short-term mission trips apart from LST and also saw fruit. In 1992, Andy Miller led the campus ministry at UC-Bakersfield to Malaysia and Singapore for the summer and helped lead sixty-six people to Christ.85 The following summer, sixty students from the University of Arkansas led three people to Christ during a Spring Break evangelistic campaign in Mexico.86 Meanwhile, other ministries like Auburn, led by Jim Brinkerhoff, and Sam Houston State partnered for joint short-term mission trips.87 Let’s Start Talking and ministers like Brinkerhoff led the charge in short-term missions and domestic evangelism among international students.

In 1990, ten years after its inception, LST adapted its training to be used for conversational English in a domestic setting with international students, which it called FriendSpeak.88 Also in 1990, ministers collaborated to write Ministering on the College Campus, with Brinkerhoff writing a chapter on “Working with International Students.” By that point, Auburn had seen several international students come to Christ through an emphasis on relational evangelism. Brinkerhoff listed several methods of outreach present at the time including: Adopt-a-Student programs, conversational English classes, and International Student dinners.89 In 1994, Campus Crosswalk devoted an entire issue to international student ministry, providing a biblical basis and practical suggestions. In it, at least sixteen countries are noted as represented by international students in various ministries nationwide.90 Later that year, Campus Crosswalk editor Milton Jones published “The Circle Study,” a gospel illustration he designed as a campus minister at Washington specifically for international students, which began with man as created in the image of a Creator God and walked through salvation through God’s Son.91 Ministries used all these methods and more to befriend students and share the Gospel cross-culturally.

Moreover, while no single ministry might have seen as many conversions in one year as Florida International in the early ‘80s, many campus ministries still saw significant fruit. In 1993, Memphis had over eighty international students from nine countries in evangelistic Bible studies.92 As other ministries likewise leveraged relational evangelism or conversational English programs to share the gospel, they saw students come to faith and take the gospel back home.93 This emphasis on international student ministry and short-term missions would continue in Church of Christ campus ministry into the twenty-first century.


Shortly after the end of the twentieth century, Jim Brinkerhoff spoke about why, after many years in campus ministry with giftedness in teaching, he did not pursue a preaching position at a church. In reflection, he said, “At times, I gave it serious consideration. Each time, though, I thought to myself, ‘Where else could I go that carries with it the possibilities of the world vision that is inherent within campus ministries?’ We in campus ministries are among those who can rightfully claim to possess Archimedes’ Lever—‘Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth.’ ”94 Church of Christ campus ministries in the twentieth century went to great efforts to do just that—to grab hold of Archimedes’ Lever to make an impact throughout the whole world.

Ministries like SVM, CSCA, and CFR paved the way for later efforts. Those in the years of Bible Chairs and Campus Evangelism sent and received numerous full-time missionaries to and from the mission field. The Discipling Movement, for all its controversy, saw a global vision and bold efforts to take the gospel to major cities and campuses around the world. Those who came through the other side of the Discipling Movement focused on short-term missions and international student ministries as one century closed and another began, making way for those who would continue their efforts into the twenty-first century.

Dylan Kirkland is a campus minister at University Church of Christ in Tuscaloosa, AL, and a PhD student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary studying evangelism with a research focus on campus ministry. Before working at University Church of Christ, he was a recruiter for Pioneer Bible Translators.

1 Douglas A. Foster, Paul M. Blowers, Anthony L. Dunnavant, and D. Newell Williams, eds., The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 150.

2 Basil Mathews, John R. Mott: World Citizen (New York: Harper and London, 1934), 33.

3 Ibid., 41–2.

4 Ibid., 45.

5 Ibid., 46.

6 Ibid., 47.

7 Ibid., 83.

8 Ibid.

9 Mary A. Thompson, Unofficial Ambassadors: The Story of International Student Service (New York: International Student Service, 1982), 25–26.

10 Ibid., 25.

11 Ibid., 28.

12 Ibid., 92.

13 Ibid., 35.

14 Rick Rowland, Campus Ministries (Fort Worth, TX: Star Bible, 1991), 24.

15 Ibid., 23.

16 Tim Curtis and Mike Matheny, Ministering on the College Campus (Nashville, TN: 20th Century Christian, 1991), 12.

17 Rowland, 44, 49.

18 “A Directory of Bible Chairs of Churches of Christ,” Bible Chair Journal (1960): 12–14.

19 Weldon Bennett and Lane Cubstead, Foreign Evangelism of the Church of Christ: 1959–1960 Yearbook (Dallas, TX: Gospel Broadcast, 1960), 3.

20 Dennis Files, “Our World Universities Are Waiting,” Campus Journal 21, no. 3 (1977): 6.

21 “Campus Potpourri,” Campus Journal 13, no. 1 (1970): 10.

22 Leigh Ann Craig, “Aggies for Christ Influence Students around the World,” Christian Chronicle, August 1, 1988, 10.

23 “FOCUS,” Campus Journal 19, no. 2 (1975): 14.

24 “Tech Director to Denmark,” Bible Chair Journal 3, no. 2 (1961): 3.

25 “New Directors Named,” Bible Chair Journal 6, no. 4 (1964): 5.

26 “News: Personnel,” Bible Chair Journal 7, no. 3 (1965): 6.

27 “News: With Campus Ministers,” Bible Chair Journal 8, no. 1 (1966): 5.

28 Bennett and Cubstead, Foreign Evangelism, 64.

29 Howard Schug, J. W. Treat, and Robert L. Johnston Jr., The Harvest Field: 1958 Edition (Athens, AL: C.E.I. Publishing, 1958), 245.

30 “Campus Potpourri,” Campus Journal 4, no. 2 (1969): 12.

31 “Challenging Program in Progress as Texas Tech,” Bible Chair Journal 3, no. 1 (1960): 6.

32 “Campus Potpourri,” Campus Journal 7, no. 2 (1969): 10.

33 “Tarleton State Sees Large Number of Students Meet For Mission Interest,” Bible Chair Journal 8, no. 1 (1966): 6.

34 Page Morgan, “Christianity and the Biologist—Can They Co-Exist?,” Bible Chair Journal 6, no. 1 (1964): 5.

35 Charles Brewer, A Missionary Pictorial (Nashville, TN: World Vision, 1964).

36 Avon Malone, “Power and Potential,” Bible Chair Journal 7, no. 4 (1965): ii.

37 “Training Leaders a Top Privilege” Christian Chronicle, January 21, 1968.

38 Bennett and Cubstead, Foreign Evangelism, 64.

39 “Broadway Elders to Oversee Campus Evangelism Program,” Christian Chronicle, June 17, 1966, 3.

40 Jim Bevis, I Love to Tell the Story! (Florence, AL: Providence Press, 2013), 61.

41 “OSU Hosts Foreign Students,” Bible Chair Journal 7, no. 1 (1965): 6.

42 Jerry Blythe, “Campus Advance!,” Bible Chair Journal 7, no. 4 (1965): 7; “Campus Potpourri,” Campus Journal 7, no. 3 (1970): 10; Hans Novak, “An effective program without credit courses? Cookeville shows it can be done,” Bible Chair Journal 9, no. 1 (1967): 1.

43 “Campus Potpourri,” Campus Journal 7, no. 2 (1969): 10.

44 Schug, Treat, and Johnston, The Harvest Field, 221.

45 “Foreign Expansion?,” Bible Chair Journal 2, no. 2 (1960): 1.

46 “Directory of Campus Ministries of Churches of Christ,” Campus Journal 8, no. 1 (1970): 17.

47 John F. Wilson, “Campus Ministry in the Past Twenty Years: Some Personal Reflections,” Mission Journal 13, no. 12 (June 1980): 10–12.

48 Rowland, Campus Ministries, 94.

49 Don E. Vinzant, The Discipling Dilemma (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1988), ch. 8.

50 Rowland, Campus Ministries, 95.

51 C. Foster Stanback, Into All Nations (Newton Upper Falls, MA: Illumination Publishers International), 37.

52 Stanback, Into All Nations, 50.

53 Robert Nelson, Understanding the Crossroads Controversy (Fort Worth, TX: Star Bible, 1981); James Woodroof, Beyond Crossroads (College Station, TX: Struggles Publishers, 1981); Gordon Ferguson, The Crossroads Controversy: One Preacher’s Perspective (Fort Worth, TX: Star Bible, 1983).

54 Bob Amdorfer, “Crossroads: Its Dramatic Growth Is Accompanied by Reputation of Aggressiveness, Mind Control,” Gainesville Sun, February 17, 1979.

55 “Campus News: OSU Ministry Hosts International Student Banquet,” Campus Journal (1981): 16.

56 “Campus News: OSU Ministry Hosts International Student Banquet,” Campus Journal 24, no. 3 (1981): 17; “Campus News: A Very Special Bible Study at Ole Miss,” Campus Journal 25, no. 2 (1982): 22; Keith Johnson, “Cross-Cultural Ministry,” Campus Journal 25, no. 3 (1982): 26–27.

57 “Campus News: Miami Has International Emphasis,” Campus Journal 24, no. 3 (1981): 16.

58 “A Directory of International Students,” Campus Journal 23, no. 4 (1980): 23.

59 “Campus News: Alabama Ministry Grows,” Campus Journal 24, no. 3 (1981): 19.

60 Bill Lawrence, “An Incredible Opportunity,” Campus Journal 25, no. 4 (1982): 10.

61 Ibid., 11.

62 “Bible Chair in Milan, Italy Demonstrates Vision and Faith,” Bible Chair Journal 7, no. 2 (1965): i.

63 “The Church and the Campuses of Europe,” Bible Chair Journal 9, no. 3 (1967): 3; “Directory of Campus Ministries of Churches of Christ,” Campus Journal 13, no. 1 (1970): 17.

64 Mark Trusler, “Ottawa Campus Ministry Report,” Gospel Herald 43 (1977): 15.

65 “Directory: Campus Ministries of the Churches of Christ,” Campus Journal 25, no. 2 (1982): 34–35.

66 “Campus News: A Very Special Bible Study at Ole Miss,” Campus Journal 25, no. 2 (1982): 22–23.

67 Pancho Hobbes, “A Plea from Central America,” Campus Journal 27, no. 2 (1984): 31.

68 “Spring 1983 Directory: Campus Ministries of the Churches of Christ,” Campus Journal 26, no. 2 (1983): 31.

69 “World Missions News, Resources and Ideas: . . . To the Ends of the Earth,” Campus Journal 27, no. 2 (1984): 24–28.

70 Rowland, Campus Ministries, 96.

71 Rob Burns and Tom Lombardi, “Announcement: Bombay, India,” Lexington Church of Christ Bulletin, April 10, 1983, 2.

72 “Campus News,” Campus Journal 25, no. 3 (1982): 18; Tom Jones, “A Most Special Week,” Campus Journal 25, no. 4 (1982): 3.

73 James Lloyd, “Report: London, England,” Lexington Church of Christ Bulletin, January 1, 1983, 2.

74 “Directory: Campus Ministries of the Churches of Christ,” Campus Journal 27, no. 4 (1984): 27.

75 Kip McKean, “Report: First Annual World Missions Seminar,” Lexington Church of Christ Bulletin, October 17, 1982, 1–2.

76 “Historic Milestones,” Boston Church of Christ Bulletin, January 4, 1987, 2.

77 Ibid.

78 Jerry Jones, What Does the Boston Movement Teach?, vol. 2 (Bridgeton, MO: Mid-America Book and Tape Sales, 1990), 39.

79 Kip and Elena McKean, “New Name—International Churches of Christ,” letter to Lead Evangelists—Women Ministry Leaders Worldwide, July 22, 1993; Jerry Jones, What Does the Boston Movement Teach?, 7–8.

80 Rick Rowland, “Changing the World,” Gospel Advocate 82, no. 3 (1990): 20; “Campus Connection,” Campus Crosswalk (Summer 1994): 7.

81 “The College Connection,” Campus Crosswalk 36, no. 1 (1994): 7; “Campus Ministry Begins in Vienna,” Christian Chronicle, January 1997, 24; “Campus connection,” Campus Crosswalk (Winter 1995): 11.

82 Lynn McMillon, “Let’s Start Talking Directors Transition to a New Role,” Christian Chronicle, September 26, 2016.

83 John Moreland, “Summer Mission Opportunities,” Campus Journal 34, no. 1 (1992): 30.

84 “ ‘Let’s Start Talking’ About 1996!,” Campus Crosswalk (Winter 1995): 7.

85 Rick Rowland, “Rick Rowland’s News and Notes,” Campus Journal 34, no. 1 (1992): 39.

86 Rick Rowland, “Rick Rowland’s News and Notes,” Campus Journal 35, no. 3 (1993): 27.

87 John Moreland, “Summer Mission Opportunities,” Campus Journal 34, no. 1 (1992): 33.

88 Bobby Ross Jr., “FriendSpeak Mixes Jesus, Conversation,” Christian Chronicle, November 1, 2010.

89 Brinkerhoff, et al., Ministering on the College Campus, 96–97.

90 John Moreland, “International Outreach,” Campus Crosswalk (Summer 1994): 2.

91 Milton Jones, “The Circle Study,” Campus Crosswalk 36, no. 1 (1994): 6.

92 Rick Rowland, “Rick’s Campus Connection,” Campus Crosswalk (Spring 1994): 7.

93 Buddy Bell, “A Vision for the Future,” 21st Century Christian 52, no. 12 (1990): 9.

94 Erik Tryggestad, “A Conversation with Jim Brinkerhoff,” Christian Chronicle, December 2003, 20.

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A Kind of Dialogue; or, the Practice of Reading Unrelated Articles Together (Editorial Preface to the Issue)

In this issue, two articles present historical perspectives on pivotal aspects of mission history in the Stone-Campbell Movement, and two articles address important missiological issues from broader perspectives. The combination invites reflection on the nature of the dialogue in which Missio Dei is increasingly engaged.

The journal began with the stated purpose of “exploring the rich tradition and ongoing practice of participation in the mission of God among churches of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, particularly Churches of Christ/Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (a cappella), in an open dialogue with Christian missiology.”1 The need for a medium that both represents particularly Stone-Campbell voices and places them alongside others persists, and we happily host an eclectic array of articles. This issue, as much as any preceding it, captures our intention to generate dialogical reflection.

Through the years, the ambition of open dialogue has found fulfillment in a variety of essays.2 Now, the submissions of two leading evangelical missiologists, Edward L. Smither and J. Nelson Jennings, invite Missio Dei readers to consider the practices and manifestations of Christian mission in global contexts perhaps unfamiliar to many Stone-Campbell churches.

