At a pastor’s conference in Scotland in 1865, Hudson Taylor, the mighty missionary to China, was given the opportunity to address 2,000 pastors about his work. Sadly, many churches in Europe couldn’t have been less concerned about the millions of Chinese people dying apart from Christ on a monthly basis.
But then, Hudson Taylor opened his sermon with this story….
The missionary recounted one of his many excursions into China’s interior, sailing from Shanghai to Ning-po on board a small Chinese “junk” (boat). One of his fellow passengers was a Chinese man named Peter who had been educated in England. Through conversations with him, Taylor realized that while Peter had a working knowledge of Christianity, the young man had never made a commitment to follow Jesus. So, during the journey, Taylor used every available moment to share the Gospel with Peter.
As the junk approached the city of Sung-kiang-Fu, Taylor was in his cabin preparing to go ashore to preach and distribute tracts when he heard a splash and then a cry of alarm. A man had fallen overboard! Taylor rushed to the deck and when he could not find his friend Peter, he asked the captain if Peter was the man who had fallen overboard.
“Yes,” said the unconcerned boatman. “He went down over there.”
After convincing the reluctant captain to drop his sails, Taylor leapt over the side of the ship and began swimming back to the spot where Peter had disappeared. But with the tide running out, and the featureless shore providing little in the way of landmarks, Taylor knew his chances of finding Peter were slim.
Fortunately, Taylor spotted some Chinese fisherman nearby who had a dragnet. Knowing the net was the perfect tool for his life-and-death task, Taylor cried out in Chinese, “Come! Come and drag over here. A man is drowning!”
“Veh bin,” the fishermen replied. “It is not convenient.”
“Come quickly or it will be too late,” Hudson pleaded.
“We are busy fishing,” the men said without concern.
“Never mind your fishing. Come at once and I will pay you well,” argued Taylor.
“How much will you give us?” the fishermen wanted to know.
“Five dollars. But hurry!” exclaimed Taylor.
“Too little!” the men answered back. “We won’t come for less than thirty.”
“I don’t have that much with me, but I’ll give you all I have,” promised Taylor.
“How much is that?” asked the men in the boat.
“I don’t know. About fourteen dollars,” yelled Taylor.
With the price agreed upon, the men finally brought over their net. On their first cast, the seasoned fishermen pulled up the missing man…but all of Taylor’s efforts to revive Peter failed. It was simply too late. The fishermen’s indifference had cost the young man his life.
When Taylor concluded this story, a murmur of indignation began to sweep through the crowd of pastors and church leaders. “How could anyone be so callous and selfish?” they asked themselves.
Bang. Taylor Hudson had them right where he wanted them!
After a pause, he said, “We condemn those heathen fishermen. We say they were guilty of the man’s death – because they easily could have saved him, and did not do it. But what about the millions whom we leave to die eternally? It will not do to say that you have no special call to go to China. With these facts before you, you need rather to ascertain whether you have a special call to stay home.”
Now that’s how to get your point across in a sermon!
Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secrets by Howard and Geraldine Taylor. Discovery House, 1990, Pages 127-129.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)