08 Oct The Truth About Missionaries
By Phil Waldron, Co-Founder and CEO of Mission UpReach, Inc.
This past month I ran across an article that a friend had shared with me back in 2014. I had forgotten all about it and when I read it again this month, I was genuinely surprised “again” by the findings of Robert Woodberry, the author of an intensive study on the global spread of democracy. The article I read was written by John Stonestreet at breakpoint.org.
I did my own Google search for “who is Robert Woodberry” and found an interesting collection of speeches and articles surrounding his findings. You should look him up yourself if you have any interest at all in the topic of “long term missionaries,” i.e., Christians from one country or culture living long term among the people of another country and culture for the express purpose of converting them to Christ (Conversionary Protestants (CP) as labeled by Woodberry). The results were drawn from Woodberry’s analysis of “a massive amount of data entered by an army of college students.”
Here are just two of the fascinating results of Woodberry’s investigations that are almost exactly opposite of what current, popular cultural paradigms are telling us today:
- Popular current thought is that Western missionaries were agents of colonialism or tools of imperialist oppression. However, Woodberry’s results show that over the last several centuries, the presence of “Protestant missionaries is the greatest predictor of whether a nation develops into a stable, representative democracy with robust levels of literacy and political freedom, especially for women.”
- “This contrast is replicated across the world, from Botswana to India.” “Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment, and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.”
This is fascinating reading for me. I am the son of missionary parents and spent my childhood in both Pakistan and Australia. So, much of what Woodberry shares as conclusions based on reams of research resonates with me personally.
Well, you might ask, what does all of that have to do with Mission UpReach’s current efforts in Western Honduras? The simple answer is this; for centuries Christian missionaries have shared the Gospel wherever they have gone. And being disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, they couldn’t help but respond to the needs of the people with whom they lived and worked. That means where there was illiteracy, they taught people to read so that they could read the Word of God for themselves and read books that would educate them on various topics. They also established hospitals and clinics to meet the health needs of the people that they grew to love. And much more. The evidence is in, and the results speak for themselves for those who take the time to review them.
Mission UpReach is a ministry that is about bringing as many people to Jesus as possible in this generation. We believe that a disciple of Jesus makes the best citizen, the best community leader, the best businessman or woman, the best politician, etc. As our “missionary forebears” have proven with several centuries worth of results, preaching the Gospel is about more than preaching the Word. As essential as that is, we must realize that we humans are body, mind, and soul. We approach missions here with a mind that we should be ministering and serving on all these same fronts including helping people gain access to economic opportunity so that they can support their families and loved ones. We are grateful to those of you have committed to partnering with us to continue this effort. We need your support more now than ever before.
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