Skip to content Skip to navigation

"Redirecting Our Missionary Zeal"

King, Martin Luther, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


In this handwritten outline King criticizes the hypocrisy of international missionary efforts in light of domestic racial injustice: “The paradox of it all is that the white man considers himself the supreme missionary. He sends [millions] of dollars to the foreign field. And in the midst of that he tramples over the Negro.”

“Go ye therefore into all the world and preach the gospel ...1

  1. Intro—Ever since the dawn of the Christian era, Christians have considered it a serious part of their basic responsibility to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ into all the world and to every creature
  2. This is one of the things that distinguishes Christianity from the other great religions of the world. Most of the other great religions have had profound admiration for their founders, but they do not consider it a seriou part of their responsibility to carry the message of their founders into all the world.—Buddism, Hinduism, Judaism, Mohammedanism
  3. Christianty has never been content to wrap itself up in any particular society the garments of any particular society.2
  4. If there is any one word that characterizes our creed it is go. It started with Jesus and continued with Paul.
    Go ye into all the world
    I must need you through [word illegible]
  5. Now, this demand to carry the gospel to every creature has long since been known as missionary work. From the beginning Christians have been considered missionaries
  6. Now two impressions got out about the missionary which have come down to us.
    1. The use of the phrase “into all the world” go has to often left many with the impression that missionary work is only foreign.
      1. State the untruth of this.
    2. It has often been looked upon as the occasional work of a few Christians or a particular society.
      1. State the untruth of this.
  7. All that I am saying leads to this—along with our work on the foreign field we must begin to do missionary work right here. Each of us must do this. And we must begin with the white man.
  8. He is pagan in his conceptions What is more pagan than ... Milan & Bryant are church members3
  9. The paradox of it all is that the white man considers himself the supreme missionary. He sends millios of dollars to the foreign field. And in the midst of that he tramples over the Negro
    1. Tell story of Church in Florida.4 They went into the temple singing
    2. No wonder Mathma Ghandi said to someone that the greatest enemy that Christ has in India is Xn.5
    3. Shakespeare’s “Who steal my purse steals trash.6
    4. It seems that we can hear the almighty God saying yor hands are full of blood.7
  10. Now how are we to do this
    1. A good missionary understand the situation of those he seeks to help as goes back to the root of the problem.
    2. Love him
    3. Sit down and preach to him
  11. Conclusion—Be maladjusted8

1. Cf. Matthew 28:19. Dexter’s 22 January 1956 program indicates that King preached this sermon.

2. In a similar sermon filed in the same folder, King followed this point with a reminder: “Use the ill. of something being to good to hold. (A secret or a piece of cake being so good that it must be shared). The Gospel is good news” (King, “The Mission of the Church,” 1953-1956). King also considered this illustration in “Propagandizing Christianity,” Sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 12 September 1954, pp. 184-187 in this volume.

3. On 23 September 1955, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant were found not guilty of the murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till.

4. King may refer to a story that a law school principal told Howard Thurman during his 1935 visit to Ceylon: “One of my students who went to your country sent me a clipping telling about a Christian Church in which the regular Sunday worship was interrupted so that many could join a mob against one of your fellows. When he had been caught and done to death, they came back to resume their worship of their Christian God” (Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited, pp. 14-15).

5. King may refer to a story told by E. Stanley Jones in The Christ of the Indian Road. When Jones asked Gandhi how Christianity could become more a part of Indian culture, Gandhi suggested that Christians “live more like Jesus Christ,” that they refrain from toning down their religion, that they “put [their] emphasis on love,” and finally, that they “study the non-Christian religions and culture more sympathetically” (Jones, The Christ of the Indian Road, pp. 118-120). In “The Mission of the Church” (1953-1956), King noted, “Use the exp of a chicken being clipped by his own wings.”

6. Shakespeare, Othello, act 3, sc. 3.

7. Cf. Isaiah 1:15.

8. King would elaborate on this notion of being maladjusted to unjust laws and social conditions throughout his life; for an example, see King, The Christian Way of Life in Human Relations, Address Delivered at the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches, 4 December 1957, pp. 322-328 in this volume.


CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands: Sermon file, folder 27, “The Mission of the Church.