Gerald Anderson has compiled 1400 biographies of notable Protestant and Catholic missionaries. (There are also biographies of notable Orthodox missionaries and notable converts in Asia and Africa and the Americas.) Nothing like it existed before now. The reader will become acquainted with most of the noteable missionaries of the last 500 years. It is a reference book for the scholar and the amateur historian alike.
I read every biography three times. I noted the years of service for each missionary in order to create eight timelines. I discovered that a catastrophic “mission ice age” descended on the Protestant church at the beginning of the Reformation. The problem endured for 275 years, until William Carey published his Enquiry in 1792, setting in motion the modern Protestant mission era.
As we see from the timelines, a burst of Protestant mission activity coincided with the founding of a great number of mission societies after 1792. Ralph D. Winter hailed Carey’s Enquiry as “probably the most influential single document in the history of Protestant missions” and “the Magna Carta of the Protestant missions movement.” It is true that Carey “was only one of many similar figures from this period and as much a product as a shaper of the spirit of the time. Church renewal and mission were simply in the air.” In the air, yes, but the air began to fill the sails only when Carey “supposed” that Protestants form themselves into a missionary society. The subsequent founding of overseas churches, orphanages, schools, dispensaries, and printing presses followed the publication of Carey’s Enquiry. Thus, we can validate R. Pierce Beaver’s claim that Carey’s Baptist Missionary Society “immediately stimulated new organizations.”