Christians that made life better and inspired a movement
Significant contribution – The spread of Christianity in Burma.
Judson and his wife left the United States for Burma in 1812 and became the trailblazers of modern American missions work. Anderson’s work is an even-handed and thorough presentation of Adoniram’s strengths and weaknesses as he struggled to establish a ministry hampered by remarkable hardships. His perseverance was rewarded with the completion of the Burmese Bible translation and the establishment of 100 churches.
Significant contribution – Saving many children in India from prostitution.
Amy is best known as the helper of India’s underprivileged children. Carmichael spent 55 uninterrupted years in southern India, saving many children from prostitution through the establishment of the Dohnavur Fellowship, which still exists today. The title of the book comes from Carmichael’s evaluation of missionary experience as a chance to die to oneself. Her works have influenced much in the growth of Christianity in India.
Ben Carson, M.D.
Significant contribution – Christian witnessing in US politics.
Benjamin Solomon “Ben” Carson Sr. is an American retired neurosurgeon, author, and politician who is the nominee to be the 17th United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Raised by a single mother in inner-city Detroit and plagued by a terrible temper as a child, Carson became famous as head of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins at the age of thirty-three.
He is known as the first person to successfully separate twins born joined at the back of the head. In Healing Hands, Carson reveals what difference his Christian faith has made in his amazing successes. He authored the book “America the Beautiful” (2013), where he wrote: “I believe it is a very good idea for physicians, scientists, engineers, and others trained to make decisions based on facts and empirical data to get involved in the political arena.
Today, Ben founded the Carson Scholars Fund which awards scholarships to students in grades 4–11. In 2016, he withdrew his bid for the White House.
Significant contribution – Open doors, saving the persecuted Christians.
Andrew van der Bijl is a Christian missionary famous for his exploits smuggling Bibles to communist countries in the height of the Cold War. He founded Open Doors, a mission that supports persecuted Christians in over 60 countries where they consider Christianity to be socially or legally discouraged or oppressed. His organization has changed and saved thousands of lives through prayers, aid, and spiritual support and covering.
His book, God’s Smuggler is a must-read inspiring classic of missions and miracles. It tells how Brother Andrew recounts his remarkable life of Bible smuggling behind the Iron Curtain. He is known for praying “Lord, make seeing eyes blind.” before he stopped at the border of a communist country for his car to be inspected.
Significant contribution – Challenging the Chinese government towards the love of Jesus for China.
Yun became known when his book, The Heavenly Man was released in 2002. Brother Yun was prepared in his early years to become a prominent leader in China’s secret house-church movement. The Heavenly Man is a window on the extreme persecution of Christians in the East that has too often gone unnoticed by those in the West.
After escaping from China, Yun took asylum in Germany. In 2001 he was imprisoned in Myanmar for seven months. As a leader of the “Back to Jerusalem Movement”, Yun seeks to send thousands of missionaries out from China into the countries between China and Israel, which are among the least-Christianised of the world.
C. S. Lewis
Significant contribution – Children’s book that led to knowing Jesus.
Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was a British novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist. He wrote more than thirty books, including the famous Chronicles of Narnia.
When a movie adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) was released, it became a useful tool in Children and teenage evangelism.
Significant contribution – Influencing the leadership of distinguished politicians & changing the landscape of prison inmates.
Colson was infamously a household name for his role in the Watergate scandal, which led to his spiritual journey and awakening. Experiencing a personal rebirth during the legal proceedings, Nixon’s famous hatchet man (1931-2012) pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and was the first to serve the time of all those convicted. Colson became an outspoken Christian and have influenced the decision of politicians. He founded the Prison Fellowship that ministers to inmates.
Prison Fellowship equips wardens, prison staff, and volunteers, including men and women serving time, to create safer, more rehabilitative prisons that prepare prisoners to return to their communities as good neighbors. They also advocate for a criminal justice system that upholds restorative values, so that communities are safer, victims are respected, and those who have caused harm are transformed.
Significant contribution – The great revival of 18th century England.
Spurgeon (1834-1892) is known for his extraordinary ability as an English preacher in 19th century England. His Metropolitan Tabernacle would seat 5,000 and hold another 1,000. Spurgeon to date remains highly influential among Christians of various denominations. He is known as the “Prince of Preachers” and has transformed and saved the souls of thousands.
