Church Planting in History: Hudson Taylor

Because Every Nation Ministries is all about reaching the world for Christ and enabling world-changers, we’re featuring an inspiring missionary story on our blog each month. This month, we’re looking at Hudson Taylor, an extraordinary missionary who worked at planting churches in China LONG before it was cool.

“All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.”

– Hudson Taylor

Hudson Taylor’s Call to Church Planting

The British-born son of a Methodist preacher, Hudson Taylor exhibited an early gift for languages, a zeal for helping the poor and a profound interest in bringing the Bible’s message to others. At just 21 years old, he made the decision to pursue planting a church in faraway China rather than finishing his medical degree in London.

Devout Missionary

A true polyglot, Taylor had studied several languages as a student, including Mandarin Chinese. This facility for languages helped him immensely, but it was not enough to gain the trust of the Chinese people. After his efforts were poorly received in Shanghai, he made the decision to dress as the native Chinese did, adopting their traditional hairstyle and dress. It was his belief that he could gain the trust of the local people if the attention was not on his appearance, but on his message. He believed that blending in with Chinese culture was an integral part of planting a church. His instincts were correct, and he began to distribute thousands of tracts around Shanghai to willing listeners.

Perseverance Through Tragedy

A double tragedy struck when a fire destroyed most of the medical equipment he had brought to China and he was robbed of his possessions while traveling. Undaunted, Hudson continued his work. In 1858, he married the daughter of a fellow missionary and they added a daughter to the two orphaned Chinese boys for whom they were caring.

Ill health caused Taylor to return to England with his family. Even in poor health, he could not slow down his missionary efforts. He spent his time in London preaching of the necessity of planting churches in places like China. It was his feeling that world missions were the most effective way to follow the Bible’s mandate to spread the Gospel message across the Earth. He began to organize missionary trips for those interested in church planting. At this time, he founded the China Inland Mission, whose ecumenical goal was to minister to the physical and spiritual needs of the Chinese people.

Returning to China

With newfound vigor, Taylor returned to China. This time he did not come alone, but was accompanied by a large group of devout followers whose passionate goal was the kind of church planting that incorporated a distinct respect for Chinese culture and traditions. Despite the missions being ransacked, the rise of the Boxer Rebellion, poor health and the tragic death of Taylor’s daughter, he did not falter in his missionary efforts. In 1900, at the age of 73 and after long years of service, he died suddenly in his beloved China.

Hudson Taylor’s Church Planting Legacy

Today, Taylor remains one of the foremost pioneers of planting churches and world missions. He is remembered for his dedication to China and his willingness to live, dress and speak as the Chinese people did. His mastery of the Ningbo dialect of Chinese in particular was so complete that he assisted in a translation of the New Testament into that language. After his death, his China Inland Mission was known as the largest missionary institution in the world. Taylor was integral in developing the template by which future missionary trips would be built and his efforts directly changed the lives of thousands of Chinese people.

Get Involved in Church Planting with Every Nation Ministry!

There are many great women and men of the Faith who have inspired others to follow in their footsteps, just as Hudson Taylor encouraged others to assist with the China Inland Mission. If you feel called to get involved with planting churches with Every Nation Ministry, contact us and we’ll provide you with training and opportunity!


Image of Hudson Taylor courtesy of OMF International (formerly the China Inland Mission).

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