Few people have impacted the history of Indian Missions and beyond as Rev. Dr. Theodore Williams. His investment in the lives of people for the cause of missions will outlive him. As a leading mission statesman during the period of the emergence of many new mission movements within India, he was affectionately known as Annachi (elder brother in Tamil) by the many Indian mission leaders he mentored and supported. He was also respected as an eminent Bible expositor and author of significant texts on missions worldwide.
Born in a small town called Nazareth in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu (South India), young Theodore was brought up in a nominal Christian environment. He secured a Master’s degree in Statistics from the Madras University and was well set for a glorious career in the secular world. In the year 1954 Theodore was enthralled with a fresh understanding of the holiness of God. The rearrangement of his priorities as a result of that special revelation led him to plunge himself in teaching Sunday school, open air preaching and many other activities. A deep desire to serve God took hold of him.
After completion of his studies he gained a clear understanding that God was calling him into ministry. Subsequently, he joined the first batch of students to learn theology at SIBI, Bangarapet in 1955. Theodore’s scholarly brilliance shone through in the bible college. He learnt some life changing lessons sitting at the feet of Jesus. His faith became unshakeable; as he experienced that the Lord who called him is faithful! His understanding of holiness was deeply affirmed in his life. He was also gripped with a Missionary zeal to reach this nation.
After studies, Theodore joined SIBI as a teacher. He became an accomplished teacher as well as a versatile preacher. The whole SIBI community was challenged with his soul stirring messages on the need for the Saviour in this perishing World. Today a number of his students are making a mark for God in various corners of the globe as pioneer missionaries or mission leaders.
Rev. Theodore William’s life work was to build up the people of God by imparting the Christian vision of the mission of God, inspiring those he touched through his uncompromising Biblical teaching and writing. As an effective evangelist he inculcated Kingdom values and principles in the lives of thousands as they came to know Jesus Christ and accepted the commission to make Him known to others. At the annual conference of the Evangelical fellowship of India, he presented the challenges of India. He suggested that an Indigenous Mission be formed to confront these challenges. So at the age of 30, Theodore’s commitment to seeing Indians mobilized for cross-cultural mission led him to found the Indian Evangelical Mission (IEM). Beginning with just one mission worker in 1965 the mission grew rapidly under his capable and dedicated leadership. As the first General Secretary and then later as a senior adviser Dr. Williams saw the IEM grow into a major mission force within, and beyond India, by 2010 employing over 900 mission workers.
Alongside his work with IEM, Dr. Williams also played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB), the India Missions Association (IMA) and Vacation Bible School (VBS). On a wider canvas Dr. Williams also served as the President of World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) for a number of years and through that body ensured that new missionary enterprises were established in a number of countries in all continents. In semi-retirement Theodore Williams served as a pastor at Richmond Town Methodist Church, Bangalore continuing to preach and to mentor mission leaders.
Rev. Theodore Williams was an excellent Bible expositor and preacher. His Knowledge of the Word and his preaching skills were well known worldwide. He had an English Broadcast of back to the bible and “Satyavasanam” a Tamil programme through which he influenced many people to turn away from their lukewarm faith. He has further authored many books which were published and translated into many languages.
Theodore Williams the Man
Rev. Theodore Williams was known for his compassion. Numerous people bear witness to his generosity as well. He was very concerned for the welfare of people. He was also a man of great faith. He looked to God in all circumstances to sustain him. Nevertheless, he had his times of weaknesses and failures. The moral lapse hurt his life and ministry to a great extent. In the midst of that, he set a role model as King David and Apostle Peter, willing to repent and follow Christ, looking forward and not behind. His strength was in accepting his vulnerability. His focus on eternal things was undiminished till the end.
On the night of December 29th, 2009, Rev. Theodore Williams breathed his last. His funeral on December 31st 2009 had many leaders and people from all walks of life bearing witness to the influence Dr. Williams had on their lives. Dr Williams was prepared for his end and knew “it is well with (his) Soul.” He lived life to the fullest and indeed fulfilled the purposes of God in his generation.
By Jonathan Rajan, Bangalore.