McCaleb, John Moody (1861-1953)

Pioneer missionary for Churches of Christ

mccaleb,jm01bThe late nineteenth century was a time when optimism, expansion, and great energy infused American society while Protestant mission endeavors enjoyed the fruits of a renewed economy, new technology, and political favor.(1) Indeed, missions were the popular Christian cause of the day, as many believed that conditions were perfect for Protestants to conduct a worldwide missionary enterprise.(2) John Moody McCaleb (1861-1953) sought to participate in the mission fervor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as he not only worked tirelessly as a missionary in Japan, but also as he sought to spur his largely southern, rural, and poor denomination toward conducting a coordinated international missions enterprise. McCaleb’s desire to become a missionary proved difficult, however, because of his allegiance to Churches of Christ, one stream of the Stone-Campbell Movement.

By 1906, the United States Census Bureau officially recognized the schism that had been forming in the Stone-Campbell Movement in the late nineteenth-century between what would become known as Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ (Christian Churches).(3) While the inclusion of musical instruments in worship was the celebrity cause of the split, the missionary society controversy and differing hermeneutical interpretations of scripture that undergirded this debate were at the center of the schism.(4) At the beginning of the twentieth century, then, many referred to Churches of Christ as “anti-missionary” because they were one of the few Christian denominations in North American Protestantism that did not pursue a missionary enterprise through the means of a missionary society.

Indeed, by the 1890s, after years of argumentation and doctrinal development that had taken place since the founding of the American Christian Missionary Society (ACMS) in 1849, the congregations that would become affiliated with Churches of Christ had come to the conclusion that the individual congregation was God’s missionary society and that the church embodied the divine method for evangelizing the world.(5) Thus, Churches of Christ were by no means anti-missionary. Many members of the denomination were passionate about foreign and domestic mission endeavors; it was the para-church organization of the missionary society that they rejected.(6) Yet while it is true that the denomination sent out missionaries as early as 1880, Churches of Christ as a whole dispatched few individuals and gave them little financial support.(7)

J. M. McCaleb found himself in this situation in 1892 as he joined W. K. Azbill (1848-1929) to begin his work as a missionary in Japan. McCaleb was a pioneer missionary from Churches of Christ who not only navigated a new culture and work in Japan, but he also sought to answer the question, “how can a denomination that refuses to employ para-church organizations like missionary societies successfully conduct an international missionary enterprise?” In this paper, I briefly examine the life, work, and missiology of John Moody McCaleb. In doing so I hope to show that through his life and work, McCaleb demonstrated the possibility and respectability of a successful foreign missions enterprise for Churches of Christ.

John Moody McCaleb was born on September 25, 1861 in Hickman County, TN to John Moody and Jane McCaleb just months after the beginning of the Civil War.(8) McCaleb never knew his father, an ardent pacifist who was shot by a Union sentry because he failed to identify himself, but he was named after his father when his mother learned of her husband’s death.(9) By 1866, though Jane McCaleb worked tirelessly to provide for her family, the ravaging effects of the Civil War on the Southern economy left the McCaleb family farm in ruins.(10) This, along with his father’s death, left a deep mark on McCaleb. Later he would write, “[The Civil War] swept over Tennssee [sic], my native state, and on to the Gulf like a destructive fire, carrying with it death and desolation. Among those that fell before its onward sweep was my father. It left my mother a widow with six fatherless boys, the oldest ten and the youngest only six months old. Hard times followed.”(11)

When McCaleb turned five years old his family’s situation improved. His mother married J. N. Puckett, a member of the Tennessee state legislature and a member of the Shady Grove Church in Shady Grove, Tennessee, a church associated with the Stone-Campbell Movement.(12) By the time he was six years old, McCaleb started school, but work on the family farm forced him to attend only four terms over the next fifteen years until he turned twenty-one years old.(13) In the meantime, as he worked on the farm and developed useful skills, such as carpentry, cooking, and sewing, he also became very involved in the Shady Grove Church, often speaking and leading prayers for the congregation.(14) When he turned fourteen years old, J. M. Morton, a local minister, baptized him at a gospel meeting preached by J. M. Barnes at the Dunlap church.(15)

