Missions History: Oswald J. Smith

 

“Oh, to realize that souls, precious, never dying souls, are perishing all around us, going out into the blackness of darkness and despair, eternally lost, and yet to feel no anguish, shed no tears, know no travail! How little we know of the compassion of Jesus!”

-Oswald J. Smith

In November 1889, a son was born to a telegraph operator and his wife in rural Ontario. As a youngster, he was responsible to light the signal lamps on either side of the railway station. Little did he dream that, someday, God would use him to blaze the light of the gospel across the globe. 

His name was Oswald J. Smith, and this is his remarkable story.

Conversion

When Oswald was sixteen years old, he persuaded his father to give him the day off school to attend an evangelistic meeting. The speaker was R. A. Torrey, and the text was Isaiah 53:5, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” 

At the invitation, Oswald went forward and received Christ. He described his experience in these words, “As I opened my heart to the Saviour…I felt no great change, no wonderful experience, but I trusted Christ Jesus and from then on I experienced sweet peace.”

 

Call to Ministry

Years earlier, a Sunday School teacher made a simple comment that had a lasting impression on young Oswald. Addressing her class, she said, “Any of you boys might be a minister.” From then on, he pondered the possibility. And, after he accepted Christ, his desire to preach only grew stronger. 

Oswald went on to study at Toronto Bible College, McCormick Theological Seminary, Manitoba College, and Knox College. He wanted to become a missionary, but he was rejected by several mission boards because of ill health.  However, Oswald’s passion for missions would shape the course of his future ministry. At our church in Sydney Mines, we feel blessed to be able to support several missionaries.

 

The Young Pastor

On April 30, 1915, Oswald was ordained as a minister in the South Chicago Presbyterian Church. In May, he transferred to Toronto, where he would spend the majority of his ministry. During the 1920s, Smith pastored several churches in the GTA and briefly served at a church in Los Angeles. 

By 1928, Oswald had a clear vision for his future ministry. “I carry the burden of a Missionary-Evangelist. I must have a headquarters. I want to travel to foreign fields to get the vision firsthand and then return to broadcast the need and stir hearts all over the country on behalf of missionary projects. Only this will bring into use every talent and gift God has given me.”

 

The Peoples’ Church

Returning to Toronto, he launched a new church called the Cosmopolitan Tabernacle (later called The Peoples Church). It quickly outgrew Massey Hall and moved to a former Methodist church at 100 Bloor Street. In addition to preaching at his church, Oswald developed and named the concept of “faith promise giving.” A person would ask God to provide a certain amount of money per month, which they would then give to missions. This concept was extremely successful and enabled The Peoples Church to support as many as 500 missionaries at one time. 

In addition to his church responsibilities, Oswald made 21 world tours to promote missions and preach around the world. He also wrote thirty-five books and over 1,000 hymns and poems. He truly used his gifts to serve the Lord!

 

A Life Well Spent

In January of 1986, God called Oswald Smith to come Home. Preaching to an overflowing audience in Toronto, Dr. Billy Graham stated, “Some men are called to minister the gospel in a city, others to a nation; and a few in each century to the whole world. Oswald J. Smith was a prophet to the nations of the world….the most remarkable man I have ever met.”

What about you? Oswald famously said, “Either you must go yourself or else you must send someone in your place, and woe to you, if you do nothing. God’s orders must be obeyed, His commands carried out, and there is no way to evade the issue.” At our church in Sydney Mines, we want to obey the Great Commission—by sharing the gospel here and helping support missions around the world.

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Will you join us in supporting missions? Join the friendly church family of Northside Baptist Church on Sundays at 11:00 am. 

For more information, call 902-304-4707 or email northside1178@gmail.com