John Gotch Ridley Impacts Australia

This is the day that … John Gotch Ridley was born in Darling Point, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, in 1896.

Young John was given a book by his Bible Class teacher – The Life of Hedley Vicars. This New Year gift told of a Christian soldier and, in his own words, became “one of the moulding influences of my young manhood” (Milestones of Mercy, page 25).

Three years later, at the age of 18, he responded to a powerful message on the (premillennial) Second Coming of Christ, in the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle, under the ministry of Rev. William Lamb … and that same ‘glorious hope’ never left him. In written and spoken word, the return of our Lord was a constant theme.

Then there were days in the A.I.F. (Australian Army) – and overseas service. Still a teenager, he was to be found “in the cold and mud of French battlefields” during World War I. Severely wounded – a bullet passed through his neck and tongue (but God had plans for that tongue to proclaim His gospel) – he was awarded the Military Cross – for his acts of bravery & action in battle at Bellicourt 1918 for risking his own life by bringing ammunition & ration to the front line and also for rescuing the wounded.

Ridley returned to Australia to enter the Baptist ministry.

But a “shocking nervous breakdown” followed, and we see him travelling the outback in a horse-drawn wagon doing bush mission work.

After his marriage to Dorothy Chapman in Sydney on 18 August, 1926, he became an itinerant evangelist. The hand of the Lord was obviously upon this young evangelist. Souls were saved in outback homesteads, open-air meetings, churches … everywhere!

As strength returned – and with a loving helpmeet beside him – John G. began his evangelistic ministry. He became a well known Convention speaker, both in Australia and overseas, despite continual ill health.

As a “prolific & terrific writer” writer he wrote fourteen richly Christ-honouring books and numerous tracts, coloured with eloquent and stirring prose.

On a Sunday night of November 14th, 1942 he impacted another man who became famous Australian Christian ministry. Illiterate former criminal Arthur Stace heard Ridley trumpet a message about Eternity, based on Isaiah 57:15. Suddenly he interrupted his message and laying his prepared notes aside the highly disciplined soldier-like preacher raised his loud voice and cried: “Eternity, Eternity, I wish that I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney. You’ve got to meet it, where will you spend Eternity?” Arthur Stace dedicated himself to serve God that night and walked outside to write the word ‘Eternity’ in beautiful Copperplate script with chalk on the pavement. For the rest of his life Mr Eternity continued to echo Ridley’s “Eternity” sermon on Sydney’s pavements.

Ridley co-founded the prophetic & premillennial voice of the Herald of Hope magazine. He assisted as a Chaplain in the Everyman’s Welfare work among the troops during World War II, and with others, founded the Australian Institute of Evangelism, later known as Ambassadors for Christ.

In one of his many poems he anticipated his ‘home call’:
I shall meet them in the Glory …
Those dear friends I’ve grown to love;
When we gather ’round the Saviour
In the happy home above.

David Brainerd of the back woods;
William Burns, that flaming heart,
Good McCheyne and Andrew Bonar,
Men who loved the better part …

Richard Baxter, wondrous writer
of the “Saints’ Eternal Rest”,
Holy Edwards of New England,
Of the purest and the best.

C.H. Spurgeon, prince of preachers,
Strong his influence to me;
Moody, Matheson and Moorhouse
– what a gathering there shall be.

Friends of mine in life’s long journey,
Though unworthy of their band,
Yet I hope to stand among them
When I reach the golden strand …

On 26 September, 1976, “the tired warrior fell asleep in Jesus”.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Lionel Bale Fletcher – Australian Evangelist and Pastor

This is the day that … Lionel Bale Fletcher was born, in 1877, at Maitland, New South Wales.

“He was an evangelist,” wrote Dr F.W. Boreham.  “He burned with a passion for Christ and was never so happy as when leading his fellowmen to the feet of his Lord.”

Lionel was born the eighth child of a Methodist lay preacher and was nearly named Octavius by his father, John Fletcher, but a last minute change of mind had him christened “Lionel Bale Fletcher” (“Bale” was his mother’s maiden name). All seven sons of John Fletcher ended up as preachers, three as ordained Methodist ministers.

At the age of 10 “he ran away from school and home” … and by the age of 16 he was sailing through Sydney Heads on the SS “Macquarie”.  It was the beginning of “two years before the mast” which took him to England and back.

On his return to Australia … and the bush he was the “black sheep” in the devout Christian family, On his brother’s property, 250 miles from Sydney, the memories of his godly upbringing and the faithful witness of a godly minister brought him to a place of conversion.  “The next morning,” says the biographer, “Lionel Fletcher made the bush ring with shouts of praise and joy” (Twelve Hours in the Day, by C. Malcolm, page 37).

On 2 February, 1898, he conducted his first church service;  on 24 January, 1900, he was married to Maud Basham – and in 1905 he began to pastor Congregational churches, in NSW, South Australia, Cardiff, Wales, and Auckland, New Zealand.

Invitations came for him to speak overseas – and before long his itinerant evangelist ministry took him around the world. He led great meetings in England and South Africa.
He wrote a number of books, including his autobiography, Mighty Moments, and titles on evangelism, including The Effective Evangelist, Conquering Evangelism and Youth & Evangelism.

Lionel Fletcher died in Mosman, Sydney, after a short illness on 19 February, 1954, survived by his wife and a son and daughter.

Lionel is yet further indication of the call of God passing down through a family and empowering children to go on to greater ministry than their parents could.