Missionary Thought of the Day: Hearing the Gospel

In the following story, Miss Bertha Smith relates a story from her experiences as a missionary in China. This story is very important for the ongoing ministry of the gospel because it reveals an important venue for gospel ministry in the world. The least reaching people group in the world today are the deaf. Reaching the deaf is difficult not only because they cannot hear, but even sign language makes it difficult to communicate the metaphors and figurative language found throughout scripture. Not only are workers needed, so is much wisdom. Read along and may God grant you a burden for those who haven’t heard the name of Jesus:

The more I talked and smiled at her the more she smiled, and thinking that she was taking in what I was saying, I just waxed eloquent. In my eagerness to get across into her simple mind all the precious truth about the Lord that I could, and after I had talked several minutes, with a high shrieking voice she said, “I have not heard one word you have said, I am stone deaf.” Now you can imagine what it meant for that dear old woman who had never heard about Jesus coming into the world and taking her place in death that he might bear her burden and die for all that she  was and make is possible for her to spend an eternity with Him in His own heaven. My joy in eagerness to hear brought grief that made tears flow when I learned that I was talking to a woman who never in her life had heard the Gospel, and now never could hear it. She could not read, therefore there was no human way to get the knowledge to her heart.*

May we be as heart-broken over the plight of the deaf and the need to communicate with them the gospel, in this country and throughout the world!

*This particular story was among Bertha Smith’s papers preserved from the Peniel Prayer Center in Cowpens, SC. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has a microfilmed copy of these papers. The originals are located in the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.

Most Popular Posts in 2011

Attractions in 2011

These are the posts on my blog that got the most views in 2011. All but one were posted in years past. If you haven’t read them yet, check them out!

Over half of my visitors were from the US and Europe, though I got a lot of hits from both Africa (70+% of those from Kenya and Uganda) and Asia (66+% of those from The Philippines, Singapore, India, Indonesia, and South Korea).

1927: Big Year for Shandong

I’m currently putting together an outline of important historical events leading up to and going through the Shandong Revival. It is not near complete at the moment, but here is a rough outline of some of the events in the first quarter of the important year of 1927:

  • 1927 Jesus Family forms in Muzhuang, Taian County, Shandong Province
  • February, Jane and Florence Lide report to the North China Mission teachings they had heard in California from Pentecostals on the “filling of the Holy Spirit”
  • February 10, Song Shangjie is “born again.” He changes his name to John, after John the Baptist, and becomes infamously known from that point forward as Dr. John Sung. The Bible becomes a new book to him.
  • February 17, John Sung is institutionalized by Union Theological Seminary administration into the Bloomingdale Hospital, New York, a psychiatric hospital. He remained there 193 days and claims to have read through the Bible 40 times during that time, while being observed and “treated.” He is diagnosed with “psychosis with psychopathetic personality” (Ka-Tong Lim, 144), but released by intervention of the Chinese consulate.
  • March 21-27, The Nanking Incident, sometimes called the Rape of Nanking, and not to be confused with the Nanking Massacre of 1937 also called the Rape of Nanking. During the 1927 Incident communist forces in the Nationalist Army attacked foreigners in Nanjing (Nanking), leading embassies of Western nations to urge all westerners to flee to the coast or leave the country. Missionary forces after this incident drop from over 8000 to just over 3000. Thousands of missionaries would never return to China.
  • March, following the Nanking Incident, almost all foreign missionaries flee to the ports of Qingdao in the South or Yantai in the North. One notable exception were Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Anglin who founded the Home of Onesiphorus, an orphanage and home for the poor in Taian. For the NCM,  twenty-seven missionaries fled to Yantai and lived crammed together into two missionary residences. During their refuge, Jane Lide shared with the missionaries on the subject, “Christ, our Life,” a message so important that accounts by C. L. Culpepper, Mary K. Crawford, and Bertha Smith report these messages as being a significant part of their coming change of heart. Smith reports that “Needless to say, as we dug into the Word along these lines, we were convicted of sin, enriched in our lives, and stirred with a deepened desire for revival in the Chinese churches. Another significant series of events during this time was the visit and teaching of Marie Monsen, an evangelical Norwegian Lutheran missionary, who by this time had been released by her mission to hold spiritual meetings throughout China. Miss Monsen was known to the NCM as having seen unusually good evangelistic results and for seeing multiple miraculous healings. After first hearing from Miss Monsen, Culpepper and his wife Ola visited her privately. When Miss Monsen greeted them at the door, her first words to the Culpeppers was a question, “Brother Culpepper, have you been filled with the Holy Spirit?” (SR, Cul, n.d., 8). The issue of the filling of the Holy Spirit, also referred to by the missionaries as the “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” served as a major theme of the ensuing revival, as the missionaries reported it. Miss Monsen related to the Culpeppers scriptures related to healing, particularly James 5:14-16. Mr. Culpepper said that “the words ‘confess your faults’ particularly pierced [his] heart” (9). Confession of sin and an emphasis on consecrated holiness is another phenomenon that characterized the revival. When the missionaries gathered to pray for Ola, after praying for several hours, Mr. Culpepper took off his wife’s glasses, anointed her head with oil, per the James scripture, and prayed. He states that, “It was as though God had walked into the room. Everyone prayed aloud. We felt that heaven came down and glory filled our souls” (9). While she was joining this group of missionaries praying for Ola’s healing, Bertha Smith was greatly convicted of a prideful and hateful attitude she had towards another one of the missionaries. She believed that “had I refused to confess that sin, and joined in the prayer with it covered, I believe that I would have hindered the prayer of the others, and the eye could not have been healed” (1965, 16). She approached Miss Anna Hartwell and confessed her sin towards her and asked for forgiveness in front of the other missionaries, then she joined the prayer. In the other room, the two cooks for the missionaries experienced similar reconciliation, which resulted in their conversion to Christianity. The spirit of prayer, combined with the extraordinary events of confession, reconciliation, and salvation distracted the missionaries from the healing of Ola Culpepper’s optic neuritis. Just weeks earlier, she had been told by specialists in Peking that her pain would continue and that her vision would never improve; after the prayer for healing, she never experienced pain in her eyes again and could see well with the aid of glasses the rest of her life. As the missionaries reflected on their experience, these events marked the beginning of the great revival to come. Thus, Miss Monsen became a favored friend of the North China Mission and would visit them again.

