Saturday, 23 April 2016

C.T. Studd--Passionate, Single-minded, Dedicated....Neglectful?

I received this recommendation C.T. Studd; Cricketer and Pioneer via this blog post of top 10 missionary biographies which is worth checking out;

I enjoyed this book which gives a great amount of detail about the practical ministry experiences of C.T. Studd on the field. I appreciated this as sometimes these biographies go off on tangents about various personal spiritual experiences that the reader cannot relate to.

C.T. was a cricketer and pioneer missionary. His father, the wealthy E. Studd had been converted later in life dramatically giving up his racing business and everything else to evangelise before his death just two years later. C.T recalls the change in his father after his conversion;

“Then all at once I had the good fortune to meet a real live play-the game Christian. It was my own father. But it did make one’s hair stand on end. Everyone in the house had a dog’s life of it until they were converted. I was not altogether pleased with him. He used to come into my room at night and ask if I was converted. After a time I used to sham sleep when I saw the door open, and in the day I crept round the other side of the house when I saw him coming.”

Despite his father’s efforts it was a family friend, a Mr W, who was finally successful after just as forcefully confronting CT about his soul. After Mr W had quoted a Bible verse;

CT “No, I don’t believe that.”

W “Now, don’t you see that your statement contradicts God? Either God or you is not speaking the truth, for you contradict one another. Which is it? Do you think that God is a liar?”

CT “No”

W “Well then, aren’t you inconsistent, believing one half of the verse and not the other half?
CT “I suppose I am”

W “Are you always going to be inconsistent?”

CT “No, I suppose not always”

W “Will you be consistent now?”

I saw that I was cornered and I began to think, if I go out of this room inconsistent I won’t carry very much self-respect

CT “Yes I will be consistent”

W “Well don’t you see that eternal life is a gift? When someone gives you a present at Christmas what do you do?”

CT “I take it and say thankyou”

W “Will you say thankyou to God for this gift?”

Then I got down on my knees and I did say thankyou to God. And right then and there joy and peace came into my soul. I knew then what it was to be “born again” and the Bible, which had been so dry to me before, became everything.”
CT became an excellent cricketer and no doubt could have made this his long –term career.

“CT never regretted that he played cricket (although he did regret allowing it to become an idol,) for by applying himself to the game he learned lessons of courage, self-denial and endurance, which, after his life had been fully consecrated to Christ, were used in His service.”

But after a six year period of backsliding, he chose to forsake everything and head to the mission field after being convicted and hearing the call of God through a tract written by an atheist (It was this same quote which also partly challenged me (the writer) into mission.)

“If I firmly believed, as millions say they do, that the knowledge of a practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, then religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness. I should labor in its cause alone. I would take thought for the marrow of eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering. Earthly consequences would never stay in my head or seal my lips. Earth, its joys and its griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity alone, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or everlastingly miserable. I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be, "What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul”

CT married fellow missionary Priscilla Stewart. Together they operated the “living by faith” principle, giving all of their money away. They first were called to China where they saw some remarkable conversions particularly amongst opium addicts and later to India (partly to honour the dying wish of his father.)

“I am a murderer, an adulterer, I have broken all the laws of God and man again and again. I am also a confirmed opium smoker. He cannot save me.” This man was soundly converted and later said “I must go to the town where I have done all this evil and sin and in that very place tell the good tidings.” He gathered crowds, was brought before the mandarin, and was ordered 2000 strokes with the bamboo, till his back was one mass of red jelly, and he himself was thought to be dead. He was taken to hospital and nursed, till he was at last, able to sit up and said “I must go back again to …… and preach this Gospel.”

CT often used unorthodox methods of evangelism, this conversation with a Mrs Thomas;

“What an awful thing you said this afternoon, Charlie, comparing religion to smallpox. I thought it disgusting.” This led to a long talk….later she made him a cup of cocoa and handed it to him as he sat on the sofa. But he went on talking, while she stood there holding the cup. She spoke to him but he still ignored it. Then she naturally got annoyed. “Well” he said “That is exactly how you are treating God. Who is holding out Eternal Life to you.” The arrow pierced right home. She went to her room and accepted Christ later sending a telegram “Got the smallpox badly.”

But due to the harsh and primitive conditions both CT and his wife were plagued by ill-health and returned to England, now with four daughters in tow.

