"He touched millions” – was one of the many glowing tributes describing Selwyn Hughes in the days after his death in January. Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey described him as, “a giant in the faith.” Steve Chalke said, “We owe him a massive debt” (see the news story overleaf).
Through his writing and preaching this pastor, evangelist and pioneer in Christian counselling and training, has made a massive contribution to the cause of the gospel.
Best known for his daily Bible reading notes, Every Day With Jesus, which he wrote for over 40 years, Selwyn traced his life from his roots in Wales some years after the great revival there, in his autobiography ‘My Story’ published by CWR in 2004. Selwyn kindly gave me a signed copy, which I read with interest. Many stories from his life are memorable, but one above all else captured me and has stayed with me ever since.
Like many others he spent his National Service in 1946-7 as a ‘Bevin Boy’, working underground in a Welsh mine. Converted two years earlier, the 18-year-old was regularly preaching in Welsh chapels and devoted many hours to preparation and study. In the middle of a night shift underground Selwyn was working alongside another young man, when he felt ‘strongly impressed to share with him about his need to know Christ’. However he put off the moment. Just 15 minutes later a large rock dropped out of the tunnel roof crushing the man to death! ‘It took six or seven men to lift the stone from the young man’s body, and the sight that met us was horrifying and gruesome,’ recounts Selwyn in ‘My Story’.
Profoundly shocked he was understandably unable to return to work for two weeks. He wrote; ‘I asked God to forgive me for failing to respond to His prompting in that moment when a soul stood between life and death’.
Since reading that account I have often thought about the strength of character it must have taken for him to return to the mine and the pulpit. Selwyn recounted that out of this incident came a ‘determination never to disobey again a spiritual prompting of that nature’. He considered that this added a ‘sharpness to his witness’ with individuals and congregations that remained with him for the remainder of his life. A tragedy that could have crushed him and left him cowed and broken, instead became a springboard to obediently listening for, and responding to, the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
‘My Story’ is a deeply encouraging read, although like most autobiographies it leaves some questions unanswered. Selwyn Hughes experienced several tragedies – including the death of his wife and both his sons – that would have destroyed many. He prevailed and though his native land has yet to experience the sort of revival his father witnessed, and Selwyn longed and prayed for - he has left a massive mark. His life and legacy speak of God’s grace, love and strength to save, transform and revive. That legacy is in the capable hands of Mick Brooks, the chief executive of Crusade for Word Revival (CWR), the organisation Selwyn founded in 1965. Characteristic of the man, Selwyn spent much of his last year, when not laid low by pain from the cancer that eventually killed him, writing Every Day With Jesus notes for many months ahead. The powerful, prophetic and pastoral voice of Selwyn Hughes lives on.