Revival Testimony: A Chinese Prisoner Set Free

The following is a transcription of a handwritten document that gives the testimony of a Chinese believer in the Shandong Province of China in the 1930s. This was preserved as part of miscellaneous missionary correspondence of the North China Mission, S. B. C, in the archives of the IMB in Richmond, VA. In all likelihood this was originally written in Chinese and translated into English, though that is not certain.

Mr. Ka Chung Sheng’s Testimony

-written by Mr. Lu Shih Kiang as told to him

My native home is Chui Kwan Chen, Pingtu County, Shantung Province. My naame was Ka Yen Ch’ing. I am now twenty-five years old. Formerly I was a soldier connected with the Pingtu city yamen. Later I went home and worked on the farm. I was not only a non-Christian, but an enemy to Christianity and did all I could as an enemy of Christ. My sister, Wen Kuei Lan, was a member of Ma Chang church. When she came home after joining the church, she plead with me to believe on Jesus also. I shut her outside the gate and told her never to come into my home again.

My brother, Ka Fu T’ien, had placed a sum of money in the hands of two friends, neighbors, to keep for him. My brother died, and the money was still in their hands. My father went and asked them for it. Instead of giving it to him they murdered him by using nine strokes of a knife at his heart. They then fled for their lives.

After five years they thought it safe to return and did so. I went immediately to the head military official of the county and reported them. But the men had already been to him and bought him over. He told me that I was reporting good men. He had me handed over to the head county official who sentenced me for five years imprisonment. This big, proud me found myself bereft of all freedom now. They put very heavy chains on my legs. It all made me angry enough to die, as I realized my position: my money was gone, that was in the hands of my enemies as quickly as a stroke of a pen; my father, though innocent, had been murdered; I had attempted to get justice and here I was imprisoned; I had to leave my mother and wife at home unprotected and with no means of support; and day after day I was in company with bandits, opium smokers and other law breakers. They more I thought of my helpless position and the injustice of it all the angrier I grew and the more I suffered mentally! I can’t express just how I felt.

I thank the Lord when the way before me was dark and I had no hope He sent my sister, Wen Kuei Lan, to me constantly to tell me of Jesus and His love and to plead with me to accept Jesus as my Savior. She also gave me a New Testament. The Lord also sent Mrs. Kia with her one day and she had me read all of the 41st Psalm and Psalm 51:5-10. After I had finished I was so impressed that I became a Christian. I burned all the non-Christian books I had with me. Afterward, the Lord led in opening the doors of Pingtu prison to the preaching of the Gospel. The men in charge wrote a letter to the church inviting the Christian leaders to go and preach to the prisoners. They went two afternoons each week. Then I began to give all my many sins to Jesus. As I realized them, I was truly born of the Holy Spirit, justified before the Father, and given the place of a son. Hallelujah, all glory to Jesus! This chief of sinners was saved!

In a few days the order came for all prisoners who had been sentenced to three years or under and who had shown signs of repentance to be released. All in for more than three years if they showed a change of heart to have their terms shortened. But I knew my God was all powerful because He had saved me. Therefore out of no hope I sought a way of escape. My sister said, “‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’ You have only to really believe and you will receive.”

The night before my freedom I prayed all night. About 4 o’clock a.m. I felt a little sleepy and was almost asleep when I heard a voice say to me,” Tomorrow you will be permitted to leave this prison.” Surely enough that morning the keeper came in and said, “Ka Yen Cheng, Congratulations! I want to drink to your health, because yours has been made a special case and you are to go free.” They heavy chains were taken off my feet then. If there had not been a gracious forgiving God who had heard my prayer, how could I have been released from prison? He not only delivered me out of “so great a death” but truly releases this prisoner from prison. His name is worthy to be praised.

The time of my imprisonment was the time when my entire family was saved. I was in prison nineteen months and ten days. As I look back over those days I feel God planned or allowed me to spend that time in prison. His purpose was to save me and my family. How I thank the Lord my family was saved. “All things work together for good” is surely true.

I was saved, no longer Ka Yen Cheng, but Ka Chung Sheng or Born Again Ka, but I had not learned by great lesson on forgiveness. I was to learn that before being released and the last month there. I learned that lesson God surely searched men’s hearts. There was a feeling, like a fire that would rise up within me that of seeking revenge on my enemies. I thank God He knew I had that in my heart and kept me another month in prison. He wanted me to know clearly that He forgives our sins even as we forgive those who sin against us. If I could not forgive He could not forgive my sins. When I thought of this, I prayed thus, “Lord, you have forgiven me. Who am I not to forgive others. Lord, forgive them for they did not know they were being led by the devil.: There fore, my first step after being released was to become reconciled to my enemies, and to plead with them and their families to accept Christ as their Savior. I will not think of the past again. If the Lord doe not remember my sins and I am at with with Him, and He has entrusted to me the Gospel of reconciliation, who am I not to become reconciled to them?