In 1908 CT saw an advertisement for missionaries to go to the unreached cannibals in Africa and decided to set out alone as his wife was too ill to accompany him and did not at first agree with his call. She later became his most ardent supporter and worked tirelessly to support him by raising the profile of the campaign. (CT went alone after a mission agency and a doctor advised him against it.)  CT and his wife spent the best part of the next 20 years apart (during the last 13 years of his life he saw his wife for just two weeks when she paid him a visit on the field.) CT continued to have remarkable success in his ministry with many more conversions amongst this previously unreached group of Africans. He also translated parts of the Bible into a generic tribal language that is still used today. He heard news of his wife’s death and died himself not long after, having suffered ill health for a long time.

On finishing this compelling book there were many questions in my mind. It was challenging to read of a man so single minded, so determined, so sold-out for God that he literally sacrificed everything for Him. Indeed some of his most famous quotes are;

“How could I spend the best years of my life in living for the honours of this world, when thousands of souls are perishing every day?”

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

“Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

In our apathetic and indifferent day it is exciting and inspiring to read of missionaries willing to go to this extent. But the biggest question that needs to be asked is whether that was what God was really calling CT and others like him to do. Did God really want him to make the sacrifices he personally made? Did God want him to leave his family in England, to be an absent father and to force his wife to raise their children effectively as a single parent? Did the fact that conversions continued to make the ministry successful mean that God was blessing CT or was God just being gracious to him and working things out for His own purpose?

I’ve no doubt that CT himself believed that he was obeying God’s call by going alone to Africa but there are parts of his story that give cause for concern. His prayer life and personal discipline are admirable; rising every day at the crack of dawn to spend time with God, often going without sleep, delivering lengthy sermons where many people made professions and this despite on-going poor health. But refusing to take furloughs, rest days, vacations or participate in any type of recreation and forcing his staff to abide by these rules when they joined him? Didn’t God give us a six day week pattern with a rest day as an example for us to follow?

There came a time when everybody was clamouring for CT to return home but he refused believing that he was obeying the verse in Luke 14 vs 26;

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.”

But what of the many verses about husbands and fathers and their roles and responsibilities? Why did CT marry in the first place if he was going to neglect his wife and children to that extent? I believe CT had misinterpreted this verse and taken it to an extreme as it is really about priorities. All of us should always seek to put God first in order to be a true disciple but should we place “ministry” above our other God-given responsibilities to our families?

CT used strong language to convey his contempt for those who remained in England even during the war. He believed that every person needed to go to foreign lands and be part of the missionary programme sacrificing all material things for the sake of the work. At one point he is faced with a clear decision about whether or not to return home but in the end he cannot do it as he sees multitudes perishing and going to a lost eternity in his absence. But this is where I believe he is doing things in his own strength. If CT had gone home God would have provided another to reach those that he has elected for salvation. CT seemed to fall into the trap of believing that he was the only one capable of performing this service for God and being used by Him and that in some way God needed him to do the work. God doesn’t need any of us, it is a privilege to be used by God.

I also felt that there were times when CT seemed to be seeking hardship/trials by failing to look after himself and again by demanding the same standards of those who worked with him. Many left the field as a result of this, but CT’s role surely should have been to inspire, encourage and strengthen these aspiring missionaries with less life experience than himself not to put them through things that might crush even the strongest and most determined Christian. There is also a place where some of his converts are imprisoned and the rest of them are demanding to be imprisoned also in order to suffer for the sake of Christ and receive a blessing. It is not Biblical to seek persecution, only to be prepared to deal with it when it comes.

There were also various dreams and visions mentioned to confirm callings/movements which in my view can be dangerous unless they are received through Scripture and tested by a discerning mind. He  seems in places to advocate a baptism of the Spirit after conversion (referring to the book of Acts.) I believe the Holy Spirit enters all true believers at conversion and that there is no second baptism although we can pray to be filled with the Spirit at any time; eg to be strengthened for a specific task…

My conclusion is that no missionary (or other person) is perfect and there will be things in each of our lives as Christians that we get wrong.  A lot can be learned from CT Studd’s journey; his dedication, his single-mindedness, his tireless commitment, his living completely by faith, his willingness to give up everything and his passion for souls. I would encourage Christians to read his story and to be inspired and encouraged by the much good work that was done. But personally I believe he either should not have married or he should not have gone to Africa leaving his wife and children behind. He should not have judged those who did not receive a call into mission and he should have recognised the commitments of others at home. It was a sad ending for me of a life of consecration, made more so by the fact that CT undoubtedly believed he was following the will of God in making these sacrifices.

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