Women and Missions

The Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies has asked me to contribute from time to time on their blog. Honored I was. So, I decided to write a series entitled “Missional Dynamos” to highlight the dynamic nature of Christianity along the margins of its advance.

Today, they uploaded my second post in the series, this time on “Faithful Missionary Women“. I hope that you are encouraged by the great contribution of women, married and single, to the cause of global missions. As always, I would love your feedback.

Ministering in primitive conditions…OR NOT?

Bertha Smith is probably the most well-known Southern Baptist REVIVAL Missionary. Born and raised in South Carolina, she spent over forty years working with Chinese. After retirement she led spiritual life conferences in churches across the nation. In this letter to the Foreign Mission Board, ‘Miss Bertha’ relates the story of her trek off the beaten path into primitive villages in China. Less you think she was complaining…keep reading!

Letter to Miss Ford from Bertha Smith, Nov 27, 1934, Somewhere in Shantung, China

This is the poorest section of China. Mud houses, dirt floors, dirt walls, no chairs, no nothing which we consider essential to living. We take our own camping outfit…[Still] I can think of no woman in all the world with whom I would exchange places, no, not one. No man’s wife, or kings daughter, or lady in waiting! I did not know to choose the better part but can never thank the Lord enough that He chose me & sent me here to bear fruit for Him. Pray for us, and O, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send forth reapers for truly the harvest is ripe.”

Pearl Pauline Caldwell — Missionary to China

Miss Pearl Pauline Caldwell was born on Aug 19, 1877 in Pontotoc, Mississippi, the third of five children to Isaac and Alice Caldwell. Baptized at the age of nine at Cherry Creek Baptist Church, it was as a member of the Sunbeams that she first felt called to missions. As a young adult, she graduated from Blue Mountain College in 1899, then attended the W.M.U. Training School from 1908–1910, being appointed to the FMB on June 3, 1910, and send to Laichow, North China, by October of the same year. In 1915, she transferred to Pingtu, North China, where she was stationed for the rest of her career, except furloughs from June 15, 1917, to September 5, 1918, from March 18, 1925, to September 16, 1926, from May 26, 1934, to August 15, 1936. She was also interned during WWII by the Japanese, being returned to the US on the Gripsholm on September 19, 1943. She retired on January 1, 1947. Miss Caldwell never married. She died at the age of 85 on September 25, 1962, and was buried in Cherry Creek Baptist Cemetery in Pontotoc.[1]