By the time McCaleb was 21 his mother had died, his brothers were all married, his stepfather went to live with his own children, and the family farm where McCaleb spent his childhood had been broken up and sold away.(16) This situation left him free to pursue his education. Initially, he desired to go to Mars Hill College in Florence, Alabama, to study with T. B. Larimore, a famous and prolific preacher in the Stone-Campbell movement. He was prevented from doing so, however, because of his lack of funds.(17) Eventually, however, he found an educational opportunity at Carter’s Creek Academy in Maury County, Tennessee under William Anderson (1848-1905). His time at Carter’s Creek Academy would not only firmly ground him in what would become the Tennessee tradition of Churches of Christ, but would also put him on the road to becoming one of the first missionaries of the denomination.(18) Anderson stood firmly in what would become the Tennessee tradition of Churches of Christ, which emphasized service to the poor, pacifism, an apocalyptic belief that the kingdom of God was breaking into the world to triumph over all earthly powers, and the Stone-Campbell ideal of restoring the primitive church.(19)

Following his time at Carter’s Creek Academy, McCaleb furthered his education by enrolling at the College of the Bible (presently Lexington Theological Seminary) in Lexington, Kentucky, at the age of twenty-six in 1888 under the supervision of J. W. McGarvey (1829-1911), one of the most important and influential biblical scholars in the Stone-Campbell Movement.(20) While at the College of the Bible McCaleb not only continued his education under individuals who would come to represent the Tennessee tradition of Churches, but he also would participate in an environment that encouraged a passion for foreign mission.

The College of the Bible had a strong international flavor with students from Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Turkey, Armenia, and Japan.(21) There were frequent missions meetings where missionaries from the Stone-Campbell movement would give lectures and reports on their work abroad. In these meetings, McCaleb had the opportunity to interact with two important Stone-Campbell missionaries: Eugenese Snodgrass, a graduate of the College of the Bible and missionary to Japan under the Foreign Christian Missionary Society (FCMS), and J. W. Shepherd a missionary to New Zealand and Australia.(22) For McCaleb, having a religious education in such a missions oriented environment created in him an enthusiasm “… for preaching the gospel to every creature in a manner which I had not met before.”(23)

During McCaleb’s education at the College of the Bible in Lexington, Kentucky, three other tremendously formational events took place in his life. First, while the atmosphere of the College of the Bible instilled in McCaleb a consciousness for international missions, it also represented the growing schism over the use of missionary societies that was developing in the Stone-Campbell movement. J. W. McGarvey, the dominant personality and most influential professor at the institution, firmly supported and encouraged the use of para-church missionary societies for the international propagation of the gospel.(24) McCaleb, however, had by this time in his life already developed a suspicion of missionary societies and despite his mentor’s arguments in their favor, became further convinced of their “unscriptural-ness.” Indeed, through limited interactions with the FCMS, McCaleb came to several conclusions about missionary societies: their organizational structures consumed funds that ought to be going towards mission work rather than bureaucratic support, they exerted too much control over the selection and ministry of missionaries, and most importantly their “institutional excesses” encouraged them to work in place of, rather than through, local congregations.(25) Indeed, by the time McCaleb graduated from the College of the Bible, he stood firmly on the anti-missionary society side of the growing schism in the Stone-Campbell movement as he proclaimed that the church was the only missionary society God intended.

Second, during his time at the College of the Bible, McCaleb came under the direct influence of one of the most important early figures in Churches of Christ, James A. Harding (1848-1922). Harding not only stood firmly in the emerging Tennessee tradition of Churches of Christ, but he also was one of its major shapers.(26) He was apolitical and a pacifist, believing that the in-breaking Kingdom of God was opposed to all human and governmental authority and had as its purpose the destruction of all such earthly powers.(27) Like Anderson, McCaleb, and others Harding held strongly to the restoration plea of Alexander Campbell, seeking to restore the primitive “New Testament Church” while rejecting the use of musical instruments in worship and missionary societies as divisive innovations of God’s plan for the life and practice of the church.(28)

Harding, however, brought a new set of beliefs that complemented the apocalyptic and restorationist views of southern Churches of Christ that would help solidify the Tennessee tradition that would eventually develop out of his Nashville Bible School: an emphasis on grace, a dynamic understanding of special divine providence, the personal indwelling and enabling work of the Holy Spirit, and a pietistic impulse marked by Bible reading, prayer, and tithing as a “means of grace.”(29) Though McCaleb never attended the Nashville Bible School, he developed a relationship with Harding after meeting him in the summer of 1888 at a debate in Columbia, Tennessee, that he carried on through correspondence. Following his experience with Harding, McCaleb would adopt and apply Harding’s faith principles and pietistic impulses to his own work as a missionary in Japan.(30)

