From 150 Years of Revival
by Mathew Backholer
The first Protestant missionary to Korea was a Welshman, the Rev. Robert Jermain Thomas.
He arrived in Korea in 1866 where he sold classical Chinese Bibles (which could be read by Koreans,
Japanese and Chinese) and risked decapitation if caught. Korea, known as the Hermit Kingdom
was still a closed land to foreigners...
On the 2 September 1866, Rev. Robert Jermain Thomas was martyred on the river bank
(alongside all the crew of the merchant-marine schooner that he was travelling on)
outside of Pyongyang, (the present capital of North Korea) and the centre where the
1907 revival broke out.
...In 1886, the first Protestant Korean was baptised and by 1887 there was seven
Korean converts. Korea saw its first revival in 1903 and it was known as the Wonsan
Revival Movement and both the Presbyterians and Methodists reaped large harvests as
they were united to exalt Jesus Christ. In 1904, there was 10,000 converts in Pyongyang
and by the middle of 1906, after 30,000 new converts in that year alone, the revival
had waned and died out.
Pyongyang, Korea, in 1907 was known as a city of wine, women and song. It was a dark city
in the early twentieth century with sin abounding. It even had its own Gisaeng (Korean geisha)
training school. It was in this city that Korea’s second revival began in January 1907
after months of persistent prayer, 50,000 people were converted in that one year and
Korea was set ablaze – it was known as the Pyongyang Great Revival (1907-1910).
Missionary, John McCune in a letter wrote: ‘…The work of the Holy Spirit here at the
Jangdaehyun Church where revival first broke out would far surpass what we have read
about the great revival in Wales and India…'
...In September 1906, Dr. Howard Agnew Johnston, of New York, whilst in Seoul, informed a
group of missionaries and Korean Christians about the Khasi Hills Revival, (1905-1906)
in India. Jonathan Goforth, a missionary to China and Manchuria wrote that because of this
more than twenty missionaries from Pyongyang Presbyterian and Methodist missions
resolved to meet together to pray daily for ‘greater blessings.’ Over the Christmas period
the Pyongyang Christians met each evening for prayer, instead of their usual festive celebrations.
The evening prayer ceased at the start of the Pyongyang General Class but continued at noon for
those who could attend.
A Bible colporteur from Kan Kai Church along the Yalu River, of 250 believers was also in Seoul.
He heard Dr. Johnston and encouraged his church to meet for prayer at 5am through the autumn and
winter of 1906-1907. For six months they prayed until the Holy Spirit came as a flood.
...Jonathan Goforth, missionary to China and Manchuria on his tour of the country in June 1907
said, “Those missionaries seemed to carry us right up to the throne of God. The Korean movement
was of incalculable significance in my life, because it showed me at first hand the boundless
possibilities of the revival method. Korea made me feel, as it did many others, that this
was God’s plan for setting the world aflame.” Jonathan Goforth went on to have a powerful
ministry and saw revival in China and Manchuria during 1907-1909 and again in 1915 in
...South of Pyongyang, Jonathan Goforth passed through Songdo, the ancient Korean capital.
In 1907 the revival had added 500 to the Church, but during a month of special meetings in
1910, 2,500 were added to the Church because of the incredible fields which were white unto
harvest (John 4:35).
Jonathan Goforth wrote: ‘When we visited Seoul in 1907, every church was crowded. A missionary
said that on a six weeks tour he had baptised 500 and recorded 700 catechumens, and that his
five out-stations, in one year, had increased to twenty-five. During 1910 there were 13,000
people in Seoul who signed cards saying they wanted to become Christians, and in September
of that year the Methodist churches of the city received 3,000 by baptism.
‘Directly west of the capital, at the port of Chemulpo, the Methodist Mission, in 1907,
had a church with 800 members. Opposite the harbour was an island with 17,000 inhabitants.
The churches on the island had a baptised membership of 4,247, and more than half of them
had been brought in that year. The Christians were praying that soon the whole island would
become the Lord’s.’
...In 1910, the British and Foreign Bible Society through its Bible Colporteurs sold the
immense total of 666,000 books to the people of Korea, most of them single gospels! A Church
at Sang Sim Li, which had birthed sixteen other churches in the district, in connection
with the ‘Million Movement’ (the aim of which was to win one million souls for the Lord) were
believing for four hundred new converts; their share of the million, and so stepped out
in faith and enlarged their church from 36ft. sq. to 225 ft. sq.!
...Paget Wilkes, founder of the Japanese Evangelistic Band visited Korea in March 1911.
In his journal he wrote about the story of the Sensen Magistrate, a town in the north,
where one in three of the population were Christian. When asked how things were going
in his city he replied, “Go and ask the missionaries; they rule in Sensen.”
Paget wrote: ‘He had but little to do. Quarrels and differences were settled before the
Church, and not brought into the public courts – as St. Paul lays down in the Corinthians letters.’
Paget Wilkes wrote that on the 26 March 1911 he ‘spent a pleasant evening with Dr. Underwood,
one of the oldest missionaries in Korea’ who said, “Twenty-four years ago I came to Korea and
there was not one protestant Christian. Today there are 200,000, i.e. one to every fifty of the population...”
150 Years of Revival
by Mathew Backholer
Mathew is the author of:
Revival Fire, 150 Years of Revivals Go
Extreme Faith, On Fire Christianity Go
Global Revival, Worldwide Outpourings Go
Discipleship For Everyday Living, Christian Growth Go
Understanding Revival and Addressing the Issues Go
Revival Answers, True and False Revivals Go
Revival Fires and Awakenings, Thirty-Six Visitations of the Holy Spirit Go
How to Plan, Prepare and Successfully Complete Your Short-Term Mission Go