The Father of Evangelical Missions—And It’s Not William Carey!

321 years ago, on September 19, 1698, the Francke Foundation’s orphanage was officially chartered in Halle (now Germany) by the King of Prussia, without any . Most evangelicals haven’t heard of August Hermann Francke, but in 1893, the Missionary Review of the World called him “the father of evangelical missions.” Here are a few of the things accomplished under the umbrella of Francke’s multifaceted foundations:
 
• Along with many friends A. H. Francke was at the epicenter of an evangelical revival among university students at the University of Leipzig. The keynotes of the movement were love of the Bible and personal conversions: “collegia philobiblica” was the name used for their Bible study sessions, and many testified of being “born again” through these meetings.
• At the revival in Leipzig, they were first called “Pietists” (Pietisten). Count Zinzendorf’s parents were connected to the Pietist movement, and so the influence of Pietism on the Moravians, and afterwards the Methodists, is incalculable; John Wesley also personally edited and published some of A. H. Francke’s works.
• Professor Francke was eventually forced out of Leipzig because of institutional disdain for their small group-style meetings.
• Francke started providing personally for orphans in 1695 after he found that the poor in his city did not know the most foundational truths of the Christian faith.
• Francke funded his orphanage “by faith” along the lines of Hudson Taylor and George Müller, although he preceded them both by more than a century. The account of his many answered prayers was published in English as The Footsteps of Divine Providence.
• Francke personally chose the first Lutheran missionaries for the Tranquebar mission, including Bartholomew Ziegenbalg who went to India in 1706—87 years before William Carey sailed for the region.
• Francke relentlessly supported the Tranquebar mission with his famous “Halle Reports.” After corresponding with the missionaries, Francke (and his son after him) published reports of their progress in India, which perhaps did more than anything to make Europeans aware of the possibilities overseas missions.
• A friend volunteered to set up a printing press and bookshop, funded by Francke’s Foundations. Over the years, this printing press distributed more than a million copies of Scripture in Europe.
• Although the Reformation had been around for almost two centuries, the “Pietists” of Germany were the first European Christians whose theology closely aligned with the distinctives of modern evangelicals: personal prayer life, daily Bible reading, overseas missions, and the importance of conversion.
 
If this summary of A. H. Francke’s life has piqued your interest, you can read a 55-page biography of Francke in the Kindle Store for just $5.99.
 
Be on the lookout, too, for an announcement about Francke’s remarkable account of his orphanage, Footsteps of Divine Providence, which we hope to put back in print as well!
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