Third and finally while studying at the College of the Bible, McCaleb met his wife, Della “Dorothy” Bentley of Paris, Kentucky. The two met in 1890, the first year women were allowed to enroll at the College of the Bible, and quickly connected over their mutual interest in foreign missions.(31) They were married on October 7, 1891, by I. B. Grubbs, a special friend of the family, having nothing but a trunk of clothes, five dollars, an old suit and a call to go to Japan as missionaries.(32) During the first fourteen years of their work the couple labored tirelessly alongside one another in Japan, but by 1906 Della had to return to the United States with their three children due to health difficulties.(33) McCaleb remained in Japan, apart from his family, for the next thirty-five years.

Following McCaleb’s marriage to Della Bentley and graduation from the College of the Bible, W. K. Azbill began to heavily recruit the new couple to join his “Volunteer Mission to Japan.”(34) Azbill had previously formed and then served under the Jamaica Christian Missionary Association as a missionary from 1882 to 1886.(35) After he returned to the United States he served as a national field worker for the Christian Women’s Board of Missions.(36) By the early 1890s the growing schism in the Stone-Campbell Movement over the use of missionary societies had developed to the point that Azbill believed that the churches needed to take a new approach in conducting and supporting their missionary enterprise. He proposed that the churches ought to send an all volunteer team of missionaries to Japan who were directly supported by funds raised from churches rather than being channeled through para-church organizations first.(37) Azbill’s proposal, then, allowed many individuals and churches who had strong objections to missionary societies make conscientious decisions to support missionaries in their international proclamation of the gospel.(38) His plan marked the start of what many in Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ would call “direct support missions.”(39)

Looking to fill out this new team of volunteers to Japan, Azbill contacted the headmaster of his old school, Charles L. Loos of the College of the Bible in Lexington, Kentucky, for recommendations. Loos quickly responded with an enthusiastic recommendation for the McCalebs.(40) After receiving the invitation to go to Japan, the McCalebs accepted, believing that it was their duty and obligation to go and bring “the light of the gospel” to the people of Japan.(41) When Azbill received word that the McCalebs were willing to join his volunteer team, he met the young couple in Southern Kentucky, where McCaleb was preaching, in order to discuss their plans.(42)

This meeting would prove to be significant for McCaleb, an individual who had been strongly shaped through his relationship with James A. Harding to have a strong belief in the special providence of God. Specifically, by the time Azbill reached McCaleb in Kentucky in 1891, the young couple had accrued a debt of fifty dollars from their recent marriage ceremony. When Azbill spoke at their church, Greens Chapel, to inform the congregation of the McCaleb’s plans to work in Japan, the small church offered (without prior knowledge of the McCalebs’ debt) to give them just a few cents over fifty dollars, the amount that had been given for that mornings weekly collection.(43) Azbill and the McCalebs took this to be a sign that God both confirmed and approved their call to Japan.(44) The following spring, on March 26, 1892, the McCalebs set sail from California and arrived in Yokohama harbor on April 12 to begin their work in Japan.(45)

While his partnership with Azbill seemed to be a good match at the outset of their volunteer endeavor, McCaleb quickly parted ways with the rest of the group. By the time the volunteers had begun their work in Japan, he had become unceasingly unhappy with Azbill’s constant appeals for money to churches in Britain and the United States. McCaleb, being true to his belief in God’s providence, felt that rather than constantly soliciting churches for funds, missionaries ought to be satisfied with whatever churches and individuals freely contributed. Indeed, rather than asking for more funds himself and choosing to rely on God’s providence, McCaleb taught English in Tokyo and operated a farm outside of the city to supplement his meager support.(46) The final straw for McCaleb came when Azbill accepted money from a church in Ohio that also supported the FCMS. At this point, he had enough with Azbill’s lack of faith and associations with potentially divisive organizations and left the group to begin his own work in the greater Tokyo area.