Pingtu, historically, was an important station in the North China Mission. Here, Lottie Moon served faithfully for decades. Also, during the Shantung Revival, Pingtu was reported to be one of the most fruitful evangelistic stations—one pastor in that region reported 5000 baptisms alone. Miss Caldwell regularly traveled through the countryside, visiting village churches, as an evangelist. Partly because of her faithfulness, but more so because the Chinese Christians also preached from village to village, the Shantung Revival reaped much fruit in her area. In a letter to Dr. T. B. Ray, Corresponding Secretary of the FMB,  in 1932, she reports that there was a great revival in the village churches such as she had not seen before.[2] In January 1933, she writes to Dr. Ray of hundreds being saved during a 43 day trip to the villages. She reports of a group of students who were saved who had a burden for their lost families and neighbors that they “were just filled with consuming desire to see others saved.” The people would burn their earthen gods in response. Even in spite of persecution, two teachers who had lost their jobs because of their faith continued to preach the gospel. Her letters continue to report of her work in the village churches.[3] In December 1933, in a letter to Dr. Maddry, she reports that the revival continues.[4] Certainly by this time, Dr. Maddry had received numerous reports from others on the field and expressed interest over the matters, looking for explanations. In one lengthy letter, Miss Caldwell gives a succinct account of the revival:[5]

First, she defends the practice of the Chinese of praying out loud, all at once. Interestingly, she states that “in my 23 years in China this kind of praying has been practiced.” Then, she traces the origin of the revival in her station to a “Chinese Workers Conference” where a “humble servant of the Lutheran mission” spoke. [Could this have been Miss Marie Monsen?] The missionary spoke boldly about sin:

There was deep conviction of sin. People became angry then later fell to their knees confessing their sins. I can truly say that in hundreds of cases restitution has been made old scores were settled. Some church members and even workers found that they had never been born again.

From this meeting, she recounts that the workers left this meeting to go to their respective churches carrying the message inflamed by their own experience. The Chinese spread the revival through preaching of the gospel, calling for repentance and faith.

Next, she draws out the important role that prayer played on the revival. She recalls that “there are churches where Bible study and prayer groups meet and have met every night thru these three years.”

In final comments on the nature of the revival, she tells how the missionaries themselves have been revived:

Not only have our brothers and sisters among the Chinese had deep heart searchings, your missionaries have too found of a truth “the heart is desperately wicked and deceiptful. Many letters have been written to friends in the homeland, confession made and restitution made. As to my own experience, this was the deepest spiritual experience that I have had since I was born into His family. Like Dr. Torrey I believe not only in the “second blessing” but in the three hundredth and on and on. My experience may all be found in Dr. Torrey’s, “The Holy Spirit.” Just in my great need a friend from home sent me this book. It was just what I needed, helped to clarify His word and was an untold blessing to me.

In this extended quote, traces of Keswick theology and implicitly the fundamentalist movement is seen through the influential ministry of R. A. Torrey. He would have profound influence as well on Miss Bertha Smith.

Miss Caldwell concludes this letter by distinguishing the Shantung Revival from the “Spiritual Grace Movement”. Thus, because of its broad, through brief, description of the revival, the letter by Miss Caldwell to Dr. Maddry is of great importance.

In summary, it is fitting that Dr. Wiley B. Glass said this of Miss Caldwell, “If any modern missionary lady deserves a halo for service comparable to Lottie Moon, I would say, ‘Put it on the brow of Pearl Caldwell.’”[6]

Resources:

Caldwell, Pearl. “The Entrance of God’s Word Giveth Light.” Home and Foreign Fields 19, no. 11 (November 1935): 3.

________. “The Gospel Triumphing.” Home and Foreign Fields 17, no. 5 (May 1933): 26–7.

________. Correspondence. International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Missionary Correspondence Files. AR. 551-2. Box 79.

“Pearl Pauline Caldwell” from the “Caldwell Family History”. [Internet Resource] http://www.rcaldwellfamily.net/getperson.php?personID=I00156&tree=RobertCaldwell. Accessed on February 3, 2010.


[1] This information was compiled from her “Operation Baptist Biography Data Form for a Living Person”, her “Application for Appointment as a Missionary”, all found in her missionary correspondence files, and a website maintained by her extended family.

[2]Letter from Pearl Caldwell to Dr. Ray, January 26, 1932. Pingtu, Shantung, China.

[3] Letter from Pearl Caldwell to Dr. Ray, January 18, 1933. Pingtu, Shantung, China.

[4] Letter from Pearl Caldwell to Dr. Maddry, December 7, 1933. Pingtu, Shantung, China.

[5] Letter from Pearl Caldwell to Dr. Maddry, December 23, 1933. Pingtu, Shantung, China.

[6] “Operation Baptist Biography” survey found in her missionary correspondence file.