While I was yet a sinner, Jesus delivered me from the power of darkness, and hath translated me into the Kingdom of His dear Son, and is permitting me to be in the Bible Class in Pingtu City where I can learn more of Him and how to serve Him. Brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, please pray for me. Pray that I may be kept from evil and that I may “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Speaking in Tongues and the Shandong Revival

One of the recurring questions surrounding the Shandong Revival is whether or not the missionaries spoke in tongues. Historically, Southern Baptists have held that “speaking in unknown languages” was not the biblical understanding of glossolalia, and certainly that speaking in tongues was not the biblical sign for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. However, for most historians of the time period,the Shandong revival has been characterized and labeled a Pentecostal movement. By this, they mean Pentecostal in the general sense, not necessarily denominational. Critics of the revival, such as John Lowe, Foreign Mission Board missionary to Qingdao and T. L. Blalock of the Baptist China Direct Mission, felt that there was a denominational issue, that the missionaries of the North China Mission (FMB) had abandoned the historic Baptist faith and had gone Pentecostal. Lowe’s criticisms were the most acute, directly accusing certain missionaries of speaking in tongues and encouraging Pentecostalism. He felt that one missionary in particular, William Carey Newton, had been anointed as a Pentecostal successor to an itinerant Pentecostal evangelist. At the same time, the clearly Pentecostal and indigenous Spiritual Gifts Society was active and growing in the area around Qingdao and among the Presbyterians in Weixian, in particular. Lowe felt that the whole province was going that way. In addition to Newton, Lowe accused other fellow missionaries. Blalock, a Baptist receiving support directly from Southern Baptist churches and not through the FMB, also made accusations against half a dozen NCM missionaries (though most of his accusations were probably based on rumor and not experience, since many of them proved false). One NCM missionary, Bonnie Jean Ray, admitted to speaking in tongues. Perhaps other did the same; if so, they hid it well. Most missionaries denied having the experience themselves, but all of them that favored the revival were willing to tolerate it.

The Southern Baptist missionaries held a view on tongues they shared with other prominent Chinese evangelists, Wang Mingdao and John Sung. Wang Mingdao had an experience of speaking in unknown languages following his water baptism at the instigation of a Chinese Pentecostal brother. After three days of seeking the experience, he stammered a few unintelligible sounds and the group rejoiced. Wang, though, rejected that experience because he felt that his true infilling with the Spirit came days before when he first repented of his sins and subsequently was filled with joy. Wang also held some influence on the NCM. He spoke at a Summer Conference of the North China Baptist Association in 1931, and annually visited the North China Baptist Theological Seminary in Huangxian as a visiting lecturer. The great Chinese evangelist John Sung visited the province numerous times during his many itinerations across China. He encountered those he labeled as Pentecostals, which were most likely those associated with or affected by the Spiritual Gifts Society. Sung, though, was not one to mix words; he recorded in his diary numerous occasions where he denounced a missionary, a pastor, or other church leader out loud in his sermons. He disagreed that tongues was the only sign of the infilling of the Holy Spirit and he continually opposed the Pentecostals on this fact. In fact, he recognized that he was not a favorite speaker among the other Bethel Band preachers when they visited the Province. Sung reiterated that the true sign of being filled with the Spirit is love, not Pentecostal experiences. However, in 1935, John Sung was surprised that he began speaking in tongues during a time of intense prayer. What is significant is that he continued to point his Pentecostal audiences to the true Holy Spirit principle of love for one’s brother and power in witnessing.

Neither Wang Mingdao nor John Sung forbade the common practice of speaking in tongues (or unknown languages). The missionaries of the North China Mission held the same policy towards one another and towards the native church. They decided at the beginning of the revival to embrace the movement. They were able to do this because in many respects the revival began within their ranks. Some of the missionaries were converted for the first time; almost all of them recounted the experience of the filling of the Holy Spirit after times of deep, heart-wrenching prayer that precipitated in genuine conviction of sin, some committed decades before. They confessed their sins publicly, repenting of racism, hatred, pride, stealing, unrighteous anger, and they made restitution. Some missionaries returned their diplomas to their colleges and seminaries from where they graduated, others left money at the alter as repayment for past wrongs. The Bible became a new book to them. If they were biblicists in principle before, they truly became biblicist in practice after. As good biblicists, they trusted Paul; though castigating the Corinthian church for their unruly excesses, he concluded his section on the spiritual gifts by instructing them, among other things, to not forbid the speaking in tongues (1 Cor 14:39). Of the dozen or so missionaries who were asked to account of their beliefs and practice before the mission board, they almost universally referred to this passage in particular. Only one admitted to speaking in tongues, and that in a time of deep and intense prayer. The rest claimed they did not, but all explicitly said their belief was in line with Paul on this very verse.

The other missions, the American Presbyterians and the English Baptists, took different approaches to the revival and had differing results. The English Baptists completely opposed the excesses of the revival and they saw little fruit as a result. The Presbyterians tried to contain the extreme groups and they faced some splintering as a result. They experience for the most part mixed results. The Southern Baptists largely embraced the movement. They found that over time Pentecostal practices waned while the movement continued to wax. More than one missionary claimed that even through the issues with tongues and other spiritual practices, the churches generally became stronger, even more “Baptist”. They claimed this was the case because like themselves, the Chinese acquired a newfound taste for the exquisite flavors of Scripture, and these brothers and sisters found Baptistic faith and practice to be the most biblical.

This FMB still disapproved of tongues and pontificated to individuals more than once that they believed speaking in tongues would disqualify any missionary from continuing in service to the Board. Bonnie Jean Ray, Mr. and Mrs. I.V. Larson, and Mr. and Mrs. John Abernathy each appeared before trustees of the Board. They all were cleared, and all of them retired from the board several years later without any incident. Tongues may have lasted for a season, but this should not be considered the defining characteristic of the revival.

