Is it too late for Nevius? Taking a look at the Korean Revival–Part 1

You can see my previous posts on the Great Revival in Korea here and here. As I have researched, I have grown in my understanding and characterization of the revivals, so you will see development from my original posts. Beginning with this post is the culmination of my research for a paper on the revivals in Korea–the Wonsan Revival (1903-1907) and the Great Revival (1907-1910).

Unlike the revolution of the Bolshevik’s, Communism infected the Middle Kingdom following WWII through widespread itineration among the rural poor in China. Whereas Leninists and Marxists in Eastern Europe motivated the industrialized, urban worker, Maoists among the Chinese engaged and enabled the feudal farmer. At least 30 years before Communism would rear its ugly head in the Far East, while it was nothing more than a philosophical discussion of a materialistic dialectic in the late 19th century, a lone American Presbyterian missionary in the Shantung Province had discovered principles for empowering the Chinese masses. Unfortunately, John Nevius’s principles would fail in China due to the foreign missionaries’ love for their own long-standing traditions. Though sparks of revival would keep the Chinese church from failing, burning flames of revival in Korea showcased the great success of Christianity among Koreans. And while not the open door for foreign influence as the Middle Kingdom, the Hermit Kingdom of Korea would see this conflagration through the adoption of Nevius’s principles, even in light of severe social, political and religious persecution. The Korean Church, through the Nevius Method, began as self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating. Even as the torch was passed from missionary to national, these principles remained central to the makeup of the church. The revivals in Korea built on this three-self foundation to grow an indigenous Korean Christianity. Part of this growth resulted in the cross-cultural mission of the Korean church before introduction of Christianity saw its thirtieth anniversary. Therefore, the cross-cultural mission of the Korean Church was indebted to the principles of John Nevius. Korea, fifty years later, exploded with church growth, as the number of Korean missionaries and missions giving rivaled Western agencies. The continuing growth and missions participation of the Korean Christianity directly relates to the adoption of the Nevius Method by Western missionaries (and the Korean Church) and the ensuing revivals from 1903-1910.

The purpose of these posts will be to reflect upon the influences leading up to the Korean revivals, to investigate the events of the revivals impacting both Korean and foreign missionary, and the trace the implications of the revivals for missions in the Far East.


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