The Shandong Revival–Effects on the Missionaries

Revival Among Missionaries

            In the safety of the treaty port Chefoo in 1927, Southern Baptist missionaries gathered for spiritual renewal while the turmoil in the province subsided. As they passed the time, Jane Lide shared the lessons she had learned from a Bible study while on furlough in Southern California on “Christ our Life.”[1] The missionaries spent most of their time in Chefoo in Bible study and prayer. As they began to pray for revival among the Chinese, they were convicted of their own need for revival. Marie Monsen, a Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran missionary with the China Inland Mission, shared with the Baptists of her experiences in the interior. One of the Southern Baptists, Ola Culpepper suffered from a degenerative eye disease which was causing her extreme pain. None of the doctors could treat her disease, but only fill new prescriptions for glasses. The missionaries had heard of Ms. Monsen’s experiences with healing and asked her to pray for her. C. L. Culpepper relates that at the meeting with Ms. Monsen, she posed him the question if he had ever been filled with the Spirit.[2] This question sent him on a four year quest that would find fruition in the spiritual awakening to come. Yet in 1927, the missionaries met, read aloud James 5:14-16, being impressed by James’s exhortation to confess sin, anointed Ola’s head with oil and prayed for her healing. Bertha Smith shares that as she went to lay hands on Mrs. Culpepper’s head, she could not because she was convicted of a negative attitude toward fellow missionary Miss Hartwell.[3] Concurrently, two Chinese cooks whose hatred toward one another was well known had reconciled in the adjacent room. During the prayer, Ola Culpepper put down her glasses and her eyes never bothered her again.[4] Soon afterwards, the missionaries were given freedom to return to the villages, but Marie Monsen’s question to Dr. Culpepper would not go away.

            After much study of Acts, Galatians 3:14, and Ephesians, the missionaries were convinced that they were not ministering in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. According to Mary Crawford,

For several years there had been an increasing hunger in the hearts of most of us to see more of the Power of the Holy Spirit in our work. We had been taught in our seminaries that if we ever got any souls saved it would be through the work of the Holy Spirit. We knew the doctrine of the Acts of the Apostles, but we were not experiencing it as we knew we should. After the Chinese Southern Army came in during the year 1928, and so much of our work showed up as “hay and stubble” most of us were willing to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God that He might exalt us in due season.”[5]

Bertha Smith tells of her struggle to overcome the sin within her. She had experienced fillings of the Spirit before coming to China, but it would been in those days in Chefoo that she would learn to allow “the Holy Spirit a chance to so control the old self that it was ineffective over [her].”[6] One missionary would confess that she had never been a “saved” Christian:

I was in the big house alone. I knelt by the bed and prayed, ‘Lord, I don’t know whether I’m saved or not but you know; I want to be right with you and with man, please show me what is wrong.’ My sins came before me like darkness, and I cried, ‘What can I do?’ Just then the burden rolled away and the Light of Salvation shone in my soul. I saw my sins and I saw the cross. Such joy flooded my being but it was only a moment before the temptation, ‘It cannot last, such joy as this,’ but then came the blessed assurance in Rom. 8 that ‘neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor-height nor depth nor any other creature should be able to separate me from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.’[7]

It took C. L. Culpepper four years to cleanse himself through prayer before he would receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. He had been afraid of the excesses and was afraid to speak in tongues and to be put out of the SBC. But in Hwanghsien, he gathered with forty Christians to pray for revival and he fell under conviction of the “sin of not being filled with the Holy Spirit” and he confessed before the people of his sin of accepting praise as a good missionary but being far from God. The prayer meeting lasted for four days and four nights with people coming under conviction and confessing their sins.[8] Toward the end of that meeting, the Chinese said, “We thought you considered yourselves above us. Now we are all one.”[9] They knew that they were no longer Chinese and Americans, but only God’s children.

            Wiley Glass was at the same meeting in Hwanghsien. He saw a the face of a man, whom he hated, come before him, who years before had insulted his first wife. After gradually coming to confess the full sin, he wept and felt the fullness of forgiveness: “When repentance washed the guilt away and the peace of forgiveness filled my soul, I knew an ecstacy [sic] of joy beyond description.”[10] The reports of Southern Baptist missionaries being filled with the Spirit must have been disturbing to the leadership back in the U.S.

            The journal of the FMB, Home and Foreign Fields, from 1932-1933 was filled with reports of the revival. In May 1932, Wiley Glass reports that in Tsinan both Mr. and Mrs. Abernathy along with several Chinese “received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.”[11] He also reports that Mary Crawford came to the front “stood up, stretching out her arms toward heaven and seemed to be transfigured. Her lips were moving, but her voice was not audible to me, for every one was praying, some in a very loud voice.”[12] I. V. Larson, from Laichow had also “had recently a remarkable experience of spiritual blessing.”[13] One missionary remarked:

I have come into the midst of revival fires in China-marvelous, wonderful, deep is the work of the Holy Spirit here. Oh, that the fire might fall amongst Southern Baptists of America! I came up to Hwanghsien from Tsining for a few days and I have never seen a place so transformed. The first delightful thing I noticed was the warmth and genuineness of the cordial welcome of the Chinese. They seem to have had a baptism of love that flows out of their very countenances. The spirit of worship and praise and reverence in the church service Sunday surpassed anything I saw or felt in America.[14]

These reports from the North China Mission garnered suspicion from the board leadership in Richmond that the missionaries had indulged in Pentecostal excess.