What, for example, has the “low church” tradition of typical Restorationist readers to do with Smither’s reflections on the Book of Common Prayer? While there is a sort of liturgical awakening afoot among some Stone-Campbell congregations—I’m thinking especially of urban Churches of Christ making use of the traditional liturgical calendar and even the BCP—this is a challenging question. Further, how these practices relate to the contextual exigencies of God’s mission at home and abroad is of vital interest!

At the same time, the rise of influential Majority World expressions of faith presents new challenges to Stone-Campbell churches attentive to questions of missional witness and partnership. In this regard, Jennings’s article offers a model of careful archival work and critical reflection. Where is the comparable work among Stone-Campbell missiologists? The challenge is worthy of serious consideration.

Alongside these important contributions, the historical work of Shawn Daggett and Travis Bookout and John Young is suggestive, not least by placing the paradigmatic stories of early Stone-Campbell influences in relief. Daggett’s article raises questions about the heritage of the tradition’s mission work. The thorny issues of race relations, colonialism, and missionary preparation and care have been with us since the beginning. We honor the sacrifices of our forebears—and Alexander Cross is worthy of honor!—while asking hard questions about the meaning of their stories.

In turn, Bookout and Young’s research highlights one strand of the theological DNA of Stone-Campbell churches, particularly those in the lineage of David Lipscomb. What does Lipsbomb’s eschatological vision have to do with the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in 2022? How might (or should) it shape our participation in God’s mission today? Such questions are a blessing, even if their answers are difficult to conceive in our local contexts and current political climate.

So what is the nature of the dialogue that arises from reading these articles together, as their publication in a single journal issue invites? Here, dialogue means something unconventional. The authors are not engaged with one another; the dialogical work is solely the reader’s. Of course, each piece stands on its own, and readers may enter into profitable dialogue with the authors without regard for the shared digital space that Missio Dei 13, no. 1 delineates. Every researcher rightly cherry-picks relevant journal articles without a second thought for others in a given issue. Every casual periodical reader skims article titles for matters of interest, ignoring the rest. Yet, hearing these voices together presents an opportunity worth entertaining (at least from the perspective of the journal’s purpose!): to explore the unlikely but mutually enriching juxtaposition of perspectives from diverse corners and time periods in world Christianity. In short: what happens if we read the journal issue as a whole?

For example, reading the story of Alexander Cross with the endeavors of Onnuri Church in mind raises fascinating questions. The two approaches to mission stand worlds apart. Still, perennial questions about colonialist ambition, cultural contextualization, and unintended consequences arise from both articles. Likewise, considering the implications of David Lipscomb’s political eschatology alongside the struggle for both orthodoxy and indigeneity that marks the BCP’s use in mission invites reflection on catholicity, formative practice, and local witness.

Does this count as dialogue? I believe so, if only in a limited sense. Still, the thought of Missio Dei’s readership growing and diversifying as we read and reflect together is hopeful. And the thought of Stone-Campbell missiology staking out a tent big enough to match the movement’s initial inclusivity is all the more so.

Soli Deo gloria.

1 “About the Journal,”

2 E.g., Jim Harries, “Talking For Money: The Donor Industry as Fulfillment of Ancient African Religious Ideals,” MDJ 2, no. 2 (2011):; David Leong, “Reading the City: Cultural Texts and Urban Community,” MDJ 3, no. 2 (2012):; Soong-Chan Rah, “Incarnational Ministry in the Urban Context,” MDJ 3, no. 2 (2012):; Paul Yonggap Jeong, “‘Mission in Weakness and Vulnerability’ in Selected Writings: From Lesslie Newbigin’s and David Bosch’s Missiological Books,” MDJ 4, no. 1 (2013):; Jean Johnson, “What Is That In Your Hand?: Mobilizing Local Resources,” MDJ 4, no. 1 (2013):; Mark Kinzer, “Postmissionary Messianic Judaism and Its Implications for Christian-Jewish Engagement,” MDJ 4, no. 2 (2013):; Ched Myers, “Reinhabiting the River of Life (Rev 22:1–2): Rehydration, Redemption and Watershed Discipleship,” MDJ 5, no. 2 (2014):; Michael Chung, “The Redeeming Repast,” MDJ 7 (2016):; Charles E. Moore, “Radical, Communal, Bearing Witness: The Church as God’s Mission in Bruderhof Perspective and Practice,” MDJ 9, no. 2 (2018):; David Williams, “Toward a Worldwide Theology of Vulnerable Mission,” MDJ 10, no. 2 (2019):; Werner Mischke, “An Honor-Bearing Gospel for Shame-Fueled Crises,” MDJ 11 (2020):; Jackson Wu, “From One Honor-Shame Culture to Another: A Proposal for Training Chinese Missionaries to Serve in Muslim Contexts,” MDJ 11 (2020):; David Milne and Darren Cronshaw, “Formation, Continuity, and Multiplication of Churches within Australian Church Planting Movement (CPM) Paradigms,” MDJ 12, no. 1 (2021):; Henry Vermont and Johannes Malherbe, “A Phased-Hybrid Training Approach for Missionaries,” MDJ 12, no. 1 (2021):

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Christian Global Network TV (CGNTV): A Korea-Based Multi-Platform Digital Mission Network

Christian Global Network TV (CGNTV) was established in 2005 as a satellite TV network by Onnuri Church, one of the largest megachurches in South Korea. First aimed at serving Korean missionaries and the Korean diaspora, CGNTV now broadcasts in multiple languages through several offices in Asia and North America. This documentary study examines CGNTV’s historical development, ministry foci, various partnerships, programming diversification, platform developments, and financing. The study concludes by suggesting for future study some challenges, questions, and opportunities that CGNTV faces today and in the future.

Christian Global Network TV (CGNTV) was established in 2005 as a satellite TV network by Onnuri Church, one of the largest megachurches in South Korea. The Onnuri-CGNTV affiliation has always been widely known among Korean Christians, and that understanding continues to this day. While CGNTV’s original scope was to serve Korean missionaries and the Korean diaspora, the network now broadcasts more broadly in multiple languages and operates through several overseas branch offices in Asia and North America. Programming and digital media platforms have diversified as well.

This article documents CGNTV’s historical development, including the network’s wider socio-economic context and religious broadcasting trends. Ministry foci, various partnerships, programming diversification, platform developments, and financing will also be analyzed. The study concludes by suggesting for future study some of the opportunities, challenges, and questions that CGNTV faces currently and beyond.


Christian Global Network Television (CGNTV) is a Korean Christian satellite TV network. CGNTV is affiliated with Seoul-based Onnuri Church (OC), one of Korea’s most prominent megachurches. Korea-based CGNTV also has an international reach and significant influence within the wider world of religious broadcasting. The same is true of OC within the wider world of Christian mission, evidenced, for example, by OC serving as the coordinating host of the upcoming Fourth Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization to be held in Seoul in 2024.1

CGNTV’s stated mission is to be “the gospel channel for all nations.” Its vision is that of “reaching out further, and stepping in closer for a single soul [as we carry out] Glocal Mission and Education Broadcasting.”2 The fact that CGNTV takes its mission and vision seriously is evidenced by the careful design of its logotype, described below the CGNTV signature shown here (with its prescribed proportions between the CGNTV symbol and logotype):

Figure 1: CGNTV Logotype

“The angled edge on the upper right arm of T represents CGNTV which ‘goes further and steps in closer’ for every single soul around the world by providing a variety of content on multiple platforms, while the open space between T and V symbolizes CGNTV which is used as ‘a pathway for the Gospel’ through sharing of the Good News.”3 As this study’s title indicates, CGNTV seeks thoroughly to embody its identity as a “Digital Mission Network.”

Historical Development

OC and its founding pastor, the late Rev. Ha Yong-jo, established CGNTV in 2005. This bold venture into satellite broadcasting stemmed out of OC’s explosive growth since its beginning twenty years earlier, in 1985. Having begun with twelve families, by 2000 OC had rocketed to an active membership of around 21,000.4 South Korea’s corresponding economic growth, including in the electronics industry, provided the broader context for such a major financial and technological undertaking.

Religious broadcasting itself had already been established in Korea. Among Protestants, the Christian Broadcasting System (CBS) began with radio in 1954, adding an internet website in 1998 and CBS TV in 2002.5 CTS Christian TV incorporated in 1995, expanding with an internet broadcasting station in 2001.6 The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul established the Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation in 1988, launching radio and cable TV broadcasts in 1990 and 1995.7 The Buddhist Broadcasting System (BBS) was founded in 1990 and the Buddhist Cable TV Network in 1995.8

Not surprisingly, other Korean megachurches that had been founded earlier than OC also preceded it with specifically digital ministries. For example, both Yoido Full Gospel Church and Sarang Church established their internet ministries in 1997: the former started the Korean Christian Internet Broadcasting Co., Ltd.; and, Sarang Church’s new internet division included its portal site, offering multimedia contents.9 For its part, OC created an internal database in the 1990s to keep track of its burgeoning membership, and it was not until 2007 that an online version went live “for statistical and analytical use for the purpose of ministry;” in 2010 new “online pastoral care programs” began.10

At the same time, OC’s rapid growth and outreach emphasis on evangelism and missions catapulted its relatively early launch of CGNTV. The satellite network’s internet-based predecessor, Onnuri TV, had begun in 2000, as had Onnuri Radio.11 Both programs soon began online broadcasts, including early morning prayer services from OC’s main Seobinggo campus in 2004. A 2004 alliance with Korea Telecommunications (KT) gave OC access to South Korea’s “biggest satellite system and . . . undersea cables.” The following year, “with a bigger ambition to advance missionary efforts through satellite broadcasting, Onnuri TV revamped itself into CGNTV.”12 (The original name selected was Global Christian Network, but due to previously registered trademarks the name was changed to CGNTV.13 It is important to distinguish CGNTV from the similarly named GCNTV that is associated with the scandal-ridden Manmin Central Church.14 )

CGNTV’s subsequent development has made it a representative example of Korean Christian satellite networks, similar to how Sarang Church’s internet ministry has been a pacesetter in providing extensive online ministries.15 In line with its initial focus on strengthening Korean missionaries, CGNTV’s first focused project was labeled Dream On and aimed to install satellite dishes wherever (OC-related) missionaries were serving.16 Expanding CGNTV’s focus beyond just missionaries (and the Korean diaspora) has meant broader dish locations as well, and the continuing Dream On campaign has enabled the installation of around 11,500 satellite antennas in 101 countries. Moreover, the campaign has funded the installation of indoor, weather-proof, and internet-based set-top boxes now numbering about 3,500 units in fifty-two countries.17

CGNTV’s access to satellites came through its early partnership with KT and then with SAT-7 (see below). More direct arrangements for “relaying digital signals to a geo-stationary satellite in an equatorial orbit which are then received by satellite dishes”18 began with broadcasting through Satellite IS-10 in 2007.19 Currently, CGNTV is available (at least in terms of satellite transmission coverage) in over 170 countries by transmitting via four satellites,20 the geographically widest coverages supplied via Satellites Hispasat 1-E (30W-5) and IS-20.21


In OC founding pastor Ha Yong-jo’s words when CGNTV was founded, “Whatever the cost, as Christ’s return draws nearer, the task falls on us to spread the Gospel through CGNTV to the missionaries and all the nations all over the world which cable TV or public broadcasting cannot reach.”22 Propelled by OC’s missions vision to dispatch missionaries to reach the onnuri (“whole world”),23 “CGNTV initially began to spiritually provide [for] missionaries and Korean diaspora worldwide.”24 Stated differently, “CGNTV was founded in 2005 for Korean missionaries who follow God’s great mandate to be His ‘witnesses to the ends of the earth’ in hostile and remote corners of the world.”25 At its inception, CGNTV was a Korean-language outreach to strengthen Korean Christians around the world for the cause of world evangelization.

That initial focus has expanded considerably and in various arenas. With respect to OC, including its several campuses in South Korea and 30 “vision churches” located internationally, CGNTV has become interrelated with many aspects of OC life and ministry.26 Training in daily devotions, or 큐티 (QT for “Quiet Time”), has been one of OC’s foundational emphases from the beginning; QT messages are available on CGNTV and in multiple languages.27 CGNTV broadcasts OC’s weekly worship services and daily early morning prayer services; often synchronizes Sr. Pastor Lee Jae-hoon’s sermons for multiple worship sites; and, regularly supplies brief videos used before or during worship. Since its 2007 beginning, OC’s Love Sonata outreach in Japan has utilized CGNTV as an integral part of “a solid network” of ongoing ministry.28 CGNTV’s prominence in OC’s life and ministry is exemplified in its occupying one of the few headings on the OC homepage,29 and CGNTV’s own homepage gives clear indication of the wide scope of its ministries.30

Internationally, missions outreach is the DNA of OC. Pastor Ha Yong-jo’s early (and enduring) strategy was to create a publishing company (Duranno Press) and a missions sending agency (Tyrannus International Mission [TIM])—both named after Tyrannus Hall of Acts 19:9—to disseminate the gospel worldwide.31 CGNTV has joined these structures, and in many ways it has not only enhanced but exceeded them in OC’s world evangelization efforts. On the one hand, the network’s Korean-language and South Korea-based ministries, programming, and technological platforms far exceed those in other languages and countries—although twenty-four-hour ON AIR broadcasting is provided as well in Japanese and in Chinese.32 Notwithstanding its strong Korean focus, given the network’s increasingly prominent role in OC missions, “The CGNTV staff of 160” has determined that they “will not rest until the whole world is evangelized with the Good News of Jesus Christ beyond the barriers of class, generation, language, culture, and national boundaries.”33


OC had enormous human, financial, and technological resources when it launched CGNTV in 2005. Even so, such an ambitious and specialized undertaking necessitated partnering with others involved in satellite TV broadcasting. The aforementioned alliance with KT in 2004 provided access to large-scale infrastructure requirements, particularly satellites and undersea cables. A 2006 collaboration agreement with SAT-7, which had been established in 1995 for broadcasting throughout the Middle East and North Africa,34 enhanced the reach, expertise, and quality of CGNTV’s work.35 While CGNTV no longer maintains official partnerships with international Christian networks, as a satellite-based broadcasting network with multiple channels and diverse programming in multiple languages, SAT-7 provides a comparable example to CGNTV structurally and in types of ministry.36

CGNTV’s partnerships have become more country specific—including within Korea37—as new branch offices and production centers have been established in the US (2005), Japan (Tokyo in 2006 and Osaka in 2007), Taipei (2008), Bangkok (2010), Abu Dhabi (2012), and Jakarta (2014).38 CGNTV’s central role in creating a sizable network of churches throughout Japan is particularly noteworthy. CGNTV has entered into MOUs and other agreements in many countries, including in Egypt and Hong Kong.39 CGNTV works together with local denominations, pastors, and Christian leaders in participating in various organizations, seminaries, and Korean missionary councils. Within Korea, CGNTV partners with educational institutions, mission agencies, and Christian organizations.40

Reflecting the wide range of partnering organizations in Korea, as well as those in Japan and in Chinese circles, supporters and cooperating agencies are listed toward the bottom of each homepage of the main CGNTV website, the CGNTV Japan website, and the CGNTV Chinese website.41

Figures 2–4: CGNTV, CGNTV Japan, and CGNTV Chinese Homepages


The expansion and diversification of CGNTV’s programming has accompanied the widening scope of the network’s ministry goals. What began as a satellite broadcasting extension of OC’s missions outreach to and through Korean missionaries and the Korean diaspora has broadened into nothing short of seeking to achieve world evangelization “beyond the barriers of class, generation, language, culture, and national boundaries.”42 Moreover, sermons, Bible teaching, worship services, and other similar contents have gradually expanded into a wide array of offerings to various targeted audiences.

