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In his last public appearance, Methodist layman John Mott said, “While life lasts, I am an evangelist.” The man who did as much as anyone to evangelize the world and unite divided denominations, died on this day, January 31, 1955, in Orlando, Florida. He was eighty-nine years old. Death was a place to change trains, he had told a reporter some years earlier. A few days before his death, he sent a message to the World Council of Churches. “Old things are passing away. All things may become new. Not by magic, nor by wishful thinking, but by self-sacrifice and the will to bring them about in the name of Jesus Christ.”
His own life epitomized the will to bring about new things in the name of Jesus Christ. Sixty-nine years earlier, on January 14, 1886, twenty-year-old John Mott had walked late into a meeting at Cornell University and heard C. T. Studd say, “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not. Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”
John couldn’t sleep all that night and hunted up Studd for a private talk. That encounter changed his life–and the world. Mott was to demonstrate a living faith in Christ and became a notable evangelist, a YMCA leader, and a co-founder of the Student Volunteer Mission. He labored to pull all Christians together to win the world for Christ in his generation.
Indeed, in 1900 he published a book that became a challenge for the young men and women of his day. It was titled The Evangelization of the World in This Generation. John showed first of all what he meant by evangelization–letting the whole world hear the news about Christ. He demonstrated from the Scripture that God expected no less. Admitting that there were serious difficulties, he nonetheless insisted that the job could be done. He reminded his readers what Christians in the earliest days of the church had accomplished and showed striking examples from more recent times. Given modern technology, even more, could be accomplished in our day, he assured them.
His influence was enormous. It is impossible to say how many people he inspired to go into missions. He was a major force in the ecumenical (church cooperation) movement. In 1910, he helped organize a major conference in Edinburgh for the purpose of uniting Christians behind world evangelism. “…The church is confronted today, as in no preceding generation, with a literally worldwide opportunity to make Christ known,” he told the 1,200 delegates who were there as representatives of at least 160 mission boards and societies.
John became so well-known that heads of state greeted him. Even while still in his thirties, he was considered the Protestants’ leading statesman. At 81, the Nobel committee awarded him one of the highest honors given on earth–the Nobel Peace Prize.
Church historian Kenneth Latourette described John as “one of the outstanding leaders in the entire history of Christianity. He achieved what he did at an enormous expenditure of energy, personal attention to hundreds of letters, non-stop prayer, and endless work.”
- Expanded from an earlier Christian History Institute story for ChiNotes.
- Galli, Mark. “John R. Mott; Evangelist and ecumenist.” Christian History Magazine. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/ 2000/001/9.36.html
- Hopkins, C. Howard. John R. Mott 1865-1955. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979.
- Mott, John R. The Evangelization of the World in This Generation. New York: Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, 1900.
- Various internet and encyclopedia articles.
Information retrieved from Christianity.com 2022/30/1.
ALSO ON THIS DAY
828 – The relics of Gospel-writer Mark, brought from Alexandria, Egypt, for safekeeping, are landed in Venice where they are received with pomp by the Doge, Giustiniano Particiaco. Venice will adopt Mark as their patron saint.
1686 – The Waldensians were trapped and massacred—2,000 killed, 2,000 more “converted” to Catholicism, 8,000 imprisoned, half of whom soon died of starvation and sickness. This was all done by an edict issued by Louis XIV.
1939 – Josiah Mtekateka is ordained as a deacon. He overcame racism to become the first black African bishop of the Anglican Church in Malawi.
1990 – After forty years in Chinese labor camps, ninety-year-old Catholic priest Philip Wang Ziyang died. He was offered release in 1978 but refused because the terms of release violated his conscience.
*Information retrieved from ChristianHistoryInstitute.org and Rhemalogy.com 2022/30/1.
*Photograph in the header: The United States – Mexico Commission. Standing from left to right are w: Stephen Bonsal, Attache of the State Department and Advisor to the American Commission; American Secretary of State w: Robert Lansing; w: Eliseo Arredondo, the Mexican ambassador designate, and L.S. Rowe, the Secretary to the American Commission. Sitting from left to right are w: John Raleigh Mott of New York City; Judge George Gray of Wilmington, Delaware; Secretary of the Interior w: Franklin Knight Lane; w: Luis Cabrera Lobato, chairman of the Mexican delegation and Secretary of the Treasury of Mexico, Alberto J. Pani, President of the National Railways of Mexico; and w: Ignacio Bonillas, Minister of Communications and Public Works… The image was taken at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City on September 9, 1916