In 1935, the Executive Secretary of the Foreign Mission Board, Charles E. Maddry, visited the North China Mission and came back with glowing reports. His main points defended the validity of the work by the missionaries: “First. A good foundation for Christ’s church has been laid …; Second. Our missionaries who are building on this foundation today are worthy, devoted and sacrificial …; Third. The superstructure they are building is glorious …; Fourth. The material for present and future building is superior and unlimited.”[15] He directly defended the North China Mission when said that “in the great revival that has swept through North and Interior China, there have been some excesses and hysteria, but it is rapidly passing today. Our missionaries have their feet on the solid rock of Christ Jesus and they are building gloriously on the foundation laid so deep and strong by those heroes and martyrs who preceded them.”[16] He concludes:

A glorious revival is sweeping Northern and Interior China, such as we have not seen in America in a hundred years. We have seen it and felt its power. It is a revival of fire and burning. Sin is being burned out of broken lives and men and women are being absolutely made over. The power of Christ has come to grips with the power of Satan and it is a fearful conflict. Satan has held sway and dominion over China for unnumbered and weary centuries. His kingdom is suddenly being challenged and broken by the power of a risen and enthroned Christ.[17]

Unmistakably, the missionaries and the mission board recognized that the revival in Shantung was of a different sort of Christianity than they had every experienced. The missionaries reported new experiences of the filling of the Spirit; then the Executive Secretary visited, already suspicious of the excesses, and came out impressively in favor of the movement. Following his trip to the Orient, Maddry pledged to send seventy new missionaries to China to fill in the gaps left from years of retrenchment,[18] but succeeded in sending only fourteen by 1937. Nonetheless, his enthusiasm for China in light of other burgeoning fields worldwide demonstrated his affection for the revival.


[1]Smith, Go Home and Tell, 36.

[2]Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, 13.

[3]She testifies concerning the occasion, “Had I refused to confess that sin, and joined in the prayer with it covered, I believe that I would have hindered the prayer of the others, and the eye could not have been healed.” Smith, Go Home and Tell, 39.

[4]This event was recalled in detail by both C. L. Culpepper and Bertha Smith. Interestingly, in her autobiography of the revival, Marie Monsen focuses on the reconciliation between the Chinese cooks. The healing was not an insignificant event, but to Monsen, it had much more significance for the Southern Baptist missionaries than reconciliation would have on the revival. “That [referring to the reconciliation] was the first small beginning of a revival which, a few years later, grew into the largest revival any one mission in China experienced.” Marie Monsen, The Awakening: Revival in China 1927-1937, trans. by Joy Guinness (London: China Inland Mission, 1961), 55.

[5]Crawford, The Shantung Revival, 2-3.

[6]Smith, How the Spirit Filled My Life, 32.

[7]Crawford, The Shantung Revival, 6. Original emphasis.

[8]C. L. Culpepper, “The Shantung Revival.” Audio recording (1966). Available at < www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/visit.php?lid=652 >. Accessed May 21, 2007.

[9]Cauthen, Higher Ground, 152.

[10]Ibid.

[11] W. B. Gloss [sic], “A Remarkable Revival Movement in Shantung.” HFF 16, no. 5 (May 1932): 15-16.

[12]Ibid.

[13]Ibid.

[14]Martha Linda Franks, “Revival Fires,” HFF 16, no. 7 (July 1932): 31.

[15]Charles E. Maddry, “A Day of Good Tidings,” HFF 19, no. 10 (Oct 1935): 1, 6. Emphasis original.

[16]Ibid., 6.

[17]Ibid.

[18]Maddry, “Shuck Memorial Missionaries,” HFF 19, no. 11 (Nov 1935): 19.

The Shandong Revival–Influences and Factors

  Revival Among the Chinese

            The missionaries found that their lives had been changed and their ministries were increasingly effective in spite of the hard conditions of the time. C. L. Culpepper said that in 1927, the situation was so bleak that many wanted to give up, but they decided that they should pray. And pray they did for four years.[1] By 1937, as a result of the revival, Bertha Smith reports that membership of the churches increased tenfold.[2] The seminary in Hwanghsien, which in 1927 had only four students, had twenty-five during the first year of the revival and over one hundred by 1937. In the hospitals, the native doctors and nurses began going beyond physical service to spiritual service. N. A Bryan reported that “one of the greatest blessings is the spreading of the gospel through the hospital. We have one evangelist and two Bible women who spend their time preaching and instructing the patients in the Bible. Doctors and nurses help in this work, too, as time permits. As we go about doing our daily work we seize every opportunity to witness for Jesus and to try to point these people to the Lord, and many are brought to accept Jesus as their Saviour.”[3] Not to minimize the influence of these mission-sponsored institutions, the greatest impact of the revival was on the native church.