When he died, some 100,000 lined the streets as a funeral parade two miles long followed his hearse from the Tabernacle to the cemetery. Flags flew at half-staff and shops and pubs were closed. He was influential in transforming the lives of a nation towards Christ.
Corrie Ten Boom
Significant contribution – Saved the lives of nearly 800 Jewish children.
A Dutch family of watchmakers, Corrie joins the Resistance against the Nazis, creating a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom to hide Jews. When the Nazis eventually raided the home, all the hidden Jews remained concealed, but the ten Booms were taken away to the prison camp. Her forgiveness has inspired many Christians to do the same and adhere to the humility of Jesus.
Corrie ten Boom and her family helped Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II and, by all accounts, saved nearly 800 lives.
Darlene Deibler Rose
Significant contribution – Witnessing in the unreached New Guinea.
While Darlene Deibler Rose and her husband were serving as missionaries in Papua New Guinea during World War II, they were captured by the Japanese and placed in separate prison camps. Though her husband died in his camp, Rose amazingly survived four years and was liberated. Her life is full of miracles and her testimony and perseverance have led many know Christ.
She lived nearly thirty years in New Guinea as a Christian missionary. Her unshakable faith in Jesus is an inspiration to many Christians who have read her book.
Significant contribution – Died young, but his legacy lives through his inspiring journals of faith.
David Brainerd (1718-1747) was expelled from the Yale University. Appearing to have lost a chance of success, he instead spent the rest of his brief life preaching the gospel to various American Indian peoples in New Jersey and neighboring states. Though he died of tuberculosis at the age of 29, his journals have over the centuries been an exhortation to prayer and Christian commitment for many key missionary figures.
Significant contribution – Saving the lives of teenage addicts in the US.
In 1958, David Wilkerson (1931-2011) felt the call to leave his rural Pennsylvania upbringing and share the hope of the gospel with gang members and drug addicts in New York City. His 1963 book, The Cross and the Switchblade, is a bestseller (50 million copies) book that recounts the story of Nicky Cruz, who turned from gang life to Christ and Christian ministry.
Wilkerson is known as founder of Teen Challenge Ministry, an addiction recovery program. This ministry plays an important role in helping American families deal with problems in alcohol, cocaine, meth, and other drug abuses.
Significant contribution – A Pastor, martyr, prophet, and a spy who defied the Nazi.
As the Nazis began to overtake Europe in 1939, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a comfortable ocean’s length away from his homeland, invited to teach at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary. But he was not at ease and chose to return to his homeland to show fellow Christians and countrymen how the gospel leads one to fight for justice, even if by subversive means.
In his final days in a German concentration camp, his legacy as a theologian and activist continues to inspire other Christian leaders to stand ground in the many adversities that great Christian leaders face in the midsts of a ravenous world.
Significant contribution – Beacon of hope, drawing families towards Christ.
Through television exposure, the Duggars have become America’s best-known mega-family, with ten sons and nine daughters. Perhaps just a reality show to some, their daily struggles and learnings have influenced many Americans, and people outside the US know how to deal with real life issues.
Guided with spiritual truths, the Duggar’s Christian faith have strengthened many parents and children struggling with raising their families and finding victory, hope, and joy through faith in Jesus.
Significant contribution – Inspiring Olympian.
Lidell’s life (1902-1945) was made famous by the 1981 film, Chariots of Fire (Academy Award, Best Picture). Lidell was a Scottish athlete with exceptional speed, winning the 400 meters at the 1924 Paris Olympics. But as McCasland shows, Liddell was ultimately driven by what he saw as a greater calling and gave up running full-time to serve as a missionary in China.
He became popular when he announced he could not run in the Olympic race because the finals were scheduled on a Sunday. Sunday was a day of worship and rest for Eric. He would not run even if he were his country’s only hope of winning an Olympic gold medal. This made the Scottish people very upset with him. They wrote bad things about him in the newspaper and some called him a traitor. But Eric stood firm. He had never run on Sunday and never would, not even for an Olympic gold medal.
With very little time remaining before the Olympics began, Eric trained and qualified for another race that was not scheduled on a Sunday. Eric knew his chance of winning the 400-meter race was slim because two of the runners in this race had set world record times. In addition, on the day of the race, Eric was assigned the worst lane. But a note in his pocket encouraged him. The team trainer had given it to him before he left his hotel room. It read, “He who honors Him, He (God) will honor.” Liddell knew his decision not to run on Sunday honored God.
Significant contribution – Helper of orphans and children, demonstrated by outstanding faith.