*This post has drawn from several sources, including missionary correspondence, FMB Mission Minutes, diaries, and biographical works. This is just a small introduction to a greater treatment of this subject in my forthcoming dissertation on the Shandong Revival.

For a recent treatment of Southern Baptist Policy in regard to Tongues, see Emir Caner’s white paper on this subject.

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.

An Example of Revival Unity

Though sometimes what is often termed revival is nothing less than religious enthusiasm, genuine revival is much more. The “revived” experience all facets of Christianity more deeply than they had before. Below is an example from Charles L. Culpepper, Sr.,’s account of the Shantung (Shandong) revival. Here, revival leads the missionary and local Christians into greater “gospel” unity:

One of the greatest personal blessings I received from the revival was the wonderful spirit in the worship services….The ordinances also became more meaningful. One missionary commented, “I was never so blessed in my life as when taking the Lord’s Supper with Spirit-filled Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ.”

It was not unusual to see people in tears during the observance. As one young widow told a missionary, “My eyes were streaming tears all the time. It wasn’t that I was sad or glad; it was simply that I was broken before the Lord.”*

When was the last time I had such passion and joy in the observance of the Lord’s Supper?

*Taken from The Shantung Revival: An Account of God’s Powerful Movement in the Shantung Province of China, privately published by the children of Charles Lee Culpepper, Sr. A revision of his original work published in 1971. Itself an expansion of Mary Crawford’s account of the revival published in 1934.

Bertha Smith & Keswick Theology in the Shantung Revival

The two revivalists who frequented Cowpens, SC, made a lasting impact upon the life of Bertha Smith.[1] Rev. Troy and Luther Manness had attended God’s Bible School, founded by Martin Wells Knapp in 1897 in Cincinnati. Knapp was a Methodist holiness pastor who “believed that the key to world evangelization was God’s Pentecostal power: the evidence for whether one was baptized in the Holy Spirit was her/his zeal for missions.”[2] The influence of this view of sanctification made an impression on Bertha Smith as can be seen in her summary of the Manness’s preaching:

They preached that people who are saved belong to the Lord—mind, body and soul—that we should acknowledge that fact, confess all of our sins of failing the Lord, so as to be cleansed, and then hand over ourselves and let the Holy Spirit fill us. We would then be empowered to live to please the Lord all the time. We had never heard anything like that.[3]

Bertha experienced her first “filling of the spirit” as a teenager; later she took a correspondence course at God’s Bible School. Thus, at a young age, Bertha was being steeped in a view of sanctification whose concentrate flavored the Shantung Revival. It must be noted, though, that while there are differences between Holiness and Keswick views of sanctification, particularly regarding the doctrine of perfectionism,[4] Bertha learned to reject the perfectionist doctrine from  self-reflection—“I began to discover that the sin principle in me was not removed.”[5]Once in China, she became exposed to the more purely Keswick revivalists whose influence left an indelible mark on the North China Mission.

Bertha Smith arrived in China in summer 1917. For the next three summers, she attended the North China Conferences at the Peitaiho resorts. Speakers included Ruth Paxson, Marie Monsen, R. A. Torrey, and Charles G. Trumbell, among others. Each of these, except perhaps Miss Monsen, have been squarely identified with a Keswick “victorious living” view of sanctification.[6] Norwegian scholar, Lisbeth Mikaelsson connects Miss Monsen’s spirituality to the Hauge movement in Norway.[7] Hans Nielson Hauge started a revival movement Norway emphasizing lay preaching,[8] by both male and female.[9] However, as will be seen below, one can easily discern an affinity between Monsen’s preaching and the Keswick view. Returning though, to the Summer Conferences at Peitaiho, Bertha Smith found her victory after her third conference where Trumbell and Paxson headlined the meetings. Trumbell spoke on “Christ in You, the Hope of Glory.” It was by putting into practice Trumbell’s lesson in 1920 at Peitaiho, “that the secret of victorious living [was] through faith in the crucified and risen Christ and by union with him in that death and resurrection”, which Bertha Smith claimed was “transforming.”[10] Through these life experiences, Bertha Smith developed a distinctively Keswick view of sanctification.[11]


[1] Smith, How the Holy Spirit Filled My Life (Nashville: Broadman, 1973), 12–21.

[2] Dana L. Robert, American Women in Mission: A Social History of Their Thought and Practice (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1996), 232.

[3] Smith, How the Holy Spirit, 20.

[4] For a complete survey and analysis, see Bruce Demarest, The Cross and Salvation: The Doctrine of Salvation. Foundations of Evangelical Theology Series (Wheaton: Crossway, 1997), 390–8, 406–420, 426–8.

[5] Smith, How the Holy Spirit , 25.

[6] Cf. Naselli, “Keswick Theology,” 79–133; George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture, 2d edition (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press), 72–101; Kevin Xiyi Yao, “Missionary Women and Holiness Revivals in China during the 1920s” in Gospel Bearers, Gender Barriers: Missionary Women in the Twentieth Century, ed. Dana L. Robert, American Society of Missiology Series No. 32 (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2002), 79–84.

[7] Lisbeth Mikaelsson, “Marie Monsen: Charismatic Revivalist—Feminist Fighter”, Scandinavian Journal of History 28 (2003): 121–34.

[8] Frederick Hale, “Insights from Norwegian ‘Revivalism’” in Modern Christian Revivals, ed. Edith L. Blumhofer and Randall Balmer (Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press,1993), 106–7.

