Mary said, “I feel like God is calling me to teach in an international Christian school overseas.”
“That’s wonderful, Mary” you exclaimed as you turned to her husband and said, “What about you, Bob?”
Bob replied, “I don’t have a missionary call, but I’m willing to go along so that Mary can obey God’s call.”
Though such conversations commonly occur today, they would have been quite meaningless a little over two hundred years ago when William and Dorothy Carey became missionaries. During the late eighteenth century, nearly everyone interpreted the “great commission” in the final chapters of Matthew and Mark as being given to the apostles who heard it and carried it out. That command was for them alone and did not apply to anyone since then.
It was William Carey and other English Baptists who began to reinterpret these passages in the 1780s. On May 12, 1792, his radical book, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, was advertised in the Leicester Herald. In that book he asked whether or not the Great Commission was still binding, surveyed the book of Acts, presented detailed data on the state of the world relative to the gospel, and countered objections to the missionary enterprise.
That book and William Carey’s life brought about major changes in the way Christians viewed people in other countries who were not likeminded. Today people around the globe commonly talk about having a missionary call in which individuals feel they must go into another culture and tell the Good News.