Foreign Missions in the Brethren Church -- By: Russell D. Barnard

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 07:2 (Spring 1966)
Article: Foreign Missions in the Brethren Church
Author: Russell D. Barnard


Foreign Missions in the Brethren Church

Russell D. Barnard

Clyde K. Landrum

[Dr. Russell D. Barnard is General Secretary of the Foreign Missionary Society of The Brethren Church. Rev Clyde K. Landrum is Assistant General Secretary of the Society.]

The program of missions is the very heart of the Word of God. The challenge from God to His people to preach the Gospel to the world runs through the entire Bible. The history of The Brethren Church is the history of a people who love the Word of God and have taken their stand from the very beginning for a forthright preaching of the Word. Today the motto of The Brethren Church continues to be “The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.”

It is only logical that such a Bible-loving people would be responsive to God’s appeal to preach the Gospel to all nations. But for many years the missionary program of The Brethren Church was practically non-existent. When once the program got under way, it was carried forward with real enthusiasm. Several principles are basic to the carrying on of foreign missions in The Brethren Church.

The Principle of the Great Commission

There is no greater command in all the Word of God than that outlined in Matthew 28:19: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations…” From the beginning, The Brethren Church recognized the Word of God as the only basis of faith and practice, and yet did not seem to recognize the imperative spirit of the Great Commission! Activities in the realm of foreign missions were practically nil prior to 1900. Perhaps this was due to the fact that a considerable number of Brethren people shared one of the three following viewpoints with respect to foreign missions: (1) If God had desired that the heathen should know of the Gospel, He would have arranged for them to hear. This is much the same philosophy as that of those who tried to discourage William Carey in 1792 in his efforts to reach the people of India for Christ; (2) The Great Conunission to “Go” was fulfilled in the Pentecost experience; (3) When the United States is all evangelized, and we have Brethren churches in every area, it will be time to think of foreign missions.

Yet, as the nineteenth century drew to a close, there was a brief stirring toward foreign missions in The Brethren Church. In the year 1897 the Brethren national conference took action, approving India as a mission field:

At this conference (1897) for the first time the minutes of National Conference contain a caption of a paragraph reading “Foreign Missions,” under which there was the following resolution: “The hour is come for foreign mission...

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