Spreading The Gospel MessageNov. 24, 2008
William Carey, a Baptist shoemaker from England (d.1834), is regarded as the "father" of modern missionary methods. During his 41-year ministry in India, Carey's methods included a focus on learning the native culture, establishing native churches and training an indigenous ministry. Carey emphasized putting the Bible in the native language; he translated the Bible into six languages and portions of it into 29 others. He also called for cooperation among those serving in missions, challenging world missionaries to unite for annual conferences. It must be noted that the first Baptist "foreign missionary" was an African-American, George Liele, who ministered in Jamaica beginning in 1783, a decade earlier than Carey's work in India.
Baptist women, too, have been involved extensively in missionary endeavors. If Baptists had saints, the short list would include international missionaries Ann Judson (Northern Baptist in Burma; d. 1826) and Lottie Moon (Southern Baptist in China; d. 1912). Their letters to women in local churches back home energized Baptist missions. Baptist women formed missionary organizations at the local and national level (e.g., the Woman's Missionary Union of the SBC, 1888), which became the backbone of Southern Baptist missions.
In the 20th century, the Southern Baptist Convention developed and maintained an extensive missions program and evangelistic identity. In 1925, convention leaders established a program through which the resources of many churches are combined for missionary support called the Cooperative Program. In 2007, the SBC had 5,397 field personnel in international missions and 5,271 in North American missions.