From Harry’s Desk…2015
Listed below are the subjects of articles on this page for the year 2015. They appear in descending order.
- July: Lansdowne Church, Bournemouth – Francis W. Dixon – HK personal memories – Regeneration Project for a new Lansdowne
- May: Justification by Faith – an extract from a booklet of the same title
Lansdowne, Francis Dixon – my memories and future plans
This summer sees historic changes at the church I was privileged to serve as Pastor for nearly seven years in the second half of the 1970s and early 1980s.
That church is Lansdowne Baptist Church, Bournemouth, England. The current church building, originally opened in 1876, and refurbished at various times subsequently, will be demolished in the next few weeks. It will be replaced on the same site by a purpose-built sanctuary that satisfies all the present building regulations/fire codes, etc., and yet maintains a city-center presence. As for so many, the present sanctuary is full of memories for June and me. All four of our children professed their faith in baptism, and our eldest son, Timothy was married to Ann there. Nevertheless the building, even in my time, posed logistical problems of entry and exit for the crowds of people that would gather week by week.
As I reflect on the history of Lansdowne Baptist Church there is one ministry that stands out as singularly God-blessed and which I had the privilege of following. That was the ministry of one of God’s great Bible teachers of his age, Francis W. Dixon. There were “giants in the land” in those days: Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones; Dr. John R.W. Stott; Rev. Billy Graham; Dr. J.I. Packer and others. Rev. Francis W. Dixon was one of them.
When Francis Dixon was called to Lansdowne in late 1946 there were less than 50 people in membership and even fewer in the congregation in a building seating 650! Many of those were elderly and could not get out to services in the winter.
The previous minister, upon leaving in 1946, told a colleague, “Lansdowne is dead.”
So much for that – within one year of the commencement of Francis Dixon’s anointed ministry the church was full – balconies included!
Over the twenty-nine years of FWD’s ministry Lansdowne Baptist Church became known worldwide through his Bible Study Notes and overseas preaching tours. When June and I moved to South Florida in 1993 one of the ministers, who became our friend, was amazed to learn that I had followed FWD. He would introduce me to other ministers as the “preacher who followed Francis Dixon at Lansdowne.” They all had benefitted from – and been blessed by – the Bible Study Notes over many years.
I have reproduced below the bio of Mr. Dixon that appears on the website, www.wordsoflife.co.uk. The Words of Life Ministries website makes available, free of charge, Mr. Dixon’s Bible Study notes and some of the audio recordings made at the time.
Though Francis W. Dixon is now in heaven, his printed and recorded ministry is administered by his son-in-law, and former Lansdowne Baptist Church, Assistant Pastor, Rev. David Tucker. David is married to FWD’s daughter, Mary, and they have just spent a week with us in our home here in Florida. June has the privilege of being involved in this ministry in a small way.
Francis W. Dixon
Francis Dixon was born in north London in 1910, and became a Christian in 1929 through the preaching of the Irish evangelist W. P. Nicholson.
Before entering the ministry Francis Dixon spent some years in business in London, and his evenings and weekends became increasingly filled with preaching engagements in many places.
He felt the call of God into the ministry, and from 1940 to 1945 he pastored Hamilton Road Mission in Whitstable, Kent. From 1945-1946 he was Assistant Minister to Alan Redpath at Duke Street Baptist Church, Richmond, London.
In late 1946 he commenced his ministry as Pastor of Lansdowne Baptist Church in Bournemouth and quickly saw the blessing of God as the congregations grew.
Francis Dixon was a gifted evangelist and Bible teacher. He could present the gospel (that is, the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ) in a warm, convincing and compelling manner. Many came to faith in Christ through his preaching.
But he was also an able Bible teacher. He could open up any passage from the Bible and explain it and apply it in a searching, straightforward, down to earth way. His preaching was profound, yet simple, and ordinary people benefited from it. They would come away from the services at Lansdowne having met with God in worship, and having heard a message from the Bible which they could understand. People were fed, encouraged, challenged and comforted in what they heard, and stimulated into a closer personal walk with Jesus Christ.
Printed notes of his weekly Bible Study meetings were produced and soon their circulation exceeded the local congregation to a worldwide mailing list of 40,000. These notes and the outlines were food for hungry Christians in all manner of places and of great help to busy pastors in their own preparation and preaching.
Francis Dixon was a pioneer, and would use whatever means to publish an unchanging message. Lansdowne was among the first to produce recordings of services, and these became known as the “Words of Life” recordings. His Bible studies were produced in braille for the blind. He pioneered a telephone ministry to present a simple daily two-minute message of help and encouragement.
Other ministries included overseas preaching tours, and the Keswick Convention (Cumbria), where he was a regular speaker.
He “retired” to Eastbourne, Sussex, in 1975 where he took up an itinerant ministry until the Lord called him home in January 1985.
