Charles Thomas Studd (1860—1931) was a British missionary who served in China, India, and Africa. He also founded the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade. Despite being born into privileged circumstances and attaining athletic fame early in life, C. T. Studd (as he was known) relinquished everything to live by his motto: “If Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for him” [Bonk, J. J., “Studd, C. (Charles) T. (Thomas),” Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals, ed. Larsen, T. et al., InterVarsity Press, 2003, p. 648–649].
C. T. Studd was the youngest of three boys born to Edward Studd, a wealthy plantation owner of Wiltshire, England. When C. T. was seventeen, his father experienced a radical conversion to Christianity while attending a revival service held by Dwight L. Moody. Deeply concerned for the spiritual state of his children, Edward began talking to his boys about Jesus, asking if they, too, wanted to accept Christ as Savior. He invited traveling ministers to stay in his home, hoping they might make an impact on his sons. Within a year, all three boys committed their lives to Jesus Christ, but C. T.’s devotion was shallow, and he backslid for the next six years.
By this time, the youngest Studd had become a celebrity in England. After starring as the captain of his cricket team at Eton College, he attended Trinity College in Cambridge, where he gained national renown as Britain’s most gifted cricketer. But fame and fortune left C. T. feeling unsatisfied. He wanted his life to count for more. After hearing a talk from Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary to China, Studd and six fellow Cambridge students formed an influential group called the “Cambridge Seven.” These young athletes, all from affluent families, renounced their comfortable lives and promising professions to serve as foreign missionaries alongside Hudson Taylor through the China Inland Mission (CIM).
Studd’s determination to follow God’s call as a missionary stirred widespread public interest and enthusiasm. With his heart set on making an eternal impact and the eyes of all Englanders upon him, he and the Cambridge Seven began laying the groundwork for the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM), a ministry aimed at enlisting college students to serve as foreign missionaries.
Even after the death of his father and appeals from his mother to stay in England, C. T. Studd resolved to forsake all for the sake of following Jesus. In 1885, he and the Cambridge Seven traveled to China and immediately adopted CIM’s strategy of embracing the Chinese people’s customs, language, and culture. He traveled around the country, preached the gospel, and led many souls to faith in Jesus Christ.
At age twenty-five, C. T. Studd received an inheritance, most of which he promptly donated to Christian ministries, including George Mueller’s orphanage at Ashley Down, Bristol. He gave the remaining ten percent to his bride, Priscilla Livingston Stewart, whom he had married in China. She possessed a similar mindset, so she encouraged C. T. to give that portion away, too. They donated the funds to the Salvation Army.
In 1894, the couple was forced to return to England, both in ill health. While there, C. T. was invited to speak on behalf of SVM in England and the United States, successfully recruiting many college students to pursue the mission field after college. In 1900, C. T. and Priscilla went to India to work in an English-speaking church in Ootacamund. Again, they saw many souls come to Christ. But after six years and both struggling with illness yet again, they went home to recover. By then, the couple had four daughters.
Back in England, C. T. picked up his speaking ministry but soon sensed a call to Africa. Against the advice of doctors and the wishes of his wife, who was still unwell, Studd charted his course despite the health risks. In 1910, when even his mission board denied support, the unstoppable Studd sailed alongside another groundbreaking missionary, Alfred Buxton, who would later become his son-in-law. The two men established the Heart of Africa Mission, later renamed the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade (WEC).
In 1913, Studd and Buxton went to the Congo and planted four mission stations among eight tribal groups. Alfred married C. T.’s daughter, Edith, in the Congo in 1917. Except for one visit to Africa in 1928, Studd’s wife remained in England until she died in 1929.
Studd’s eighteen years of missionary work in the Congo were plagued with conflict between him and his missionary colleagues, including his son-in-law, who often disagreed with his father-in-law’s stubborn leadership model. C. T. resided in Africa until his passing in Ibambi in July 1931. Another son-in-law, Norman Percy Grubb, who married Studd’s fourth daughter, took over the strife-splintered agency, and under his capable directorship, the ministry began to thrive.
The WEC still flourishes today with the indefatigable and self-sacrificing spirit of its founder, C. T. Studd. The interdenominational, international mission organization focuses on reaching unchurched peoples through the work of more than 1,800 missionaries in over 80 countries.
Here are some quotes attributed to C. T. Studd:
“Some want to live within the sound Of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop Within a yard of hell.”
“Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears; Each with its clays I must fulfill. living for self or in His will; Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
“Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible.”
“Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.”