Having officially begun in March 2005, CGNTV’s programming capacities leaped forward with its live satellite broadcasts of four major gatherings held during the August 2005 Jerusalem Peace March.43 The gatherings were worship services held at the Sea of Galilee, in Jerusalem, and in Bethlehem, and they were part of a multi-week event attended by about 2,500 Korean Christians. It was quite natural that CGNTV broadcast the gatherings, since OC, in collaboration with two other Korean megachurches and two Korean organizations, was both a primary organizer and the supplier of about 1,500 (sixty percent) of the attendees.44

Figures 5–6: CGNTV Broadcasts from Israel45

Not surprisingly CGN News reported extensively on the 2005 Jerusalem Peace March event’s preparation and meetings.46 It is also worth noting how the early changing names of the news program reflected the expansion of the program’s scope and frequency. The program began as Onnuri News in 2002 as part of Onnuri TV’s lineup.47 The name changed to CGN News in December 2004, as a test broadcast of the launching of CGNTV the following spring.48 In November 2005, CGN News became CGN Today, the name that has continued ever since.49 Also worthy of special mention is CGN Today’s 2015 award-winning report on challenges facing the burgeoning immigrants in Korea, “Refugee Exodus, Finding Hope.”50

CGNTV’s programming expanded significantly, particularly linguistically, together with the establishment of offices internationally. It was broadcasting in multiple languages that changed CGNTV’s self-identification from a “Mission & Education Network” to a “Customized Mission Network.”51 The launch of Los Angeles-based CGNTV USA in late August 2005 led to broadcasting in Spanish the following year, and in 2008 seminary courses were offered in Latin America.52 CGNTV’s expansion into Spanish broadcasts reflected OC’s multi-pronged missions vision for Central and South America.53 Similarly, establishing CGNTV Japan in late 2006 (with an additional Osaka branch in early 2007) meant broadcasting in Japanese as well as broadcasts of OC’s “cultural evangelism” program Love Sonata, starting with the first one held in Okinawa in April 2007.54 Similar linguistic expansions have taken place in English, Chinese (traditional and simplified), Indonesian, Thai, and other languages.55 Either native speakers or translations in subtexts provide programming in the appropriate languages.

Figures 7–8: CGNTV Indonesia and CGNTV Thai Homepages

Along with broadcasts of special events, documentaries have significantly expanded the CGNTV repertoire of programs. One of the first was the 2012 award-winning Smile LacRose, conveying the gospel work of a Brazilian missionary couple and collaborating OC ministries in the Pink Lake region of Senegal.56 Special documentaries increased in 2015, with two commemorating the 130-year anniversary of Protestant missionaries arriving in Korea, “Female Missionaries Shine on Joseon” and the award-winning “Black Mountain: In Remembrance of the Times Past,” as well as the award-winning “Confessions of Missionary Kids.”57 Of special note among the several other documentaries that have ensued was the highly publicized and award-winning “서서평, 천천히 평온하게” (“Seo Seo-Pyeong, Slowly and Peacefully”), released in April 2017.58 Rather than being shown on CGNTV, this seventy-eight-minute film about the life and service of the German-American missionary to Korea, Elisabeth Shepping, was CGNTV’s first venture in making a production available in theaters to ticket-purchasing viewers.

Figures 9–10: Introduction and Scene from “Seo Seo-Pyeong”

CGNTV’s documentaries have ventured beyond specifically religious themes; for example, its 2019 documentary 낮은 곳에서 피는 봄 (Spring Bloomed in the Shade) commemorates the centennial of Korea’s March 1st Independence Movement.59 Furthermore, other types of programming diversification accelerated with the 2017–2018 production of the comedic mini-drama series 두근두근 마카롱 (Pounding Macaron).60 First, Pounding Macaron utilized CGNTV’s new “ ‘Knock’ Mini Human Documentary” format, begun in 2016, with its four-to-seven-minute episodes.61 Also, this two-season series (with fifteen and seven episodes respectively) was among CGNTV’s cutting-edge attempts to connect with Christians and non-Christians alike. The 2019 K-drama series 고고송 (Go Go Song), with the theme “Love is nothing if not everything,” similarly sought to connect with a wide audience. Aired on two consecutive nights in January, the one-hour episodes weave through various evolving relationships, centering on a young man and woman navigating their commitment to each other.62 Within a few months, international YouTube viewings exceeded one million.63

Figure 11: CGNTV’s 2019 K-Drama “Go Go Song”

In 2019 a short (typically three-minute) format called SOON, consisting of a devotional message or testimony, was launched.64

Figure 12: SOON Program Examples

These brief programs have become popular enough that SOON is a main heading on the homepages of both the main CGNTV website and the CGNTV Japan website. There is also a separate Korean CGNTV SOON YouTube channel and Japanese SOON CGNTV YouTube playlist.65 As yet another programming venture, in 2020 CGN News began a weekly “View Ridge” twenty-minute segment of commentary on various social, religious, cultural, political, and other themes.66

Programming decisions and planning are largely carried out by the various production departments. In some cases—especially with international preachers, teachers, authors, entertainers, and others—production managers may struggle adequately to grasp potential featured speakers’ content, reputations, organizational connections, and other important factors. Third-party analyses and evaluations are consulted to ensure that rigorous screening takes place.67

CGNTV’s array of targeted audiences has meant programs for various ages of children and adults. The broadcasts of sermons and Bible teaching feature a wide swath of speakers, including for both Korean and non-Korean programs. Preachers and teachers shown on CGNTV are in many cases well-known (e.g., Brian Houston, John Piper) and are always consistent with OC’s evangelical (or evangelical-charismatic) theological posture, self-described as “Word and Spirit.”68 And while CGNTV’s connection with OC is widely understood among Korean Christians, programming has expanded to the point that only about sixty percent is OC-related.69 Especially with the added impetus for diversified programming brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend is for CGNTV’s programs to continue to expand.


CGNTV was born out of OC’s missions passion and willingness to use the latest technological developments for gospel proclamation—which in the early 2000s included satellite broadcasting. Ever since, the network’s employment of various platforms has tried to keep pace with the most up-to-date technological developments of electronic communications in use among the populations of South Korea and elsewhere.

Just a year after the world’s very first podcast in 2004 (which was three years after the Apple iPod’s debut in 2001),70 in November 2005 CGNTV launched a weekly eight-minute English Bible Story on Apple Podcasts—lasting 220 episodes until January 2010.71 These particular podcasts fit with CGNTV’s aforementioned early self-identification as a “Mission & Education Network,” providing both English language instruction as well as Bible study content.

In Korea, CGNTV launched its first cable TV channel in 2008, then its second in 2012.72 Currently CGNTV has four cable channels in Korea, three on major cable providers and one in Daegu, in southeast Korea.73 CGNTV ventured into IPTV as well (Internet Protocol Television) in 2008 and currently has three IPTV channels.74

Also in 2008, CGN mobile service began—the year following the release of the first iPhone—with smartphone-specific service launched in 2010.75 Not surprisingly, CGNTV soon ventured into social media platforms, as well. It joined Twitter in 2009.76 The first CGNTV YouTube channel was launched in 2010, followed by Facebook in 2011 and Instagram in 2015.77 CGNTV’s international branches, while lagging behind the Korean home base in local TV offerings, were not far behind in setting up their own, country-appropriate social media platforms (see Appendix A).

New magazine offerings, both electronic and print, deserve mention as well. Interestingly, CGNTV Japan was the first to publish its version, CGN Journal, in 2010, totaling fourteen volumes through 2017.78 The Korean CGN Magazine began in 2013 and to date has published thirty-one volumes.79

CGNTV’s latest innovative platform—so far offered only in Korean—is an OTT (Over-The-Top) service called 퐁당 (fondant, branded with a lower-case “f”). OTT platforms offer streaming video directly to viewers over the internet.80 Netflix may be the most widely familiar example of an OTT platform, and a visit to CGNTV’s 퐁당 feels remarkably similar. Contents consist of what is already available on other CGNTV platforms and some that is original for fondant. Both OC and CGNTV currently give 퐁당 prominent promotional space, including on their websites and on the large billboard that sits atop the CGNTV building in Seoul.

Figure 13: fondant Contents page

Figures 14–15: CGNTV’s Online Fundraising and Billboard Promotion for 퐁당 (fondant)81

As CGNTV explained in its fall 2020 퐁당 previews, the isolation of smaller churches and of individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic gave all the more impetus to create this new OTT platform.82 CGNTV introduced 퐁당 in February 2021, touting it as “Korea’s first Christian OTT platform.”83 Offering parents and local churches control for tailoring contents for their own situations, by self-declaration “Fondant provides proven high-quality gospel content to become a pure gospel content platform free of heresy, advertisements, and harmful content.”84

The name 퐁당 has its own interesting story. Seeking a name to convey the platform’s purpose of sending the gospel flowing out into all the world, the planning team first sought a term that could be used both in English (or at least spelled with the alphabet) and in Korean. The French word fondant came to mind, meaning (per the CGNTV explanation) “to overflow, fall into.”85 Furthermore, “fondant” phonetically resembles the Korean “퐁당” (“pongdang”), beloved among Koreans due to the popular kids song “퐁당 퐁당” about the sound of a rock thrown into deep water.86 English speakers may be confused first by the meaning for them of “fondant” as a type of icing and, second, by the transliteration of 퐁당 as “fongdang” that may appear. Korean speakers, however, will resonate warmly with the name 퐁당 and catch the intended meaning of gospel waves metaphorically rippling out widely.

Figure 16: fondant Children’s Programs

CGNTV’s marketing sensibilities about the “infinite competition between platforms and contents” in today’s Korean digital media world fuels its attempt “to walk a completely differentiated path from existing Christian broadcasts.” The 퐁당 OTT platform means that CGNTV not only “provides customized services for mission agencies and missionaries working all over the world” but also enables “families, churches, and communities to have a platform that can be individually designed.”87 Just as choosing the Korean term onnuri has helped OC’s name resonate among its Korean membership and audience,88 so does CGNTV hope that its 퐁당 platform finds a home in the hearts of Korean individuals, Christians, and churches.


There are four interrelated areas of CGNTV and its finances that need highlighting. First is that it receives no commercial support. Second is that operating CGNTV is quite expensive. Third is that appeals for financial support are close to ubiquitous in much of CGNTV’s programming. Fourth is the nature of CGNTV’s financial oversight and decision-making.

The OC Senior Pastor, first Rev. Ha Yong-jo and now his successor Rev. Lee Jae-hoon, has always served as CGNTV “Chief Director.” In his website message introducing CGNTV, Senior Pastor Lee notes how CGNTV “was started with an aim to deliver the Gospel only, against commercial broadcasting networks seeking worldly values. By the last [late] Pastor Yong-Jo Ha’s will, we have strived to serve . . . based on unwavering belief in God’s provision, never trying to turn the message of Good News into any type of profit-seeking business.”89 Accordingly, as noted earlier, CGNTV’s fondant provides its content “free of . . . advertisements.”90

Operating in such a way is particularly striking in light of the level of funding involved. Depicted graphically, with English (and currency) translation below, in 2020 CGNTV’s income and expenses were as follows:

Figure 17: CGNTV 2020 Income and Expenses91

Income: ₩18,922,000,000 (US$16,945,000 @ $1 = ₩1,116.64)

  • General Support 69%
  • Church Support 27%
  • Broadcasting Income 3%

Expenses: ₩18,071,000,000 (US$16,183,000 @ $1 = ₩1,116.64)

  • Broadcast Production/Equipment Operation 41%
  • Ministry Expenses 39%
  • Broadcast Satellite Use 13%
  • General Management 7%

An annual budget of US$16–17 million is no small undertaking. The fact that over two-thirds of CGNTV’s income comes from donor support other than churches (including OC) suggests the enormity of the ongoing fundraising task that CGNTV faces in exercising its “unwavering belief in God’s provision.”

The massive financial need helps to explain the third area of ever-present information about how to contribute support. ON AIR TV broadcasts display, in the top right corner of the screen, rotating information for making donations. The various information displayed provides flexibility for giving either a modest set amount or a donor-determined amount, as well as for designating the area of CGNTV’s needs for which the gift is intended:92

Figures 18–21: ON AIR Programming with Donation Information (Top Right)

Some VOD (Video on Demand) programs begin with a brief notice about donating. For those viewing via the internet, links for contributing—including to special categories or ongoing projects like the aforementioned Dream On campaign—are also readily accessible:

Figures 22–24: Donation Information on CGNTV Web Pages

Various categories for giving include (among others) “Next Generation Broadcasting,” program production, broadcast equipment, and satellite use.93

Donation information is displayed within the 퐁당 (fondant) platform, as well. Also, OC and CGNTV have recently sponsored a 30-day “Run! fondant” fundraising campaign involving pledges to biking, running, or walking participants.94

CGNTV is by no means unique in Christian TV media networks displaying information for receiving donations. In comparing with the other Korean example of a megachurch-associated network, GOODTV connected with Yoido Full Gospel Church, one could even argue that CGNTV is the more restrained of the two, since GOODTV displays on-screen donation information in both ON AIR and VOD broadcasts:95

Figures 25–26: Donation Information on GOODTV

The point here is not to evaluate or compare but to understand what lies behind the strikingly ubiquitous displays of how CGNTV viewers and users can willingly offer financial support to help underwrite a very expensive operation.