For more on the ministry of Francis W. Dixon, and to access his Bible Study notes and recorded messages go to the website, www.wordsoflife.co.uk
Lansdowne – a personal reflection
Reading the above you can imagine what an awesome responsibility I felt it was to follow such a great man as Francis Dixon. The church extended a call to me to be the next Pastor of Lansdowne in July of 1975, and June and me, together with our four children, Tim, Alison, Richard, and Nicola moved to Bournemouth over Christmas 1975.
January 1976 was taken up with various meetings at the church prior to the induction service on Saturday, January 31. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones had graciously agreed to preach at this special service. Dr. Lloyd Jones was a mentor and encourager to me, as he was to several other young ministers and, as I learned later, it was he who had recommended me to Mr. Dixon.
On my first Sunday I chose to preach on God’s word to Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5.
As a naturally very nervous person I often mounted those pulpit steps anxiously and inwardly calling upon God to help me and anoint both the messenger and the hearers. God did so again and again. After the opening Doxology and prayer it would seem as if then – and not until then – the windows of Heaven were opened and God’s blessing was poured out on us.
During those precious years we were able to appoint a church administrator, a lady worker, and an evangelist to students from overseas. During that time also we were enabled to purchase the premises adjacent to the church to enhance the various ministries of the church. June worked alongside me tirelessly, a great company of first-rate deacons gave me unfailing support and encouragement, and under-girding it all was a band of faithful prayer warriors – many of whom were elderly, widowed, and shut-in.
As I look through my diaries and see the names of the many who professed faith and were baptized during those years I praise God that most of them have held fast to that profession. Not a few have gone on to serve the Lord as pastors, missionaries, and church leaders and do so to this day.
Rev. Francis Dixon was always a welcome preacher in his old pulpit. His booklets were in constant use throughout my ministry at Lansdowne. I shared the platform with him in 1977 at the Keswick Convention, and June and I had the honor of staying with him and Nancy in their home in Eastbourne.
In September 1982, after close on seven God-blessed years, we said farewell to Lansdowne. God had other plans both for us and for the church. After three years traveling in Europe as Field Director of the European Missionary Fellowship I accepted a call to a church in Wilmington, Delaware, and, with our family now grown up, we moved to the United States of America in October 1986. Since then we have served the Lord in various places and in various ways (radio, writing, and now website) to this day.
In the thirty-three years since we left Lansdowne the church has continued to thrive under successive ministers.
Now, however, as previously mentioned, the building is increasingly becoming outdated and requiring ever more expensive maintenance. The present visionary pastor, Rev. Peter Baker, together with the leadership team and members of the church, are moving forward in a step of faith to demolish the old building. God willing, it will be replaced with a modern purpose-built sanctuary on the same site in the center of Bournemouth. The new church will be known as Lansdowne Church.
This brings us up-to-date with the Regeneration Project. In the next few weeks the church is entering a new and challenging phase of its ministry as it becomes “Lansdowne Without Walls”, and the congregation meets together for worship in other locations.
June and I will continue to pray for Peter and Sian Baker and the leadership team of Lansdowne as the existing building is demolished and a new sanctuary arises from the rubble. We ask you to do so also.
How Harry and I rejoiced together and praised God when, after many difficulties and hurdles overcome, including the pandemic, the new Lansdowne Church was finally opened in September 2021 in the same central Bournemouth location where the Gospel has been faithfully proclaimed for well over 100 years. Click on: Lansdowne Church to find out more about what is happening at Lansdowne now.
This month I am including an extract from my sermon on “Justification by Faith”, which was first printed in my booklet of the same title. It tells of an incident which happened to me when I served three years in the Royal Air Force from 1952 to 1955. Most of that time was spent with the Forces of Occupation in Germany following the end of World War II.
Does “to be justified” mean the same as “to be forgiven?”
Answer: It includes forgiveness but involves MUCH MORE.
When God justifies the ungodly sinner his sin is pardoned, yes, but also his heart is cleansed and the sinner is acquitted. That is more, isn’t it? The slate is wiped clean. There is nothing against his name. It is just-as-if-he’d never sinned. But there is yet more. He is even counted good. Isn’t that amazing? Many Christians never grasp this truth.
It is as if a man is in terrible financial debt. He cannot possibly pay, but someone comes along and not only wipes out all his debts (wonderful itself), but also credits to his account so much money that anything he could ever want or need is there in plenty. It is as if a terrible criminal, who is in court on trial for his life, having begged for mercy, finds himself not only pardoned and set free, but honored. Instead of being condemned he is commended. Of course we would say that could never happen. It would be unjust. Precisely. If your Gospel does not seem to you an apparent miscarriage of justice (a guilty offender going free and actually being honored and an innocent Man condemned) then it is probably not God’s Gospel!
Sometimes I use an illustration from my time in the Royal Air Force. It is a trivial thing, really, but it illustrates this truth and people enjoy the story.
I grew up in England, and when I was eighteen years old I was drafted into the Royal Air Force. I served three years National Service as an enlisted airman and I was a radio mechanic.
