Fredrik Franson was born June 17, 1852 in Sweden, number 8 of ten children. Three of his siblings died before Fredrik’s birth, and in 1857 two other siblings and his father died. His mother Maria was only 40, and she remarried two years later.
Middle school was four years in those days but Franson completed the course work in three. In 1868, a severe economic depression hit Sweden and his three oldest siblings moved to the United States. Fredrik was forced to drop out of school after his freshman year and when he was 17, he joined two of his brothers in the United States of America, traveling with his parents, another brother, and his half-sister. The family settled in Estina, Nebraska.
Fredrik was having difficulty with his belief in God, and it was not until after he turned 20 that he spent time talking with his mother and praying and trusted Christ for salvation. He found much meaning in Romans 10:8 “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;” and he began to study the Bible diligently. He learned much but he shared his newfound faith with only his mother, for nearly two years, though he did join a local Baptist church in which he was baptized.
At one point, a fellow church member had visited the home and she asked Franson about his spiritual situation. He realized then that keeping his faith to himself was shameful and he was determined to tell his church about Christ’s work in him. After doing so, he no longer felt fear about telling others about God.
He became very active in his church and he joined a pastor that ministered nearby when he traveled to his circuit churches. Franson was asked to be the recording secretary for some multichurch conferences that were held at the time, which he attended as a delegate from his local church.
Franson began to travel the world to preach and teach. After a year, he felt that more training would be beneficial, and he moved to Chicago in 1876 in the hope of meeting and learning from D. L. Moody, whose evangelistic work was well known. He joined Moody in his big city campaigns which ended at the church Moody founded and Franson was trained in counseling and evangelism by Moody during that sixteen months.
Following his training, Franson moved back to Nebraska to work with immigrants from Scandinavia until 1879, when he was led to minister in Utah Territory to about 30,000 fellow Swedish immigrants. Once in Utah, he expanded his ministry to include the recently settled Mormon population. During this time, he planted seven churches in three states.
In 1881, Franson visited his homeland. He traveled the European continent ministering and during his travels, he heard Hudson Taylor speak about the need for missionaries in China. Franson was inspired to form mission agencies in Europe. During his time in Europe, he was a part of founding six such agencies: Danish Mission Confederation, Finnish Alliance Mission, German Alliance Mission, Swedish Alliance Mission, Swedish Evangelical Mission, and Swiss Alliance Mission. All of these organizations are still active in sending missionaries to this day.
The TEAM organization does not claim any particular denomination but instead aims simply to reach the lost with the gospel of Christ by sharing God’s word and starting churches. Still active after over 125 years, the TEAM mission group now sends to over 40 countries and has thousands of missionaries.
He returned to the United States and kept preaching. He desired to inspire others to minister to people in various cultures apart from their native culture and formed a class to train people, in Brooklyn, NY. He founded the Scandinavian Alliance Mission in 1890 in Chicago, IL, which later became known as The Evangelical Alliance Mission (or TEAM).
The use of “alliance” in the names indicated the vision Franson had to bring together churches to make it easier for even small churches to be a part of mission efforts. These organizations offered classes to teach how to minister and evangelize. A board of directors was formed and in 1891 the first missionary group of 35 headed for China via the west coast.
This group of missionaries were dedicated to the cause of Christ and chose to assimilate as much as possible with the Chinese they endeavored to reach by dressing and living as the Chinese did. They were joined by others, as Franson continued to encourage others to go.
In these early days, the way to China was through Japan, which was soon viewed as another mission field. In 1892, southern Africa was added, as well, and in 1906, Venezuela was added to the list of fields to which these organizations were sending missionaries. When the missionary to Venezuela, T. J. Bach, returned from the field, he became the third General Director of TEAM.
In 1908, after spending time visiting the mission fields, Franson went to visit some friends in Colorado. On August 2, his friend went to wake him at breakfast time, to find him deceased.
Franson never married, so had no family or property to leave behind. However, he did leave behind a legacy of missionaries to people all over the world, working for God’s kingdom. His personal motto was Constant, conscious fellowship with Jesus. He lived by this motto his entire life.
Read more about Fredrik Franson:
Where to Buy
This biography of Franson shows how his worldwide evangelism can be a model for others to follow.
This biography was written in 1966 by David Woodward.
This book chronicles the life and worldwide labors of missionary Fredrik Franson.
This pamphlet contains a short biography of Franson’s life and work.