At the dawn of the 20th century, Christians in the West were awakening to the need to share the Gospel with a rapidly multiplying global population. In December 1889, renowned missionary statesman Hudson Taylor called for 1,000 missionaries to go to China and share Christ with its 250 million people.
Fredrik Franson, a respected evangelist and son of Swedish immigrants to Nebraska, felt stirred to answer that call. He had been commissioned as a missionary by D.L. Moody’s church in Chicago and was serving in Europe at the time of Hudson’s rallying cry. Franson committed to personally train and send 100 missionaries to China. He formed six missions agencies in Europe, all of which continue sending missionaries to this day.
Franson believed that America should become a base for sending missionaries, so he sailed for New York in September 1890. He began speaking at churches and offering classes to mobilize and train missionaries around the country. His first training class on October 14, 1890, held at the Pilgrim Church in Brooklyn, New York, was attended by 50 men and women. This is considered the “birthday” of TEAM.
TEAM began under the name Scandinavian Alliance Mission, or S.A.M. In January of 1891, the first band of 35 missionaries set sail for China. Within five years, nearly 100 S.A.M. missionaries were serving in China, Japan, North India, South Africa, East Africa, Swaziland and Mongolia.
Following Franson’s death in 1908, the mission continued to expand into Latin America and thrive in Africa and Asia. The mission eventually found a new director in T.J. Bach, a pioneering missionary who had helped plant vibrant churches in Venezuela and Colombia.
Bach’s leadership increased awareness of the mission among a broad and diverse network of churches across the country. Under his vision, the mission dramatically strengthened support services for its missionaries and established new headquarters in downtown Chicago, which would eventually be relocated to Carol Stream, Illinois.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Great Depression and devastating wars across the globe tested the mission’s resolve, as well as the safety of missionaries serving in hot zones in Asia. But following World War II, the ministry grew rapidly as wartime experiences fueled passions to serve overseas and provided new missionaries with the skills to do it.
By the middle of the century, new fields had opened in Europe, Africa and Asia, and Canadians established a sister ministry that would soon become TEAM Canada.
In 1949, the Scandinavian Alliance Mission changed its name to become The Evangelical Alliance Mission, or TEAM, a better reflection of its broad scope of ministries and missionaries.
“We are workers together with Him, to the uttermost part of the earth,” said then director David Johnson. “In the home office, on the fields, among the churches and the individuals who support us, we are a team — and it’s going to take real teamwork to get the job done.”
In the decades following the name change, TEAM added hundreds of missionaries to its ranks and expanded its work to over 35 countries, giving it a presence on six continents. TEAM opened major initiatives in the Arab world and developed specialized ministries such as hospitals, Bible institutes, orphanages, publications, linguistic work and children’s education to support its overall mission of church planting.
TEAM grew both organically and through mergers with other missions. By the beginning of the 21st century, it had also renewed its focus on post-Christian regions of Europe and Central America. TEAM workers celebrated as the mission’s vision came full-circle when they began working for the first time in Sweden, homeland of founder Fredrik Franson.
Today, in a rapidly changing missions context both in the United States and abroad, TEAM and its network of over 2,000 churches continues to explore new fields for missionary work and innovative new ways to serve. Scott Henson serves as TEAM’s international director, overseeing more than 550 missionaries, and a diverse team of staff and mobilizers located in TEAM missions hubs around the United States and Canada.