Muller is known as the “helper of orphans” in 19th century England. He never asked anyone for monetary assistance despite tough times. His autobiography tells of incredible ways in which, through continuous prayer, needs of the children under his care were met.
What is less known about him is his pre-Christian reputation as a thief, as well as his later preaching tours which took him to forty-two countries. His testimony of faith remains a great example and inspiration of many church leaders today.
Significant contribution – The great awakening.
George Whitefield (1714-1770), along with the Wesley brothers, is best-known for his evangelical movement and revival. America’s 19th-century evangelist traveled across towns to proclaim the gospel in the open air, sometimes unannounced, and attract a crowd of thousands upon thousands of people. His bold speeches caused spiritual awakening that influenced the beginning of intentional and radical Christian movement or “great awakening.”
Significant contribution – Beloved protector of the orphans in China.
Aylward (1902-1970) was a British housemaid. She was denied membership in a sending agency as a missionary to China. She paid her fare to China and became a revered protector of children among the Chinese people. Her life work became the subject of a major motion picture, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.”
She saved orphans and adopted several herself, intervening in a volatile prison riot and advocating prison reform, risking her life many times to help those in need.
Aylward led over 100 orphans to safety over the mountains during WW2. She won the hearts of the Chinese people. When she was denied reentry to mainland China, she went to Taiwan instead and founded the Gladys Aylward Orphanage, and worked there until her death in 1970.
Significant contribution – The most influential Christian missionary.
Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) spent 51 years in ministry to China as a preacher, translator, author, and visionary, and is widely considered one of the most influential Christian missionaries ever. Hudson Taylor’s book, Spiritual Secret provides an intimate look at what drove Taylor to accomplish so much and influence so many – including abiding trust in God and self-denying allegiance to those whom he served.
Significant contribution – God’s power that transformed the lives of Balangao tribe of the Philippines.
Shetler endured the slow and arduous task of learning the Balangao language of the Philippines and translating the Bible for this group of unreached people. The result was a spiritual showdown in which the people were forced to see that God’s power through his Word was stronger than the spirits who constantly demanded more sacrifices. In her book, “And the Word Came With Power,” she accounts how Christians do have access to God’s powers in witnessing for Jesus.
Significant contribution – Pilgrim’s Progress
Bunyan (1628-1688), author of the famous allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, opens a window onto his existential crisis in coming to Christian faith. He describes how, as a young man, he lived a self-centered life of open rebellion against God, and even in times of conviction, doubted that God’s grace was sufficient to overcome his state. He eventually gave in and went on to minister as a preacher and write one of the enduring classics of the Christian faith.
Joni Eareckson Tada
Significant contribution – Changing the mindset and giving hope to the disabled.
A diving accident put Joni in a wheelchair at the age of 17, unable to move from the shoulders down. Learning to paint with her mouth, she became an accomplished artist and founded Joni and Friends to help the disabled. Now consider a classic, her book An Unforgettable Story, is about the triumph of faith has sold 3,000,000 copies.
Joni has encouraged other people with disability to stand up, face their fate, and accomplish the greater things in life.
Significant contribution – The rise of Christian pop.
In Keith’s biography, No Compromise, his widow Melody brings us from Green’s conversion to Jesus out of California’s hippie music scene through his rise as a Christian pop star and his tragic death at the age of 28, along with two of his children. Those who read this book gained a sense of why Green was such a polarizing figure. His exceptional musical talent and radical simplicity of faith coupled with a sometimes scathingly critical spirit over what he saw as compromises to Christian holiness and the purity of the gospel.
Significant contribution – A testimony of forgiveness that has shaken unforgiving Christians.
Louis Silvie “Louie” Zamperini was a US prisoner of war survivor in World War II, a Christian evangelist and an Olympic distance runner. We should take inspiration from his unbelievable survival story from a troubled child to Olympic runner to downed Bombardier lost forty-six days at sea to tortured Japanese prisoner of war to born-again Christian.
Significant contribution – The Protestant movement.
Luther’s is perhaps the most popular reformer of the Catholic faith. While it was not his intention to break Roman Catholicism, he wanted people to know the real truth about God’s salvation. His thesis dismantled Rome’s claws and allowed true followers of Jesus to know “true faith.” He aligned good works as a result and not a cause for salvation, and that penance and church membership is by no means a way to heaven.
Significant contribution – Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus in the Muslim world.
