I mentioned last week my visit with Stuart and Jill Briscoe. One of the subjects we discussed was the Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers, begun by the late Ian Thomas.
I first met Major Ian Thomas through his book, The Saving Life of Christ. I later read several more of his books on the “deeper life.” I seem to recall reading all four of his books at some point. I went through a time when this emphasis seemed too mystical to my analytical mind. The older I have become the more I prize the “Christ life” in me by faith in the risen life of the Savior.
The late Ian Thomas was born in London on September 13, 1914 and died at 92 years of age on August 1, 2007. He is probably best known as the founder of both Torchbearers International and the Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers, both begun in the United Kingdom. Today there are Capernwray Fellowships in twenty-three locations around the globe. Major Thomas opened the twenty-third just four months prior to his death.
Stuart and Jill Briscoe were trained as young believers at Capernwray. This led to Stuart’s itinerant ministry in his twenties and thirties. As a result of his travels to America he was eventually called to pastor Elmbrook Church in Wisconsin, where he served for thirty years. Since 2000 he has traveled, with Jill, to missionaries and missions all over the world. The Briscoes give themselves to those who cannot afford to have such outside teachers serve in their midst, thereby carrying on the very ministry that Major Thomas gave to them so many years ago. Many others, perhaps much less known, have also gone and done likewise.
When I talked about Major Thomas with Stuart and Jill I heard a story about Major Thomas that moved me in a simple, powerful way. Stuart said Major Thomas said that we all should: (1) Go where you’re sent; (2) Stay where you’re put; (3) Give what you’ve got. That underscores a great approach to ministry that I have found to be true since I got to Wheaton in 1970.
I came to Wheaton, Illinois, to go to school, following the leading of the Holy Spirit to a place I had never seen before. God sent me here and I very simply followed. Here I met the power of God in revival and my life was forever change. When I had many opportunities to leave this place, often for what seemed like much “greener pastures” (larger churches and better fields of service), I stayed. I did so because of my family, my sense of mission and my unique calling. (Everyone has a unique calling I believe.) Though I sometimes struggled with the Lord about my calling I learned, over time, to give all that I had to be the person God wanted me to be in this place. I eventually learned that place was not the big issue in service. The big issue is “giving what you’ve got.”
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Read the reviews of, The Saving of Life of Christ, at http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Life-Christ-Major-Thomas/product-reviews/0310332621/ref=pr_all_summary_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1. This is an excellent book.
May I share previous memories? I met the “Major” on four occasions between 1992 and 2001. The last time I met with him was in his home in Estes Park, Colorado. He was eating lunch (tomato soup) in his little apartment with his wife Joan. Always gracious, he invited me and my traveling companion to share his meal. He was a man without pretense.
He came to my very small church in my hometown in 2001 and preached six times to no more than twenty people. He had suffered a stroke the previous year and needed assistance to get around. But in the pulpit he was on fire. At age 86 he would preach for an hour and leave the listeners wanting more. Not because of his skill or talent, rather just depending on God to give him a word people needed.
I thank God that Major heeded the call of God and left college at the age of nineteen to preach the “Saving Life of Christ”. Major often said that countless numbers were in better health because he had abandoned his medical training.
I know Major is often associated with the Keswick and “deeper life” movement, but my take is a little different. After numerous conversations and personally listening to him preach about twenty times, my view is that Major Thomas was quite simply attempting to introduce others to the sufficiency of God. One of his oft repeated sayings (framed as a short conversation between God and man) was “I can’t, and You never said I could. You will, and always said You would”.
Major believed in the sovereign power of an all powerful God, and his life was a testimony to God’s provision for and through His people.