            Jonathan Chao argued that one of the main instigators of the Anti-Christian Movement between 1919 and 1927 was the lack of an indigenous Christianity.[4] With the Shantung Revival, Chinese laity and clergy were invigorated to take active roles in the governance, support and propagation of the church. Students from the seminary formed preaching bands and went out to the villages on Saturdays and Sundays.[5] In Tsinan, John Abernathy reported that the church had become self-supporting. They dedicated two new church buildings purchased by local believers. The mission’s gospel tent, which had not been used by the missionaries because of lack of funds, was employed by Chinese evangelistic bands at their own expense. Abernathy said that, “in some of the churches it seems nearly every member is a preacher and the Lord is graciously blessing them in this work.”[6] Mary Crawford found that some of the stations run by the native association, prior to 1932, were almost closed, but with the revival several thriving churches emerged. One of the chapels had been built with the money of a man who sold his own coffin after receiving healing.[7] In other churches, Christians would make restitution for monies stolen or tithes held back from the church, and as these monies came in, they found they were able to support the church themselves.[8]

The Chinese demonstrated the same spirit of confession as the missionaries. One husband humbled himself before his wife and she became interested in learning more about a Jesus who could get her husband to confess his sins, because, as she said, “I have a lot of sins myself.”[9] Another man, Dr. Chao Dei-San, was educated in mission schools, but confessed his prodigal ways. He had taken a concubine, but put her away by providing for her needs financially. He then decided to go “from city to city, where I have lived, confessing my sins and trying to get right with the people whom I have wronged, exhort all to repent of their sins and believe the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”[10] Pearl Caldwell reports that at their own discretion, as whole families became Christians, “in many places there has been a ‘great burning’ as people have brought out the gods made with their own hands and burned them.”[11]

            Another important aspect of the revival was the renewed reverence for the Bible among the Chinese. In 1935, Pearl Caldwell related that with Christianity came Bible reading. The illiterate masses of women were given access to reading the Bible. She stated that “Bible reading has received great impetus since the beginning of the Shantung Revival four years ago.” In Shantung, more Bibles were bought there in 1934 than in any other province, and the cities of Pingtu and Hwanghsien saw more Bibles purchased than in any other cities in China.[12] Mrs. Liang was a faithful Biblewoman in Hwanghsien who led her father-in-law, who had opposed Christianity, to become a Christian by leaving dozens of Bibles in her home where he could read them in his spare time.[13] One convert went from scoffer to Bible reader-in a matter of days he had read the whole Bible through.[14] One of the abiding results of the revival would be the reverence of the Bible among the Chinese Christians.

Summary of Factors Contributing to the Revival

            There are at least five other factors that contributed to the revival-loss of face by missionaries and by Chinese, increased role of women, indigenous leadership, freedom of emotion, and miraculous healings. In Chinese culture, shame was a powerful force of control and stability in society. For decades, through unequal treaties and paternalistic methodology, missionaries had kept native Christians in a subversive position. Whereas foreign missionaries probably rarely faced the shame that native Christians faced, they often were viewed as the source of shame toward the Chinese. By the missionaries’ public confession of sin, including their sin toward the Chinese, they lost face before their Chinese brethren in the best way possible. That gave them a sense of freedom and equality that they had lacked socially and politically. The Chinese in turn found the courage to lose face before those they had wronged and the credibility of Christianity skyrocketed.

However, women in general were looked down upon in Chinese culture. Marie Monsen relates that the term for woman was literally “home-keeper” in Chinese. As such, women rarely left the home, until the socio-political unrest caused by constant war, famine, and floods.[15] As women became more readily seen, the opportunity for missionaries to reach women increased. The role of the Bible woman in the church also served a key function in raising the status of women. Whereas prior to the Shantung Revival, women were rarely seen in churches, the revival brought a whole influx of women and families. This is a key event since idol worship in the home was probably carried on by the women.

The impact of indigenous leadership cannot be underemphasized. Due to missionary retrenchment and cutting of funds, the North China Mission was forced to rely on the national leadership to carry on the work. By no means did the missionaries reduce their own workload, but it was impossible for the few missionaries to make the impact that the revival had made. One pastor in Pingtu is said to have baptized five thousand people. Another native served as a missionary to Manchuria which began to see revival during this time as well. Obviously, the church was being prepared for the absence of missionaries during the Second World War and for their prolonged absence from 1949 through 1995 when missionaries would return to Qingdao (Tsingtao) and Jinan (Tsinan), long after the generation alive during the revival would be dead.

