John Sutcliff was a pupil of Caleb Evans at Bristol Baptist College. Sutcliff was a good student, but not a great orator, and after graduation and the beginning of his first pastorate, he became disheartened and wondered whether or not he should be in the ministry. After only four months there was such opposition to his ministry, for the sake of the church, he knew he had to leave. After this me became paralyzed with discouragement. When the Baptist Church of Olney in Northhamptonshire asked him to come to preach, he turned them down, thinking he wasn’t qualified. They wrote again, and again – their letters were ignored.
On this day (June 30) in 1775, Sutcliff’s mentor, Caleb Evans, sat down and wrote a letter to his former pupil. Each man knew the other very well, so Evans knew exactly how to address the discouraged young man. It was not a motherly letter, but forceful and fatherly. At one point he wrote, “If you do not at least visit the Olney church, I will be personally offended.” The letter arrived on July 3 and three days later Sutcliff began making arrangements to visit Olney.
John Sutcliff was received well by the church in Olney, and together they began a blessed and important ministry together. Over time, Sutcliff would meet John Ryland, Andrew Fuller, and William Carey. Through these four pastors, a new era in mission work was begun.
Perhaps it was Sutcliff’s timid nature which contributed to William Cathcart’s praise – “He was full of gentleness, and of a devotional spirit. He was among the best that ever lived.”
Our question is: would the ministry of John Sutcliff have succeeded if it wasn’t for the encouragement of Caleb Evans and the letter he wrote on this day in 1775?
Who have you encouraged in the Lord recently?