I prepared the following book discussion guide for use with the pastors and staff at Bent Tree. Feel free to use it with your own group if you think it will be beneficial.
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Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secrets
Who were the authors and why did they write it? How would the book have been different had it been written by someone who did not personally know Taylor? Do you see any disadvantages to a family member as storyteller?
Was the book interesting? Enjoyable to read?
Did this book make you uncomfortable?
Did you learn anything about prayer? Vision? Obedience? Love? Trust? Passion?
Going back to the title of the book, what is Hudson Taylor’s spiritual secret?
His salvation experience is presented as somewhat whimsical experience. Is it? Note the question he asked of himself, “Why does the author use those words [“finished work of Christ”]… why does he not say, ‘the atoning or propitiatory work of Christ’?”
How did Hudson Taylor experience a call to China? Do you think this is typical of most ministry “callings”?
His new life “unified in one great purpose and prayer” included preparation and sacrifice. How so? Is that typical
Taylor would not accept help from family members because he was training himself to depend only upon God. Despite his employers request that Taylor tell him when his wages were due, Taylor did not because he was relying only on prayer. What did you think of this? Is this something that is normative?
80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years. When Taylor arrived in China, there was plenty of incentive to go home. Why did he stay? Why do most seminarians leave?
The poor handling of practical matters by the leadership of his mission society made an indelible impression upon Hudson about the nature of leadership. Do you think there is any truth to the old stereotype of Christians pondering eternal truths but being bad managers of temporal responsibilities?
Taylor knew that going native in dress and style would mean social ostracism from his Western peers. Can you think of any New Testament passages that relate to this?
At the end of this chapter, it tells of Taylor’s disappointment about not being able to continue his work with Mr. Burns in Swato. “Yet but for this great and unexpected trial Hudson Taylor might never have been led into the lifework that was awaiting him; might never have known the love beyond all other human love which was to be his crowning joy and blessings.” Do you think this kind of recollection is common among men? Is it biblical? Do these kinds of stories help others who are going through disappointment? Do you think that those who have a poor understanding of the sovereignty of God go through life more disappointed and saddened than others?
“It was one of not a few hard lessons through which Hudson Taylor was learning to think of God as The One Great Circumstance of Life, and of all lesser, external circumstances as necessarily the kindest, wisest, best, because either ordered or permitted by Him.”
[mushy love stuff]
Taylor was careful not to employ new converts in mission activities for fear that the money would decrease their influence and impede their spiritual growth. Why?
Pilgrim’s Progress was used in the training of Chinese converts. This is one of the most influential books in all of Western literature. Most Christians today are not as familiar with it as they were in previous generations. Is this a sign of imminent apocalypse?
Hudson Taylor took on responsibility for Dr. Parker’s Ningpo hospital with no visible means of supporting the work. “The secret of faith that is ready for emergencies is the quiet, practical dependence upon God day by day which makes Him real to the believing heart.” How does one cultivate quiet, practical, day by day dependence upon God?
Chapters 9, 10, 11
What did you think of Hudson Taylor’s approach to faith missions? Did you approve of his refusal to have a guarantee fund? I once knew a preacher who refused to have health insurance for his family because he believed it showed a lack of faith in God to take care of him. Is this the same thing?
Your facilitator thinks that this section is artistically brilliant which culminates in these words, “Faith in Jesus crucified is the way of peace to the sinner; so faith in Jesus risen is the way of daily salvation to the saint. You cannot be your own Saviour, either in whole or in part.”
Why is this artistically brilliant?
What is the “exchanged life” as illustrated in this chapter?
Things to consider
- Quote on page 161
- Opening to Augustine’s Confessions
- Galatians 2:20
- Have you ever heard a coach tell a player “You are trying too hard”?
What do you think about them sending their children back to Europe and staying in China to do missions?
Chapter 4 was introduced with this statement of Hudson Taylor, “I never made a sacrifice.” Is this true?
His family was also forced to sacrifice. What do you think about this? Are family responsibilities secondary to ministry responsibilities?
It is interesting to note that some of the anti-missionary movements that were current at the time of Taylor used similar reasoning for not sending missionaries as Hudson used for not letting people know of financial needs. Whereas Hudson said “If God wants there to be a witness he will fund it” the anti-missionary advocates said “If God wants them saved He will save them.” What, if any, is the difference in these positions?
What was his secret?
According to Taylor, the hardest part of a missionary career is to maintain regular, prayerful bible study. Do you think this is true for Christian ministers in other fields of endeavor?
What is the purpose of this book? Does the book achieve its purpose?
Taylor’s missionary work was set in China? How would his methods translate into other cultures?
Effects of the book:
- Did this book affect you emotionally? Spiritually?
- Did this book have an effect on your missionary understanding? Missionary commitments?
- What do you take away from reading it?
“Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.“ (E.M. Bounds)