Born DECEMBER 2, 1860To some in England, the very thought of it was a social scandal. How could seven talented young men of wealth and influence set aside their social privilege to go to China as missionaries? Among the young men dubbed the “Cambridge Seven” was Charles Studd, England’s most celebrated cricket player. His story is about much more than what he left behind.
Charles and his two brothers all played cricket while attending Eaton College. Charles served as team captain. Later, while attending Cambridge, Charles became renowned as England’s best at the sport. He enjoyed the celebrity of national fame. But the feeling didn’t last.The three brothers all had a conversion experience while attending Eaton. For Charles however, the world’s attractions glittered more brightly than pursuing spiritual disciplines. After college, Charles visited his brother George, whom he believed was dying. Long periods of time at his sibling’s bedside revealed that George, unlike Charles, loved God with all his heart. The famous cricketer re-evaluated his life’s priorities. He chose like George, to live for Jesus rather than himself.
To the surprise of many, the celebrated athlete joined another elite group. Charles and six other young men from Cambridge chose foreign missions as their life calling. Once the public recovered from the initial shock, they hailed the Cambridge Seven as heroes for their willingness to give up so much. Their example of sacrifice contributed to a fresh enthusiasm for missions in the United Kingdom and the United States. In America, it led to the formation of The Student Volunteer Movement.
SERVING CHINAThe seven young men joined the Inland China mission to work with Hudson Taylor. They embarked to China in 1885. Following Hudson’s example, the new missionaries donned Chinese clothes and wore their hair in pigtails.
In December of that year, on Charles’ 25th birthday, his large inheritance kicked in. He decided to give it all away. He donated portions of it to D. L. Moody’s ministry, to George Muller’s orphanage work, and to William Booth’s Salvation Army. By then Charles had met female missionary, Priscilla Stewart. Whey they married in 1888, she fully supported his view of living by faith rather than by inheritance.
Eventually, poor health for both Charles and Priscilla sent them back to England. But after awhile, Charles toured the United States on behalf of the Student Volunteer Movement, promoting missions on various university campuses. His health improved. Charles and Priscilla returned to the mission field, but not to China.
They established a ministry in India. That ended when Charles’ asthma attacks became too severe. His family resettled in England in 1906. But Charles became restless. He believed there was more for him to do. A plea for missionaries to Africa caught his attention. Charles saw serving God there as the next phase of his life. Doctors warned him that the climate would be dangerous to his asthma. He took a trip to find out.Charles visited the continent in 1909. He returned to England determined to re- locate in Africa. First, he traveled again to the United States, this time on behalf of the African Inland Mission to recruit university students.
In 1910, Charles moved to Africa, where he started the Heart of Africa Mission. God blessed his work with the conversion of many tribesmen to Christianity.
TO ALL THE WORLD
After God’s blessing on his work in Africa, Charles sensed that his mission field should expand to other continents. In 1922, he changed the organization’s name to Worldwide Evangelization Crusade (WEC today). It currently has a presence in about 50 countries around the world.
Rescuing a dying world consumed Charles. He made statements against soft Christians (whom he referred to as “chocolate soldiers”). He once expressed his desire to reach the lost by saying “Some want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”Charles did surrender everything to God’s service, including his comfort, his wealth, and eventually his health. He died in the Belgian Congo on July 16, 1931. He was buried there. About 2,000 tribesmen ignored the heavy rain to attend his funeral.
GOD’S IMPERFECT SERVANTCharles once said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” While Charles’ zeal to serve God is commendable, not all of the sacrifices he made are examples for God’s servants to follow. He remained focused on his mission while risking the loss of his family, his health, and his supporters. While in America, recruiting missionary candidates as well as while preaching in Africa, the months away from his family became years. In his final months of worsening health, he relied on more morphine than was normal. He also disagreed and argued with co-workers to the loss of some. We can be inspired by C. T. Studd’s example of valuing God’s riches over this world’s riches. We should, however, take as a warning his willingness to sacrifice health and family and friends.
L4G——————————L4G——————————-L4G LET ME KNOW: How has Charles’ story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
- Hanks, Geoffrey. 70 Great Christians. Scotland, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2000.
- Larsen, Timothy, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
- Woodbridge, John D., ed. More Than Conquerors. Chicago, IL: Moody, 1992.
Here’s a list of books about Chrales at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_11?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=c.+t.+studd&sprefix=C.+T.+Studd%2Cstripbooks%2C422.
- Various biographical resources: http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/biorpstudd.html.
- Worldwide Evangelization Crusade: http://www.wecinternational.org.uk/.
YouTube videos about Charles-