The fourth area to consider is the nature of CGNTV’s financial oversight and decision-making. One note is that CGNTV’s income and expenses, while not shared publicly on CGNTV’s website, are included in information sent to donors. Organizationally speaking, “CGNTV is a subsidiary of the Onnuri Mission Foundation,” so “CGNTV’s income and expenditures are reported to the Onnuri Mission Foundation every year.” Furthermore, there are two audits annually conducted by OC, and two separate audits from external organizations take place each year, as well.96

Even more frequent are the monthly meetings of the nine-member CGNTV Executive Committee, consisting of OC elders. At those meetings the CGNTV staff “report on the budget, organizational reorganization, and work status,” discussing and making decisions with the executive committee accordingly.97 Clearly, CGNTV’s finances and decision-making operate under the oversight of OC as well as of legal authorities who would inspect the regular audits conducted both internally and externally.

Opportunities, Challenges, and Questions for Future Study

As noted earlier, COVID-19-induced isolation of individuals and of churches has provided the opportunity for CGNTV to develop and offer its OTT platform, 퐁당 (fondant). CGNTV has understood this opportunity to be significant enough to create a distinct organizational structure for 퐁당 that reports directly to the CGNTV CEO.98 Also, thirty-six staff working on six teams have been devoted to the project, with some having been reassigned and thus straining capacities in other CGNTV categories.99 Clearly OC and CGNTV see tremendous potential for 퐁당.

The financial challenges associated with such a large allocation of resources to a single project, wide in its effects as 퐁당 is expected to be, are clear enough. When added to the inherently massive expenses of an ever-expanding satellite-digital network like CGNTV, the financial challenges of further developing 퐁당 appear all the more imposing. Even though giving levels to OC mission efforts remarkably keep increasing despite anticipated decreases caused by COVID-19’s adverse economic effects, in the future OC’s and CGNTV’s “unwavering belief in God’s provision” may be tested like never before.100

A related challenge—which could also be considered a welcome and multifaceted opportunity—is CGNTV’s relationship with OC. This challenge is not due to any problematic issues or relationships that have arisen; they have not. Rather, there is a certain measure of ambiguity in the OC-CGNTV relationship, as there is in several other relationships that OC has with entities it has created for specific purposes, for example, the NGO Better World and the publisher Duranno Press. Since these entities reflect OC’s mission-focused DNA, OC mission leaders face the ongoing challenge of navigating the nuances of each particular relationship, as well as of coordinating the collaboration between OC’s various mission organizations—including CGNTV—expected by OC’s “convergence” approach in its mission endeavors.101

The OC-CGNTV relational ambiguity also presents itself with respect both to self-posturing and to outsiders’ perceptions. On the one hand, CGNTV’s ON AIR broadcasting and its VOD offerings stand independently enough that a newcomer, particularly a non-Korean, likely would not notice the OC connection. At the same time, the twenty percent OC-related programs are there—and in some programming categories in greater percentages. Furthermore, photo links to messages by OC Founding Pastor Ha Yong-jo or current Senior Pastor Lee Jae-hoon are always visible on both the Korean and all international branches of CGNTV homepages (except CGNTV Thai). If one adds to this ambiguous programming display the commonly assumed fact among Korean Christians that CGNTV is OC’s satellite TV network, it is easy to see how confusion can arise regarding the OC-CGNTV relationship—possibly including where financial contributions end up.

Even among the OC membership and OC organizational structures, uncertainties about the church’s relationship with CGNTV must surely arise. On the one hand, CGNTV has always clearly been OC’s network. All CGNTV top-management positions are held by OC leaders, organized in Korean hierarchical fashion.102 In Sunday worship services and other events, there are broadcasting personnel wearing their CGNTV shirts and visibly operating large TV cameras. CGNTV-produced announcements and videos are often shown before or during services, and CGNTV signage is visible around church facilities. On the other hand, CGNTV has its own logo, distinct from that of OC. CGNTV has benefited from special monthly “Vision Offerings” collected in the OC Sunday worship services. Those select offerings go to particular ministries that are often associated with outside, non-OC organizations. Such pointers to CGNTV’s own external existence might confuse those inside OC who otherwise recognize CGNTV as an OC ministry.

For CGNTV itself, even with its own clearly defined mission, vision, and brand identity, the network has a need “to further solidify its identity as a mission, education broadcasting system.”103 Such a need is not all that surprising when recalling, first, CGNTV’s early transition from a “Mission & Education Network” to a “Customized Mission Network.” This change was due in large part to internationalization and linguistic diversification. Recalling as well the significant expansions in programming and platforms that have taken place, like any ever-evolving organization CGNTV must continually sharpen its roles and purpose.

A series of questions concern CGNTV’s OC-connected Korean identity and its stated desire to be a “Christian Global Network.” First, in what sense(s) was CGNTV “global” as originally conceived? Was it the network’s newfound capacity to broadcast to “Korean viewers living worldwide”? Was it Pastor Ha Yong-jo’s sense of OC’s calling “to spread the Gospel through CGNTV to the missionaries and the nations all over the world which cable TV or public broadcasting cannot reach”? Was it an unrealistic, grandiose notion that in 2005 “the whole world watched in awe as CGNTV broadcast the spectacular Jerusalem Peace March live”?104

Second, in what sense(s) is CGNTV “global” today? Does the network’s programming being available in over 170 countries (with satellite antennas in 101 countries) by transmitting via four satellites qualify? Does having branches in a handful of countries outside South Korea, or broadcasting in a handful of other languages in addition to Korean, help make the network global? Is it CGNTV’s aforementioned aspiration to reach “every single soul around the world”?

Third, in what sense(s) can CGNTV ever be actually “global”? Should it mean program and platform availability in all the world’s countries, including 퐁당? Availability in how many languages would make an actual “global” network? Or—and this is a key distinction—does “global” represent a spirit, vision, or ideal rather than some actual benchmark? Just as the term onnuri (“whole world”) represents the mission DNA of Onnuri Church, CGNTV was established and will continue to be “global” with respect to its spirit.105 Becoming in actual fact “global” would seem to be an unobtainable fantasy. The point of caution for CGNTV is not to allow its global ideal to be grandiose in a self-deluding or self-promoting way.

A helpful corrective would be for CGNTV explicitly to present itself, rather than as the Christian Global Network TV, as one part of the Christian global network of digital TV broadcasters.

A final category of both challenges and questions for CGNTV is that of analytics and evaluation, particularly of user-viewer preferences and impact. Currently, there are only limited capacities for learning from or about users-viewers. Nielsen ratings provide a measure of feedback. So do the numbers of subscribers and viewer patterns of CGNTV’s twenty-plus YouTube channels. Facebook and Instagram have the capacity for feedback, as do ON AIR programs through phone numbers displayed for financial support. Otherwise, random and ad hoc comments from performers, a viewer monitoring group, and the CGNTV executive and steering committees are what provide limited information for analyzing and evaluating the actual impact CGNTV has.

The CGNTV website lacks a login function. Comment functions and channels are not yet developed for most platforms. No database for user-viewer analysis has been developed. While CGNTV is aware of these lacks and needs, when and how it will be able to meet the major challenges they present is an open question.106


Since its launch in 2005, CGNTV has played increasingly prominent roles in the life and work of the OC network of churches, missionaries, and ministries. Korean Christian circles, both in South Korea and in the international Korean diaspora, have also benefited from CGNTV broadcasting. CGNTV’s ministries also seem to have served well, particularly in Japan, in select Chinese circles, as well as in certain Indonesian, Thai, and certain other non-Korean Christian groups.

CGNTV’s cultivation of partnerships, both initially to expand broadcasting reach and subsequently within countries of operation, has been strategic. The development of diverse programs and platforms—including adaptations for ever-increasing mobile users-viewers and the recent OTT platform 퐁당—has been impressive. So has the sustained financial support of such a significant undertaking. OC and CGNTV have good reasons for continued optimism about the network’s opportunities for service and development.

While the various ambiguities in the OC-CGNTV relationship likely will continue, the relationship is unquestioned and firmly intact. CGNTV is almost inconceivable apart from its belonging to OC. Indeed, seeing CGNTV as part of OC’s constellation of ministries—for example, Duranno Press, OC’s missions sending agency TIM, worship services, and conferences—helps in understanding CGNTV’s role in OC’s overall mission and education ministries. Its OC home, known for its own creative and cutting-edge ministry approaches, also helps to explain CGNTV’s readiness to roll out innovative programs and platforms for the sake of reaching various audiences.

Indeed, CGNTV’s prominent roles in such fundamentally important aspects of OC life as QT and worship stretches OC’s ecclesiological self-identity into virtual spaces that are unfettered by geographic location. COVID-19 conditions have pushed notions of “virtual church” into mainstream ecclesiological consideration, and CGNTV’s increased roles in OC’s life and ministries has only added to areas in which Onnuri Church will grow in its self-understanding. The ecclesiological effects of OC’s virtual ministries—spearheaded by CGNTV—both on the church’s self-identity and in comparison with other churches actively engaged in virtual ministries is an important theme for ongoing research and analysis.

Other challenges and questions CGNTV faces are not minor. Its financial, personnel, and organizational challenges are substantial. Having a realistic and humble posture with regard to CGNTV’s professed “global” character will continue to affect the network’s self-understanding and relations with other non-OC ministries—with which CGNTV must increasingly and humbly collaborate. Issues of measuring actual audience perceptions and effects must also be addressed.

The first sixteen years of CGNTV have been noteworthy in many respects. Opportunities for impactful ministries have only grown with the world’s increased use of digital communications. Some of the ongoing challenges and questions are vexing and will require further research. Even so, CGNTV can face the future with optimism and hope, trusting in God’s ongoing faithfulness and provision.

Appendix A: CGNTV Korea and International Branches: Years Social Media Platforms Established (per each social media account or homepage; accessed May 24–25, 2021)

Twitter YouTube Facebook Instagram
CGNTV (Korea) 2009 2010 2011 2015
CGNTV America 2014 2014 2018*
CGNTV Japan 2015 2013 2011 2017*
CGNTV Chinese** 2013 2012 2017*
CGNTV Indonesia 2014 2016 2015
CGNTV Thai** 2013 2011 2016

*First post

** CGNTV Thai and Chinese use “Line” as well; CGNTV Chinese also uses WeChat.

J. Nelson Jennings (PhD, Edinburgh University) serves several mission research networks and projects, including the Community of Mission Information Workers (CMIW), Alliance of Mission Researchers and Institutions, and Korean Global Mission Leaders Forum. He has edited three missiological journals: Missiology, the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, and (currently) Global Missiology – English. Books he has authored or co-edited include Theology in Japan: Takakura Tokutaro, 1885–1934 (2005), God the Real Superpower: Rethinking our Role in Missions (2007), and Missions and Money: Global Realities and Challenges (2022). Jennings recently served Onnuri Church (Seoul) for over six years as a missions pastor, consultant, and international liaison. He and his family lived and served in Nagoya and Chiba, Japan (1986–1999), then in St. Louis, USA (1999–2011), where he taught World Mission at Covenant Theological Seminary.

1 “Seoul 2024: an Opportunity to Listen, Gather and Act – Together,” Lausanne Movement, accessed August 4, 2022,

2 “About CGNTV,” CGNTV English,; CGNTV, “CGNTV – About,” CGNTV, YouTube,

3 “About CGNTV – Brand Identity,” CGNTV,; “About CGNTV,” CGNTV English.

4 J. Nelson Jennings, “Missional Missions: A Missiological Case Study of Onnuri Community Church,” in Conversations on the Future of Mission, vol. 5 of Working Papers of the American Society of Missiology (Wilmore, KY: First Fruits Press, 2018): 34,

5 “History,” CBS (Christian Broadcasting System),

6 “CTS Introduction – History,” CTS (Christian Television System),

7 “The proclamation of the Gospel in Korea travels on radio, newspapers, web and cable TV,” Agenzia Fides,

9 “GOODTV History,” GOODTV,; Lee, Dae Suk Lee, “An Effective Internet Ministry Strategy for Church Evangelism through a Case Study of the Sarang Community Church” (DMin diss., Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, 2010), 54–55,; “GODpia,” Sarang Church GODpia,

10 Chang-Geuk Moon, ed., Onnuri Community Church: The First 30 Years, trans. Onnuri Mission R&D (Seoul: Lee Jae-Hoon, Onnuri Community Church, 2017), 199–200.

11 “About Us – Introduction,” formerly,; Tae-kyung Hahm, CGNTV General Director, electronic correspondence with the author (often trans. by OC Pastor Sonia Yim), January–May, 2021.

12 Moon, 194-196.

13 Hahm, 2021.

14 “GCN – Global Christian Network,” GCNTV,; Jon Sharman, “South Korean cult pastor Lee Jaerock jailed for raping followers,” Independent, November 22, 2018,

15 K. Kale Yu, Understanding Korean Christianity: Grassroot Perspectives on Causes, Culture, and Responses (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2019), 76n2.

16 Moon, 198; “2005 Jerusalem Peace March,” replays (four gatherings), CGNTV, and

17 Hahm, 2021.

18 “Watch CGNTV – Satellite,” CGNTV English,

19 “Intelsat 10,” Satbeams, 2007–2020,; “About CGNTV – History,” CGNTV,

20 “About CGNTV – City Hall Guide – Satellite,” CGNTV,

21 “Satellite Fleet – Hispasat 30W-5,” Hispasat, 2021,; “Solutions – Media – Reach The Next Broadcasting Frontier with Intelsat 20,” Intelsat, 2020,

22 Moon, 197.

23 Jennings, “Missional Missions,” 39.

24 “About CGNTV,” Introductory video, CGNTV English, 1:21–1:27.

25 Yong-Kyung Lee, “About Us – CEO – For a Single Soul, ‘Reaching out Further Stepping in Closer,’ ” CGNTV,

26 “Campuses and Vision Churches,” Onnuri Church,

28 Yong-Jo Ha, The Dream of an Acts-Like Church: Onnuri Community Church’s Ecclesiology and Pastoral Philosophy, trans. Aimee Bak, 2nd ed. (previously published as 사도행전적 교회를 꿈꾼다 [2007; Seoul: Duranno Ministry, 2017]), 338; J. Nelson Jennings, “ ‘God’s Love Song for the Nations’: A Contextual Analysis of Onnuri Church’s ‘Love Sonata’ ‘Cultural Evangelism Gatherings’ in Japan,” Ecclesial Futures 1, no. 2 (2020): 62–69.

