“Take heed that you not be deceived." Luke 21:8

Student Volunteer Movement


Notes and links from Susan Conway


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Over the past 5 months, as I have continued my study and gone down what might seem like "rabbit trails," one of those trails has been going toward a study of the Student Volunteer Movement. This turns out to be quite significant.

I know that in past years I have heard it referred to. In studying such things as AD2000 and Beyond, the DAWN Movement, the Perspectives Course, and now in more detail the U S Center for World Mission, the SVM has repeatedly come up.

Last weekend I was looking through a biography of Robert E. Speer, one of the movement's early leaders. He was having discussions with John R. Mott (another leader) and John D Rockefeller ( not sure yet which one, the time was in the early 1930s) with requests for money to fund projects.

The USCWM, the Lausanne Movement, Urbana Conference, etc. seem to showcase the SVM and seek to use it to motivate students to mold their lives after it. I am sure the strengths of the SVM resulted in people coming to Christ. But there were weaknesses. Some of these weakness are referred to in the following excerpt. These are the weaknesses of the Church Growth Movement, which may be built on similar foundations. Donald McGavran, Ralph Winter, C. Peter Wagner, David Howard, Elisabeth Eliott, Bill Bright, Billy Graham, Charles Fuller, Henrietta Mears, and on and on would have known about and been influenced by memories of the SVM.

As I go back to relook at some of the books related to the SVM, I will look more closely.

During my research I first noticed a longing for "revival" by those who had experienced "revivals" in their college days in the 1940s and 1950s. Now I can see a link to a desire for a repeat SVM. Sometimes it seems that there is an underlying sense that "the end justifies the means." Oh, to recreate such a movement today...and call it the World Christian Movement...

Yesterday I relooked at <Thy Will Be Done, The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller in the Age of Oil> by Gerald Colby with Charlotte Dennett. What a need there is to walk oh so wisely where money and power and influence can so easily bring blindness, or greed, or corruption. Trust must truly be placed in the God of the Bible and in His son Jesus Christ.

With great gratitude to God for sending His Son who is worthy of all trust,




Origins and Consolidation' 1886-1891

"The social and religious milieu of the late nineteenth century was favorable in nearly all ways for the birth and growth of a movement such as the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions. It was a time of dominance and prestige for Western civilization. Imperialistic expansion was condoned as an altruistic response to increased knowledge of the non-Western world. The rising nationalism of the era provided important motivation for the foreign missionary enterprise, for the success of American civilization was attributed to its Christian basis. Protestant foreign missionaries were heroes and heroines for the American public; and, as Robert Handy has noted, 'Though they strove as Christians to keep the priority on spiritual religion and to be aware of the difference between faith and culture, it was not difficult in the spirit of those times to lose the distinction and to see Christian civilization as a main outcome of faith, if not its chief outcome." (Robert T. Handy, A Christian America; Protestant Hopes and Historical Realities, p. 140.)

"Historian of Christianity Kenneth Scott Latourette's comment that 'one of the distinctive tokens of the Christianity and especially of the Protestantism of the United States was the fashion in which it conformed to the ethos of the country,' (Kenneth Scott Latourette quoted in Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, pp. 858-859.) was surely borne out in the early days of the Student Volunteer Movement. The spirit of pre-War American culture was one of expansionism and activism with an orientation toward business and enterprise. The extensive financial records and correspondence of the Volunteer Movement illustrate a congruence in style between business enterprise and the missions enterprise. American culture's shift toward scientific positivism during this era was reflected in the Student Volunteer Movement's emphasis on elaborate statistical evidence of its work."



This report is similar to most that I have read, or heard referred to, in the past. The Yale report may be more thorough than needed but presents a less "idealistic" view.





