The name of Dudley Foord will be remembered by many with the introduction of Evangelism Explosion to Australia. Many of us came from long distances to the Conferences he held in Sydney as he promoted this form of Evangelism. Evangelism Explosion (shortened to EE) made a big impact with Christians around Australia. We were certainly encouraged by Dudley’s enthusiasm in promoting EE, but even more by his natural warmth in sharing Jesus with others.
In the hands of Dudley Foord, (EE) was enriched to what I call (Double E, Double E) Evangelism. The first Double E stands for Dudley’s desire to Engage people. When some of us went out into the streets to put into practice what we had been learning, we found that we didn’t have the same courage to engage people as he had. When we did engage other folk in conversation, it didn’t come as naturally to us as it did to him. There was a reason for that, I discovered. This was the second E, for Envelop. He “enveloped” people with love. To have a conversation with Dudley made you feel that you were really important to him. You got his undivided attention. He was interested in “lesser” people and especially in anyone who wanted to share Jesus with others. I found that when I came to minister in Sydney Diocese many years later that he remembered me from those earlier conferences. Not only that but he expressed a deep interest in what was happening in my ministry as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at the Cathedral. We met on a couple of occasions at other conferences on Evangelism run by non-Anglicans (he was always willing to learn from others), and the warmth of his welcome was quite humbling and encouraging.
The other Double E of course refers to the theme of Evangelism Explosion. It was his desire to Explain the gospel to others. He wanted people to respond to a Person, the person of Jesus. But he wanted people to meet with the Jesus of the gospels and he was well qualified to help them do so. He knew so much about Him from the Bible and knew Him intimately and personally as His Saviour and Lord. The final E was his ability to Encourage folk to receive Jesus as Saviour. I’m sure many were encouraged to do so as his love for Jesus and for people was infectious. It may be that some of us who were introduced to EE through Dudley were never as effective in using the programme because we majored on the Explain and Encourage double whereas he had the whole gambit of Engaging people, Enveloping them in love, as well as Explaining the gospel clearly and Encouraging such people to receive Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
I was deeply saddened to read on my phone about Dudley’s death, as my wife Carole and I were travelling by car between Sydney and Melbourne. I thought about the impact he had had for the Kingdom of God. I wondered how many people must have come into the Kingdom as a result of his ministry. I thought too that he would never have known about many of the people who came into the kingdom because of his loving witness. I was still pondering this as we arrived at our motel.
As we entered our motel room there was a ping on my phone indicating that a new email had arrived. I read it. It was a tribute to folk in the Healing Ministry in the Cathedral. It read in part, “This is a long overdue thank you. 9 years overdue. We think of you often. Praise God for your loving kindness towards my Dad who was saved through your faithful ministry as a fellow believer and as leader of the Healing Service. From the moment he met you, he really connected with you. Likewise, Carole and others in the congregation were really warm towards him, and a great encouragement. You had said that after he had prayed the prayer of repentance and accepted Jesus, he seemed to be at peace. Indeed, he trusted in the promises of our LORD Jesus Christ that you faithfully presented to him week after week, and he met death without fear. My whole family is indebted to your Christian service. They were some of the best days of my life amidst the saddest days of my life.”
I was deeply moved. I was amazed at the timing. But the thing that immediately came to my mind was the number of letters and emails that might have been written to Dudley Foord that were never penned or sent. They would have been in their thousands! Perhaps in the goodness and grace of God the words that Dudley will hear in heaven will be not only “Well done thou good and faithful servant”, but also “Thank you brother for sharing the gospel faithfully so that we came to love and accept Jesus too.”
The prayers of many of us will continue to be with Elizabeth and the family.
Blog 130. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Monday 16th September 2013