The very first biography I had the privilege of publishing (with Barbour in 1999) was on Hudson Taylor, one of my longtime missionary heroes. That book was republished (by Presbyterian and Reformed in 2011) under a new title, Hudson Taylor, Gospel Pioneer to China. Here are several reasons I’d encourage you to read Taylor’s biography:
1. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) was one of the most outstanding and influential missionaries of all time. He served for five decades as a missionary to China and was the founding director of the China Inland Mission, which was intent on taking the Gospel to the vast, previously-neglected interior portion of that country. Ruth Tucker, in her book From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions, states: “No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the apostle Paul has had a wider vision and carried out a more systematized plan of evangelizing a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.”
2. Taylor’s upbringing by consecrated Christian parents and grandparents encourages us in the important responsibility we have in raising our own children for the Lord. His great grandfather James Taylor endured fierce persecution in establishing the first Methodist congregation in the rough mining town of Barnsley, England. Hudson Taylor was raised in that town and church. His parents read the Bible and prayed with their children twice each day. Taylor’s mother and sister played key roles in praying him to salvation as a teen. His parents’ intense interest in missions, especially to China, was doubtless the largest human influence in Hudson Taylor sensing God’s call to devote his life to missionary service there.
3. Taylor’s example inspires and challenges us to have a passionate concern for non-Christians and an earnest commitment to helping actively fulfill Christ’s Great Commission throughout the whole world. Both before and throughout his missionary career, Taylor had a pressing concern for the eternal welfare of unbelievers who would perish eternally without Jesus as their Savior. He was burdened over the untold millions who were passing into eternity without ever hearing of the Savior. That motivated him to do all he could to promote the fulfillment of the Great Commission. He tirelessly recruited other Christians to join him in actively pursuing that same objective.
4. Taylor has much to teach us about living a holy life and serving Christ in the strength that God supplies rather than under our own power. At age thirty-seven Taylor faced a personal crisis due to a collection of marked ministry trials and what he judged to be a lack of consistent spirituality in his own life. The breakthrough for him came in being reminded of and laying claim to the John 15 principle of bearing much fruit (both in ministry and one’s personal spiritual life) by abiding like a branch in Jesus the vine. From that point on, for the remainder of his life, Taylor sought to prayerfully depend on the Lord more and on his own exertions a bit less (although he remained a diligent servant of Christ throughout life). The results were increased personal joy, peace and righteousness as well as greater ministry effectiveness.
5. Taylor’s example reminds us that Christians need to be, as he was, willing to embrace considerable sacrifice and even suffering in order to serve the Lord faithfully. For Hudson Taylor that entailed: losing his first wife and four of his children to death from various diseases in China; enduring long separations from his children and second wife in carrying out ministry responsibilities; frequently living in sub-standard housing and experiencing severely straitened economic circumstances; being roundly criticized by his fellow countrymen and even some missionaries for his progressive ministry notions (such as adopting Chinese dress, hairstyle and other amoral customs); repeatedly having his own life endangered through illnesses, storms at sea and riots against Christians.
6. Taylor’s example also encourages us not to be afraid to think and act outside the box when it comes to serving Christ and seeking to advance His kingdom. While ridiculed for doing so, Taylor embraced many amoral Chinese customs in order to more effectively reach indigenous people for Christ. While other missionaries were content to confine their ministry efforts to China’s coastal provinces, Taylor dared to follow God’s leading in establishing a unique mission society to reach the vast majority of China’s population living in inland provinces.
7. Last but certainly not least: One of the hallmarks of Taylor’s life and ministry was his unshakable faith in God. Taylor’s life story is replete with instances of his confidently trusting God to provide: pressing personal material needs; protection in various dangerous situations; both finances and personnel to carry out ever-expanding ministry undertakings. Reading of Taylor’s tremendous faith and how God greatly honored it motivates us to exercise increased faith in our own endeavors to serve the Lord.
I think you’ll receive significant inspiration and encouragement for your spiritual life and service by reading Hudson Taylor’s biography. I hope you’ll take the time to do so.
Copyright 2013 by Vance E. Christie