The SVM left its mark on Korea a century ago. One of the first to sign ``the pledge'' or as Wilder called it, ``the covenant'' was Samuel Moffett. In 1889, Samuel Moffett was the first of the student volunteers to sail for Korea. In 1893 he moved to Pyeng Yang which is now in North Korea. He was founder of the Pyeng Yang Church and her shepherd for 17 years. To the Koreans he was known as ``sun-che-cha'' (prophet). The years of Korean pioneering were difficult, but American students were in constant prayer and hundreds prepared and went to Korea.



Home > Christian History > Heroes & Leaders

Christian History, Winter 2000

John R. Mott

Evangelist and ecumenist

Mark Galli

As John Mott stood before the now famous 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference, he said, "It is a startling and solemnizing fact that even as late as the twentieth century, the Great Command of Jesus Christ to carry the Gospel to all mankind is still so largely unfulfilled.. The church is confronted today, as in no preceding generation, with a literally worldwide opportunity to make Christ known."

It was evangelistic passion that made Mott his generation's most popular evangelist to university students and the promoter of the emerging ecumenical movement. ......................................
1948 Named honorary chairman of the first meeting of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam


The orientation of the crusaders toward lay participation, non-denominationalism, the urgency of the evangelistic task probably accounts for the simplification of their theology and, related to this, their commitment to a psychology of effort and challenge.

The theology of Taylor and Moody, despite some variations, was the minimum characteristic of the Anglo-American revivalism of the preceding century: the one thing needful is salvation or conversion. Human beings are innately sinful; Christ suffered, died and rose again to provide salvation; people need only to accept that salvation in order to become changed, new creatures. When they have been changed they have one primary commitment: to win others for Christ.

This streamlined system of doctrine allowed the crusaders to devote almost all their energies to the recruiting task. In this situation they found ready at hand the psychology of William James with its emphasis on the almost limit-less capacity of the human will to will, and the muscular personal activism made popular by Theodore Roosevelt. It is significant that both James and Roosevelt came out of psychological and physical puniness to become dynamos of energy and creative willing.

Finally, the Crusaders seem to have embraced a charismatic notion of leadership. They were followers of charisma in others until they were free to exercise their own charisma. It was almost inevitable that with the years this should wear thin and lead to caprice, despotism, and fractured relationships. Even the amiable Napoleons do not realize that the price of energetic conquest may be the loss of the community they helped to shape. In any event, as our century began and moved toward its major and unexpected crisis in World War I, the ground was being prepared for a new strategy of evangelism which, while borrowing heavily from the past, drew on the present for much of its direction and motivation. In its development some years later, Faith at Work was to inherit and modify that strategy for the newer age.

http://www.haystack.org/haystack.htm YWAM





Dr. Ralph Winter - Author, Founder, U.S. Center for World Missions "They are invading campuses with power point presentations and skits and real impact. I know of no other approach that is that serious. This kind of activity was the very essence of the famous Student Volunteer Movement. Welcome Back!"


"The young people of this generation do not apologize for worldwide missions. They believe in it as has no preceding generation of young people. Let us rise and resolve that, at whatever cost of self-denial, that live or die, we shall live or die for the evangelization of the world in our day."

John R. Mott said that -- in 1901. Mott led the Student Volunteer Movement, launched in 1886, which helped spur the "second wave" of modern missions: the spread inland from coastal cities by missionaries searching out the lost. Of the 100,000 students who participated in the Student Volunteer Movement, 20,000 reportedly went overseas to spread the gospel.

Church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette describes Mott as possessing "a simple faith ... a complete commitment to Christ ... (and) worldwide vision." That pretty well describes, too, many young people today spreading the gospel among unreached peoples of The LastFrontier -- the "third wave" of missions.

The Southern Baptist International Mission Board has a "whole crew of people that are literally willing to die for their people group," says Jim Riddell, associate director of IMB mission personnel selection. "These are people who have bought into this image of living on the edge, this goal of 'all peoples, nothing less,' and they want to do what it takes to reach their people group. This is largely a Buster and Generation X group."



http://gem-werc.org/books/c1900/toc.htm  Todd Johnson is married to one of Ralph Winter's daughters(I should confirm this one more time.)

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