[9] Mikaelsson, “Marie Monsen,” 124

[10] Bertha Smith, “Olive Bertha Smith”, article written for WMU Training School, in the Bertha Smith Collection, AR 856, Box 6, Folder 12, Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, Nashville, TN. Cf. Bertha Smith, Go Home and Tell (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995), 28–30.

[11] See also, Lewis A. Drummond, “Introduction” in Go Home and Tell, 7–8.

Glory on the Mountaintop–A Revival Report

In a newsletter dated Sept. 27, 1933, Abernathy recounts an experience from the revival.[1] That summer, they had planned a Bible Conference on Tai Shan, the sacred mountain of the province. Note: the Shantung province was the provincial home of most of Chinese traditional religions. For ten days, missionaries and Chinese “preachers, teachers, and Bible women” from Tsinan and Tsining met as “one big family” on the mountain. Dr. Lide from Hwanghsien and Miss Bertha Brevard, of the China Direct Mission, were the main speakers. Dr. Lide taught on the Holy Spirit while Miss Brevard taught on the “Victorious Life.” Each day also included dedicated times of “testimony and prayer.” He relates his experience as follows:

It was wonderful to feel the nearness or [sic] God as one after another told what wonderful things He had done for them. Some had been preaching for many years, but only in the past two or three years had they come to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour through regeneration. Some had recently been filled with the Holy Spirit and told what a great difference it had made in their lives and work. Still others who were not regular delegates had come for the sole purpose of finding Christ. Praise His Name some of them found Him and I wish you could have heard their testimony…[a man who previously contemplated suicide as a way out had accepted Christ which] made Christ more real to all of us as we heard him praise the Lord at the top of his voice, the hallelujahs echoing and reechoing up and down the valleys in the twilight that evening. Under the power of the Holy Spirit many who had been saved and filled confessed sins of having let the enemy in and how they had let Christ down, but with tears running down their faces claimed the promises and were again refilled…While we were prayed the sun went down in all its glory, the stars came out and the darkness was all around, but there was a light and glory there which was from none other than Him who on another occasion with three of His disciples was transfigured. We saw His glory, we felt His presence, and like Peter of old, were loth [sic] to leave this place.[2]


[1] Letter to Friend from John A. Abernathy, Sept 27, 1933, Tsinan, Shantung, China.

[2] Ibid.

Introducing the Abernathys, Missionaries to China

John Arch and Zenobia Jewell Leonard Abernathy

John Arch Abernathy was one of two sons born to John and Sarah Abernathy in Statesville, NC. John A., (b. 1/3/1896; d. 3/19/1973), experienced conversion after a revival meeting and was baptized at the age of 13 and ordained five years later. He left for China with the Baptist China Direct Mission on Aug 16, 1920, and served four years in Taian, China, before being appointed to the Foreign Mission Board and stationed in Tsinan, Shantung, China. He recounts that he “had some ‘besetting sins’ that bothered [him] a lot before going to China as a missionary. After a deep Spiritual experience in 1933 [his] life has been on a more even keel.” He was not married, though, when he first left for China, though he met his bride-to-be on the journey across the Pacific.

Zenobia Jewell Leonard was the first of six children for Benjamin and Amanda Leonard of Huntington, Arkansas. Going by Jewell, (b. 4/2/1894; d. 2/16/1977), she was converted at the age of 14 and like her husband, mentions coming to the mourner’s bench in church while under conviction of sin. Her church though was quarter-time and did not have a Sunday School. She developed a hunger for the word of God. Jewell also was appointed by the China Direct Mission. Both John and Jewell note that they were student volunteers for mission and had committed with China Direct. She particularly enjoyed the faith mission work, but was appointed with the FMB a few years after her marriage to John.

Both John and Jewell met for the first time on their first sailing to China. They also worked together with the same mission at Taian and were married on June 20, 1925. They were unable to have any children. Once appointed to the FMB, they served together in China until being repatriated in 1942 after being interned by the Japanese during WWII. They would later serve in Korea, where John founded the Korea Baptist Seminary.[1]

Here is an account of the Abernathys from a relative’s online archives.


[1] The following biographical information was compiled from their “Operation Baptist Biography Data Form for a Living Person” and their “Application for Appointment as a Missionary”, as well as their “Biographical Questionnaire, all found in their missionary correspondence files.

Should Missionaries Fear a Bad Economy?

In the past three years, the global recession has severely impacted the financial contributions of individuals to non-profit organizations. Also, the increased inflation in costs of living combined with the deflation in the value of currencies has made those contributions even less profitable for international organizations, such as missions agencies. Among Southern Baptists, even with large contributions to the International Mission Board, missionary forces may face major reductions. This is not the first time the international missionary force has suffered from economic downturns.

The Great Depression depleted both missions funding and missions forces in the early 1930s. The FMB of the Southern Baptist Convention was prevented from deploying new missionaries and even from returning furloughed missionaries to their stations. Dr. T. B. Ray, Corresponding Secretary, took a voluntary 16% reduction in pay, missions on the field were asked to reduce their allocations significantly. What made the matter worse for the SBC in the 1930s, compared to today, is that the SBC agencies had a combined debt of around $6.5 million (or approx. $107 million in 2010 dollars). In North China, the missionaries were forced to cut the pay of their national workers. They began to supplement the costs of the work from their own salaries. Frank H. Connely was one such missionary.

