Eddie and Sue Arthur

Tennent Chapter 9: The “Great Century” of Missions, 1792-1910

The period from 1792-1910 is a kairos moment for the history of the church.

“During that period, which is roughly coterminous with the nineteenth century, more new Christians emerged from a wider number of new people groups than at any previous time in the history of the church. Never before had so many Christians moved to so many vast and remote parts of the Globe and communicated the gospel across so many cultural boundaries.”

When you add to this the decline of the Western church in the 20th century, this period seems even more significant.

Holy Subversion: the Birth of the Protestant Missionary Society

Carey is the father of the modern missionary movement because he was the one who had a vision for a new type of society. He outlined a structure for agencies which is still more or less used today.

There was no particular theology of voluntary societies, they were a pragmatic response to a solution, rather than a theoretical one.

The Word Made Text: Vernacular Bible Translation

Christianity is the only world religion whose primary source documents are in a language other than the language of the founder of the religion.

The translatability of the gospel has not always been recognised or respected. However, the commitment to Bible translation is one of the hallmarks of the “Great Century” of missions.

  • Bible translation became a powerful tool of cultural affirmation and indigenous identity.
  • Bible translation is the greatest testimony to “mission as translation” rather than “mission as cultural diffusion”.
  • The linguistic translatability of the Scripture provides the foundation for the full cultural and theological translatability of the Christian message.

Perpetuating Perpetua: the Legacy of Women Missionaries

Vibi Perpetua who was martyred in Carthage in AD 203 is probably the most famous female martyr of the early church. She is important because:

  • She told her own story in her own way.
  • She is a symbol of the cost of discipleship.
  • She is from North Africa, once a centre of the church.

Mobilisation and Support

In the early days of protestant mission, women went out as wives and family members but were not regarded as missionaries in their own right.

Professional Employees

As the work of missions grew, there were new roles that were needed that could be filled by women: nurses, teachers etc.

Pioneer Missionaries

In 1865 the CIM was founded and they took on single women who received the same training and had the same status as their male counterparts. Following on from this, many of the ‘faith missions’ took on women missionaries.

Indigenous Ingenuity: Church Planting in the Great Century

The Christendom model of state churches was not reproducible outside of Europe. This meant that new types of church and new structures were needed in different places.

Venn’s three-selfs was an important concept.

Global Collaboration: The Birth of World Christianity

The world missionary conference in 1910 was extremely important. By today’s standards the attendance was very Western, but at the time it was revolutionary.

  • Edinburgh represented a new constituency to think about mission – the societies rather than the church.
  • It marked the renaissance of mission studies as a scholarly discipline
  • There was a growing recognition of Christianity as a world religion.


This post consists of my personal notes taken from Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century (Invitation to Theological Studies Series) by Timothy Tennent. Once you have read all my notes, please buy the book! The notes are more brief than usual this time as the subject is not one that interests me greatly. If you want to know more, buy the book!

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