This Series of Blogs provide vignettes of the early pioneers of The Muscular Christianity Era & Faith-Sport Integration who laid the foundations for the Modern Day Sports Outreach Movement
CHARLES (CT) STUDD
C. T. had the typical upbringing and life of a 19th century aristocratic family. His father was a wealthy businessman who loved to own horses and fox hunt with them. His sons were practically born in a saddle and all attended Eton prep school. Their father built a cricket pitch for his sons at their country home and summers were spent honing skills at a game that became synonymous with the name of Studd. Cricket skills of course are honed only by those who have the good fortune to be able to do nothing but compete in a cricket match. Some of which last up to five days! Only those who did not have to work for a living could spend any significant amount of time playing Cricket. This was the case for the Studd brothers. Theirs was a life of relative ease. They had the good fortune of being born into a wealthy family and thus could play the rather “posh” British game. All played for Eton and later Cambridge.
COLLEGE AND ATHLETIC LIFE
C. T. continued his Cricket career as a member of both his college team as well as the English National team. He was part of what was considered England’s best ever Cricket team and was a teammate of the great W. G. Grace. At Cambridge he and his two brothers were successively named captains of the team. George in 1882; Charles in 1883 and Kynaston in 1884. After his Cambridge days, C. T. traveled the world with six other young missionaries in what became known as the Cambridge Seven. A few of these seven may have been the very first college athletes who used their athletic abilities and platform in a short term mission venture. Whereas their missionary endeavors were not solely athletic in nature, they were certainly known as Muscular Christians and were very much admired in the late 19th century for their commitment to missions and for their virile Christianity.
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
C. T. courted and eventually proposed to a pretty girl of Scottish descent, Priscilla Stewart, with the following words.
“You have neither the mind of God nor the will of God in the matter, but I have. And I intend to marry you whether you will or not, so you had better make up your mind and accept the situation.”
Her response? “What was I to do?”
Studd’s proposal and acceptance is indicative of the relationship the young couple had. C. T. was a man who knew what he was to do and then did it without ever letting anything divert him from accomplishing his goal. It was this characteristic of being able to holistically give himself to his purpose in life that enabled him to spend years on the African continent, separated from his wife and girls. Although he was determined and direct he also had a tender and romantic side as was evidenced in his love letters addressed to his wife. Many of these letters were made up of over 60 pages of small hand written script.
None-the-less he was separated from his family for years at a time due to his missionary zeal. It was a different era and his wife and children seemingly were in full support of his call. In fact, they continued to raise the awareness of C.T.’s mission work, securing prayerful and financial support the entire time he was on the mission field.
The world was awash with a missionary zeal and vision that had particularly permeated the college campuses of North America and Europe. Beginning with Moody's Northfield student conferences in the mid 1880's the words “All to go and go to all” and “the evangelization of the world in our life” became the banner cries of students everywhere. Moody, Ober, Wishard, Morse and of course Mott had all been influenced by the evangelistic zeal of the YMCA and transferred this zeal into a world wide movement. Studd was no doubt impacted by this and his experience with the Cambridge Seven. His first personal missionary journey was to China with his wife. Then he went to India from 1900-1906. This was followed by a couple of years (1906-1908) in which he spoke all over England. He traveled to YMCA’s and other brotherhoods sharing his personal testimony and faith in Christ.
He could not however forget his own personal call to go as a foreign missionary. This he resumed beginning in 1910, when he ascended to the upper Nile region to work among the cannibals of Northern Africa. He lived there until his death, not seeing his family for decades.
C.T. captured the imagination of his generation and was venerated as a model of giving his life for Christ. His passion should be emulated. His example of fully developing and then utilizing his athletic gifts for God’s glory should be followed. His commitment to winning the world for Christ, no matter what the cost should be admired. His methodology of leaving behind a family needs careful consideration however, and his neglect of his health needs to be evaluated in terms of long term effectiveness in following his call as a missionary. Modern day Sports Outreach Ministers and those involved in sports missions can learn much of what do to from the example of C.T. Studd and yet they can also observe a few areas in which a better stewardship of health, resources and opportunities God provides would be a wiser course of action.
Latourette, Ladd and Mathison all use the term “Cambridge Seven” while R. C. Morse uses the term the Cambridge Band. Both terms describe the same group.
This blog is an excerpt from a future book "Surrounded by Witnesses" by Dr. Greg Linville. All rights reserved. For any reproduction right, including copying, computer reproduction, etc. contact:
Dr. Greg Linville at CSRM International C/O The World Outreach Center 5350 Broadmoor Circle N. w. Canton, Ohio – USA 44709 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Other blogs and articles on Local Church Sports, sports theology and ethics written by Dr. Greg Linville and other local church Sports, Rec & Fitness Ministers are archived at: http://www.csrm.org/blog/