Stationed in Tsining, Shantung, China, Frank Connely had been witnessing the great Shantung Revival even during perilous economic times. In 1934, the FMB began asking their “poor missionaries” to join with other Southern Baptists in the Hundred Thousand Club. The Hundred Thousand Club was a plea by the Convention for one hundred thousand Southern Baptists to give one dollar a month above and beyond their regular tithes. Frank Connely was up to the challenge:

Letter to Miss Coleman from Frank H. Connely, Nov. 6. 1934, Tsining, Shantung, China

How can Missionaries afford to join the Hundred Thousand Club? you ask. It’s the easiest thing in the world, for we Missionaries are rich. We are not poor as some poor deluded folks at home are inclined to think. We have many advantages over some rich folks in America too. They have to worry about where to invest their money to make it safe and draw dividends. Then ofttimes their banks bust and the businesses fail and their capital and interest are gone. We Missionaries are rich, yet we have no such worries. Closing banks and failing businesses which eat up our capital and starve out our interest, are the least of our worries. We invest our capital and have a real Guarrantor that our capital won’t be lost or wasted. Who, but our Father. We are His sons and all the wealth of the world is His. We have all we want to eat and all we want to wear and all the houses we need to live in. Truly we are taken care of in every physical way and then are paid the highest interest rate on our money of any people in the world, in spiritual gifts.

Do we missionaries have to make a sacrifice in order to join the Hundred Thousand Club? By no means. Our Father has given us sufficient for this and above. It’s the easiest thing in the world, for our bank account is in His hands and thus it makes it simple to write out a check for that small sum.

So please don’t talk about poor Missionaries, but talk about a lot of Poor Christians in the churches at home. They are a lot worse off that some of the Land Poor Banks we read of at home. Praise the Lord, our assets aren’t frozen, and because of Christ’s mercy, neither are our hearts in that condition. Every need is satisfied and every check is honored by the Great President of our Bank.

Yes, Many thanks for the privilege of joining with the other 99,999 to wipe out the debts.

Most Sincerely,

Frank H. Connely

Do you live the American dream and fear losing your possessions and wealth? Then you might have a heart frozen over! Trust in God, not your possessions, then you can give all and lose all and still possess all–God Himself!

Confession of Sin–Towards Mutuality in Missions

In my studies of the Shantung Revival, I am struck by the level of unity between the Southern Baptist missionaries of the North China Mission and the Chinese nationals and their churches. What led to this unity lay in a shared spiritual experience.  This experience manifested itself in many ways, but most poignantly in conviction and subsequent confession of sins. Neither the missionaries nor the Chinese held back in confessing their sins publicly nor in making restitution. In defending the revival against charges of “heresy” and “Pentecostalism”, Frank Lide, who later founded Philippines Baptist Theological Seminary, demonstrated the depths of confession of sin and its results in a letter to the Foreign Mission Board’s Corresponding Secretary, Dr. Charles E. Maddry.

Letter to Dr. C. E. Maddry from Frank P. Lide, Nov. 21, 1933, Hwanghsien, Shantung, China

I will frankly confess that some of the manifestations of the movement were not to my liking. However, the Holy Spirit of God came over me in such deep conviction of sin, that I felt my work was ended. Nearly all the sins of my life came up and had to be confessed, some publicly, some to individuals, and all to God. I was under deep conviction for over a month, varying in intensity. The very loan I made on my insurance was to restore what I had stolen, a large part of it twenty or more years ago. My wife and I thought that we should return some of our salary to the Board, for we were utterly unworthy of its support. However, the Lord forgave us of that, because we were unable to return it. I would like to have run, but I was in a vise and I am thankful that God’s strong hand did not let me go until all was made right that needed to be made right. After that I received “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” My experience was the experience of scores of Chinese. Nearly all the missionaries here (I should say all) were brought under deep conviction of sin and had to make things right. Now the feeling between our Chinese leaders and missionaries in beautiful. It is one of deepest love and understanding. I wish you could see and feel this. It is marvelous. In 1930, when the school trouble was as its height, it seemed as though there was a 100% break between missionaries and Chinese, but the Lord has healed all that over.

I believe that the missionaries here are as loyal to the Word of God and to our faith as Baptists are anywhere in the world. Let us stand by the Word, but let us stand by all of it. The Spirit of God has worked mightily in our midst. Those who know say that the revival was similar to the one in Ireland in 1859. It certainly must have been much like the Welsh revivals under Evan Roberts. When the Spirit works in great power, the devil also works and does his best. Therefore there were some unreal manifestations. But shall we refuse the good because there are some cases where the flesh controls, and in some where evil spirits control? The majority of those who had a Bible foundation and earnestness were undoubtedly under the mighty power of God’s Spirit. I have not seen such a great work in America. My earnest belief is that many of the churches of our North China Convention have been blessed in a greater degree than most Southern Baptist Churches. As Dr. Glass said soon after the revival here, “The Chinese are finding the way within the veil, and either we will go with them or they will go on without us.”

I feel that I am no less a Baptist since the revival, but on the other hand, I am a better Baptist by the Grace of the Lord. We love our people and our Board, and I trust that you will understand that what we say we trust is said in love.

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.”

