Eli Stanley Jones was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on January 3, 1884. He studied law briefly at City College before moving to Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky.
In February of 1905, Jones and three other men were having a private prayer meeting when, about 10 p.m., the Holy Spirit seemed to enter the room. Other students joined them, and revival spread across the Asbury campus and around the town of Wilmore. There were confessions of sin, powerful prayers, and new deeper commitments to the Lord. In his spiritual autobiography, Jones said that this revival liberated him from a sense of superiority, which prepared him for future work as a missionary, opened his ears to the Holy Spirit, and led directly to his calling to the mission field. Jones graduated from Asbury in 1907 and became a missionary to India under the Board of Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In India he met a fellow missionary, Mabel Lossing, whom he married in 1911.
Jones began his mission work among the lowest class of people. He did not attack the predominant religions of the area, but tried to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ without attaching Western culture to it. As the Methodist Board of Missions’ “Evangelist-at-Large” to India, Jones conducted large meetings in Indian cities. He presided over “round table conferences” where people of all faiths could sit down as equals and share their testimonies of how their religious experiences improved their lives.
Jones’ ministry soon became worldwide in its influence as he stressed that the reconciliation brought through Jesus Christ was intended for the whole world. He helped to re-establish the Indian “Ashram” (forest retreat) where men and women would come together for days at a time to explore each others’ faiths. Jones would later go on to establish Christian Ashrams around the world.
Nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, his reputation as a “reconciler” invited him to many political negotiations in India, Africa and Asia. He was a close confidant of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the time preceding World War II, and after the war he was greeted in Japan as the “Apostle of Peace”. He played an important role in establishing religious freedom in the post-colonial Indian government. He became a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi and even wrote a biography of Gandhi, a book which Martin Luther King said influenced him to adopt strict non-violent methods in the American civil rights movement. Jones had a strong influence in preventing the spread of communism in India.
Jones died in India on January 25, 1973. A prominent Methodist Bishop called E. Stanley Jones “the greatest Christian missionary since St. Paul.”
Watch this Norman Vincent Peale video about the profound impact that E. Stanley Jones had on his life.