Mission Movement

The Waldensians had a clear sense of mission and it defined them. Their mission was closely tied in with their worldview. What composes a worldview? Every human being on the planet views the world through a distinct, personal lens, a worldview. Your worldview can be influenced by such factors as culture, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and upbringing, but beyond these variables, there are four common factors that shape each individual worldview:

  1. The question of origin: where do I come from?
  2. The question of meaning: why am I here?
  3. The question of morality: what is right and wrong?
  4. And the question of destiny: where am I going?

The way you answer these four fundamental questions will define who you are, how you live and how you engage with the world around you.

Torre Pellice, Italy

What made the Waldensian movement such a definitive one was the fact that they had clear answers to all four of these questions and all of those answers were based on the Bible. It was this worldview that acted as an anchor when the strong surge of persecution strove to loosen the moorings of their pure faith. Facing relentless persecution in the lower valleys the Waldensians moved into the higher alpine regions. 

Waldensian Training School

Here they settled themselves, focusing on a single mission, that of broadcasting the seeds of truth throughout the darkened strongholds of papal Europe. To this end, they built training schools that covered the rugged mountainous region of the Piedmont Valley.

The College of the Barbs, nestled high in the Italian Alps, is the only remaining example of what must have been a network of educational centers of influence. The college was driven by a singular mission, that of preparing an army of young workers, rightly trained and equipped for the work of mission before them.

To accomplish this they trained the children and youth to commit large portions of scripture to memory and to painstakingly copy the Bible by hand. As they did this they would achieve two goals, the first was of hiding the word of God in their hearts and minds and the second was that of producing written copies of the scriptures that could be distributed.

Once they had completed their training, Waldensian youth were sent to the best universities in Europe and wherever they went they took the word of God with them. Having committed large portions of scripture to memory they had ready access to the truth as the need arose. In addition, they sewed portions of scripture into the folds and hems of their clothing, thus enabling them to distribute the truth as discreetly as possible.

Mission, Waldensian, Church

As they went about gaining an education they mingled with a wide variety of people and would make an effort to befriend them.  As time went by and they discerned genuine spiritual interest, they would share the Bible either verbally or in the form of small handwritten rolls of parchment.  

In this way, the light of God’s word spread slowly and unobtrusively throughout a European continent that was teeming with tradition and superstition. 

Other Waldensians would learn a trade or sell goods from door to door, and as they bought and sold, traded and repaired they would watch for the moving of God’s Spirit on the hearts of their listeners.When they discerned spiritual interest they would share the truth, either from memory or by handing out those precious portions of hand-copied scripture. Thus, the ultimate mission of the Waldensian way of life was to share the truth with others. They worked, studied and raised families but in the midst of this, their focus on their mission was clear and unwavering.

What composed the Waldensian worldview? In a phrase, lux lucet in tenebris. They lived and worked as a light shining in the darkness.

What composes your worldview? How do you answer the four most fundamental questions of life? A biblical worldview would lead you to live as light shining in darkness wherever you are. You may be a professional in a workplace, a student in an educational institution, a mother raising her children, but wherever you are called to be your worldview will define how you engage with those in the environment around you. It will define whether you engage in that sphere merely to collect a paycheque, gain an education and raise upstanding citizens or whether you engage in that sphere as a missionary, working to lead souls to know, love and serve Jesus.

The Waldensian worldview was lux lucet in tenebris. What is yours?

Further Reading

  • White, E.G. (1888) – The Great Controversy
  • Wilkerson, B.G. (1944) – Truth Triumphant
  • Wylie, J.A. (1878) – The History of Protestantism
  • Wylie, J.A. (1860) – The History of the Waldenses
  • Utt, W.C. (1977) – Home to our Valleys