A Mission Ice Age Continues into the Reformation’s 3rd Century (4th of 9)

1701-1800 (4th of 9 Timelines).

A mission ice age that descended on the Reformation continued into a third century. Between 1701 and 1800 Reformation churches sent only 5 notable missionaries, about one every 20 years. Mission societies, however, sent 59 notable missionaries, 12 times as many. See the timeline below.

By counting the number of notable missionaries for three hundred years as we have done (see here and here for timelines of the first and second centuries of the Reformation) we can make a prediction: If there were no mission agencies the Protestant churches would send about five missionaries every century. With the establishment of mission agencies a more hopeful future is becoming apparent.

In the timeline below I have color-coded the names of the mission agencies. The most important mission agencies in this century are the Danish-Halle Mission, the Moravians, the CMS, SPCK and SPG (all three established by the English crown) and, at the end of the century, the London Missionary Society.

Danish-Halle Mission (Green, above). The king of Denmark, Fredrick IV established this mission and funded the cost of sending missionaries. Another name for the Danish-Halle Mission is the Royal Mission College. One missionary was sent to the Sami people in the northernmost parts of Finland and Norway. Another went to Greenland, but most of the Danish-Halle missionaries sailed to the Dutch colony of Tranquebar, located on the eastern coast of India. Read more about the Danish-Halle Mission here.

Moravians (Red, above). I would like to draw the reader’s attention to the Moravian missionaries who left home and family for icy Greenland and the hellscapes of 18th century slave islands in the Caribbean. Some evidently sold themselves to plantation owners to evangelize the slaves in the West Indies. They called themselves the Unitas Fratrum (Unity of the Brethren). The most extraordinary feature of the Moravians is that when there were only 300 members they began to send missionaries. Read more about the Moravian mission here. The Moravians inspired William Carey; he praises them in his Enquiry. The Moravians set an example, but other Christian denominations in Europe could not organize themselves the Moravian way; there simply was not the 100% commitment in any congregation or denomination as there was in the early decades of the Moravian missionary movement. In time the Moravian movement became a church denomination with 750,000 members. It has stopped sending missionaries.

The CMS, SPCK and SPG (Pink, above). These three are the Church Mission Society, The Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. All three were established by the British crown but had their own board of directors, independent of the Church of England. Some notable missionaries who sent by mission agencies were John Eliot, John Wesley, and David Brainerd.

The London Missionary Society (Blue, above). Founded in 1795 following the wide distribution of William Carey’s Enquiry, the London Missionary Society (LMS) quickly became the largest mission society in England. Read more about the LMS here.

Gerald Anderson names five notable missionaries who served without a mission society. Here is a brief biography of these five missionaries.

Jacobus Capitein (1717-1747). Jacobus Capitein was born in Ghana, enslaved as a boy and brought to Holland in 1728. He was baptized and educated. Capitein wrote a dissertation in 1742 which defended slavery on Christian grounds and received a positive reception after it was published in text form. He joined the Dutch West India Company and became a chaplain to the Dutch community in Ghana. Blincoe: Capitein is listed as a missionary in Gerald Anderson’s Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions; but this is somewhat puzzling, considering he was a chaplain to Christians in an African colony.

Samson Occom (1723-1792). Samson was a Mohegan Native American from Connecticut. The Presbyterian Church ordained him in 1759. Occom was never paid the same salary as white preachers, although promised he would be. The Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge also gave Occom a stipend for some time, but he lived in deep poverty for much of his life.

George Liele (1750-1828). George Liele was born a slave in Virginia, then taken to Georgia, where he was converted in 1773 in the church of his master, Henry Sharp. He soon became concerned about the spiritual condition of his fellow slaves and began preaching to them. In 1775 he was ordained as a missionary to work among the black population in the Savannah area. Like many other slaves, he sided with the British in the Revolutionary War, as did his master, who set Liele free in 1778.” In 1783 George moved his family to Jamaica in order to preach to the slaves there. By 1814 his efforts had produced, either directly or indirectly, some 8,000 Baptists in Jamaica. Liele died in Jamaica.

David George (1742-1810). David George was born a slave on a plantation in the state of Virginia. He ran away, only to be recaptured. Through the teaching of a man named Cyrus, David George became burdened for his soul’s salvation. He began attending George Liele’s church. During the Revolutionary War, David George and the entire plantation community supported the British. After the war, David George moved to Canada. David George and former slaves called themselves the Black Baptists. David George and other Black Baptists moved to Sierra Leone. Many of his descendants live in Sierra Leone today.

Robert McDowall 1768-1841). Robert McDowall was an ordained Dutch Reformed minister, born in New York, but active in Canada for most of his adult life. McDowall’s mission was to organize the first churches in Nova Scotia, and to build churches. The records he kept indicate he performed a spectacular number of marriages in what was a pioneer area at the time.

I want to honor the names of the notable missionaries who volunteered to live far from home in the 18th century. See the timeline below.


Look at the year 1792, find the name “William Carey.” A big change is about to happen. In the eight years following “William Carey” the number of notable missionaries increases to nineteen, about two every year. William Carey wrote An Enquiry into the Obligation to Use Means which included easy-to-assemble mission society instructions. The widespread distribution of Carey’s easy-to-assemble mission society instructions set in motion the establishment of a great number of mission societies.

Next: A Mission Ice Age Begins to End (5th of 9 Timelines)

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