Being Filled with the Spirit in China — A Testimony of a Missionary Housewife

Letter from Ola Lane Culpepper to  Dr. C.E. Maddry, November 20, 1933, Hwanghsien, Shantung, China

Background: This letter was written in response to a resolution, on recommendation by the Far East Committee, of the Foreign Mission Board on Oct 11, 1933, to request an accounting of the revival in light of accusations made by Rev. G. L. Winstead, of Gainesboro, TN, and T.L. Blalock of the China Direct Mission (formerly of Gospel Mission) that the NCM missionaries had adopted Pentacostalism and abandoned the historic Baptist faith. Note in this response that though phenomenon appearing to be Pentecostal or like later Charismatic movements were present, the emphasis on repentance of sin, a crisis moment, and Spirit-filling following by service in evangelism and “victory over sin” are thoroughly Keswick and thus right at the center of global evangelicalism of the time.

Hwanghsien, Sung. [Shantung abbreviated?]
Nov 20 – ‘33

Dear Dr. C. E. Maddry,
Richmond, Va.,

Your letter came two days ago and I shall try to answer today. I am not sure whether Mr. Culpepper can write today or not. He had been sick several days with influenza and he got up and went to class too soon causing a relapse. He is better but still in bed and is weak of course. But he will write as soon as he is able. Our little girl Mary has typhoid fever. She has been very ill but the change for the better has come. She has been sick so much this year. In the summer she had amoebic dysentery, and I suppose her run down physical condition made her an easy prey to the typhoid. There is a great deal of it around. Dr. Bryan and Miss Wright are so good to us. My letter will be written between her calls, but I hope the content will not be too disconnected.

In reply to your letter, I’ve felt after much prayer that I can only tell you my experience, and I am asking the Lord to help me write so you can understand. Letters are so unsatisfactory. But I’ve felt from the very first letter we had from you a warmness from your heart and that you are really leaning on  the Lord. I know if I could talk with you, that you would understand.

People have some misunderstanding about the spiritual life of missionaries.  I really felt that when I surrendered to come to China that I was fully surrendered to the Lord.  I believe many people hold that view.  I found out when I got here that I needed much in a spiritual way.  I really didn’t know what I needed nor how to get it. I have heard a missionary say this, “we either grow spiritually or we go back, on the foreign field.” I’m sure that is true. Our very souls are tried by this cold, ungodly atmosphere of heathenism and the lack of the work of the Holy Spirit, like we feel it at home. But I was really very, very, much in need spiritually and when I tried to work here where, we must have much of God’s power flowing through us or we see nothing happen, then I realized how empty I had always been as a Christian.  A longing came into my heart to know my Lord better, I can’t tell you what a longing. I knew I didn’t have any victory over sin in my life. I saw the children of God’s own chosen ones giving their lives to this world and I realized I lacked as a mother the power to instill within my children the holy fear of God.  I saw that as a wife I hindered my husband by my often nagging & discontent about the little rubs of life. I talked with unsaved people about their souls & they were not saved.  I could lead meetings, organize societies, teach classes, etc. etc. but when it came to bearing the real fruit, I was fruitless and I knew it. As I said before I longed for something more & felt perfectly helpless to know how to lay hold of the Lord for it. I started reading my Bible through more rapidly than once a year as my custom had been. I knew it was full of the teaching that we are to be radiant Christians, full of praise & victory, my hunger grew for I did not have those things. I was happy when things were running smoothly & unhappy in the clouds. I started rising an hour earlier for prayer & Bible study. Oh, I just plead with the Lord to give me light.

Then Mr. Larson came. He had been re-filled with the Spirit about two months before that. I wasn’t the only hungry one here. Many had been crying to the Lord for blessing and He heard our cry. During those days, I suddenly felt led to pray that if there was anything in the way, that God would show me. Almost immediately He showed me many sins I must make right.  I had wronged a High School mate & He plainly showed me that I must write her although I knew she didn’t know what I had done. There were several things I had to do and they were severe blows to my pride. But the Lord as clearly guided me and …[damage to letter]…  anyone ever is when it came to actually looking in on my heart it nearly killed me. Oh, I knew Jesus had saved me, but He was showing me that it must be only a truly cleansed vessel that He could use.  In His strength I humbled myself, as He led. One evening after the service a few of the Chinese brothers & sisters & and few of us missionaries came here to our house to pray. When we knelt down I knew I was saved and I knew the Holy Spirit had been in my heart every day since. But I know He was not there in the fullness and I firmly believed that when I fully surrendered & trusted Him that He would rule & reign supreme in my heart. But many questions came to my mind to make me fear.  They had been there often before. But I just said, “Lord you have told us to be filled” and all these questions I surrender to You. I haven’t words to express to you what happened in my soul then.  But a joy filled me that seemed would hurt my very body. Jesus was more real to me than anyone in the room. The work of the Spirit is to glorify Jesus & I really met my Lord that night in a way I did not dream could be. This joy that filled my soul just rolled over me in waves & waves. When a great sorrow came into our home five years ago it was my very soul that was grieved but my sorrow expressed itself through my tears [referring to death of their daughter]. When this joy came into my soul it expressed itself through laughter. I had never heard a Pentecostal preach in my life. I had never heard of anyone being as happy in the Lord that he laughed. I didn’t know anyone ever had, but since then I’ve found out that scores have all thro’ the years & since then I’ve seen in the Bible “Our mouths were filled with laughter”, and Abraham laughed when God was renewing His covenant with him. I knew all that was happening, but I was utterly lost in the ocean of God’s love.  A spirit of intercession came over me as I had never known. My heart seemed melted in love to God and every person that I knew. I had been struck many times with the multiplied verses in God’s word telling us to praise Him. I did praise, partly because I wanted to and partly because I was commanded to. But that night I would have died if I couldn’t have praise Him. The praise just poured out of my heart. I felt I could never praise Him enough. I did not speak in tongues as some have. I had felt as bitter against that all my life, but the Lord had taken all the bitterness out of my heart.