29 Onnuri Church,” Onnuri Church,


31 Jennings, “Missional Missions,” 36.

32 Hahm, 2021.

33 Yong-Kyung Lee, “About Us.”

34 “Our History,” SAT-7,

35 “About Us – History,” CGNTV English,; Moon, 196–97.

36 Hahm, 2021.


38 “CGNTV,” CGNTV Japan,; “CGNTV,” CGNTV Chinese,

39 “About Us – History,” CGNTV English.

40 Hahm, 2021.

41 “CGNTV,” CGNTV; “CGNTV,” CGNTV Japan; “CGNTV,” CGNTV Chinese.

42 Yong-Kyung Lee, “About Us.”

43 Moon, 197; “2005 Jerusalem Peace March,” CGNTV.

44 Seong-ju Choi, “Things Left Behind by ‘Jerusalem Jesus March 2005,’ ” Deulsori Newspaper, August 24, 2005,

45 “2005 Jerusalem Peace March,” CGNTV, replays (four gatherings), and

46 “CGN News – In Anticipation of the Jerusalem Peace March in Jerusalem,” CGNTV Today, June 9 news clip,; “CGN News – Start! Jerusalem Peace March 2005,” CGNTV Today, August 3 news clip,; “CGN News – Peace March Galilee Sunday Worship,” CGNTV Today, August 9 news clip,;” CGN News – Shalom Jerusalem! Salam Palestine!” CGNTV Today, August 18 news clip,

47 “Onnuri News – Is Korea the Luxury Heaven?” CGNTV Today, April 6, 2002,

48 “Onnuri News,” CGNTV Today, December 3, 2004,; “CGN News,” CGNTV Today, December 4, 2004,; Hahm, 2021.

49 “CGN News,” CGNTV Today, November 23, 2005,; “CGN Today,” CGNTV Today, November 24, 2005,

50 “About CGNTV – History,” CGNTV; “난민 엑소더스.. 희망을 찾아 9” (“Refugee Exodus. Finding Hope 9”), CGN Today, November 30, 2015,

51 “About Us – Introduction,” formerly,

52 “Christian satellite broadcasting ‘CGN TV’ launched in the Americas,” Christian Today, September 1, 2005,; “About Us – History,” CGNTV English; “About CGNTV – History,” CGNTV.

53 Moon, 220.

54 Jennings, “Love Sonata”; “About CGNTV – History,” CGNTV; “CGNTV,” CGNTV Japan; CGNTV 2007 “Okinawa – Evening Rally” CGNTV,

55 “About CGNTV,” CGNTV English; “CGNTV,” CGNTV Chinese; “CGNTV Indonesia,” CGNTV Indonesia,; ”CGNTV,” CGNTV Thai,; Moon, 198.

56 “Smile LacRose(English),”

57 “About CGNTV – History,” CGNTV; “女선교사, 조선을 비추다” (“Female Missionaries Shine on Joseon”), CGNTV,; “블랙마운틴-잊혀진 시간을 찾아서” (“Black Mountain: In Remembrance of the Times Past”), CGNTV,; “MK의 고백” (“Confessions of Missionary Kids”), CGNTV,

58 “서서평, 천천히 평온하게” (“Seo Seo-Pyeong, Slowly and Peacefully”)’ April 17, 2017 preview, CGNTV,

59 “낮은 곳에서 피는 봄” (“The Spring Bloomed in Shade”),

60 “두근두근 마카롱” (“Pounding Macaron”), season 1, episode 1, “작전명:상견례” (“Operation: Mutual Visit”), CGNTV,; “두근두근 마카롱” (“Pounding Macaron”), season 2, episode 7, “오늘따라 아내가 이상하다면?” (“What if your Wife Is Weird Today?”), CGNTV,

61 “About Us – History,” CGNTV English.

62 “고고송” (“Go Go Song”), episode 1, January 25, 2019,; “고고송” (“Go Go Song”), episode 2, January 26, 2019,

63 Hyunsung Kim, “CGNTV surpasses 1 million on YouTube for ‘Go Go Song’,” Newspower, 2019,

64 About CGNTV – History,” CGNTV.

65 “CGNTV,” CGNTV; “CGNTV,” CGNTV Japan; “CGNTV SOON,” YouTube,; “SOON CGNTV,” YouTube,

66 “View Ridge,” CGN Today,

67 Hahm, 2021.

68 Jennings, “Missional Missions,” 29.

69 Hahm, 2021.

70 Oliver Skinner, “Blog – The Complete History of Podcasts,” Voices, 2020, accessed May 20, 2021,

71 “English Bible Story,” Apple Podcasts, 2005,

72 “About CGNTV – History,” CGNTV.

73 “About CGNTV – City Hall Guide – Cable,” CGNTV,

74 “About CGNTV – City Hall Guide – IPTV,” CGNTV,; “About CGNTV – History,” CGNTV.

75 Stephen Silver, “The story of the original iPhone, that nobody thought was possible,” ai,; “About CGNTV – History,” CGNTV.

76 “CGNTV,” Twitter,

77 “CGNTV – About,” YouTube,; “CGNTV,” Facebook,; “CGNTV,” Instagram,

79 “About CGNTV – PR Center – Magazine,” CGNTV,

80 “5 Things You Need to Know About Over The Top Services,” MTC,

81 Photos from “CGNTV,” CGNTV, and “About CGNTV – Directions,” CGNTV,

82 “New Parenting Platform for the Era of Non-Face-to-Face worship | Viewing Content, Falling into the Gospel ‘Fongdang’,” YouTube,; “CGNTV Support – CGN Story – Christian OTT Service <Fongdang>,” CGNTV,

83 “ ‘Fondang’ online briefing session 210204,” YouTube,

84 “fondant Introduction,” CGNTV fondant,

85 “fondant Introduction,” CGNTV fondant.

86 Dong-yo, “[Children’s song karaoke room] Fondant Fondant-Sing together No. KY4614,” YouTube, 2015,

87 Hahm, 2021.

88 Jennings, “Missional Missions,” 38–40.

89 Jae-hoon Lee, “About Us – Chief Director – Pathway for Gospel, CGNTV,” CGNTV,

90 “fondant Introduction,” CGNTV fondant.

91 Hahm, 2021.

92 Ibid.

93 “CGNTV Support – Sponsorship Information,” CGNTV,

94 “CGNTV Support – Run! Fondant,” CGNTV,


96 Hahm, 2021.

97 Ibid.

98 “About CGNTV – Organization,” CGNTV,

99 Hahm, 2021.

100 Hong-joo Kim, OC Mission 2000 HQ Director, electronic correspondence, May 2021.

101 Jennings, “Missional Missions,” 35–38; Kim, 2021.

102 “About CGNTV – Organization,” CGNTV,

103 Hahm, 2021.

104 Moon, 196–97; emphases mine.

105 Jennings, “Missional Missions,” 39.

106 Hahm, 2021.

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A Freed African to Free Africa: Alexander Cross and the Liberian Mission

The mission work of the Stone-Campbell Movement and the American Christian Missionary Society began with the sending of Dr. James Barclay to Jerusalem in 1850. Its second candidate for foreign missions, Alexander Cross, was a black slave from Kentucky. His freedom was purchased in order to send him to Monrovia, Liberia, to begin evangelizing the continent of Africa in 1853. This article seeks to create a narrative of his life and work within the contexts of the Southern United States and the newly founded colony of freed slaves in Monrovia.


In 1853, the American Christian Missionary Society sent a freed slave, Alexander Cross, as its first missionary to Africa. Cross was a mild-mannered, kind-hearted, well-loved, and charismatic preacher who responded to the challenge to go to Liberia at great cost to his family and himself. A thriving southern, rural, predominantly white church rallied around Cross, one of their members, to purchase his freedom and raise funds locally, and, with other churches, to pay for his mission. The American Christian Missionary Society (ACMS), funded by these Kentucky churches, excitedly sent a freed African to free Africa from its “benighted lost state.” They aimed to do good at home and begin a movement of the “primitive church” that would spread across the continent of Africa.1 Their motivations were noble, to be sure, but they also proved to be naïve. As a former slave, Cross was more accustomed to American culture than the culture of his African origins. Liberia was also surrounded by indigenous peoples who were hostile to new arrivals. The work lasted only two months and remains a harsh reminder that God’s work in virgin fields nearly always commences at great expense. Cross’s sacrifice, however, would motivate and inspire others for decades.


As a newly founded republic closely associated with America, the choice of Liberia made sense to the ACMS. In the early 1800s, the American Colonization Society (ACS) cooperated with the United States Government and founded the country of Liberia. Issues of slavery and race prompted this bold move. Statesmen such as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John Randolph, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, some abolitionists and some slaveholders, were either members of the society or publicly supported its efforts to resettle freed African-Americans in Africa. Some local associations, such as the Kentucky Colonization Society, “sought to allay anxieties among slave owners that a move toward emancipation was afoot . . . [The] Society assured the slave owner by stating that its intent was to protect individual rights to property by ‘removing free blacks from association with his slaves, thereby silencing that discontented spirit their connexion does engender.’ ”2 There were, of course, many anti-slavery activists who believed that racial integration was possible and, therefore, opposed the creation of a colony in Africa of former slaves.3 In initial attempts in 1818 to find suitable land for the colony, the society failed to convince local African chiefs to sell any territory. Two years later, however, a contingent of freed slaves and members of the society set out for the West African coast and established a settlement on Scherbo Island constituted under US law. In 1821, naval officer Lieutenant Robert Stockton pressured a local tribal leader to sell a narrow tract of land along the coast to the Society. The surviving Scherbo Islanders joined newly freed settlers moving to this territory and building fortifications to resist the numerous attacks by nearby tribes. In 1824, they named the country Liberia. They named its capital, Monrovia, after President James Monroe, who secured government funding for the colony. The ACS chartered ships to take freed slaves to Liberia. US Navy ships that intercepted slave ships transported rescued slaves to the newly founded Liberia. Residents resisted integration with local peoples and sought to preserve their American culture. Liberia eventually declared independence from the American Colonization Society to assert its territorial sovereignty and establish trade relations with Britain and France. Britain was the first to recognize the new country in 1848. The United States hesitated at first but eventually established diplomatic relations with Liberia in 1862.4

Other Missions to Liberia

The ACMS was not the first mission agency to send a missionary to Liberia. Long before, famous black missionaries such as William Sheppard pioneered work in the Congo. Other denominations expanded their missionary work in Africa by sending Christian freed slaves to colonies such as Liberia and Sierra Leone. According to David Cornelius, “From the time slaves began accepting Christianity, it was in their hearts to carry the Gospel of Christ not only back to their fatherlands, but also to other parts of the world.”5 Either they had to start their own missionary societies or petition their denominations to send them.

One such missionary to Africa was Lott Carey. After he was freed and became a Christian, his concern for Africa led him to establish the African Baptist Missionary Society in Richmond, Virginia, in 1815. Carey had been greatly influenced by the story of missionary Luther Rice, a graduate of Williams College who, together with Adoniram Judson, studied Scripture onboard a ship bound to India and was immediately baptized upon their arrival. Rice’s work in India was short-lived, but he quickly returned to the States to help organize mission work among the Baptists. He sold his farm for $1500 to help finance his mission. Initially, Carey, along with his partner Colin Teague and their families, sailed for Sierra Leone on January 16, 1821, supported by the American Baptist Missionary Union to work among the Mandingoes and Africans liberated from slave ships. A year later, the team moved to Liberia, where they evangelized among liberated slaves with modest success.6 They had six genuine converts by 1823, but before Carey died in an explosion in 1828, the church had grown to 100 members. Teague built on this work, and the congregation quickly grew to 200.7

Other denominations followed. The Methodists sent Daniel Coker to Sierra Leone in 1821. In the same year, Samuel Crowther was captured in a slave raid, liberated on the high seas, and taken to Sierra Leone, where he became a member of the Anglican church. He later was appointed bishop and returned to Nigeria to do mission work in his homeland along the Niger River. The Presbyterians and the ACS cooperated in sending James M. Priest to Liberia in 1843. In some locations, black missionaries greatly outnumbered their white counterparts. By 1855, all the Methodist missionaries in Liberia were black, reflecting the policy that “if properly educated . . . there must be many [blacks] who make efficient missionaries to the lands of their forefathers.” By the mid-nineteenth century, almost all Presbyterian and Baptist missionaries in Liberia were also black. As the American Episcopal Bishop Payne admitted, “Africa must be evangelized chiefly by her own children.”8

Sending agencies preferred sending freed slaves to Liberia because it had become a black republic and because they naïvely believed that black Americans would be better suited to reach Africans by virtue of the color of their skin and their ancestral origin. The home church imagined that Africans who heard the gospel for the first time would think, “How joyful the thought that ‘one of our own’ has returned to bring us good news.” Other motivations were not so noble. In 1882, the ACS stated, “[a] church with a pastor and people of the same race is worth a hundred holding on to some foreign missionary as its only source of life, and ready to sink into . . . heathenism if disease strikes the exile down.”9 This statement surfaces the senders’ belief that black people were either more resilient to malaria and tropical diseases than white missionaries in Africa or that somehow white lives needed to be spared and black lives spent for the endeavor. Sherman, a white missionary who returned from Liberia, wrote, “There is fearful mortality among African missionaries. If the white man cannot live [there] to evangelize [Africans] . . . educated colored men . . . must . . . be the only instrumentality employed in the conversion of Africans.”10 On the contrary, anecdotal evidence indicates that freed black slaves were just as susceptible to disease as white missionaries. Women often outlived their husbands, who succumbed to malaria after a short period of work.11

From the perspective of the missionaries who were once slaves, they were escaping a world of social injustice and commonplace brutality for an opportunity to acquire some degree of status. They were often still under white mission boards, but they became administrators and exercised control of schools and churches. Lott Carey, for example, felt that “Africa was the best place for him and his family (and any black persons who did not want the hue of their skin to hinder their advancement in the society in which they lived).”12 When people asked him why he would give up the comforts of America for Africa, Carey replied, “I am an African . . . I wish to go to a country where I shall be estimated by my merits, not by my complexion, and I feel bound to labor for my suffering race.”13 According to Sylvia Jacobs, “Many African Americans accepted the contemporary theory of ‘providential design,’ the idea that blacks had been brought to America for slavery so that they might be Christianized and ‘civilized’ to return to Africa with the light of ‘civilization.’ ”14 Christian freed slaves more likely believed that God’s “providential design” was to work good from a great evil. As Janet Cornelius writes:

Black missionaries shared whites’ belief in the superiority of Christianity and some aspects of Western culture, including literacy. Like whites, they expected that a period in history would arrive when Protestantism and Western civilization would be established throughout the world. They rejected American racism and slavery, but they believed that God’s plans were always directed toward good; if God had allowed Europeans to enslave Africans and seize them from their homelands to live in sorrow, he must have planned for blacks to acquire Christianity and literacy for the benefit of Africans. If so, who better to extend these blessings to Africa than black missionaries, since, ‘in the eyes of many blacks, they, not whites, were the most true and most loyal adherents to the religion of Jesus.’15

In the case of the black missionary, romantic idealism was met by harsh realities. They tended to work among African American immigrants rather than indigenous people. When they did work among the local people, their offers of the Gospel were often met with suspicion and hostility. Tribesmen felt their land had been forcefully taken from them and saw the missionaries as intruders. African American missionaries, on the other hand, felt superior to Africans and rejected their affinity with black Africa. Coming out of their quest for acceptance within American culture, they were prone to reject their origins and escape their African blackness. As Harold Isaacs wrote, “There is a deep pool of mutual prejudice between Africans and American Negroes and it is easily stirred up. . . . Thus, Negroes usually saw Africans only as benighted and backward creatures who had never been able to come out of the jungle.”16 Only those black missionaries who lived long enough to identify with the people and humbly live among them succeeded in planting and expanding churches in Africa. Some like Carey, Coker, Priest, and Sheppard thrived where white men failed.

