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.

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  1. hi
    Thank you for your paper. it is very intrsting.
    But i have a problem, Shantung Mission or North China Mission in Shantung Province?

    • Nathaniel,

      Its the North China Mission of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The NCM was centered in the Shantung (Shan Dong) Province. They had stations in (in Wade-Giles spelling) Tsinan, Tsining, Laiyang/Laichowfu, Hwanghsien, Tsingtao, Pingtu, and Chefoo, also Dairen and Harbin in Manchuria.

      -Wes

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