David Pawson, for almost 70 years, has been an outstanding expository teacher. He has been God’s gift to the Church. He has been compared with the ‘Prince of Preachers’ – Charles Spurgeon. He has indeed been the teacher of the teachers. At the age of 90, on Thursday (May 21) he went to be with His Lord.
At the age of 80 (2010) he found time to come to South Africa for his last visit to enthral us with his teaching from God’s word. I was not going to miss that for anything! Andrew Selley, a long standing friend of David’s, hosted him at JosGen Church in Cape Town. In good Hebraic-style he sat and taught God’s word to us.
His first visit to South Africa
Some 30 years ago, in East London, David Pawson made his first trip to South Africa. Derek Crumpton had taken the initiative to invite him. The city’s theatre had been hired out, it had a packed audience.
At his last visit to South Africa, David spoke to Derek on the telephone at the meeting (as he lives in Johannesburg) and thanked him for paving the way for many visits to our country. It was a special privilege to hear these long-standing friends commune.
Passionate about the Jewish people, returning to Israel
David’s special gifting was his passion for the Jewish people, God’s people, the “apple of His eye” and his love for the land of Israel. David was a prominent Christian Zionist, putting forward the case that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land is the fulfilment of scriptural prophecy, and that Christians should support the existence of the Jewish State on theological grounds.
He argued that prophecies spoken about Israel relate specifically to Israel (not to the church, as in “replacement theology”). His Biblical teachings opened my eyes.
David loved to quote Heidegger, the philosopher, responding to Frederick the Great of Prussia who, when asked for a proof of the existence of God, replied: “Your majesty, the Jews.” The return of the Jews to their ancient land.
David said: “For many Christians their faith would be unmoved by the return of the Jews to Israel, for me the fulfilment of this prophesy is of paramount importance.”
David started his career as a pastor in a village church in England. One man in the congregation started recoding his sermons for distribution to the sick and elderly. It was not long before David’s sermons travelled far and wide to all six continents and 120 countries.
David is probably best known for his book Unlocking the Bible. It was, as he said: “My ambition is to share the excitement of knowing the whole Bible became a passion.”
He had an amazing ability to take what academics taught and make it simple enough for the “common man” to understand. He said: “I have, in fact, always aimed to teach that a 12-year-old boy could understand and remember my message.”
Shortly after his arrival, their new Millmead Centre at Guildford Baptist, in Surrey, was opened, “We decided to read the whole Bible by reading it aloud right through without stopping. It took us 84 hours, from Sunday evening until Thursday morning, each person read for 15 minutes.” “We used the Living Bible translation, being the easiest to read and listen to, with the heart as well as the mind.”
After leaving Millmead in 1979, David engaged in an itinerant worldwide Bible-teaching ministry, as his main work.
He established a reputation among both evangelicals and charismatics as a Bible teacher. He was a writer and speaker with a reputation of urgency, clarity, and uncompromising faithfulness to the Scriptures.
He graciously made his library of teaching resources available. He is the only teacher that I know of that made his recordings available at no charge. His exclusive aim was to help people to understand the Bible. https://www.davidpawson.org/
All in all, he wrote 75 books and recorded numerous DVD’s as well as in excess of 1 500 audio cassettes.
I have fond memories of the year we spent in Wellington, at our home church, run by Mike and Anna Jarvis. There we would study the Bible each week by watching David’s systematic DVD teaching on the different books of the Bible. It was brilliant and easily became the highlight of our week.
His earlier years
David was born on February 25 1930. His original intention was to enter farming. He attended the University of Durham to study for a BSc in agriculture, which he completed and was offered a farming position in Scotland. He then believed God had called him to the ministry and he read for a master’s degree in theology at Cambridge University.
He then entered the British Royal Air Force, serving as a chaplain for three years. After a short spell in the Methodist ministry, he resigned. He then undertook a pastorship role at two British Baptist churches: Gold Hill (Buckinghamshire) and Gilford (Surrey).
Setbacks and fulfilment
In 2015 (at the age of 85) he suffered a stroke. He made a remarkable recovery and was able to continue with the work he believed God had called him to do.
In the following year he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He was undeterred by this as God gave him the grace to continue his ministry. No more travelling but he did continue to write books and encourage the Church.
Here is a link to a few of David’s words of reflection at the time of his celebration of his recent 90th birthday: https://youtu.be/HYwt_uV1K1Q?t=58
David resided in Hampshire in southern England with his wife Enid.
Chris Eden, the director of Bridges for Peace in SA, said: “What an amazing teacher and humble man! May his sound teaching live on and continue to bless believers for many years to come. His is an example of a life well-lived!”