FOUNDations: Oswald J. Smith


“Oh my friends… we are loaded down with countless church activities while the real work of the church—that of evangelizing and winning the lost—is almost entirely neglected. The Body of Christ is not a pleasure cruiser on its way to Heaven, but a battleship stationed at the very gates of Hell.”

Brief bio:

Although he was the long-time pastor of the large and influential Peoples Church in Toronto, Ontario, the name of Oswald J. Smith is most often associated with missions.

Born in 1889 in Ontario, at the age of sixteen he attended an evangelistic crusade held by R. A. Torrey and Charles Alexander, where he was saved. Two years later he began Bible College, eventually graduating from both college and seminary.

His burden for missions showed up early in life. He applied with a foreign missions board, but they turned him down because of concerns about poor health he had suffered throughout his childhood (a problem which he apparently overcame, since he later worked both in the backwoods of Canada and the mountains of Kentucky, then lived into his late nineties).

If he couldn’t go as a missionary, he determined to start a church that would send out missionaries. In 1928 Smith started the Peoples Church, originally called the Cosmopolitan Tabernacle.

As a young man he had asked God to enable him to give more than he would ordinarily be able to give, and the blessings he experienced helped him institute faith promise missions giving. With this plan, churches have given multiplied millions to send the Gospel throughout the world.

He also established mission works to reach the northern parts of Canada, to reach Jews and to distribute tracts.

In addition to his pastoral and missions works, he wrote 1200 poems and hymn lyrics, over 200 of which were set to music.

His earthly work ended at his homegoing in 1986.



  1. I think I ought to put this on my weblog too….thanks Steve!

  2. I find the early missionaries to be very inspirational: they were so committed to God and His cause! Taking the class on Perspectives last year was quite an education in the committedness that our brothers and sisters in the faith showed both here and abroad in the face of much adversity, including at times, from their own church families. (A plug: I hear another class will be starting in August!) My thanks also, Steve, for the reminder!

  3. I love the battleship analegy. (sp)

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.