One day a pilot was going off for a flight by himself in his single-seat jet fighter, and I was to go and tune-up his radio. I went underneath the belly of the aircraft, unscrewed the hatch where the radio was kept in the fuselage and, because it was windy, instead of putting the hatch down on the ground, I did what we often did and tucked it up inside while I finished the little job.
But I forgot to replace it.
I went back to what we called our “Section”, and I was doing some other work, when I saw this airplane taxiing by. I noticed, with horror, the dark shadow underneath the belly of the airplane, and I realized which aircraft it was and that I had forgotten to replace the radio hatch.
I could not ignore it because it was very dangerous. The hatch would possibly – even probably – become caught up with the controls damaging them or rendering them inoperative. So, with a sinking heart, I called the control tower on the telephone and I said, “Guess what? I just noticed a plane, without the radio hatch underneath, heading for the runway.”
Well, when the airplane came to the end of the runway the pilot, having been informed of the problem, actually got out, climbed down, and took a look. He confirmed the warning and returned to base.
I waited for the telephone to ring. I knew they could easily find out who was the culprit because my signature was on the service sheet. Sure enough they called, and I was summoned by the Squadron Leader.
He asked me, “Did you service that airplane?”
“You left the hatch off?”
“You are a very bad man,” (or words to that effect!).
He charged me with about six charges, most of which I was convinced would carry the death penalty! Failing to re-attach the cover; gross negligence; endangering the life of the pilot, etc.
I slept in a hut with about thirty men, and when my friendly colleagues heard what I had done they were taking bets as to what would happen to me, ranging from life imprisonment down to several months in jail on bread and water.
It was one of the most miserable times in my life.
The day came when I was brought before the Camp Commander.
I was marched in, “Left-right, left-right, left-right. Halt. Left-turn. Hat off!” (I do not know why, but one always had to take off one’s hat.)
Of course the pilot-officer was there, and the sergeant. They kept their hats on.
The Group Captain asked, “What is the charge?”
“Oh, several charges, sir,” replied the sergeant and explained what had happened–heavily emphasizing my dangerous negligence, and life threatening conduct. Obviously he wanted the rope!
Well the Group Captain, with all his gold braid and medals, looked at me and said, “Is this true, Airman?”
“Are you guilty or not guilty?”
“Oh,” I said, “Guilty, sir. Yes, sir, I did it. (Please say goodbye to my dad, and my grandma, and all my friends).”
He looked at the pilot and asked, “Aren’t you supposed to visually inspect the aircraft yourself before you climb into the cockpit?”
“Yes sir,” said the pilot.
“Did you do that?”
“Well – er – I was in a hurry.”
“Then I think you are partly to blame for this.”
That cheered me up a bit. I thought, we will hang together, brother. Then the Group Captain said to the sergeant, “How was this discovered?”
And the sergeant said, “Sir, an airman, looking through the window of his Section, noticed the hatch was off and telephoned the control tower.”
The Group Captain said, “Reahhlly!?” Because, you see, officers of his rank did not think that enlisted airmen of my rank knew how to use a telephone – so that impressed him. He said again, “Reahhlly!!?”
“Yes sir,” said the sergeant, “he picked up the telephone, called the tower, and said there was something wrong with the airplane.”
“Well,” my commandant replied incredulously, “that is quite remarkable. And who was the airman who did that?”
So the sergeant, reluctantly I thought, said “Kilbride, sir.”
The Group Captain looked at me with eyes like saucers and said, “Was it you who telephoned the control tower and had this airplane stopped?”
“That was jolly commendable of you, Kilbride,” he said, “very perceptive.”
“Thank you, sir.”
And then he turned to the pilot and he said, “I think you owe your life to this young man.”
“Thank you very much,” said the pilot to me.
The C.O. glared at the sergeant and said, “I think these are ridiculous charges. Case dismissed. I am going to see this man is commended for his prompt and intelligent action,” and turning to me, “Well done, airman. Well done!”
“Attention! Hat on! Left-turn. Left-right, left-right,” and out we went! I could not believe it.
I went back to my friends in the billet who were clearly astonished to even see me. “Well, what did you get? What did you get?”
“Commended,” I replied – as nonchalantly as I could.
I still do not think they know how it was done. And I do not know how it was done either because I walked in there unquestionably guilty of several serious life-threatening offenses, and by some strange turn of events – I almost said “work of fate,” except I don’t believe in fate – came out commended.
Will you forgive this amusing, but absolutely true, illustration of a holy and precious truth? This is what justification is. You walk into the courts of God, a guilty sinner, with guilt for offenses since your earliest memory that would stretch around the world. Every one of them is a capital charge for the Bible says, “The soul who sins will die,” and, “The wages of sin is death.” Yet because of Jesus Christ you come out, not only NOT GUILTY, but COMMENDED for Jesus’ sake.
No wonder Luther said it is “the very heart of the Gospel”. No wonder John Stott said, “If you have not understood this, you have never understood Christianity.”
For audio of the sermon click on the following link: Justification by Faith