The very first soul I dealt with after this I won to the Lord. I’ve seen the Spirit working through very simple words of mine as I had never seen it before. Yet I’ve not seen it anything like I want to and long to. Our home, which had always been considered a happy, congenial one, is really a little heaven now. When Charlie and I fall into the temptation of unpleasant words or attitudes we are almost immediately convicted and we go down on our knees together, realizing we have sinned against Him, and seek His forgiveness. I can’t tell you what a change has been wrought in my heart & by His grace it is being worked out in my life.

Perhaps the question comes to your mind as to whether or not we believe we have reached sinless perfection. No not at all. I know no one in our mission believes that. In fact we have only began to realize how sinful & deceitful our hearts are. Only by constantly abiding in Him am I delivered from the power of sin & I often fall. Neither do I believe I’ve had all the blessing there is for me. I believe there are undreamed of heights and depths.

My experience is similar to dozens of others here at Hwanghsien, and this is a new place spiritually. People of the C.I.M Mission, the Presbyterian missions &others have been here and they have said they never felt the Spirit more. If these experiences were of the flesh or of the Devil I don’t see how after two years we would still be seeing such a marvelous work of the Spirit in transforming lives. Isn’t that the test after all—souls saved & lives changed?

Please don’t think that I feel I’m a great power. I’m very little and I know it. I fully realize that I can do nothing, only Jesus in me can. If there are other questions you wish to ask I would be glad to try to answer them. I’ve written you this out of my heart and I am sure you realize that.

After all Charlie, with help, got his letter off first. I’ve only had a few seconds at a time & have used four days. We have wondered if Charlie has typhoid too, but Dr. Bryan thinks it is “flu”. Mary is gradually improving. Her temp. only went as high as 103 2/5° today. I praise the Lord for His continual goodness to us.

Most sincerely
Yours in Him.

Ola Lane Culpepper

P S.  I can’t feel that this is contrary to Baptist belief. I think I’m as much a Baptist as ever, and long to see Baptist work go forward.

Self-Respect: The Indispensible Prerequisite for Self-Support

Frank Lide and Theological Training in China

In January 1928, Frank P. Lide completed his dissertation for the Th.D. degree under Dr. William Owen Carver on the principle of self-government among indigenous churches in China. His dissertation is helpful for understanding part of the philosophy of mission carried out by the North China Mission in the 1930s. Lide divided his dissertation into six chapters (note: the sixth chapter is more or less a conclusion). This entry will focus on his final two major chapters, particularly the fifth, and briefly on his conclusion. In these chapters, Lide revealed his beliefs on the spiritual impetus behind indigeneity and the practical steps for getting there.

In the first chapter, Lide identified six NT principles of church leadership. In the second and into the third, Lide described the current paternalistic situation in China. In the latter half of the third chapter, he called missionaries to change their approach to native churches radically and introduced a paradigm for leadership training. Then, in the fourth chapter, he repeatedly emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit in calling out new leaders.

Indigenous leaders are divinely called by the Holy Spirit through spiritual gifting and are raised out and identified through the prayer of the saints Also, leaders arise through the influence by older, established leaders, and through the calling of churches, or being raised up through Christian homes, or even through evangelistic involvement. The first two categories emphasize the supernatural activity of God in his providence—

“A seminary class made up of men conscious of their call would be a power house of spiritual fervor. They would go out with a holy passion to serve Christ and to redeem their country. The call of the Spirit is first and foremost in the successful evangelization of any people.”[1]

The last categories show the role of involvement in mission as a determining factor in an individual’s calling—“The churches and homes must work together in character-building and in the calling out of native leadership.”[2] Thus, God raises leadership within churches, while churches must remain vigilant in prayer and leadership development.

In Lide’s final major chapter, after tracing the role of a trained leadership from the NT through church history, he argues for a four-fold “method of training”:[3]

  1. Concentrate mission education upon the Christian community
  2. Make mission education thoroughly Christian.
  3. Train select few thoroughly, in the Chinese language, in both practical and Biblical theology
  4. Autonomous Chinese-led and governed institutions.

Leading him to seek a change, Lide lamented the situation in China: “It is no wonder that a greater impact has not been made upon China with so many poorly-trained and unlettered natives attempting to represent Christ as preachers.”[4] This was by no means an indictment of the ability of the Chinese—he thoroughly believed them to be capable to excel—but rather an indictment of the missionary system that did not invest in the Chinese Christians. Rather than training solid Christian leaders, missionaries educational methods focused on civilization-building and cultivating the higher classes (thus subverting the traditional Chinese examination system and widening the gulf between upper and lower classes all at the same time). Thus, this created “a great depletion in the ranks of Christian teachers and preachers. It made it difficult to secure the best type of men for strictly Christian service…[and it] caused tuition and other expenses so to advance in price as to leave out many Christian students.”[5] Furthermore, secular education (by missionaries) was exalted over religious education.[6] He lamented, “Our Baptist missions in China must have strong seminaries, or our best men will go elsewhere.”[7] Ultimately, his concern was that “The Chinese will thus be enabled to render their own contribution to theology and Bible interpretation.”[8]

“The Chinese will thus be enabled to render their own contribution to theology and Bible interpretation.”

