Despite all odds, William Carey (1761-1834) developed a great burden for global missions when he was still a young man. Although he was a Baptist, he had come under the influence of the Moravians and had become convinced that his own denomination lacked passion for and commitment to both local and global evangelism.
Shortly after he was ordained as a minister of the gospel, Carey shared his burden with some Baptist leaders. His plea was not well received. In fact, one of the older ministers interrupted his plea and rebuked him, saying, “Young man, sit down! You are an enthusiast. When God pleases to convert the heathen, he’ll do it without consulting you or me.”
This experience profoundly troubled Carey, and thus he began to pray about how he might articulate his thoughts so as to turn skepticism into passion, and complacency into sacrificial action. His passion was God’s passion, and nothing would be able to suppress it. To the contrary, the fire that had engulfed his heart would soon engulf much of the evangelical church in the West.
As Carey prayerfully organized his thoughts, he came to write a little pamphlet entitled, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens. It was published on May 12, 1792 and many missiologists argue that it was the primary means God used to inspire the modern missionary movement. Not content with words alone, Carey also organized a missionary society and spoke these famous words at its inaugural meeting: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!” Carey uttered these words as a Calvinist, and as one who believed that God ordains the means as well as the ends of missions.
The editors of the periodical Christian History conclude, “His greatest legacy was in the worldwide missionary movement of the nineteenth century that he inspired. Missionaries like Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, and David Livingstone, among thousands of others, were impressed not only by Carey’s example, but by his words, ‘Expect great things; attempt great things.’ The history of nineteenth-century Protestant missions is in many ways an extended commentary on the phrase” (William Carey at Christianity Today).
Over the next eleven weeks, I’ll be writing a series of devotionals on his little pamphlet. I urge you to search for and read it. May the Lord use Carey to set our hearts on fire for his global mission in the world!