Does God Need Great Heroes to Push Forward His Kingdom?


~ The following are some notes that I took from a Church History lecture given by Pastor Michael Phillips of Grace Baptist Church out in Fremont, California. The title is “Unknown Missions 64 A.D. to 311 A.D.” It really spoke to me, allaying some anxieties that I had about the future of Christianity.  I strongly recommend listening to his sermons and talks on and also – for those of you who are into Apologetics, I recommend in particular, his lectures on the relatively unknown T.T. Shields and J.Gresham Machen.

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“In the study of great missionaries there is a real danger. In fact there are two of them. One of the dangers which is never far from my own mind at least is the tendency to hero worship. We look at the lives of men like David Brainerd, William Carey …

And then a second danger which is more to the point is this. We have a tendency to look at the lives of such men and to assume that missionary work and the expansion of the church can only be carried out by such men. We look about us – we look about ourselves in our church and in our churches and frankly we don’t find any Careys. We don’t find any Livingstons. We don’t find any Brainerds … and therefore we are left somewhat despairing aren’t we?

We begin to think that the advancement of God’s Kingdom can only be carried on by such great souls as these men. Well it just aint so. … I want to impress you with a couple of very interesting facts. Facts I think at least that are undisputed.

First the greatest period of expansion in church history took place from the death of Paul, 64 AD to the legalization of Christianity in 311.  In this some 250 years therefore the church grew from a small Galileean sect to an immense Church, numbering in the 10s of millions. This is true. Unbelieving scholars would even agree with it.

But then a second fact which is equally true and far more interesting is this. During these 250 years or so between the death of Paul and Constantine’s conversion, there was not one single missionary who stands out above the others. This is interesting isn’t it?  There were no Carey’s. There were no Judson’s.  There was no John G. Paton living in that era and yet the Church grew and grew as it never had before or since.

Therefore the encouraging word is simply this. God often chooses the weak things of the world to use mightily for His glory and therefore we don’t have to wait for the raising up of these great men in order to do God’s will and to expand His Kingdom. That’s interesting isn’t it?

The greatest missionary work ever done in the history of the church was done by people just like you and me. Nobodies. People whose names are not recorded in history books. People who were not immensely learned. People who were not remarkably gifted in the acquisition of languages. Ordinary people like you and me under the blessing of God did more to expand the reach of the church than all of the Brainerds, the Careys  and Livingstons combined. That is true and its also very encouraging and more importantly its very challenging. It tells us not to sit by and wait for a new William Carey to come on the scene.  It tells us to do what we can in our own situations with a trust in God for him to bless our endeavors.”

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Grace Baptist Church in Fremont, CA
Grace Baptist Church in Fremont, CA

~ Pastor Phillips said a lot of other things which are worth listening to and thinking about. I do not want to prolong this post further but I urge you to get the audio and listen it. Yet…

One more important thing:  Pastor Phillips talks about what made the Christians back then so strong. “These Christians were very different They were marked by a holiness of life.” 

~ Basically that’s what is boils down to. God does not need to raise up a Jonathan Edwards to get the Kingdom of God to move forward.  God will simply work with ordinary nobodies who lead holy lives. We need not despair that there is no rising star on the Christian horizon or if many of the current stars are old and fading. The increase comes from God.  Let us be holy as God is holy (1 Peter 1:16).

~ Also worth reading: The God of the Ordinary by Michael Horton