Adoniram Judson lived from 1788 to 1850. He was the first missionary sent out from America on February 18, 1820, who had a call from God to go and share the Gospel with the people of Burma. There were harrowing tales of sickness, imprisonment, and death; however, there was also many moments of rejoicing, victories, and encouragement. As I reflect on God’s work in and through Adoniram and his wife Ann’s lives, I find that there are many lessons that are applicable to today’s emerging generation of missionaries and local church leaders that are going or sending people out for the first time to unreached people groups.

Follow God’s Call: Goer or Sender

It is the calling for every believer and the local church to be involved in God’s plan to go to all the people groups of the world. This was not dreamed up by adventure seekers or daredevils. It is a clear command from God’s Word that He wants His name to be proclaimed to all the “nations” (ethne – people groups). The most famous passage in scripture that everyone is familiar with is Matthew 28:20 where Jesus promises to be with us to the end of the age of the mission to make disciples of all ethnic groups.

John Piper writes, “So the duration of the mission is as long as the duration of the promise — to the end of the age. The question is: What part will you play? God does not intend for all of his people to take on the specialized calling of learning a new language and culture, and of embedding themselves in an unreached people group to make disciples and plant churches. Otherwise, when Paul wrote Romans he would have recruited them all to go with him to Spain instead of asking them to send him (Romans 15:24). There are senders and there are goers.” [1]

This important point of being senders and goers is that we are all INVOLVED. This critical point needs to be understood by every believer and every church. There are those that will go to the front lines and feel the direct heat of spiritual warfare and there will be senders that keep them encouraged and supplied for the long battle ahead.

Adnoraim was a goer. He understood the call to go through scripture, but was inspired to go to Burma specifically through a book titled An Account of an Embassy to the Kingdom of Ava, written by Micahel Symes, who was a British Army officer sent to Burma. In the biography, Christian Heros Then & Now it states, “Adoniram read all he could about Burma and the Buddhist religion. The more he read, the more convinced he became that God was calling him to be a missionary to these people. He would be the first missionary ever to leave the shores of America for a foreign land. He didn’t know how it would happen, and he didn’t know when, but he did know it would happen.” [2]

Adnoraim Judson, William Carey, and Hudson Taylor are the closest thing we have to celebrities in American Christian circles. However, little is communicated about Samuel Nott who also left with Judson to go to the Far East. Samuel Nott was a goer who became very ill in India, to the point of death. For a time, it was widely reported that he had died in India. However, 1816 returned to America and made a full recovery. He ended up becoming a pastor of a church in New York state for almost 26 years. His experiences abroad and the conviction of scripture made Samuel Nott the perfect candidate to be an excellent sender. I am sure if we dug down deep in sermon archives, if they exist, we would find that even though he wasn’t on the front lines, he was preaching to people at home to encourage each congregant to be be INVOLVED in God’s Great Commission.

Are you a goer like Judson or a sender like Nott? We need to champion both of these vital roles, and not look at one as more important than the other. Once you identify your role and your church’s role, then pursue it with excellence and anticipate that what God says in Habakuk 1:5 will come to fruition, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”

[1] D Mathis. (2015, March 1). Beautiful Feet. Retrieved from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/beautiful-feet

[2] Benge, J. & G. (2000). Christian Heroes: Then & Now Adoniram Judson Bound for Burma. Seattle, WA: YWAM Publishing.