Overall, revivalism in China was characterized by emotionalism.[16] Though this may have been the case throughout China, and even though emotional outbursts occurred regularly in Shantung, this is not a valid indictment of the work. Even though one revival historian labels Marie Monsen as a Pentecostal,[17] but the Southern Baptists defend the revival as being quiet and orderly. One missionary admits being accused of opposing the revival because he warned his students of excess in revival.[18] Even so, both Mary Crawford and C. L. Culpepper unashamedly report the emotion and joy that many experienced during the revival. Though the Baptists were wary of the excesses, the sensationally long prayers, the amazing piety and joy of the believers, and the stories of healing would be attractive to non-Christians. Certainly, many were attracted to the meetings out of curiosity. Nonetheless, the joyful release of the burden of guilt provided an outlet of emotion that the hard life in China of those days could not provide.

Furthermore, the reports of healings could be physically verified. One lady was healed after 28 years of being unable to walk.[19] Others recovered miraculously from their deathbeds. The amazing stories, that were able to be verified by many witnesses, aided the integrity of the Chinese church and of the revival as a whole.


[1]Culpepper, “The Shantung Revival,” audio recording.[2]Smith, How the Spirit Filled My Life, 32.

[3]N. A. Bryan, “Warren Memorial Hospital’s Service to Missions,” HFF 19, no. 5 (May 1935): 8.

[4]See Jonathan T’ien-en Chao, “The Chinese Indigenous Church Movement, 1919-1927: A Protestant Response to the Anti-Christian Movements in Modern China.” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1986).

[5]Culpepper, “The Best Year,” HFF 17, no. 10 (Oct 1933): 28.

[6]John A. Abernathy, “The Best Year,” HFF 17, no. 3 (Mar 1933): 30. See also this story on the preaching during the revival. One powerful preacher, Tsang Tie’n Pao, asked, “This Christ, are you his servant, or are you his bond-slave?” Pearl Todd related that Tsang Tie’n Pao had been raised in the mission schools, but later he turned toward modernism and socialism. His mother never gave up praying for him until he said, “I, Tsang Tie’n Pao, am the bond-slave of Jesus Christ.” Pearl Todd, “A Bond Slave of Jesus Christ,” HFF 17, no. 12 (Dec 1933): 14.

[7]Crawford, The Shantung Revival, 85.

[8]Ibid., 37.

[9]Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, 39.

[10]John W. Lowe, “Chinese Prodigal Returns,” HFF 18, no. 3 (Mar 1934): 9.

[11]Pearl Caldwell, “The Gospel Truimphing,” HFF 17, no. 5 (May 1933): 27.

[12]Pearl Caldwell, “The Entrance of God’s Word Giveth Light,” HFF 19, no. 11 (Nov 1935): 3.

[13]Doris Knight, “A Steward of the Word,” HFF 17, no. 11 (Nov 1933): 11.

[14]Crawford, The Shantung Revival, 60.

[15]Pearl Buck’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Good Earth, is an excellent description of the plight of post-Imperial Chinese peasants.

[16]Bays, “Revival in China,” 161ff.

[17]Ibid., 173.

[18]Cauthen, Higher Ground, 153.

[19]Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, 33.

The Shandong Revival–Historical Context of the North China Mission

              Founded at the end of 1860 by the Holmes and Hartwell families, the North China Mission faced obstacles from the beginning. Within a year, Mr. Holmes lost his life as a martyr for the mission. In 1863, the notorious T. P. Crawford and his more amicable wife arrived, only for Mr. Crawford to split the mission in 1892. Soon, though, there would be nineteen missionaries in the province. Positively, the infamous Lottie Moon served in Pingtu for forty years until her death in 1912. Though several of the missionaries coming to Shantung would be characterized by their longevity on the field, they felt constantly undermanned and under-funded.[1]

The advent of the twentieth century saw the growth of medical missions in north China. The hospital (to be named the Warren Memorial Hospital) in Hwanghsien was opened by Dr. T. W. Ayers in 1903. Jessie L. Pettigrew (to become Mrs. Wiley B. Glass) was the first nurse appointed by the her mission board in 1902. The work of the hospital had the potential as a gospel-medium, but easily degenerated into an end of itself.

