For seventy - two years, William Carey lived a life devoted to the service of God. He was born on August 1, 1761 in his hometown of Paulerspury in a country known as Northamptionshire. It was there that William Carey was raised by his parents Edmund and Elizabeth Carey. There his father began training Carey in the Scriptures, in which played an obvious large role in his adult life and ministry. Also, while a young child, Carey became skilled in gardening. After landscaping made him sick, he got a job as a cobbler, and made his living that way until he was to leave England for India for the last forty years of his life.
Carey was one who had a love for the pastorate. He enjoyed serving God, his people, and bringing the Good News to them. As a result, Carey was ordained in 1787 and took his first pastorate job in Moulton. There he was involved in a successful ministry and served there for several years. It was here that Carey became fluent in several languages including Greek, Hebrew, and French.
From Moulton, Carey moved his family and took another pastorate job at Leicester. The church at Leicester had its problems before he arrived. Three years prior to Carey arrival, the church had already gone through three pastors. Needless to say, Carey had his hands full. In the end, Carey was able to resolve the problems within the congregation and set up an extremely successful ministry there. Eventually, the church had to expand to satisfy the growing crowds.
During this time, Carey was beginning to have a call for missions. It is reported that in his cobbler shop, Carey would be seen staring at a large map thinking about the many lost souls in the world. As time continued, Carey vocalized his desire for world missions and tried to get the ball rolling among pastors and laymen to become missionaries. Then, in 1792, Carey’s landmark book, "The Enquiry", was published and preached his famous "Deathless Sermon" describing his plan for missions and the need for it. In that sermon he exclaimed, "expect great things.
Attempt great things." (Page 32) From there, with his friends William Ward, Andrew Fuller, Samuel Pearce, and others started their plans to build the infamous Baptist Missionary Society.
It is these men, Fuller especially, that were instrumental in Carey’s missionary journey and he corresponded with them while in India.
Eventually, Carey’s efforts for missions were successful, and his society was ready to march on toward their new place of ministry. The only problem: they needed a missionary to go with them. After praying and searching, John Thomas was chosen as the one they would send.
Traveling with Thomas would be none other than William Carey, who would leave his church in Leicester, and bring his family aboard the boat with him. While on the ship, Carey was in continual debate with a man named Barnard who was a Deist. These discussions prepared him for what he would encounter in India.
John Thomas was helpful for Carey at first, beginning his training in the Bengali language. But shortly after their arrival in India, Thomas abandoned leaving Carey to begin his ministry on his own. The first couple years in India were extremely tough for the Carey’s family. They moved four times in three months and his family were becoming increasingly sick. At one point, one of their very own children had died, something that Carey’s wife, Dorothy, could never get over.
Though they were abandoned by Thomas, a man named Ram Ram Basu, who was converted under Thomas on a previous trip, became Carey’s pundit. Basu greatly helped him in those early days until he fell into adultery and was dismissed by the young missionary.
Though times where hard, and the Carey’s would struggle to survive, a man named Charles Short, who was not a believer, welcomed the missionary and his family into his house for as long as needed. While there, Carey made preparations to get his family on their own again, but after some time, Thomas returned with the opportunity they had been waiting for.
The two men where offered a job in Mudnabatty where Carey was able to get on his feet financially and begin his ministry. And he did. As time continued, and Carey became successful, more missionaries from home came to help him, and by 1797, Carey finished his translation of the New Testament into Bengali. This early translation was the beginning of one of Carey’s greatest achievements. By the end of his life, Carey was involved in translating the Bible in more than forty different languages!
Over the scope of Carey’s forty year ministry in India, Carey achieved many things. He became a great translator, school teacher and professor, church planter, and minister trainer. All of these things in which he was involved with were strategic in bringing the Gospel to the nation, and he never lost site of that.
Key Theological Issues that Shaped Carey’s Missiology
The first thing Carey debates in "The Enquiry," is the issue of whether or not the Great Commission applies to the apostles only, or if it is still applicable to the Church today Carey argues that it was a commandment to the Church even after the Apostles died. His reasoning is the fact that Jesus mentions "lo I am with you always even until the end of the age." (Matt 28:20) Why would Jesus mention this if the apostles where not going to live until "the end of the age?" In addition, Carey challenged that if only the apostles were to witness, then "should we then stop baptizing or teaching?" (page 58)
Also, Andrew Fuller’s sermon played a big role in the shaping of Carey’s mind for missiology. It was titled "The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation" and in it Fuller made six statements. First, all sinners are invited to come to Christ. Secondly, "Everyone is bound to receive what God reveals." (Page 56) Next, the Gospel requires obedience in response of faith. Fourthly, God promises hell to those who perish in their sins. Then, faithlessness is evidence of human depravity. Finally, God requires everyone to have faith and repent from their sin in order to receive God’s free love. From this sermon, Carey developed "his missionary theology." (page 57)
These things and others led the modern missionary movement. As time continued, Carey became possessed with the thought of reaching out to the unreached before more go to hell. In fact, such thoughts and desires began to surface up in his sermons. His final sermon to the church in which he pastured was from Romans 12:1-2, and what it meant to be a living sacrifice. Throughout Carey’s early ministry in England, such passages plagued him to conviction.