Finally, in the concluding chapter, Lide further argued that self-government is the primary path towards self-support and indigeneity among churches in China: “The Chinese are having the burden thrown upon them whether they want it or not. They must bear the burden in the future or it will not be borne.”[9] He also further argued that “unconditional autonomy” is as much spiritual as it is material. He knew that both missionaries and Chinese needed revival: “A movement is greatly needed to show that Christianity is a things of the spirit and does not consist in foreign real estate.”[10] This combination of the emphasis on spiritual and methodological renewal made Lide’s participation and contribution to the Shantung revival much more important. He recognized the necessity of honoring the essential role of Chinese leadership in Chinese churches in a sense of true equality—

“Self-respect, self-government, self-propagation always precede self-support…autonomy would probably take away from Christianity the epithet ‘foreign religion.’”[11]

The missionary, as a co-worker and servant to the Chinese, then and only then, can make the contribution to the Chinese church it needs. He concludes:

If the missionary is willing to “spend and be spent” for Christ among the Chinese, he will prove himself indispensable. The majority of Christians want to view it as a joint enterprise of foreign missionaries and natives. However, natives must take the lead.[12]

It is this attitude that enabled Lide, and the other North China Mission missionaries, to ride the waves of the indigenous Shantung Revival movement.


[1] Frank P. Lide, “The Training of an Efficient Native Leadership for the Christian Churches,” Th.D. dissert., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1928, 66–7.

[2] Ibid., 74.

[3] Ibid., 78. Note: Lide also discussed the relationship missions schools should have towards government intervention in theological education. His discussion is important, but it does not add anything to a “method of training.”

[4] Ibid., 84.

[5] Ibid., 86.

[6] Ibid., 88.

[7] Ibid., 98.

[8] Ibid., 102.

[9] Ibid., 112.

[10] Ibid., 115.

[11] Ibid., 118.

[12] Ibid., 122.

Theological Training–The Route Towards Ending Paternalism

Frank Lide On Ending Paternalism in China

In January 1928, Frank P. Lide completed his dissertation for the Th.D. degree under Dr. William Owen Carver on the principle of self-government among indigenous churches in China. His dissertation is helpful for understanding part of the philosophy of mission carried out by the North China Mission in the 1930s. Lide divided his dissertation into six chapters. This entry will focus on his third chapter. In this chapter, he compared the situation in China, which he had described in chapter two, with the “ideals for leadership”, which he had identified in chapter one.

In the first sub-section of chapter three, Lide decried the evils of missionary paternalism: “Too much of the missionary’s work in recent years has been dolling out cut and dried packages of truth, and advice, rather than leading the native church out on a voyage of discovery.”[1]

“Too much of the missionary’s work in recent years has been dolling out cut and dried packages of truth, and advice, rather than leading the native church out on a voyage of discovery.”

By doing so, he argued, missionaries have belittled the Chinese and not afforded them a sense of equality in the faith. Poignantly he alluded to the imperialistic attitude of the missionaries as being akin to racial prejudices exuded by whites in general.[2] These attitudes had both stunted growth and reflected a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit, as well as the Chinese: “The Chinese Christians themselves must discover for themselves what are the essentials. The Holy Spirit, who guides into all truth, is guiding them.”[3] Furthermore, paternalism has kept the Christian faith foreign and extraneous to Chinese daily life and thought:

Well-defended and secured systems of theology and church government have been carried over with negligible change. Paternalism holds its stewardship over intellectual and moral values. It is a racial trait which has been an obstacle in the way of a most effective indigenous life. It has set up unchangeable theological and ecclesiastical barriers, instead of leading out free investigation and growth. In some cases, the missionary has been slow to trust the infant church and the Holy Spirit to work out a satisfactory expression of faith…Often the missionary has challenged the native church with non-essentials, thus failing to call out their most enthusiastic backing and support.[4]

To solve these problems, Lide called the missionaries to radical change“The national Christians, guided by the Holy Spirit, must increase, while the missionary decreases.”[5] These were bold and very important statements coming from a man who would return to the mission field and lead several seminaries overseas.

Reminiscent of chapter one, Lide argues that the authority for church government, evangelism, and ministry lie solely with the local church—the local national church. Thus, in the final sub-sections of the chapter Lide argues that the church should select its own divinely called pastors. This not only empowers the pastor, it empowers the church—

“A state of mutual dependence between pastor and people is necessary for a healthful, vigorous Christian growth. Such a state of dependence gives the church members a claim upon the pastor and spurs him to put forth his best efforts.”[6]

In light of the increasing role of the local church in governing itself, he turns to the subject of preparation of ministers. The missionary then is enabled to devote his or her time to training and preparing pastors of every level and in any field for service. For Lide, this meant providing both China’s urban and rural pastors with “as high theological training as possible.”[7] The final two chapters of Lide’s dissertation dealt exclusively with theological training; these will be discussed in a later post.


[1] Frank P. Lide, “The Training of an Efficient Native Leadership for the Christian Churches,” Th.D. dissert., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1928, 46.

[2] Ibid., 47–8.

[3] Ibid., 48.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., 52.

[6] Ibid., 59.

[7] Ibid., 61–4.