James Hudson Taylor was born in Yorkshire, England in 21 May 1832. He is most famous for his missionary work in China and establishing the China Inland Mission (now known as OMF: Overseas Missionary Fellowship). On his first visit to China, though he had arranged 18 preaching tours, he was poorly received. Even though he brought with him medical supplies and skills, he was unable to make an impact on the lives around him. Soon he discover why; he realized that the native Chinese referred to him as the “Black Devil”because of the heavy overcoat he wore.
Though his heart was in Asia, his appearance was that of a western, Englishman. He couldn’t share the gospel because he wasn’t sharing in their culture. From this point onwards, against all western missionary wisdom of the day, he decided to embrace the Chinese culture. He adopted the native Chinese clothes and queue (pigtail) with shaven forehead. This was scandalous at the time, but Hudson argued:
“Let us, in everything not sinful, become like the Chinese; that by all means, we may save some.”
This echoes the teaching of the Apostle Paul:
“To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:20-23)
What can we learn from Hudson Taylor?
Let us, in everything not sinful, become like the culture we are in; that by all means, we may save some. We need to start thinking like missionaries. We need to rid our churches of the myth that missionaries only work out in deepest, darkest Africa or in other third world countries. Mission is not exclusive to overseas, it is crucial that it is done at home, too. We are to think like missionaries in our culture. Anything that is not sinful, we should redeem for GOD’s service. Mark Driscoll states, in his book Religion Saves and Nine Other Misconceptions, “We do everything God commands. We do not do anything God forbids. Everything else we carefully and prayerfully and biblically consider.“ We need to ask ourselves, what would a missionary to my town/city look like? That’s what we are to be like.