Pastor’s Article 2/1/2022

During my Intro to Missiology class for First Baptist University I briefly touched on the history of the missions movement in the United States and wanted to dive more deeply into one of the most foundational figures in the history of the American Baptist Missionary Movement, Adoniram Judson, who lived from 1788 to 1850. I believe it is very important to know and understand history when studying the Bible (which is a historical book) as well as people throughout history. This gives the people of God a picture and perspective of the missio Dei, or God’s redemptive Mission for humanity.

Early Years

From the very beginning of his life Judson had unlimited ambition, first and foremost for the seeking of self-fulfillment and the praise of his contemporaries. His father was a minister and Judson was raised in a Christian home, however he did not become a believer until at age 19 during a tour of New England, he stayed at a lodge in which he roomed next to a very ill man. During the night the man in the next room died, and in the morning Judson found that it had been a college friend of his who had not been a believer. Convicted, Judson dedicated his life to Christ and enrolled at Andover Theological Seminary where he met Samuel J. Mills of Haystack Prayer Meeting fame. This meeting blossomed Judson’s ambition for missions.


In February 1812 Adoniram and his wife Ann, who had only been married for two weeks, left Massachusetts for India. During the four month voyage Judson devoted his time to the doctrine of baptism. Judson had been raised in the pedobaptist (infant) theology and wanted to defend his beliefs to the famous William Carey in India who was a proponent of believer’s baptism. During this study Adoniram and Ann came under conviction that baptism by immersion was the correct form of baptism and upon arriving in Calcutta were baptized as believers. This act led to the resignation of the Judsons from their missionary support network, effectively leaving the couple without support or funding.


In July 1813 the Judsons arrived in Burma, which was firmly controlled by the Buddhist religion. Adoniram and Ann set out to learn the language as their first step to reaching the Burmese people. After six years of mission work Judson baptized his first convert. The struggles for the Judsons continued as they buried their two children and Adoniram was imprisoned as a spy in 1824. Judson would spend 19 months in a Burmese “death prison” where only Ann’s constant aid kept him alive. She would bring him food and a pillow into which was sewn his translation of the Burmese New Testament, which he had completed a year prior. He needed the pillow due to the fact that every night the guards would raise the prisoners up by their feet so that only their heads and shoulders would touch the ground. In 1825 Judson was finally released from prison but soon thereafter Ann became sick and died in 1826 and their daughter Maria died 6 months later. In 1828 Adoniram retreated to seclusion and darkness covered his life. Slowly in 1830 Judson emerged from his spiritual darkness with newfound conviction to reach the Burmese for Christ. In 1834 Judson finished translation of the entire Bible and he died in 1850 on a ship and was buried at sea.


Adoniram Judson’s translation of the Bible into Burmese is still used to this day. There are many people groups in present-day Myanmar, two of which are the Burmese and the Karen. Out of 26 million Burmese approximately 50,000 are Christian. Out of 4 million Karen, 40% are professing believers. Judson paved the way for these people to come to Christ by God’s sovereign plan. Judson learned much during his years as a missionary. He wrote many of the lessons down to be taught to new missionaries about his struggles. He spearheaded church planting, translation and linguistics within Baptist circles. He revolutionized the modern concepts of contextualization and discipleship. Above all, through the heartache and pain Judson loved Christ and his convictions drove him to the mission field. Let his life be a lesson for all of us.

Pastor Adam