A former Muslim gives an insider’s account of Muslim life and theology and his conversion to Christianity. Qureshi prided himself on his ability to take apart the Christian worldview, until a fateful day when he met a Christian who at last was able to defend his faith.
Qureshi now lectures and debates at public and private universities throughout the world, explaining his path to faith in Christ through historical reasoning and spiritual encounter. As a result, many Muslims have come to the saving knowledge of who the real Jesus is.
Significant contribution – Influencing the US Senate.
At the age of 24, a poor Scottish immigrant named Peter Marshall (1902-1949) came to the United States and rose to renown as a preacher, later becoming Chaplain of the United States Senate. His wife Catherine Marshall wrote their love story, which later became a well-known film. Marshall’s ministry as a preacher was cut short at the age of 46 when he died of a heart attack.
Sadhu Sundar Singh
Significant contribution – Introducing miracles in India through the power of Jesus.
Sundar Singh (1889-1929) was born into Sikhism in northern India, persecuting Christians around him, until a vision of Jesus Christ as a young suicidal teen prompted him to do an about-face. He took up the life of a wandering Christian evangelist in a Hindu’s attire throughout India, Tibet, and Afghanistan.
Sundar Singh had miraculous experiences, including power over disease and animals. The evangelist that left a singular mark on IndianChristianity was last seen in 1929 as he departed for a mission in the Tibetan foothills.
Significant contribution – Christianity in action, Ecuador
Steve Saint’s missionary father was murdered in 1956 in Ecuador during an attempt to make contact with an isolated tribe. His unbelievable story of forgiveness and reconciliation became his ultimate witness as a Christ follower. The same people group (where his father was murdered) invited him and his family to return and live among them in Ecuador.
Particularly striking is the development of a close friendship with one of the men who murdered his father, as well as his recounting of the events from the cultural perspective of the tribe. The book inspired a motion picture of the same name in 2006.
Significant contribution – Witnessing in NFL.
In 2007, Dungy became the first African-Amercian NFL coach to win the Super Bowl and had taken his team to the playoffs eight out of ten seasons previous to that year. More impressive than his accomplishments on the field is the respect Coach Dungy has earned for being a man of integrity.
Dungy continues to witness for Jesus through his book Quiet Strength, that reveals the secrets to his success, practices, and priorities that have kept him on track despite overwhelming obstacles, including personal trials, firings, and stereotypes.
Significant contribution – Father of modern missions.
Carey (1761-1834) is known as the father of modern missions. He was a British Christian missionary, Baptist minister, translator, social reformer and cultural anthropologist. After working as a shoemaker and then as a pastor, he became convicted that Christians like him should share the gospel outside his comfort zone. He spent 41 years in India and translated the Bible into Sanskrit, Bengali, and other languages.
William J. Murray
Significant contribution – Stood on faith, against his atheist mother.
Murray is the son of the famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, whose 1963 victory at the Supreme Court banned prayer in public schools. In his book My Life Without God, The account gives an intimate picture of the dysfunction of the home, including William being unaware that Madalyn was his mother for the first several years of his life.
After struggles with crime and drugs, he became a Christian at the age of 30. His mother and brother were later murdered. William exposed the lies of Atheism that brought many people to faith in Christ. Murray is often used as an illustration of the faulty and deceptive Atheism in America.
Significant contribution – Authentic Bible translation.
Tyndale (c. 1494-1536) left England, where it was illegal to possess a Bible in the vernacular, to produce the first English translation of the Old and New Testaments, translated directly from Hebrew and Greek. It was not an easy task for Tyndale who faced death and ridicule. His Bible translation has inspired many other Bible versions used in different languages.
Significant contribution – A heroic campaign that saved thousands of lives from slavery.
Wilberforce is Britain’s most famous 19th-century politician. Born into luxury and privilege, he spent his life confronting the moral and social problems of his country. Amidst bitter opposition, Wilberforce won his fight to abolish British homeland slavery in 1807, and British colonial slavery in 1833. His story is recounted in the highly acclaimed 2006 movie, “Amazing Grace”.
He is dubbed as “the prime minister of a cabinet of philanthropists” and at one time supported 69 philanthropic causes. He gave away one-quarter of his annual income to the poor. He fought on behalf of chimney sweeps, single mothers, Sunday schools, orphans, and juvenile delinquents. William Wilberforce helped found parachurch groups like the Society for Bettering the Cause of the Poor, the Church Missionary Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society, and the Antislavery Society.
→ What we need to see on the death of missionary John Chau