My brothers-in-law are quite into cricket so I was interested in the biography of CT Studd for that reason, but mainly, because he gave up the fame and luxury of his cricketing career for the life of a missionary, working in China, India and Africa. This book is a very stimulating read because it’s a picture of Studd ‘warts and all’ and thus raises some very difficult questions. In this first post, I’ll look at Studd’s approach to mission and, in the next, the impact of this on those closest to him.
CT Studd grew up in a nominal Anglican family and, with several family members, committed himself to Christ an at evangelistic rally by DL Moody. However, as he went to college and met great success in cricket, the latter became his all consuming passion. It wasn’t until years later, when he read an atheistic tract parodying Christian commitment that he faced up to his inconsistency. He committed himself to the task of world evangelisation as one of the Cambridge Seven.
The thing that stands out immediately is that Studd didn’t see his cricketing career as being a way to serve God. He saw it as a choice between two masters: God or cricket. This is classic of Studd’s personality. He had a one-track mind with no room for grey areas or degrees of commitment. Such extremity in commitment is immensely attractive I think – Studd just seems more hardcore than any other Christian! However, I’m pretty sure there are more grey areas in Scripture than Studd allowed room for.
Studd often expressed frustration with others who did not share his passions or who were less extreme in their approach. For example, he disdained mission organisations that appealed for money rather than ‘trusting God’ to provide. He treated Christians who disagreed with him, doctrinally or practically, as messengers of Satan and was exasperated by his longtime ministry partner, Alfred Buxton when he attempted to make peace with other missionaries. By the end of his life, the trail of tattered ministry relationships caused his support in England to dry up – he was just too much of a scandal and he had hurt too many people with his approach.
However, Studd was a pioneer. He didn’t listen to others or take their advice, but this was what allowed him to be a free agent and to go ahead with his plans. Had he not been (sometimes unhelpfully) extreme, he may not have been driven to persevere and carve new paths. The author asks, “By what standard should be judge pioneers? The very fact that they are in the vanguard leading the way, requires them to be a step ahead of others in vision and thinking.” This is an idea that intrigues me. In many ways, I found Studd merciless and abrasive. It’s hard to tick off the fruit of the Spirit list when looking at his life. While his fanatical approach got many offside, it may well have been the very thing God used to break new ground in missions. That doesn’t justify his lack of sensitivity or care for other Christians but it does testify to God’s sovereignty in accomplishing his purposes.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.