George Liele - The First Baptist International Missionary

William Cary often gets credit for being the first Baptist sent as missionary to the nations. He certainly deserves credit, along with pastor Andrew Fuller, for kicking off the modern missionary movement.

Adoniram Judson frequently is identified as the first American missionary for leaving the shores of the U.S. in 1812. However, he isn't the first missionary to leave this land to go overseas, nor the first Baptist. Judson is important, but there was a Baptist missionary that preceded him.

The title of the first Baptist missionary actually belongs to a black man from colonial America named George Liele.


Liele was born a slave in the colony of Virginia in 1750. He converted to Christianity in 1773 in the church of his master, Henry Sharp. He gained his freedom in 1778 from Sharp so that he could preach the gospel. In 1783, since he had sided with the British in the revolution, in order to be evacuated from America with British troops, Liele became an indentured servant in exchange for his family's passage to Jamaica. After a short time he repaid his debt and was freed again. He then turned his attention to preaching the gospel to the slave population of Jamaica.

Liele was persecuted by the plantation owners of Jamaica for preaching the gospel. But he continued to preach the gospel.

Although he pastored many years, he did not rely on his pastorate for his income but worked as a teamster/hauler and farmer to support his livelihood.

Liele is an impressive example of a faithful Christian and an important figure in black history. Below you can watch Danny Akin's tribute to Liele in the form of a sermon on the text of Galatians 6:11-18.

Preaching from Galatians 6, Dr. Akin speaks about the marks of a cross-centered ministry and how these marks are seen in the life and ministry of the first Baptist missionary to the nations, George Leile, a former African slave who planted the Gospel in Jamaica.

What makes a sermon good?

Good sermons till the soil of my soul, plowing in the same direction as last year and the year before. This time another clump of clay gets broken up and maybe another rock unearthed to be tossed aside. But it is the same ground that needs to be cultivated. It isn't as hard packed as it was a while ago, but the rains, the foot traffic of the field workers, and the baking of the sun have allowed it to get packed down pretty hard again.

I know I've heard a really good sermon not when I walk away with a four step action plan but when I leave my seat with a deeper sense of grace, hope, and determination. Grace comes from knowing that I’m not the first to still need to pull some weeds and harrow the field after all these years. Hope comes from knowing it can be done and that there is wisdom in the Word. Determination comes from a deeper appreciation of the Savior who gives the grace and hope.

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