By 1904, the seminary in Hwanghsien had been opened, yet it would have only four students in 1930.[2] From the beginning, missionaries busied themselves in opening schools-primary, middle, high, and even a university. However, following the Boxer Uprising and the Nationalist/Republican controversies, the government became increasingly jealous of mission schools. In the 1920s, anti-imperial laws were passed to limit mission schools from giving religious education and forcing them to register.[3] Generally, Baptists refused to register; they saw their schools primarily as mediums for the gospel.[4] However, the rift in society was evident. Students, communist or nationalist, became restless and preached their anti-foreign propaganda in spite of their mission-school educations. Unfortunately, Southern Baptists did not see the pressing danger of the political tides in China, as A. W. Yocum observes: “We who have lived among and worked with the youth of China during these years of transition from a monarchial to republican form of government, have keenly sympathized with them in their natural desire for, and lawful efforts to secure political autonomy and equality.”[5] However noble and necessary the efforts of China in securing freedom from foreign oppression, such optimism among missionaries naively underestimated the nationalistic pride inherent in the movements. Thus, the promising work of Southern Baptists in North China gained mixed results.

From 1925 till 1934, no new missionaries were appointed to the North China Mission. The financial situation of the North China Mission suffered due to the overly ambitious planning of the mission board during the Seventy-Five Million Campaign. When the funds received greatly fell short of the funds needed, projects on the field suffered or were closed completely.[6] Following the campaign, the great depression in America further squeezed the funds for missionaries all over the world.[7] Furthermore, in 1927, the missionaries sensed the lack of spiritual depth or concern among Chinese Christians. As they began to pray for revival, they found the problem lay within. At least one of the missionaries would later admit not being “born again” when they came to the field. C. L. Culpepper reported that twenty-four of the missionaries had not been “filled with the Holy Spirit” before appointment, including himself.[8] The lack of “real spiritual power” was evident.[9] More than one missionary would admit that instead of leading the Chinese to Christ, they had led them to Christianity: “We had to admit that we often only had deceived people and caused the pastor to be guilty of the sin of burying people alive, since they had never entered into Christ’s death and had his death charged to them.”[10] As the missionaries met to pray for revival, they were convicted of their own ineptitude:

The gracious Lord knew that we met the first day of every month and prayed for six hours: “Lord, revive the church members of North China.” He listened and answered in the only way that he could. Missionaries had to see themselves as dedicated selves working hard for the Lord because they loved him. Seeing our failure made us heartsick. We not only were shown our failure in work, but our lack of being holy. There was no conviction for lack of work. We had evermore put in time, some of us fifteen hours a day. But the Holy Spirit revealed sin even in our work, showing pride in the number of the ones we led to make “decisions” and prepared for baptism.[11]

Evidently, the cause of the movement in north China could not have been located in the Chinese culture nor in the missionaries’ efforts. Something greater than natural explanations would have to overcome the suspicions of the populace and the pride of the foreigners. Were the missionaries offering heavenly release from the hardships of life in 1930s Shantung? Had the nationals seen something in western wealth and power? It is unlikely that the answer to either of these questions would favor the missionary or Christianity. The Anti-Christian Movement was in full swing; by the missionaries’ attestation, at least seventy churches in the North China Mission were dead,[12] others refused entry to the missionaries. In 1927, the school led by Wiley Glass suffered a devastating rebellion among the students and teachers.[13] The situation was very bleak, but, very soon, something would change.


[1]See J. Winston Crawley, “East Asia” in Baker J. Cauthen et al, Advance: A History of Southern Baptist Foreign Missions (Nashville: Broadman, 1970), 79-94.[2]C. L. Culpepper, The Shantung Revival (Dallas: Crescendo, 1971), 31.

[3]Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1929), 758.

[4] Eloise Glass Cauthen, Higher Ground: Biography of Wiley B. Glass Missionary to China. (Nashville: Broadman, 1978), 143.

[5]A. W. Yocum, “The Church of Tomorrow in China,” Home and Foreign Fields [HFF] 16, no. 1 (Jan 1932): 4.

[6]Ibid., 140.

[7]See HFF 18, no 12 (December 1934). The board reported receiving in 1933 only $671,610.20 compared to $2,272,197.96 in 1926. The progress of missionaries in light of these shortfalls is staggering. Bertha Smith, and others, raised their own support to return to China after coming to the States for scheduled furloughs. See Bertha Smith, Go Home and Tell, with an introduction by Lewis A. Drummond. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 63-73.

[8]Culpepper, The Shantung Revival, 17.

[9]Crawley, “East Asia,” 93.

[10]Bertha Smith, How the Spirit Filled My Life (Nashville: Broadman, 1973), 30.

[11]Ibid., 29-30.

[12]Mary K. Crawford, The Shantung Revival. (Shanghai: The China Baptist Publication Society, 1933; reprint, Shreveport, LA: E. J. Dedman, n.d.), 39.

[13]Cauthen, Higher Ground, 141-6.