James Hudson Taylor (1832–1905) was a pioneering missionary to China who founded the China Inland Mission (CIM) and adopted missionary techniques that, at the time, were considered controversial.
Hudson Taylor was born to pious parents who prayed that he would one day be a missionary to China. As a teenager, he came to faith himself and began to prepare for missions work in China. Taylor’s preparation included studying basic medicine, learning Mandarin, and engaging in intense Bible study and prayer.
At the age of 21, Hudson Taylor sailed to China. His initial attempts at preaching in the vicinity of Shanghai, wearing his traditional long black overcoat, were not very successful. It was then that he made the radical decision (according to the missionaries already there) of dressing in Chinese clothes and wearing a pigtail and shaved forehead as was common for Chinese men at the time. He criticized the more “traditional” missionaries for spending too much time in English company, serving as translators for diplomats and business men. Taylor decided to move away from Shanghai, passing out Chinese tracts and portions of the Scripture in Chinese as he went.
When the Chinese Evangelization Society, which had originally supported Taylor, was unable to pay his salary, he decided to strike out on his own, trusting God alone to meet his financial needs. Taylor married a fellow missionary and threw himself into the work at his small church in Ningbo. He also took over the administration of the mission hospital there. However, due to poor health, he was forced to return to England in 1861.
In England, J. Hudson Taylor continued to promote missions work in China, and he kept up a grueling speaking schedule in the British Isles and in the United States. He also continued translating the Bible into Chinese and further studied medicine. In 1865 Taylor decided to start a mission agency for work in the “unreached” interior provinces of China. Missionaries with the China Inland Mission would adopt Chinese dress and would not receive a salary. This practice eventually became known as “faith missions.” He wanted to recruit twenty-four new missionaries, an astounding number at the time.
When he was able, Hudson Taylor returned to China and was heavily involved in providing medical treatment, evangelizing, and recruiting more missionaries. He continued to split his time between China and the “Western world,” promoting Chinese missions and recruiting missionaries. By 1876 CIM missionaries accounted for about 20 percent of the missionaries in China. Taylor continued to pray for and recruit missionaries at an astounding pace. In 1887, 102 new missionaries were accepted. He also made the controversial decision to send single women into the interior of China as missionaries. This meant that CIM provided over half the Christian missionaries in China.
Hudson Taylor’s drive to work took a great toll on his health and his family. By 1900 his wife and four of their eight children had died, and he experienced a physical and mental breakdown. Back in England Taylor continued to promote Chinese missions. Finally, in 1904, he resigned as director of China Inland Mission and returned to China for his eleventh and final trip. There he died and was buried. Through the efforts of J. Hudson Taylor, thousands of missionaries went to China. After the communist revolution in 1949, traditional missionaries could no longer operate in China. CIM is now known as OMF (Overseas Missionary Fellowship) and focuses on missionary efforts throughout Asia.
The following quotes help to reveal the heart of J. Hudson Taylor:
“All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.”
“Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so.”
“It does not matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where the pressure lies—whether it comes between you and God, or whether it presses you nearer His heart.”
“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.”
“The inconsistencies of Christian people, who while professing to believe their Bibles were yet content to live just as they would if there were no such book, had been one of the strongest arguments of my skeptical companions.”
“If I had a thousand pounds China should have it—if I had a thousand lives, China should have them. No! Not China, but Christ. Can we do too much for Him? Can we do enough for such a precious Savior?”