eBook: “Daniel McGilvary: Pioneer Missionary to Northern Thailand”

I am not a big fiction reader, but I love biographies.  Especially missionary biographies.  Inspiring stories. Spiritual wisdom. Exotic locations. Missionary biographies have it all.  About 10 years ago, I began reading the massive autobiography of Daniel McGilvary, titled, “A Half Century Among the Siamese and Lao.”  It was a fascinating read, although at 400+ pages, it took me a while to get through.

McGilvary had a fascinating life and ministry.  In 1867, he arrived in Northern Thailand  where there was not a single Christian believer.  But in the 40 years that followed, he saw the church there grow from zero to over four thousand believers at the time of his death in 1911.  How did that happen?  What did he do? How did God use him and circumstances to bring about such a great harvest?  To answer those questions, I've written a mini-biography of this great 19th century servant of Christ.

“Daniel McGilvary: Pioneer Missionary to Northern Thailand” is now available for $0.99 for Kindle and other eReaders, and $3.99 in the print edition. Whether you are out on the mission field or serving the Lord closer to home, I think you’ll find this mini-biography to be both encouraging and inspiring.

To get your copy, head over to the Amazon Kindle Store, or follow any of these links:

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Resources for Apologetics in the Thai Context

A number of people have asked me for apologetics resources in Thai, so I thought I would assemble a list of what is available.  You’ll find that list down below but before you go get the goods, there are few things that need to be understood about apologetics in the Thai context.

Apologetic Issues in Thailand are Different than in the West

Apologetics resources in the English language are intended to meet the challenges to the Christian faith in the English speaking world.  For various cultural, historical, and religious reasons, not all of those issues are applicable to a Thai-speaking audience and thus do not need much attention (if any) when teaching on apologetics in Thailand.  Issues that the vast majority of Thai Christians are not dealing with include higher criticism, secular humanism, the historicity of Adam, the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible, atheism, and postmodernism.  Those are Western issues that grew out of historical and cultural forces in the West stemming from the Enlightenment, Rationalism, and the Fundamentalist / Modernist controversy.  For the most part, Thailand did not experience those movements in Western thought.  To the degree to which Thailand has experienced those movements, it has only been peripheral and mostly confined to the more educated upper-classes who have lived abroad or received a Western education.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not saying that the issues I’ve listed above don’t matter or are not important.  They are important.  They do matter.  But the the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible are not being called into question in Thai churches, so why mount an apologetic defense against an enemy that your listeners haven’t met (and probably won’t meet) in their context?

Church History Timeline to 1500

One my goals in teaching church history at Bangkok Bible Seminary is to develop resources to help make church history accessible for my students.  There are a small number of church history book available in Thai, but my students were asking for handouts summarizing what I was teaching in the classroom.  Eventually, I will find time to make those handouts but in the meantime, I have made an interactive church history timeline to help them review what we've been learning.

In this blog post, I have embedded the English version of the timeline that I put together.  However, the vast majority of my students don't speak English well enough to use English language study resources, so this English version was the intermediary step to producing a Thai version.  If you are a Thai speaker (or just want to see what the Thai version looks like), please click here to view the Thai version of the timeline.

This timeline only goes up to the year 1500 but I also have timelines for, 1) church history from 1500 to the present, and 2) Thai church history.

Embedded below is the English version of the timeline. You can find the Thai version of the timeline here.

When you open the full size timeline, use the arrows on your keyboard to go forward or backward, and the spacebar to return to an overview of the entire timeline.

View Full Screen


Saved by Grace, Live by Works?

I’ve noticed that much teaching in Thai churches focuses on some variation of offering yourself to God or seeking God’s blessings through obedience.  Somehow, the Gospel is seen as useful for “getting saved” but not for living the Christian life.  Once you’ve heard about grace and “accepted Christ,” the next thing you need is a steady diet of moral exhortation to be good and to give yourself fully to God so that you get his blessings.  Or at least that’s a lot of what I’m hearing.  Of course, this is nothing unique to the Thai church, as it shows up in some form in every country, every culture, every age.

Since a neglect of the Gospel of grace is such an entrenched problem in churches, whether that be Thailand or elsewhere, I found the following passage from Jerry Bridges to be particularly applicable.  Even if we don’t think we are trying to live by good works, the temptation to rely on self tends to sneak up on us.  Because our hearts tend to deceive themselves, here’s a good reality check from Bridges:

Northerners and Southerners in Thailand during the American Civil War

Battle of Gettysburg (Currier & Ives)I recently came across the curious and amazing story of two American missionary couples who worked together in Thailand during the period of the American Civil War (1861-1865)... despite the fact that they supported opposing sides.  Somehow, through the grace of God, the tragic events of their homeland did not destroy their relationship and the fragile work of planting a new church together on the other side of the globe. 

Rev. J.A. Eakin, writing in 1928, shares their story:

“The terrible time of the American Civil War was keenly felt by that little band of missionaries, located half-a-world away from the scenes or conflict. Mr. McGilvary was from North Carolina and sympathized ardently with the South; Mr. and Mrs. McFarland were from western Pennsylvania and their feelings were just as strongly enlisted on the side of the North. Mail came to them once a month; then they shut themselves up in their homes with letters and periodicals, eagerly reading the news or the war. But when they met afterward they never dared speak of those things which so filled their hearts and minds. On one occasion, after a day spent in such reading, Mr. McGilvary went over to call on the McFarlands. They talked about the Church; they talked about the work; but there were long pauses when they were thinking of a very different subject which must not even be mentioned. One such pause was broken by Mr. McGilvary asking, "Mr. McFarland, have you noticed in the papers what an enourmous national debt England has?" That was a safe topic. Surely in the annals of foreign mission life and work, there is not a more tremendous example of Christian forbearance and self-repression. Those people lived and labored together in most intimate contact all through the war without one word of friction.”

J.A. Eakin, “The Narrative of Petchaburi Station,” in George McFarland, ed. “Historical Sketch of Protestant Missions in Siam 1828-1928,” (White Lotus Press: Bangkok, 1999), p.94.


Mangosteens, Veranda Chairs, and E.P Dunlap’s Itinerant Evangelism in 19th Century Siam

E.P. DunlapDuring the second half of the 19th century, most of the missionaries in Bangkok had given up hope of seeing much evangelistic fruit from the current generation.  Thus, they poured the majority of their time into the development of schools, with the philosophy “Educate to evangelize.”  If the parents were too hard to reach, then perhaps the children would be easier to reach.... if they can just get the Gospel early enough.  So even though the number of Christians in Siam (now Thailand) was very tiny, many missionaries spent an equally tiny amount of time sharing the Gospel.  Bucking that trend was Daniel McGilvary who opened up Northern Thailand for the Gospel, and E.P. Dunlap who traveled tirelessly sharing the Gospel in Petchburi and along the coast of Southern Thailand.

While missionaries in Bangkok were lamenting how hard it was to reach people, Dunlap was out there doing it.  In his schooner, “The Kalamazoo,” Dunlap sailed up and down the Thai coast, stopping at islands, and sailing up rivers sharing the Gospel.  Inland, he traveled by elephant, by buffalo cart, by foot, and by any other means that he could.  Several months per year were spent almost entirely in itinerant evangelism.  

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