Grace Baptist Mission
— 150 years of God’s faithfulness
In the Sunday school room of the church then meeting in Keppel Street, London, the Strict Baptist Mission (SBM) began its life! It arose out of a young men’s auxiliary of the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) that became dissatisfied with the doctrine and practical organisation of the BMS.
Few involved then could have expected the SBM would still be in existence 150 years later! For the first 34 years, it was a mission without missionaries, but the number of churches supporting it grew yearly!
In that period, it supported people already serving God in India and received annual reports of the work. There were Indians, Anglo-Indians and British soldiers, who were faithful and evangelistic, and the gospel seemed to be prospering.
In 1894 Mission Council stated: ‘Our urgent need is a well qualified, ministerial English brother of good standing and mature Christian experience, to take the oversight of the Tinevelly District, where the Lord has so abundantly blessed our labours’.
At the annual meeting on 23 October 1894, the following motion was carried: ‘That a day of special prayer be set apart to seek the divine direction, and to implore the great Head of the Church to influence some duly qualified brother to concentrate his energies to this noble work’.
The day chosen was 19 November 1894. Prayer commenced at 8.00am at Soho Chapel, London, and continued without a break until 8.00pm. The sole purpose was to seek the Lord’s guidance in the work and affairs of the mission, and to ask the Lord to call and send out missionaries to direct and develop the work in South India.
It was a memorable and deeply moving day of prayer and the following was recorded: ‘The presence of the Lord was richly enjoyed. The power and unction of the Holy Spirit pervaded the services. All felt that it was good to be there and every heart seemed assured that God would answer those fervent petitions’.
Shortly after this, Samuel Hutchinson from Chadwell Street, London, and Ernest Booth of Homerton Row, London, offered themselves for service in India. On 22 February 1895, they sailed for India, Hutchinson as General Superintendent and Booth as a missionary.
Ernest Booth was just 20 years old at the time that he left and one has to ask whether the mission was right to send such a young man to do such a tough job! In fact, the history of the mission shows that for many years the policy of sending very young men continued.
Perhaps, in those early years, that was wise, because the arduous climate of South India proved extremely difficult. It must be recorded though that Samuel Hutchinson did not last long, because of ill health.
Following on from that visit, there was an unhappy breach in the mission that lasted for more than 30 years, and, during that time, Strict Baptist churches were supporting two missions in South India. Happily, the breach was repaired and the churches have worked together faithfully since 1929.
The mission has, however, changed dramatically since those years. Firstly, there was a rediscovery of the biblical principles of mission during the 1960s. This led to a wholesale reappraisal of the way that SBM operated.
Secondly, the mission was driven by God to expand its horizons. Until the 1960s, SBM had worked principally among the Tamil people of South India, although both Ceylon and Malaya had received some input from it.
Then the Indian government withdrew granting visas to new missionaries, while, at the same time, the needs of Europe were being brought to the attention of supporting churches. During the 1960s, the society prayed for ten new missionaries and instead the Lord took ten away!
Beginning in the 1970s, a new policy entitled ‘Into all the world’ was adopted. It was fulfilled in a small way with missionaries going to Spain, but, in fact, few new missionaries came forward, at first, to serve the Lord.
It was not until the early 1980s that ‘The men are coming’ was the title of a mission annual report!
The floodgates began to open and, during the next ten years, no less than eight new areas of work were opened up, quite apart from new workers being sent to places where there was already a practical interest.
In 1982, the name of the mission was changed, after much heart-searching, to Grace Baptist Mission (GBM). This name was a more accurate reflection of the group of churches which by then owned the mission.
Today, GBM is privileged to help churches support some 60 missionaries, sent to 14 countries, in four continents.
We have published, in conjunction with Grace Publications, a book on our mission principles called Tell all the world (GBM, 12 Abbey Close, Abingdon, OX14 3JD, £7.99 post free; also from EP).
In the will of God, we plan to celebrate these 150 years with a momentous conference of virtually all our missionaries from 25-28 October 2011. This will be a first since GBM expanded into ‘all the world’!
On 29 November, supporting churches will gather for celebration annual meetings at the Renewal Centre in Solihull, when we hope that Dr Don Carson will speak at two special services (we expect one to be recorded by the BBC for broadcasting). Please make a date to be with us for this day of praise and thanksgiving.
Mission coordinator, GBM