By 1893, McCaleb truly had independence and was one of the first international missionaries who identified with Churches of Christ. Though his work was often times difficult and discouraging, by 1909 McCaleb and other missionaries from Churches of Christ who came to join him counted 650 converts and seven churches.(47) By the 1920s McCaleb’s work consisted of eleven congregations and five schools. When he left Japan in 1941, because of World War II, forty-six missionaries from Churches of Christ had joined him in his work.(48) Beyond proselytizing, training preachers, and overseeing the schools, during his time in Japan McCaleb wrote eight books, numerous tracts in English and Japanese, conducted extensive correspondence, edited two periodicals, and contributed regularly to the periodicals of Churches of Christ.(49) When he returned to America in 1941 he settled down in Los Angeles and taught at Pepperdine College until a heart attack in 1945 left him bedridden. He died eight years later in 1953.(50)

Missiological Themes

Since Churches of Christ refused to use missionary societies as a means to conduct a foreign missions enterprise, what method would the denomination use? As one of the first missionaries of Churches of Christ, McCaleb constantly wrestled with this pressing question throughout his fifty-year career as a missionary to Japan. In 1892, before the official schism with Disciples of Christ (Christian Churches) and the year the Azbill volunteers went to Japan, the anti-society churches in the Stone-Campbell movement sent out six missionaries; by 1902 (ten years later) this number grew to fourteen; by 1912 Churches of Christ sent out eighteen; by 1922, twenty; and by 1934, 57.(51) It is no wonder, then, that one of McCaleb’s constant refrains in his books, periodicals, and tracts was an exhortation for Churches of Christ to send more and support more missionaries.(52)

In order to begin to explore other potential ways for Churches of Christ to select, send, and support more missionaries, McCaleb consulted a number of resources both inside and outside of the denomination.(53) First, because McCaleb was so strongly rooted in the Tennessee tradition of Churches of Christ and because of his relationship with James A. Harding, he had a natural proclivity towards the faith missions movement that was sweeping conservative Protestant Christian circles in late nineteenth century Britain and the United States.(54) As I mentioned before, McCaleb and his wife Della lived by faith principles, choosing to rely on God’s special providence for their financial support, at the beginning of their work in Japan. Over the next twenty years the McCalebs continued to maintain their commitment to faith principles, believing that missionaries ought to be working and not worry about support.(55) In doing so they seemed to be quiet successful. By 1910 McCaleb and his coworkers had planted seven churches, made 650 converts, and successfully started the Zoshigaya Gakuin boarding school.(56)

During this time period McCaleb also began advocating another system of missionary support that Churches of Christ could conscientiously use: the “living-link.” Adopted from Southern Methodists, a “living link” was a method of support where one particular congregation supported one missionary.(57) McCaleb recommended this method for three reasons: (1) he believed that it would immediately increase a church’s contribution to missions by large percentages, (2) he felt that this method would help the congregation become more fully invested in the life and work of the missionary, and (3) the living link could be a source of strength and satisfaction to the missionary.(58)

By 1919, building on the “living-link” method and in the back-to-the-Bible spirit of the Stone-Campbell movement, McCaleb espoused what he believed to be the “scriptural method” of selecting, supporting, and sending missionaries to foreign lands.(59) First, he continued to espouse the belief that every church was a missionary society and every member of a particular congregation was a missionary.(60) Second, though every member within a particular congregation was a missionary, since the church was a “missionary society” it could choose to select from within its ranks and send missionaries to foreign locations.(61) Once these missionaries arrived and began their work, it was their responsibility to regularly make direct reports to their sending congregation, outlining all of their financial gains and expenditures.(62) If a missionary could not live off of the support collected for them, then they could find ways to work in their new context to supplement their income.(63) This was an important point for McCaleb because it spoke to his belief in God’s providence. That is, he sincerely believed that if a missionary was going to answer the call to spread the gospel, then that individual must be willing to depend fully on God for his or her support and even suffer if need be.(64) At the same time, however, he also asserted that churches ought to do everything in their ability to make sure that missionaries never have to suffer. In this way, though McCaleb still held strong to his faith convictions, he seemed to indicate that the clearest way that missionaries could experience God’s providence was through the careful and vigilant care of the churches that sent them. If churches did what was required of them, McCaleb believed, then missionaries would not have to work to supplement their income or seek support elsewhere.(65)

