One of the most beloved and well-remembered missionaries of all time is James Hudson Taylor. Creator of the China Inland Mission, his emphasis on prayer, commitment to China and deep faith that God would provide for all needs was revolutionary to the world of mission. Hudson was born in 1832 in Yorkshire, England to a Methodist minister. He had a sickly childhood and became a Christian in his late teenage years.
After his conversion he soon developed a deep passion for the people and needs of the 400 million in China making it his goal to “to evangelize all China, to preach Christ to all its peoples by any and all means that come to hand.” He joined the Chinese Evangelization Society (CES), beginning medical training and later sailing to Shanghai at the age of 21.
From the beginning he was considered an oddity among the missionary community. He made it a goal to live and dress like the Chinese people, a practice that was unheard of at the time. He even went so far as to shave the front of his head and grow the back long to adopt the pigtail that was popular among Chinese men. After working in Shanghai, he begin making trips to the interior villages and realized that while missionaries had become common in the cities of China, most villages in China’s inland remained untouched as far as the gospel was concerned.
After six years in China he sailed again for England, this time married to missionary teacher Maria Dyer. This furlough was designated as a time of medical recovery and also to a new translation of the Chinese New Testament. During this time the idea of a new mission society was birthed in Hudson’s mind. This new organization would be based in China and run by missionaries in China. All members would wear Chinese dress and work mainly in villages and cities in China that previously did not have any missionary work. The organization would be funded by faith rather then solicitation, all funding would be requested by prayer like George Mueller’s orphanages of the time. The organization became known as the China Inland Mission (CIM).
In 1866, the first 16 CIM missionaries joined Hudson, Maria, and their two children on the boat Lammermuir sailing to Shanghai. They were from multiple denominations across England. Many had joined CIM after hearing Hudson’s dynamic speaking. In time the CIM grew to over 1,000 missionaries and later over 1,300 at its peak in 1934. The CIM was broken up into mission stations that would be placed strategically throughout China’s provinces. Missionaries would be sent out in teams of twos or threes to the different stations to complete the work of evangelization. After the creation of CIM, Hudson would divide his time between visiting these stations and traveling home to recruit more workers.
CIM’s growth was largely due to Hudson’s commitment to mobilization. Although Hudson spent many years in China, losing a wife, three children and later dying there himself, he continued to travel back and forth from China to Europe and North America recruiting more laborers for China. This would remain a key element in Hudson’s ministry, he was always burdened to make the needs of China known, his most prevailing book and message would be entitled “The Spiritual Needs of China.” Future missionaries like CT Studd and Amy Carmichael would write about hearing Hudson Taylor speak and the course their life would later take. According to Charles Spurgeon a strange phenomena was beginning to sweep across England. “China, China, China is now ringing in our ears in that forcible, unique way in which Mr. Taylor utters it,” Spurgeon said. Hudson Taylor died in 1905, leaving the legacy of the CIM behind as well as the vision to make the gospel available to all of China.
By Claude Hickman
138 Years of CIM/OMF, OMF-US website
Tucker, Ruth. From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983.