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Richard Bewes (1934-2019): An outstanding preacher who loved the Word of God

Paul Blackham pays tribute to the former rector of All Soul's Langham Place, Richard Bewes OBE, who has died aged 84

Richard Bewes was one of the most outstanding preachers, Bible teachers and Church leaders of our age.

Through his books, sermons, hymns and video series he opened up the Bible to show us the Lord Jesus and the great adventure of Church life with him.

Richard was most of all a mighty preacher. Others gave good lectures on the Bible, full of accurate information and solid content, but Richard’s sermons were always so much more than that. He worked so hard at getting the Bible right and would never be satisfied until that truth was shown off in bright, warm and living colours.

He was loved by so many because he cared about people so much. Many of us were drawn into Church life because Richard spoke with integrity, compassion and warmth. He was always looking above and beyond the current fads and conflicts to the Kingdom of God over all the empires and ages. He loved the book of Daniel because it portrays the Kingdom as a stone that becomes a mountain and covers the whole world. He always lifted our vision to the heroic and colourful characters of Church history, all over the world, on every continent. No one could tell stories the way Richard did! 

When Richard was going to preach there was always a sense of expectation: it was never going to be ordinary or pedestrian. Even when he was tired or ill, his human frailty would fall away when he stood up to preach. Feet planted firmly, Bible in hand, he would announce the Word of God and our hearts burned within us! You can hear his sermons at the All Souls website or his own website thesermon.co.uk.

The first time I heard him, I was a young student and could only get a seat on a windowsill in a packed out All Souls, with people sitting on the stairs behind me. He preached on the Tower of Babel – and to this day I have never heard a better sermon on the subject.

Working with Richard over the past 25 years has been the greatest privilege and joy. Ever creative and inspiring, he was always thinking of what to do next.

Alongside his speaking, Richard was also a gifted author. He wrote so many books, and each one was full of treasure. He wrote not for academics, even though his research and preparation was to the very highest standard. No, Richard aimed for a higher standard than an academic one: he wrote for Church members all over the world. Whether the subject was prayer, the Bible, the Kingdom of God, revival or common questions, Richard made every subject easily accessible. Once you start a Richard Bewes book, you can’t put it down! He wove stories from Christian life and history together with biblical truth to show us the living reality of the Word of God.

A close friend of Billy Graham, Richard chaired the Greater London Mission of 1989. He knew that the Church of the living God was far from mundane. Born on the slopes of Mount Kenya, he grew up in the great East African revival of the 1940s. His most recent book Under the Thorn Tree: When Revival Comes (Christian Focus) is full of these lessons and stories. His experience of genuine revival gave Richard the knowledge that the living God is not locked up in human ideas or human possibilities.

His hymns come from that expectant heart: a heart that lived in the world of the Bible, Church history and revival. He added two extra verses for 'Here is love vast as the ocean':

Through the years of human darkness,

shone the lamp the prophets trimmed,

making known redemption's story,

of the love of God undimmed.

Christ for every tongue and nation!

All must come beneath His sway;

His the everlasting kingdom

that shall never pass away.

 

When the stars shall fall from heaven,

and the sun turn black as night,

when the skies recede and vanish,

and the elements ignite.

Then the Son of Man in glory,

coming as the Morning Star,

shall return to claim His loved ones,

gathered in from near and far.

Paul Blackham served at All Souls Langham Place as Associate Minister for theology until 2008, and has since led church plants in both Lancashire and South Wales

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