Though McCaleb held strong convictions that churches ought to select, send, and support missionaries themselves rather than para-church organizations, he still believed that missionaries and churches could utilize “missionary treasures” to help coordinate support.(66) According to McCaleb, a missionary treasure was any “brother” who would volunteer his services to collect funds for a particular missionary from various individuals and different churches and forward them to that missionary without any cost or charge.(67) Indeed, this system of forwarding funds through missionary treasures was quite successful in Churches of Christ and had been operating since the early 1900s. For example, between 1916 and 1920, Don Carlos Janes, one of the most successful missionary treasurers and promoters in Churches of Christ, raised and forwarded over $25,000 to missionaries all over the world, no small sum at the time.(68)

Interestingly, as McCaleb outlined his plan regarding how Churches of Christ could select, send, and support missionaries, he also addressed his beliefs regarding the participation of women in missions. He built his argument from scripture saying that a woman, Mary Magdalene, was the first person to proclaim that Christ had risen (Matthew 28:1-19), that women could be teachers (Titus 2:3), and that they could labor with men in spreading the gospel (Philemon 4:3).(69) His primary example of female missionary from scripture was Phoebe, who, according to McCaleb, “… was a servant of the church at Chenchreae [sic] (Rom. 16:1,2), and went to Rome doing church work, and with the men they went “about preaching the word.”(70)

Such a position, taken by a man in Churches of Christ in the early twentieth century, is fairly remarkable. At the time, women were actively excluded from taking public authoritative roles in the congregations of the denomination because, as David Lipscomb (1831-1917) argued, allowing women to take leadership positions in churches would disobey Paul’s command on silence and this would lead women to eternal death!(71) For McCaleb to take such a stance in encouraging women to become missionaries and work as partners with men is surprising considering his time and religious context.(72)

While McCaleb spent considerable time and energy developing and recommending ways for Churches of Christ to select, support, and send missionaries, he also advocated indigenous methods of mission work: missionaries ought to plant churches that are self-governing, self-expanding, and self-supporting from the beginning.(73) In his writings, McCaleb spent little time discussing the idea that congregations planted by missionaries from Churches of Christ ought to be self-governing and self-expanding. Perhaps this was because of McCaleb’s ecclesiology. He already believed that churches were missionary societies and their members were missionaries. Furthermore, he subscribed to the radical congregational autonomy of Churches of Christ, believing that the church ought not to have any formal organizational structure larger than the local congregation, which was overseen by a group of elders.(74) Thus in planting new congregations of Churches of Christ in Japan, they would ideally be self-governing and self-expanding by default. This ideal, however, was not met. While it is difficult to determine if the Japanese converts in the congregations McCaleb planted actively sought to proselytize their neighbors, in the fifty-year period that McCaleb worked in Japan, only four congregations appointed elders.(75)

While McCaleb wrote little concerning the self-expanding and self-governing nature of the indigenous church method, he wrote considerably about how churches ought to be self-supporting. Specifically, he believed that when churches or missionary societies begin to support foreign congregations and ministers they often fall into the trap of creating an unhealthy relationship of dependency.(76) Rather, new churches and converts ought to be taught generosity and the value of supporting something themselves. That way, according to McCaleb, the growth would be “natural, spiritual, and healthy.”(77)

While an awareness of creating unhealthy dependencies on Western financial support is certainly important in recommending that new churches should be self-supporting, perhaps McCaleb also emphasized the importance of self-support because of the state of the international missionary enterprise of Churches of Christ. During McCaleb’s tenure as a missionary in Japan he had to constantly encourage, exhort, and fight for more awareness, missionaries, and support from the congregations that made up Churches of Christ. If the denomination was already struggling to support the missionaries it sent, how could Churches of Christ hope to find the means to support numerous church plants over the long term?

Regardless of why McCaleb chose to emphasize self-support, there is still the question of whether he was successful in planting self-supporting congregations. In 1910 he claimed that out of 400 Protestant churches in Japan, 199 were self-supporting while being relatively silent on the issue of how many of those churches were planted by missionaries from Churches of Christ.(78) By 1931, however, McCaleb revealed that not one of the churches planted by missionaries from Churches of Christ were entirely self-supporting.(79) Perhaps this situation was due to the fact that in practice, as one who both received and forwarded funds, McCaleb himself was rather paternalistic in the way he exercised control over coworkers from Churches of Christ and the Japanese people he sought to convert.(80)


John Moody McCaleb was a pioneer missionary. He belonged to a largely rural and poor southern denomination that was trying to form its own identity in the early twentieth-century as it also sought to conduct a foreign missions enterprise. Because Churches of Christ rejected the use of missionary societies, its members and earliest missionaries were faced with the task of discovering alternative methods for selecting, supporting, and sending missionaries. As he drew from both the faith resources of his formation in the Tennessee tradition of Churches of Christ as well as mission resources and examples outside of the denomination, McCaleb, through his fifty years of work in Japan, proved the possibility and respectability of foreign missions for the “anti-missionary” denomination.

by Jeremy Hegi


(1) David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008), 337.

