The rise of a missionary movement

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Next year is the 100th anniversary of the World Missionary Conference of Edinburgh 1910. It marked a highpoint of Protestant missions and the beginning of the Ecumenical movement that birthed the World Council of Churches.

Next year there will be a spate of articles on the centenary, so I'm getting in early with a serious of posts on the movement that was behind Edinburgh 1910.

This is the story of the greatest student missionary movement in the history of the church—its stunning rise, and its shameful collapse.

As he left for the conference Grace told her brother Robert that she believed her prayers had been answered and 100 students would volunteer for missions.

Two hundred and fifty-one young men from 89 American colleges and universities gathered at Mount Hermon Massachusetts.

The atmosphere was relaxed and informal. The conference stretched over 26 days.

During the first two weeks there was no formal missions emphasis, but behind the scenes Robert Wilder and twenty-one others met whenever they could to pray that God would raise up missionary volunteers.

Behind the scenes Wilder organized small meetings of students. Those meetings grew until missions became the dominant them of the conference.

By the end of the conference as 99 volunteers had signed the pledge: “We are willing and desirous, God permitting, to become foreign missionaries.”

As they knelt in prayer the 100th man came and knelt with them. The world would never be the same. Mount Hermon launched the greatest student missionary movement the world has ever seen.

Soon Wilder set off on a national tour of colleges. From 1887-8 he recruited 2,106 missionary volunteers. One quarter of them were women.

Within five years of Mt Hermon there were Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) groups meeting in 350 colleges throughout North America. Six thousand two hundred students had volunteered for missions. Three hundred and twenty had already sailed.

By 1898, 1,173 missionaries were serving in 53 different countries. By 1900 half of the 9,000 American missionaries were SVM volunteers.

Between 1886 and1920, a total of 8,742 SVM volunteer missionaries served on every continent. By 1924, 300 of them had been martyred.

Next: Reasons for the SVM's early success.