The ACMS Mission to Liberia

Early on, the American Christian Missionary Society planned to reach Africa by sending an African American as its missionary.17 At the time of its formation, anti-slavery sentiment was mounting rapidly. In 1850, the ACMS sent a former slave owner to Jerusalem, and it was time for its officers to rally interest to send a freed slave to his “homeland” and “his own people.” The endeavor was well-intended but short-sighted and ill-informed. As one born and raised on American soil and descended from another country of the vast African continent, a missionary’s skin color did little to prepare him for the climate, culture, threats to health, and challenges in communication that the enterprise entailed. This symbolic action, however, was not coincidental. It represented the tidal wave of changes, emotions, and political jockeying that would culminate in the American Civil War, ripping the nation, churches, and families apart. Writings later penned by the hand of Alexander Campbell, president of the ACMS, reflect the thinking of its members at the time:

That we should have an African mission as well as an Asiatic mission—a station in Liberia as well as in Jerusalem—missionaries peregrinating accessible portions of the land of Ham as well as of the land of Shem, appears to me alike a duty, a privilege, and an honor. We are abundant in means, and wanting, if wanting at all, only in will, in purpose, or in liberality.18

I have never regretted that Jerusalem was selected as our first foreign missionary field, and am glad that Liberia, in Africa, has become our second. Yet I was not, nor am I yet, sanguine that either field will be signalized with an immediate harvest, or a large ingathering to the fold of Christ. But we, as a people, owe much to Jerusalem; and, as a nation, a mighty debt to Africa. We ought to make a cheerful and a liberal tender of our best endeavors to Asia and Africa—to Liberia and Jerusalem, as their best centers of radiation, because their attractions are paramount to all others, beyond our own beloved America.19

D. S. Burnet was at this time the corresponding secretary for the society and exerted due influence in its daily operations. His uncle was a judge in Cincinnati and was part of a project to send freed slaves to a new colony called “Ohio in Africa.” Together with a group of fellow citizens, “he aimed to develop a portion of northern Liberia as a special African attraction to Ohio free Negro emigrants.”20 News sources suggested that it could strike a mortal blow to the slave trade if easy provision could be made for the resettlement of freed individuals. Judge Burnet was busily raising funds for this scheme. This sparked the idea in the mind of D. S. Burnet to make appeals in The Christian Age, calling upon the churches to send a missionary to Africa. In Christian County, Kentucky, a church member responded to Burnet, saying he knew just the right man for the job. He had overheard a man addressing his fellow slaves on temperance and was impressed with his intellect and ability to communicate effectively. Burnet corresponded with the church in that county and recommended that the suggested man’s freedom be purchased as soon as possible.21 That man was Alexander Cross.22


Alexander Cross was born March 10, 1810, and raised in Trenton, Kentucky (in Todd County, southeast of Hopkinsville, about halfway to Clarksville, Tennessee). According to census records, there were about 5,000 slaves in the county in 1840. The local economy was more dependent on slavery in the southern part of the county because the land there was more adapted to farming. There were fewer farmers in neighboring northern Christian County; therefore, there was less support for and use of slavery.23 In contrast with other slaves in his county, Alexander never worked in the fields. He was brought up in the master’s house, learned to read and write, and was assigned to the personal service of the family.24 Alexander enjoyed the full trust and esteem of his master, Thomas Cross, a wealthy man who had farms in Todd County and lived in Clarksville, TN. Thomas Cross was not particularly religious and was not formally a member of any church. He was, however, described as “a moral and honorable gentleman” and granted some degree of autonomy to Alexander.25 He allowed Alexander to open a barbershop in Hopkinsville and work extra shifts in a local hotel restaurant. According to the custom of the times, Alexander was required to forward a certain percentage of his earnings to his master, but he was able to save the rest to purchase a modest home in Hopkinsville. Little is known about Alexander’s physical appearance except that he was five foot, eight and three-quarters inches tall and had a scar across his forehead.26


When the Hopkinsville church arranged for his freedom, Alexander was 43 years old. He was married to his second wife, Martha Ann, who was 36 years old. She too had been previously married and had already obtained her freedom when they married. Together they had one son, James, who was seven years old at the time of Alexander’s emancipation. They faithfully attended the Ninth Street Christian Church in Hopkinsville, where Alexander impressed the congregation with his preaching skills.27 Alexander stood tall and straight with a commanding refined appearance. He was a gifted speaker and a fascinating conversationalist. Alexander persuasively swayed crowds with his powerful preaching and enjoyed the respect of his peers through his genuine faith, industrious work ethic, kind demeanor, pious devotion, and attentive aptitude for learning. He memorized and effortlessly quoted large portions of Scripture. F. M. Rains wrote, “Those who knew him intimately, speak of him as being kind, and as gentle as a woman. He had picked up a fairly good education, and his association with the best cultivated white society, as a servant, gave him a degree of culture very much above these of his station in life.”28

At the urging of D. S. Burnet of the ACMS, the Hopkinsville church conferred with Alexander Cross about serving as a missionary to Liberia. Several slave owners attended the church, and their actions to free Alexander were not motivated by anti-slavery politics. Alexander’s character and oratory ability had impressed them, and the church’s leaders were in tune with the aims of the ACMS to send out missionaries.29 Alexander was “both willing and anxious to go could his freedom be obtained.”30 As a barber, Alexander’s worth was set at $1,500, but when his owner came to understand the reason for the purchase, he agreed to sell for just $530. Enos Campbell, minister of the Ninth Street Christian Church in Hopkinsville, led the efforts to raise the amount needed. According to the church records, other congregations in the area, such as Roaring Springs and Lafayette, contributed generously to the effort. Since Kentucky law forbade the manumission of a slave, the bill of sale was made out to Robertson T. Torian, a wealthy member and benefactor in the church. He contributed a large amount to the purchase. On October 5, 1853, Torian went to the Christian County courthouse and finalized the sale. The court stipulated that Thomas Cross would be paid in full by January 1, 1854, and that the church would furnish the money necessary to get Alexander to Liberia. Although the ACMS is not named in the agreement, it provided his first year’s salary and passage to Liberia.31

During the months prior to his departure, Cross preached for the Ninth Street church and sought to prepare himself for the missionary task. The church purchased a number of books and educational materials for him to sharpen his abilities and mind. Enos Campbell, then also the principal of the South Kentucky Female Institute, offered intensive instruction, and Cross worked so industriously and studied so assiduously that the church was quite satisfied that “he was well qualified for his duties and responsibilities.”32


The Ninth Street church held an ordination service for Alexander on October 2, 1853. The church was packed with white members on the lower level and 200 plus African Americans who were segregated in the gallery. He delivered a powerful sermon that members remembered for years to come. The elders (Colonel George Poindexter, Dr. William V. Barnard, and Dr. D. J. Gish) then gathered around him and appointed him to the work in Africa. Barnard delivered a new Bible and an eloquent charge to Alexander, who was still on bended knee. He emphasized that the Bible “had given the white people liberty and civilization and would do as much for the people of Africa, if faithfully preached and willingly obeyed.”33 The elders then laid their hands on Alexander in the name of the Ninth Street church and the other churches that had contributed to the cause. Poindexter offered the ordination prayer with “earnestness, appropriateness, and tenderness.”34 In the midst of a dark time of injustice and enslavery, these elders were becoming men of vision and courage—up to this point, no similar service nor endeavor had been attempted by a small group of Christian Churches in the United States. Rightly did Rains comment, “They were intelligent, aggressive, kind and hopeful. They were men of broad information, true culture, and deep piety.” The elders then presented the Cross family with the following letter of endorsement to take with them.

To the faithful in Christ Jesus residing in the United States and elsewhere: This is to certify that on the second day of October, 1853 being the first Lord’s day in the month, in the town of Hopkinsville, Christian County, Ky., Bro. Alexander Cross (a free man of color), was set apart to the work of the ministry by prayer and fasting, and the imposition of hands, the Church of Christ at Concord, Harmony Grove, Cadiz Liberty, Christian Chapel, and Energesia, participating with the Church of Christ of this place in the ordination; and the same was directed to be certified in behalf of all the churches represented. Signed by the above Elders.35

On the Sunday afternoon before their set departure from Kentucky, the church gave Alexander and his family a farewell reception in their honor. Circuit court was in session that week, and the city’s population was bulging with out-of-town lawyers, judges, and important guests. Yet even before such an intimidating audience, Cross delivered a beautifully worded farewell address to the large crowd. He declared that the mission to Liberia was two-fold; “to carry the people of that colony apostolic Christianity, and aid in establishing there a civil government based on the principles of American institutions.”36 Mrs. Gish, an elder’s wife, organized a collection of clothing and money among the ladies of the Hopkinsville church and packed them in Martha Ann Cross’s trunk.

At the annual ACMS meeting in October 1853, Burnet recounted how the whole story had unfolded, excitedly announcing that the Kentucky State Convention of the society had adopted the Liberian mission at their Harrodsburg meeting one month earlier. They sent Alexander and his family to the ACMS with enough funds for the journey and one year of support. Burnet introduced Alexander Cross to the assembly, who then handed over all the donations into the hands of the ACMS officers. Burnet’s speech was certainly marked by the language and beliefs typical of his time. He said:

I have the pleasure to present him to your body and to invoke your prayers in behalf of his labors. . . . Having heard a discourse from the lips of this recently emancipated son of Ham, I can assure the brotherhood that Providence has given us a man wrapped up in a dark skin, truly, but a man who seems destined to large usefulness. He has good logic and oratory and if he keeps humble and industrious in the acquirement of knowledge and holiness, he will greatly enlarge his capacity for doing good. While on the sea-board, I negotiated the passage of himself, wife, and child, in the vessel of the Colonization Society, that is to take out emigrants about the 1st of November. All this is more than anyone could have divined at our last session. Perhaps more than any of us hoped to realize in so short a period. Blessed be the name of the Lord.37

According to the passenger list, Alexander, Martha, and their son James were purchased by friends in Christian County, Kentucky, and were the last three to board the Banshee, a ship commandeered by the American Colonization Society for the purpose of transporting freed slaves. They sailed for Liberia from Baltimore on November 9, 1853, and departed again from Norfolk on November 11, 1853.38 There were 274 other passengers aboard, and those that landed brought the total of emigrants sent to Liberia by the ACS to 8,041. Aboard the ship were large extended families of ten or more persons ranging from newborns to 76-year-olds and smaller families, such as Alexander’s of just three. Of the passengers coming from fifteen states, 88 were born free, 163 were emancipated, and ten were purchased. The voyage was not pleasant, as overcrowding exacerbated difficult weather conditions.39 The ship encountered three severe storms, but when it was within 400 miles of its destination, it encountered a week of a calm sea without movement.40 The Banshee set into port in Monrovia, Liberia, on December 19.41 Three emigrants died in the passage; two infants and one fifty-six-year-old man. Many children onboard also acquired whooping cough on the journey.42


Few details are available concerning the events of Alexander’s final days in Liberia. Published letters from the time provide conflicting glimpses of the experience of arriving, settling in, and experiencing freedom for the first time. August Williams, who arrived in Liberia within a day of the Cross family, wrote: “In the morning we took a view of the cape from our anchorage. It was a beautiful sight to look for the first time in our life on the sunny hills and verdant plains of the only land in which we can feel ourselves truly free. . . . I soon saw that the people here live in a style of ease, comfort and independence, at which they can never expect to arrive in the States.”43

Upon their arrival, emigrant families were given temporary housing in Monrovia until they had suffered and recovered from their first case or two of “African” or “acclimating” fever. These blanket terms covered a number of potential illnesses, including malaria. As noted by the doctors who cared for the emigrants, fever was much more prevalent near swamps or during the dry season, when people tended to drink from dirty water sources.44 The doctors and those commissioned to orient new arrivals stressed the importance of proper acclimation, rest, and recovery before attempting to do any reading, writing, or strenuous work. Wives and children typically remained in Monrovia while the men, against the advice given to them, traveled up the Junk or St. Paul rivers between bouts of fever. Food was plentiful but expensive in the city, as much of it was imported from Britain, France, and the United States. The largest portion of the emigrants who arrived on the Banshee with the Cross family had traveled by canoe up the St. Paul River fifteen miles and had decided to make their home in a new settlement named Clay-Ashland, nicknamed “New Kentucky.” The ACS society provided them with up to six months of subsidies to get started. However, unless they were entrepreneurs with new businesses to establish, the emigrants needed to quickly clear land and plant seed to have a harvest.45 According to reports of a lumberman, much of the land along the St. Paul had already been cleared and settled.46

The reports collected and printed in the African Repository disseminated by the ACS aimed to legitimize the colonization efforts by raising more funds and recruiting more freed slaves to live in Liberia. Doctors’ reports stressed that, while some emigrants inevitably died, the number who died within a short time was relatively small:

In a large company of immigrants, composed, as was that by the Banshee, of persons of almost all ages, from tender infancy to more than four score years, and of various constitutional predispositions, we could not expect that all would pass safely through the process of acclimation; but we believe that the risk of death from the acclimating process, in persons of tolerably good constitutions, is not very great—probably not equal to three per cent—if immigrants could be prevailed on to exercise the necessary prudence in trying to preserve their health. But frequently disregard the advice and direction of the physicians; and presume too much on their own judgment, or on their ability to endure as much fatigue and exposure as acclimated citizens.47

Some collections of personal letters portray a much bleaker picture. The perspectives of the reports were shaped greatly by the financial and educational resources available to those who emigrated. Freemen who already possessed investment money and had established businesses were in the minority but fared well. Those widowed by husbands who fell victim to tropical diseases were often destitute and suffered greatly.