(2) Stephen B. Bevans and Roger Schroeder, Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today (Marknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), 221.

(3) United States Bureau of the Census, Religious Bodies: 1906 (New York: Norman Ross, 2001), 236-243.

(4) Phil Wayne Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions: An Evaluation of Churches of Christ (Austin, TX: Firm Foundation Publishing House, 1974), 2-3.

(5) Ibid., 2.

(6) This issue is addressed in the 1906 Census of Religious Bodies, “The opposition to missionary societies on the part of the Churches of Christ does not imply any lack of interest in missionary work, which has been fully developed since the division. They are rapidly establishing new churches in different parts of the United States, and are carrying on missionary work in Turkey, Persia, and Japan.” United States Bureau of the Census, Religious Bodies, 242.

(7) Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions, 6, 99.

(8) Elmer Leon Jorgenson, “J. M. McCaleb,” Missionary Messenger 30 (December 1953): 81-82.

(9) Ibid. For more information on pacifism in the Stone-Campbell Movement and in Churches of Christ in particular see Michael W. Casey, “Pacifism,” The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 586-588.

(10) Turner, Gary Owen, “Pioneer to Japan: A Biography of J. M. McCaleb” (Master’s thesis, Abilene Christian University, 1972), 21.

(11) McCaleb was one of the six children he mentions in the quote above and was named for his father, John Moody. See John Moody McCaleb, Memories of Early Days (Tokyo: Kinkodo, n.d.), 37.

(12) Turner, “Pioneer to Japan,” 21-22.

(13) Ibid., 23.

(14) Shawn Z. Daggett, “The Lord Will Provide: James A. Harding, J. M. McCaleb, William J. Bishop, and the Emergence of Faith Missions in the Churches of Christ,” (ThD diss., Boston University, 2007), 151.

(15) Ibid., 15.

(16) John Moody McCaleb, Once Traveled Roads (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1934), 15.

(17) Ibid., 15.

(18) Turner, “Pioneer to Japan,” 24. In the early twentieth-century at least three major traditions existed in Churches of Christ: (1) the Tennessee Tradition, led by David Lipscomb and James A. Harding; (2) the Indiana Tradition led by Daniel Sommer (1859-1940); and (3) the Texas Tradition led by Austin McGary (1846-1928). The labels do not restrict the three traditions to geographical boundaries but rather identify the theological orientations that reflected the primary geographical orientation of each. Following the Civil War these three traditions struggled for dominance as Churches of Christ tried to define its distinct identity. These three traditions overlapped in many ways having many beliefs and practices in common: weekly Lord’s Supper, immersion of believers for the remission of sins, a biblical pattern for the church, plurality of elders, and a cappella music in worship. Though they appeared as one in form, the logic behind their theological perspectives was quite different. For more information see D. Newell Williams, Douglas A. Foster, and Paul M. Blowers, eds. The Stone-Campbell Movement: A Global History (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2013), 89-91.

(19) See Williams, Foster, and Blowers, The Stone-Campbell Movement, 76 and H. Leo Boles, “Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers: William Anderson” The Gospel Advocate 74 (1932): 369-373.

(20) McGarvey was greatly influential in both Disciples of Christ and Churches of Christ circles. His Commentary on Acts is unquestionably one of the most influential biblical commentaries in the Stone-Campbell movement as it expressed and shaped the tradition’s approach to scripture. Furthermore, McGarvey’s conservative hermeneutic and articulate response to the rise of theological liberalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries made him a heroic figure in the conservative streams of the Stone-Campbell Movement: Churches of Christ and Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. For more information see M. Eugene Boring, “McGarvey, John W. (1829-1911)” The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 506-507.

(21) Daggett, “The Lord Will Provide,” 154.

(22) McCaleb, Once Traveled Roads, 33.

(23) Ibid.

(24) Ibid., 34.

(25) Daggett, “The Lord Will Provide,” 155.