Five Key Elements of Carey’s Mission Strategy
In Carey’s "Enquiry," he outlines his plans and strategy for missions. To this day, "Enquiry" is used by many missionaries as they strategized their own mission trips. One of the first things Carey says a missionary must do is be able to be able to support themselves. They should own their own home, have a paying job, and provide for themselves. This he says because it relieves the necessity of relying on others, especially from those at home. This was one of the biggest speed bumps in Carey’s early ministry. After having been abandoned by Thomas, Carey struggled to provide for his own family, but in the end, God provided.
Secondly, Carey emphasizes contextualization. It is vitally important to adapt the culture in which one is ministering to because those natives will not be responsive to the Gospel otherwise.
Therefore, the missionary must learn the language and live in the culture. Though Carey
believed in contextualization, but he was not willing to water down the Gospel. Carey often times struggled with this because of the Hindu society in India practiced many sinful things that became a societal norm. For many of the converts, it was difficult to refrain from returning from those old practices, but nevertheless, Carey would not give in.
Thirdly, once one has a ministry going, they are to train local people to become pastors to lead their people. Carey does this because these native ministers can reach out to their culture in ways that the foreign missionary may not be. In addition, they would know the language and culture much better, and would be able to assist the missionary.
Next, after learning the language, it was vitally important to translate the Bible in the native tongue. To Carey, the Bible made it much easier to witness to others because the natives can read for themselves what the missionaries are teaching and preaching. Also, the Bible and the Gospel "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes." (Rom. 1:16) Carey was a excellent translator and linguist. He translated the Bible in many different languages and it played an immensely important role in his ministry.
Finally, Carey believed in setting up schools. Through schools, the church can teach people how to read so that they can read the Bible for themselves. Like all other areas, Carey flourished at this as well. By 1817 Carey was involved with the opening of 103 schools with an average of 6,703 students in each school. (page 145) Carey set up boarding schools, girl’s schools, Sunday schools, and other institutions in order to teach and evangelize to it’s students.
Critique Carey’s Strategy
A quick survey of Carey’s life shows his endless success. In forty years, Carey accomplished many things and made a great impact on getting the Gospel in India. Though his formula seemed to work, Carey had some strengths and weaknesses.
One of the biggest strengths of his strategy was that it was well thought out and planned. Carey had been working on his missiology for a long time before boarding a ship. In addition to that, Carey was not alone in planning his voyage. His friends Fuller, Ward, and Pearce helped him.
They were very careful and thought about how they could effectively reach as many people as possible, and to do this, they looked through the lens of history and compared what those missionaries strengths and weaknesses were.
Also, Carey’s plan would be successful if it were carried out appropriately. This almost didn’t happen for the young missionary whenever Thomas first abandoned him. The idea was for the two men to begin their ministry together like Paul and Barnabas, but their plans were almost wrecked when Thomas left. The only support group that Carey had was his family, but only his son Felix was initially signed up to go to India. Despite the circumstance, Carey’s plan is very plausible whenever the proper precautions and planning are taken and carried out.
Finally, the strategy proposed and used by Carey is very Biblical. This was no accident for Carey was a careful reader of the Bible and of Acts. His strategy was very much like that of Paul and the other Apostles. He would plant churches and train local ministers for the Church to stand on its own. Also, Carey contextualized much like the early Church did in Acts as the Apostles went into different cities.
Though his plan had several strengths, it also had several weaknesses. One of the biggest weaknesses it had was the stress it put on his wife and kids. Though he proclaimed that families should accompany the missionary in order to help them with the ministry, he often times forgot to take into account his family. As a result, his family often times became sick, and came close to perishing. Eventually, one would, his son Peter. Following this death, Dorothy became mentally insane and even tried to kill her husband. Things got so bad that Dorothy’s death was viewed as bitter sweet. Though Carey missed and loved his wife, she was no longer a burden on the family.
Another weakness in Carey’s strategy was the trouble with communication. After the death of Fuller, Carey’s relations with the Baptist Missionary Society began to get worse. They believed that he had lost his desire to reach lost souls, and was lusting for money. This was misfortunate for the Society helped Carey greatly, and he had very little money. Carey should have taken some of the money the Englanders had given him and had one of the missionaries in India (not Thomas who returned later to England) report personally to the society and tell how the money is being spent and update them on what is going on.
Finally, the Society were too quick in choosing who would go to India with Carey. They chose a man, Thomas, who was already questionable, and for good reason. As a result, Thomas abandoned him, and took the money given to them for his own selfish lusts. Although the Society did pray for God to provide for them a missionary to assist them, they were quick to assume that the first one that came along was the right one. However, Thomas was a helpful asset to the cause when he was involved.
There are several lessons to be learned from William Carey. First, Carey never stopped evangelizing. Carey had a lot of responsibility and a large ministry, but during the whole time he never lost sight of his whole mission: to win souls. Also, everything he did and attempted was to further the Gospel.
Secondly, William Carey fully trusted in God in everything he did. This is especially evident at the beginning of his trip. Thomas had abandoned the cause, their money was gone, no one was coming to Christ, and they had no food to eat or a place to stay. It appeared to Carey and his family that God had abandoned them, but Carey never gave up hope in God. And in the end, God blessed his ministry immensely. We learn that although it appears that all of the doors are closed, God is opening another, if we patiently wait on Him.
Finally, Carey clearly believed in the power of the Bible. He never changed the message, and always used the Bible as his source for truth and for help. His strategy and ministry was based solely on the Scripture. He developed an intense daily Bible reading time everyday that involved reading Scripture in different languages, and it helped him in his preaching, teaching, and witnessing. Carey teaches us that the Bible is to be the center of our ministry and we are to never abandon it.