Rachel Eddington, a 40-year-old woman and freed slave from Kentucky who traveled with her children to Liberia to join her husband found conditions so difficult in Liberia that she would have preferred to return to Kentucky as a slave than to remain in Liberia. She wrote to her former owners from the same “New Kentucky” where Alexander was attempting to build a home for his family. Her letters reveal the extreme difficulties faced by newly-arrived freed settlers who sought to provide for their families in such a hostile place where the soil was shallow and disease was “an endemic threat.”48

In August of 1857, in her first piece of correspondence with her former owner, Eddington, she wrote about her fight to survive. She and her sons had little to eat, and what they did have, they had to beg for. The allowance she was given upon her arrival was quickly spent, and she lacked the farm implements necessary to grow crops of her own. She wrote:

This is not the country that was recommended to me. . . . When I landed I had but three dollars and some cents, and now I have spent all that for the nourishment of the children. I have nothing left. . . . We [stayed] in the receptacle 11 days, and all the time we were there our children were crying for bread; after we left we did not get any provision for 2 weeks and had to beg everything we eat. . . . I have to pay for my washing and live in a house where we are compelled to pay rent. Some assistance to build a house is greatly needed 2 acres, 2 hoes, and 1 spade was all the children get to farm with, no cutlass, no grass scythe, no mattock. I did not even get a water bucket.49

In a subsequent letter, she lamented that her boys could not find work because the “natives” took all the job opportunities. The missionaries hired as many as ten to twenty “natives” but did not keep any American boys.50 Eventually, two of her sons died, one of heatstroke and the other of an accident while working on a ship along the coast.

The situation for Alexander, Martha Ann, and James was, in part, quite different. They enjoyed the benefit of guaranteed funding from the ACMS. According to Ephraim Smith, even though Alexander had the funds to hire others to do the work for him, he sought to live more economically and took on the laborious work for himself.51

Untimely Death

In the newly settled colony, former slaves lined up between two extremes: on the one hand were the industrious, hard-working, intelligent, and educated people. On the other hand were those given to reckless laziness and drunkenness. Cross was most assuredly among the harder working. He had acquired a severe case of the African fever yet quickly returned to the task of traveling up the St. Paul River to clear the land for planting and to build a house to live in. On one of these fifteen-mile treks, Cross “pulled a canoe” to New Kentucky. He had a relapse of fever, grew deathly ill, and died on February 14, 1854. By February 21, only two months after arriving in Liberia, Cross and his son James were listed among the 28 Banshee passengers who had died.52 James probably died of malaria or whooping cough, which he could have contracted on the crowded voyage.

News of his death spread quickly and brought heartache and sorrow to the churches of Christian County that loved him so dearly and had given so sacrificially toward the Liberian mission. Upon reading of his death in the Christian Age, the Hopkinsville church convened a meeting and composed the following tribute:

Having learned from the Christian Age the melancholy tidings that our esteemed brother, Alexander Cross, late a member of this church, departed this life at Monrovia in the Republic of Liberia, Africa, on the 14th day of last February, where he had gone as a missionary to engage in the great and glorious work of preaching the gospel; and having long known him as an humble, pious, and exemplary Christian, and, for his opportunity, a highly gifted brother, and fondly hoping that under the blessings of God his labors as a missionary would result in much happiness to his race, the advancement of pure and undefiled religion in down-trodden Africa, and to the ultimate salvation of many of her benighted children, and whilst we humbly bow to the mysterious dispensation of “God who giveth and taketh away,” and while we trust to his grace and pray that he may overrule all for good, we feel that it is due to the memory of the deceased, that while we drop the tears of sorrow that naturally flow on account of his death, we should ever hold sacred the fond recollection of our brother, Alexander Cross, who has been removed, dear to us from a knowledge of his pious walk and conversation during the whole term of his membership in the church, and rendered doubly dear to us all by that generous devotion to the cause of his Master, which caused him to forget his future ease and comfort, to abandon the society of a large circle of friends by whom he was universally beloved, and which urged him to migrate to the land of his forefathers, where he met his untimely fate, to preach to his benighted brethren the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Resolved, That we deeply sympathize with his wife who is doubly bereaved in the loss of a husband and son in a land of strangers, and that we see that all necessary relief is afforded her through the proper channels.

Resolved, That notwithstanding the discouragements upon our efforts at a mission in Liberia, we have unabated confidence in its being one of the best fields for missionary labors, and that the Lord has a great work to do there, and that we desire to be co-laborers with him by sustaining any one whom he may raise up and send to that work.

Resolved, That the foregoing preamble and resolution be spread upon our church record and copy be transmitted to the wife of our deceased brother, Alexander Cross, and also a copy to the Christian Age and Millennial Harbinger for publication.

E. Campbell,
Geo. Poindexter,
D. J. Gish,
W. V. Barnard,
B. S. Campbell,
Thos. H. Baker, Clerk53

In the short time he was in Liberia, Cross made a significant impression on its residents. Before making the return trip to America, the captain of the Banshee took note of Cross’s good character and “bore a most favorable report of our lamented brother and his truly Christian wife.”54 The Cross family lost no time in sharing the gospel and connecting with the other settlers in Liberia. A half-century later, the ACMS sent its second missionary to Liberia, Jacob Kenoly. When others informed him that another Disciples missionary had preceded him in Liberia, Kenoly found people who still admired and remembered the Cross family.55

At the annual October meeting of the ACMS in 1854, Walter Scott eulogized the short-lived missionary life of Alexander Cross. In poetic and eloquent words, he sought to reframe this tragedy as a motivator to great conviction and unfettered sacrifice. As he stood before the society’s delegates from across the US, he declared:

Perhaps a providence of a peculiar and somewhat astounding character, like the death of Cross, was necessary to awaken our brethren more generally to the real state of heathendom, and Africa in particular. Let us, therefore, regard our brother’s death as a blessing in disguise, a heavenly note of attention designed to put us all in possession of a more enlightened view of our Foreign Mission, and of our duty in regard to them. Bro. Cross, in the state and rank of a man—a man of God. Fired with the love of souls, and freed, his godly and lofty spirit impelled him, he being invited, to his ancient fatherland—the flowery Africa. Preparatory to embodying his high designs in action, he visited us just one year ago, and in this very house [corner of Eighty and Walnut Streets, Cincinnati, Ohio] received from us all, amid tears, and sighs, and blessing innumerable, the “right hand of fellowship that he should go to the heathen.” He went, he sickened, he died. Eager to create for himself and family a little home, and to erect the base of operation for the war which he had gone to wage with savagism and sin, he overtaxed his powers in that hot but delightful land, and there fell a victim to his own too ardent zeal for the business he had undertaken on behalf of Christ and his brethren. With his dear son by his side, he now sleeps his last sleep. The widow and child mourn over his grave; but he hears them not, he heeds them not. The sea breeze at eventide steals upon the air and breathes over his lowly bed, but he tastes not of its refreshing coolness. The tropical sun sheds a flood of glory around his head, but he to glory is forever dead; while the exuberant soil pours down upon his tomb an equatorial affluence of flowers, their fragrance delights him no more. Far, far away in Africa, our brother lies dead and silent in the grave. But, Bro. Cross, the will shall be taken for the deed, and thou hast the honor of being the first of our jewels hid up of the Lord in Africa, to awaken the sympathies of a great people in behalf of the richest continent on the globe.56

At a distance of more than 150 years, determining whether Alexander’s death could have been avoided is nigh impossible. Ephraim A. Smith, who had made a self-funded survey trip to Liberia and offered without pay his consulting wisdom and knowledge to the ACMS, faulted Cross for his own death. Smith placed the blame squarely on Cross because he had failed to heed Smith’s advice to rest, wait, and not exert himself too much until fully acclimated. On May 12, 1854, he wrote from Philadelphia concerning Alexander’s death:

Bro. Campbell—It is a painful task which falls to my lot. I have to inform you of the death of our worthy missionary to Liberia, Alexander Cross. He died at Monrovia in February last. The information came to the Secretary in Washington from his physician. I saw the letter as I was returning from Virginia to Baltimore. I furnish you with a copy of his report; “Alexander Cross, aged forty-five, from Kentucky. This man imprudently pulled up to ‘Kentucky’—about twelve or fourteen miles—a large canoe, with another man, on a hot day; was immediately taken sick and brought down ill.” His little son, James M. Cross, aged seven years, appears on the list of those who have died. A few more died on the voyage, and in two months after arriving.

Bro. Cross truly was imprudent. I furnished him with a good, new, umbrella, and charged him not to exert or expose himself until he had become acclimated. He had plenty of means to engage men. I know he wished to be economical. But he has lost his life, and we have been deprived of our missionary to that benighted land. We ought to send a young man next. I have learned much which I trust can be turned to good account in the future. The Captain and Steward of the Banshee, whom I have seen since their return, but before we had heard of these deaths—bore a most favorable report of our lamented brother and his truly Christian wife. I sincerely sympathize with our sister in her sore affliction in a strange land. I trust she will not be forgotten by us. I fear many brethren will become dispirited in this good work. They should not. The Lord may design to try our faith. Let us pray to him more. The work is his. He will carry it on through us if we are faithful. The Lord be with us all in every good work! The reports for Liberia, in the main, are favorable. I learn that the colored delegate and agent for Indiana, has returned and made a very favorable report, urging all who can to go to that goodly land.57

The American Colonization Society and the American Christian Missionary Society shared the difficult challenge of reporting honestly the many deaths and setbacks encountered in their endeavors without leaving the impression to potential donors that their projects were poorly planned or ill-fated. Smith’s announcement paralleled similar ones in the American Colonization Society’s official paper, The African Repository, in which doctors and officials stated that the majority of untimely deaths experienced in Liberia were due to the “imprudence” of its new residents.

In reality, however, Cross knew the ever-present threat of disease and death. He selflessly sought to secure adequate living conditions for his family’s survival and to mitigate those risks. He was also constantly aware of the charge entrusted to him and the pressure of the expectation to preach the gospel and bring souls to Christ. Churches at home were anxiously waiting for news of conversions, new churches, and a growing mission. Without success, American churches would be more reluctant to give generously for the year’s support. Therefore, he acted with great urgency to establish a community and a church in New Kentucky as quickly as possible.

Many who read this story wonder about what happened to Cross’s wife after his death. According to letters to the Hopkinsville church, Martha Ann remarried another mission worker and stayed in Liberia.58 For a widowed missionary wife to remarry another missionary was quite common. Some wives, no doubt, traveled to foreign countries with their husbands out of duty, without much missionary zeal of their own. Many missionary wives, however, shared their husband’s desire to preach the gospel overseas. Such was the case with Sarah Boardman, for example. She and her husband, George, sailed to Burma in 1824. She remained in the country when her husband died in 1831 and became the second wife to Adoniram Judson three years later. Her translations of evangelistic material and the New Testament is evidence that she sought to partner with her husbands in their mission work. Both the Hopkinsville church and the ACMS resolved to communicate with and take care of Martha Ann Cross. She fared better economically than most of the population, which had to fight just to survive. While others were given six months of subsistence, she received one year.


Alexander Cross was the second missionary to be sent out by the American Christian Missionary Society, but he was the first to be sent to Africa. He was the first slave to obtain his freedom to become a Disciples missionary, and he was the first to spend that freedom and risk his life to do so. At the distance of time, his legacy is difficult to evaluate. He joined the ranks of hundreds of former slaves who preceded their white counterparts in attempting to spread the gospel. His story is but one of the many tragedies of the colonization movement in which there is recent renewed interest.

To my knowledge, no monuments or personal writings remain to remember his sacrificial and courageous service. After the disappointing results of the Jerusalem and Liberia missions, the fledgling ACMS desperately needed a success story to rally missionary giving and attract recruits. The society would have to wait another decade for Julius O. Beardslee and the Jamaican Mission to see happy results. The history of Christian missions, however, has repeatedly demonstrated that a missionary giving his or her life is a powerful inspiration for others to answer the call to foreign fields. Alexander Cross’s story was widely read and known by members of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Its inspirational effect was still felt 50 years later when Jacob Kenoly began work in Monrovia.59 Even to this day, Churches of Christ missionaries who enter the African field know that they follow in the long line of faithful heroes that began with Alexander Cross.60

His grave somewhere in Liberia lies unmarked, yet it “is a consecrated ground, the stone that marks his resting place the first mile-stone to mark our progress as a missionary people.”61 Elizabeth Ross, in writing a tribute to Jacob Kenoly, who followed in Cross’s steps some 50 years later, wrote: “Another life for Africa! ‘Tis the way of the Cross! It takes life to save life. Young Golaz and his wife died within one year of going to Africa. To the friend who wiped the death-damp from his brow he said: ‘Tell the Church at home not to be discouraged if the first workers fall in the field. Our graves will mark the way where others will march past in great strides.’ ”62

Shawn Daggett holds his ThD in Missions and New Testament from Boston University and teaches in the College of Bible and Ministry at Harding University. He and his wife, Donna Shackelford Daggett, together with their six children, served in missions and ministry in Memphis, TN; Bergamo, Italy; Natick, MA; Zambia; and Searcy, AR. His goal is to inspire and challenge students to participate in God’s mission of salvation to the whole world and to recruit, prepare, and equip disciples who will effectively make others disciples of Christ.

1 Ephraim A. Smith, “Death of Our Missionary to Liberia,” Millennial Harbinger 4, no. 6 (June 1854), 358.

2 First Annual Report of the Kentucky Colonization Society, Auxilary to the American Colonization Society for the Colonizing Free People of Colour in the United States (Frankfort: J. H. Huleman, 1830), 13, quoted in Jack Glazier, Been Coming through Some Hard Times: Race, History and Memory in Western Kentucky (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2012), 61.