(26) Williams, Foster, and Blowers, The Stone-Campbell Movement, 89.

(27) Ibid., 77.

(28) John Mark Hicks, “Harding, James Alexander (1848-1922)” The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 382.

(29) Ibid.

(30) Sean Daggett discusses McCaleb’s relationship with Harding extensively in his dissertation, The Lord Will Provide. See Daggett, The Lord Will Provide, 157-158.

(31) Ibid., 159.

(32) McCaleb, Once Traveled Roads, 40, 42.

(33) Don Carlos Janes, Missionary Biographies (Louisville, KY: Janes Printing Company, 1942), 14.

(34) Turner, “Pioneer to Japan,” 28.

(35) Janes, Missionary Biographies,12.

(36) Ibid.

(37) David Filbeck and Robert S. Bates, “Asia, Missions in” The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 34

(38) Ibid.

(39) Williams, Foster, and Blowers, The Stone-Campbell Movement, 115.

(40) McCaleb, Once Traveled Roads, 40.

(41) Quoted in Daggett, “The Lord Will Provide,” 165.

(42) McCaleb, Once Traveled Roads, 43.

(43) Ibid.

(44) This small congregation continued to send support to the McCalebs until 1934. Ibid. In his book, Once Traveled Roads, McCaleb shared many stories like the one above to show how God came through for them time and again as they relied on God’s providence for their financial support. For example, the McCalebs would return to Japan in 1901 after a brief furlough lacking about $150 of the money they needed to get to their destination, yet as they got to Los Angeles they received the exact amount of money they needed for their trip. See also Don Carlos Janes, Missionary Biographies, 14.

(45) Turner, “Pioneer to Japan,” 33.

(46) Such a move to self support is quiet similar to that of the famous Methodist missionary pioneer, William Taylor, who advocated that missionaries ought to strive to be self supporting. Perhaps McCaleb was influenced by Taylor in the area of self support, especially by Taylor’s famous book, Pauline Methods of Missionary Work. More research is needed, however, to discern whether or not McCaleb may have been influenced by the life and work of Taylor. For more information on the life, work, and thought of William Taylor, see David Bundy, “The Legacy of William Taylor,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 18 (October 1994): 172-176. For more information on McCaleb’s self supporting work in Tokyo see Williams, Foster, and Blowers, The Stone-Campbell Movement, 123.

(47) Ed Mathews, “McCaleb, John Moody (1861-1953)” The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 506.

(48) See Williams, Foster, and Blowers, The Stone-Campbell Movement, 267 and Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions, 95-97.

(49) Don Carlos Janes, Missionary Biographies, 15.

(50) Matthews, “McCaleb,” 506.

(51) These statistics appear in Appendix F of Elkins, Church-Sponsored Missions, 98-99.

(52) For example see John Moody McCaleb, Christ the Light of the World: Ten Lectures Delievered at Foster Street Church of Christ, Nashville, Tenn., September 5-14, 1910 (Nashville, TN: McQuiddy Printing Company, 1911), 17, 44-45, 59, 73, 99-100, 130-131, 158-159, 186, 262.

(53) This is an important point because many scholars, both within and outside of Churches of Christ, saw the denomination as one that was relatively isolated from the broader conversation of religion in the United States in the early twentieth century. Or as Sydney Ahlstrom put it, “… they were immured behind a Campebllian wall, going their own way without cooperation, consultation, or coordination with anyone but themselves, and as a result, they were relatively insulated from millennialism, perfectionism, and glossolalia.” Such a view of Churches of Christ during this period of time is partially misleading. Although the denomination did remain relatively isolated from the debates that were raging between fundamentalists and theological liberals in the early twentieth century, members of Churches of Christ regularly read and paid attention to periodicals and debates happening outside of their denomination. Leaders such as James A. Harding, Don Carlos Janes, and J. M. McCaleb paid close attention to the theological and missiological developments of the day. See Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People, vol. 2 (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1975), 295.

(54) McCaleb refers to his admiration for Hudson Taylor in his book, Christ the Light of the World. See McCaleb, Christ the Light of the World, 14. Furthermore, McCaleb actually met and greatly admired both Hudson Taylor and A. B. Simpson, another leading figure in the faith missions movement. See Daggett, “The Lord Will Provide,” 176.

(55) Ibid., 206.

(56) Jorgenson, “J. M. McCaleb,” 81.

