Nevius, John Livingston
( 182 9 - 1893 )
   missionary supporter of three-self independent churches
   Nevius was born into a Presbyterian family in Seneca County, New York, on March 4, 1829. At the age of 15, he entered Union College in Sch-enectady. He graduated in 1848 and moved to Georgia to make his fortune. In 1850, he had a religious transformation and decided to enter the ministry. While studying at Princeton, he received the call to be a missionary in Asia and was accepted for that role by the Presbyterian Church. Following graduation and marriage, he and his wife left for China in 1853.
   Settling in Ningpo, they both learned Chinese, and Nevius began preaching and teaching in the local dialect. In 1856, he wrote a simplified catechism for new inquirers. In 1861, he moved to Chefoo in Shantung Province, where he began to suggest changes to the way missionary work was organized. Apart from several visits back home, Nevius continued to evangelize, write, and train local leaders for three decades. Superintending a mission that extended hundreds of miles from Chefoo, he traveled to the various stations on horseback.
   Nevius gradually developed a new missionary strategy, which he expounded in his 1886 book, Methods of Mission Work. He presented it at the second general missionary conference in Shanghai in 1889, and was invited to present it to Presbyterian missionaries in Korea.
   Nevis called for the rapid transformation of mission centers into self-propagating, self-governing, and self-supporting churches - hence the term THREE-SELF PRINCIPLES. The idea met stiff resistance at first, especially among those with implicitly racist assumptions about the suitability of Asians for leadership roles. Nevertheless, by the time Nevius died four years later, on October 9, 1893, his plan was already winning support. In Korea, each new missionary received a copy of his book, which is given partial credit for the spectacular expansion of Presbyterianism in Korea.
   The effect in China was even greater. Today, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement of Protestant Churches in China, founded in 1954, with 20 million adherents is the largest Protestant body in the country.
   Further reading:
   ■ Samuel H. Chao, John Livingston Nevius (1829-1893): A Historical Study of His Life and Mission Methods (Pasadena, Calif.: Fuller Theological Seminary, Ph.D. diss., 1991); , Practical Missiology: The Life and Mission Methods of John L. Nevius (1829-1893) (London: Peter Lang, 1996)
   ■ John Livingston Nevius, China and the Chinese (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1882)
   ■ ----, Methods of Mission Work (Shanghai: American Presbyterian Missionary Press, 1886). , The Planting and Development of Missionary Churches (Philadelphia: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1958).
   ■ Available online. URL:
   ■ Helen Coan Nevius, The Life of John Livingston Nevius (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1895); , Our Life in China (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1869)
   ■ Roy E. Shearer, Wildfire: Church Growth in Korea (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1966).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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