3 Ibid.

4 United States of America Department of State Office of the Historian, “Founding of Liberia, 1847,”

5 David Cornelius, “A Brief Historical Survey of African-American Involvement in International Missions,” in African-American Experience in World Mission: A Call Beyond, vol. 1, ed. Vaughn J. Walston and Robert J. Stevens (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009), 48.

6 See Janet Duitsman Cornelius, Slave Missions and the Black Church in the Antebellum South (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1999), 161.

7 See William Seraile, “Black American Missionaries in Africa: 1821–1925,” in African-American Experience in World Mission, 25.

8 Ibid., 27.

9 Ibid., 28.

10 Ibid., 27.

11 Ibid., 26.

12 Cornelius, 48–50.

13 Seraile, 25.

14 Sylvia M. Jacobs, “African Missions and the African-American Christian Churches,” in African-American Experience in World Mission, 30.

15 Cornelius, 161.

16 Harold Isaacs, “Back to Africa,” in African-American Experience in World Mission, 94.

17 See D. Newell Williams, Douglas A. Foster, and Paul M. Bowers, eds., The Stone-Campbell Movement: A Global History (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2013), 34: “The idea of sending a missionary to Liberia had been circulating among Stone-Campbell leaders since the late 1840s.”

18 Alexander Campbell, “An Address,” Millennial Harbinger 3, no. 11 (November 1853), 614.

19 Alexander Campbell, “Response to Dr. Barclay,” Millennial Harbinger 4, no. 2 (February 1854), 91.

20 Noel L. Keith, The Story of D. S. Burnet: Undeserved Obscurity (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2012), 149.

21 See Earl Irvin West, The Search for the Ancient Order, vol. 1 (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1949), 220; Edith Eberle Yocum, They Went to Africa: Biographies of Missionaries of the Disciples of Christ (Indianapolis: United Christian Missionary Society Missionary Education Department, 1945), 5.

22 For a treatment of how Alexander Cross fits into the larger story of African Americans in the Restoration Movement, see Edward J. Robinson, Hard Fighting Soldiers: A History of African American Churches of Christ (Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 2019), 165–66.

23 See Jennifer P. Brown, “Church Paid for Slave’s Freedom,” Kentucky New Era, February 3, 2001, 1,

24 See F. M. Rains, “Our First Foreign Missionary to the Heathen,” Christian Standard 33, no. 27 (July 3, 1897), 851; Glazier, 61.

25 Rains, 851.

26 Brown, 1.

27 Glazier, 61.

28 Rains, 851.

29 Brown, 1.

30 Yocum, 5.

31 Glazier, 62.

32 Yocum, 5.

33 Rains, 851.

34 Ibid.

35 Ibid.

36 Ibid.

37 Ibid.

38 See “List of Emigrants,” The African Repository 30, no. 1 (January 1854), 19–24.

39 See William C. Burke, “Letter from Wm. C. Burke to Rev. R. R. Gurley,” The African Repository 30, no. 5 (May 1854), 151–52.

40 The bad weather is reported by a photographer and business man who traveled on the Isla de Cuba, which departed from the States and arrived just one day ahead of the Banshee. Augustus Washington, “Letter from Augustus Washington,” The African Repository 30, no. 5 (June 1854), 186.

41 See “Latest from Liberia,” The African Repository 30, no. 3 (March 1854), 78.

42 See “Letters from Liberia,” The African Repository 30, no. 5 (May 1854), 133–34.

43 Washington, 186.

44 See J. J. Robert, “Letters from Liberia, Government House, September 15, 1853,” The African Repository 30, no. 5 (May 1854), 152.

45 See Burke, 151; Bell I. Wiley, Slaves No More: Letters from Liberia, 1833–1869 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1980), 2.

46 See Samuel Williams, “Letter to Rev. J. Morris Pease,” The African Repository 30, no. 5 (June 1854), 174.

47 “Latest from Liberia,” The African Repository 30, no. 6 (June 1854), 189.

48 Glazier, 65.

49 Lenora Lindley and Edith L. Bennett, Spiderwebs, a Steamer-Trunk and Slavery, 1826–1886 (Owenboro: Kentucky Typewriter Corporation, 1964), 13, quoted in Glazier, 65.

50 Ibid., 14–15, quoted in Glazier, 66.

51 Ephraim A. Smith, “Death of Our Missionary to Liberia,” Millennial Harbinger 4, no. 6 (June 1854), 358.

52 “Latest from Liberia,” June 1854, 188.

53 Rains, 852.

54 Smith, “Death of Our Missionary,” 358.

55 Colin Charles Smith, The Life and Work of Jacob Kenoly (Cincinnati: Methodist Book Concern, 1912), 28.

56 Rains, 852.

57 Smith, “Death of Our Missionary,” 358.

58 See Brown, 1; Rains, 852.

59 Smith, The Life and Work of Jacob Kenoly, 28.

60 See Mark Berryman, “A Survey of Work in West Africa,” in 100 Years of African Missions, ed. Stanley E. Granberg (Abilene: ACU Press, 2001), 89.

61 Lynn D. Yocum, 1979 Missionary Pictorial Supplement (Nashville: World Vision, 1979), 5.

62 Smith, The Life and Work of Jacob Kenoly, 28–29.

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Review of David M. Gustafson, Gospel Witness Through the Ages: A History of Evangelism

David M. Gustafson. Gospel Witness Through the Ages: A History of Evangelism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2022. Paperback. 461 pages. $39.99.

David Gustafson’s thoughtful Gospel Witness Through the Ages: A History of Evangelism is written with a fresh Scandinavian coziness. The quaint college town of Uppsala that lies forty minutes north of Stockholm, Sweden, is the location of Johannelund School of Theology where Gustafson, as a docent, wrote the manuscript. Since 1164, Uppsala has been the seat of the archbishop of the church of Sweden and the location of the largest cathedral in all of Scandinavia. Having grown up in Sweden with missionary parents, I appreciate the book’s Scandinavian undertones and sent the book to my dad. Gustafson currently lives in Deerfield, IL, and is chair of the mission and evangelism department at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He writes with the style of a professor who believes that followers of Jesus need to be engaged in the evangel witness of God. The act of evangelism has been manipulative at various times in history, but there is nothing manipulative about this work. The author is careful to discuss historical and theological bias and notices the need for sharing accounts that include men and women and a variety of people and approaches, including both well-known and lesser-known stories.

Gustafson follows a chronological methodology that includes an introduction focusing on foundations of the history of Christian evangelism in the Old Testament. He carefully identifies the history of evangelism in twelve chapters. The chapters do not rigidly follow dates but offer a history focused on evangelism through twenty centuries of the church. The first two chapters explore the first through third centuries CE and include references to the New Testament, early martyrs, and Christian apologists. An especially helpful map shows the evangelistic missionary tradition of the twelve apostles and a sculpture of Caritas (love) that depicts a wet nurse caring for orphaned children. The third and fourth chapters tell the history of Constantine with an understanding of the connection between the legalization of Christianity and the need for a monastic movement. The next two chapters demonstrate how the medieval period of the fourth to thirteenth centuries inoculates the Christian faith in whole populations through infant baptism, inadvertently creating the need for evangelism in both pagan and Christian groups. There is also a basic description of Islam and the seven Christian crusades.

The Renaissance, Reformation, and Pietism are the focus of the next three chapters, featuring John Wycliffe and Martin Luther’s important contributions. Resources like the Biblia Pauperum, the graphic illustrated Bible for the poor, and woodcut illustrations used for gospel presentations drawn by Lucas Cranach are helpfully described alongside historical narratives. Gustafson magnificently includes footnotes for quick reference to evangelistic techniques, stories, and illustrations. Additionally, he includes helpful excerpts that give the reader an appreciation of original sources. Chapter 8 describes revival evangelism in the eighteenth century, especially how it travels from Europe to North America.

In Chapters 9–12, the focal point is the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with stories about frontier evangelism in North America, urban evangelism through the industrial revolution, and missions agencies’ role in evangelism. Gustafson identifies the struggle in the last two hundred years between preaching the gospel and enacting the gospel through social justice. He affirms the importance of both as he describes such groups as the YMCA, Salvation Army, InterVarsity Press, and Sunday School Programs. The story of the recruitment of “Bible Women” in China recognizes the work of Dora Yu, who taught and converted Lin Heping and her son Ni Tuosheng, also known as Watchman Nee (348). Francisco Olazábal, known popularly as the “Mexican Billy Sunday,” had the full endorsement of Maria Teresa Sapia, a notorious gambler, gun woman, and rumrunner after finding healing and redemption at one of his services (321–22). Liberalism and the struggle to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible along with Pentecostalism in the work of evangelism are also part of the last two hundred years of evangelistic history.

Finally, the book concludes with an epilogue that briefly discusses evangelism in the twenty-first century. A critique from those living in Africa, Asia, and Latin America might include that this history of evangelism has been told from a primarily Euro-American perspective. It is difficult to not have a bias, and, in fact, the Scandinavian overtones are partly what fascinates me in reading this book.

However, Gustafson identifies the challenge “to communicate the gospel clearly,” create new models that consider the culture and context, and connect the gospel both in proclamation and social action (418–19). The daring stories of men and women who have given their lives with blood, sweat, and tears for the sake of the gospel spreading to the whole world are the focal point of this book. It dares the reader to be moved by that gospel through the history of God’s people. Gustafson’s concatenation of histories and pictures ushers the humble servant of the Lord to their knees.

Carl Williamson

Andy T. Richie Jr. Distinguished Chair of Discipleship and Church Planting

Harding University

Searcy, Arkansas

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Review of Robert Gailey, Derran Reese, and Monty Lynn, Development in Mission: A Guide for Transforming Global Poverty and Ourselves

Robert Gailey, Derran Reese, and Monty Lynn. Development in Mission: A Guide for Transforming Global Poverty and Ourselves. Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2021. Paperback. 224pp. $20.99.

Development in Mission attempts an ambitious goal, presenting a guide to Christians for building a theological foundation and practical framework of healthy and effective engagement in global poverty alleviation. Authorship is shared by Rob Gailey (Director of the Center for International Development at Point Loma University), Derran Reese (Director of Experiential Learning at Abilene Christian University), and Monty Lynn (Professor of Management at Abilene Christian University). All three bring significant cross-cultural experience to this work: Gailey as a missionary to Malawi, Reese as a missionary to Thailand, and Lynn as a former Fulbright Scholar.

The book is organized into three parts. The first lays the groundwork through an overview of the state of the world and development work, a theological framework, and a vision of distinctly Christian development practice. The second provides a survey of possible development sectors. The third discusses ways for churches and organizations to discern their path forward.

Chapter 1 explicitly attempts to move the discussion of church engagement in relief and development past the unintended paralysis and discouragement some may experience after reading texts such as When Helping Hurts (28). (Notably, Brian Fikkert, co-author of When Helping Hurts, writes an insightful foreword for this text.) These authors intend to help individuals, churches, and organizations chart a hopeful path forward that results in development that redeems and transforms all parties participating together in God’s mission.

The authors cut through the hubris of Western and evangelism-centric missiology by taking readers along on a brief survey of missio Dei theology in Chapter 2, where they argue that the global church are participants, not drivers, in God’s holistic mission to restore and renew all of creation (55). They challenge the reductionist view that salvation centers around “going to heaven” (53). They argue, “salvation is not the soul’s escape from the body and the created order. Instead, it is an embodied participation in God’s restoration of all things (55).” The authors urge resisting the tendency to prioritize some areas of mission work over others by emphasizing the scope of God’s mission: the restoration of all creation (58). This chapter broadens the horizon of what is and is not mission while assuring churches and organizations that they cannot attempt it all and should partner with and encourage others engaging in different areas of mission.

Having laid out a theological foundation for holistic mission, Chapter 3 sets out to describe a uniquely Christian approach to poverty alleviation. The authors agree that secular efforts such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals share much in common with Christians concerned with human and ecological need. Effective Christian poverty alleviation, however, incorporates the best and latest research from development studies and finds its life and direction in the missio Dei (64). A concept unique to Christian mission engaging in humanitarianism is the practice of self-sacrifice (kenosis) following the example of Jesus. This is not to say that secular aid workers do not sacrifice, but Christian practitioners believe deeply that relinquishing power and privilege is necessary for transformational development (74).

Chapter 4 constitutes the entire second section and introduces a diverse range of sectors through which individuals and organizations might engage in transformative development. The chapter discusses sectors typically associated with Christian mission, such as food, health, and Scripture translation, as well as some not always considered by Western evangelicals, such as peacebuilding and creation care. Each sector includes a theological frame as well as research and practical insights for further engagement and is intended to be read as needed rather than through from start to finish. This chapter provides readers with a go-to resource to orient themselves when taking an initial look at a new mission opportunity.

Discerning which sector of mission is suitable for each church or organization is the focus of Chapter 5. The authors admit that, “The journey that lies ahead for those who seek to join God in the work of transformational development can be both thrilling and overwhelming” (182). They remind readers that God initiates and sustains mission, and prayer and self-reflection are the beginning points for our participation. Churches and organizations should move patiently when considering congregational fit through their particular calling and context. Discerning which sector(s) to commit to and invest in can happen through the use and examination of mental models (189), root causes (192), and theories of change (193). Chapter 2 advised that churches and organizations cannot take everything on, and the authors now expand on this with a brief discussion of forming partnerships within a chosen sector to draw on the experience and expertise of others, especially local partners. Throughout this book, the authors commend the reader to approach mission humbly, and this section is no different: “it is paramount that a church approaches partners with a posture of listening” (199).

A key idea this book attempts to convey is that transformational development ought to be mutually transformational. As Christians from diverse backgrounds participate in God’s mission to renew all things, all should be transformed through the relationships they form. In other words, churches and organizations entering God’s mission should expect to be challenged and changed.

While the authors express their desire to include the voices of male and female scholars from the Global South (47), they primarily do this through relatively short quotes, footnotes, and an afterword by Ruth Padilla. The book would have been better had they given these men and women more room to speak to the Western Church.

While keeping an overwhelmingly hopeful tone, the authors consistently urge those attempting to engage in poverty alleviation to practice humility, deep introspection, and broad collaboration. This is an effective introduction to holistic mission and development for undergraduates, mission practitioners, and church leadership. This text may appear intimidating to church and organizational volunteers, but they should take note that the entire second section, 83 pages, does not need to be read all the way through. This makes it an ideal text for missions committee members to work through and discuss. Towards this purpose, a future revision could be improved by a discussion guide, potentially including expanded testimonies from the Global South.

Matt Nance

Executive Director

Christian HolyLand Foundation

Knoxville, TN