(57) McCaleb, Christ the Light of the World, 13.

(58) Turner, “Pioneer to Japan,” 18.

(59) McCaleb’s use of proof texts to support his method was indicative of the Baconian approach members of Churches of Christ took to reading scripture. They followed an inductive scientific approach to reading the Bible where an individual had to merely find and assemble the “facts” from scripture in order to find the proper doctrine on a particular issue. See Carisse Mickey Berryhill, “Common Sense Philosophy” Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 230-231 and John Moody McCaleb, “Scriptural Ways to Go and Preach” Word and Work 12 (December 1919): 368.

(60) Ibid., 369.

(61) Citing Acts 13:1-3. Ibid., 368

(62) Citing Acts 14:25-27 and 1 Corinthians 8:20-21. Ibid.

(63) Citing Acts 18:1-13 and 20:33-35. Ibid.

(64) Ibid.

(65) Ibid., 369.

(66) By 1919 there were at least five people in Churches of Christ, usually editors of periodicals, who fit this role. The most prolific and successful of whom was Don Carlos Janes. For more information see Don Haymes, “Janes, Don Carlos (1877-1944)” The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 423-425.

(67) Citing the example of Titus in 2 Corinthians 8:16,17; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:6-15; 1 Corinthians 9:14; 1 Timothy 5:18,19; 2 Corinthians 8:18-19. See McCaleb, “Scriptural Ways to Go and Preach,” 368.

(68) Don Carlos Janes, “Some Things to Think About,” Firm Foundation 37 (September 21, 1920): 2-3.

(69) McCaleb, “Scriptural Ways to God and Preach,” 369.

(70) Ibid.

(71) Pully, Kathy J. “Women in Ministry” The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 779.

(72) Whether McCaleb actually partnered with women in an egalitarian sense in his work is another question altogether. This is one area of the history of missions in Churches of Christ where more research would be fruitful: women and missions in the early twentieth century. It is worth mentioning, though, that there were a considerable number of single women who went to work in Japan in the early twentieth century. For more information see Bonnie Miller, Messengers of the Risen Son in the Land of the Rising Son: Single Women Missionaries in Japan (Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2008).

(73) See Mathews, “McCaleb, John Moody (1861-1953),” 506 and Bosch, Transforming Mission, 295.

(74) Thomas H. Olbricht, “Churches of Christ,” The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 213.

(75) Turner, “Pioneer to Japan,” 131-132.

(76) John Moody McCaleb, “Self Help the Best Help,” Word and Work 12 (June 1919), 172.

(77) Ibid., 173.

(78) McCaleb, Christ the Light of the World, 126.

(79) Turner, “Pioneer to Japan,” 130.

(80) Daggett, “The Lord Will Provide,” 236.


Primary Texts

McCaleb, John Moody. Christ the Light of the World: Ten Lectures Delivered at Foster Street Church of Christ, Nashville, Tenn., September 5-14, 1910. Nashville, TN: McQuiddy Printing Company, 1911.

____. Memories of Early Days. Tokyo: Kinkodo, n.d.

____. Once Traveled Roads. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate Company, 1934.

____. “Scriptural Ways to Go and Preach” Word and Work 12 (December 1919): 368-369.

Secondary Sources

Ahlstrom, Sydeny E. A Religious History of the American People. Vol. 2. Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1975.

Daggett, Shawn Z. “The Lord Will Provide: James A. Harding, J. M. McCaleb, William J. Bishop, and the Emergence of Faith Missions in the Churches of Christ, 1892-1913.” ThD diss., Boston University, 2007.

Jorgenson, Elmer L. “J. M. McCaleb,” Missionary Messenger 30 (December 1953): 81-82.

Matthews, Ed. “McCaleb, John Moody (1861-1953).” In The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Edited by Douglas A. Foster, Anthony L. Dunnavant, Paul M. Blowers, and D. Newell Williams. 1st ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Olbricht, Thomas H. “Churches of Christ.” In The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement. Edited by Douglas A. Foster, Anthony L. Dunnavant, Paul M. Blowers, and D. Newell Williams. 1st ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Turner, Gary Owen. “Pioneer to Japan: A Biography of J. M. McCaleb.” Master’s thesis, Abilene Christian University, 1972.

Links and Portrait

John Moody McCaleb,” found on “The History of the Restoration Movement” website.

John Moody McCaleb,” The Cyber Hymnal.