Dick Saunders, international ‘crusade’ and radio evangelist, Bible teacher and pastor, died 19 January, 2018 aged 87.
Richard (‘Dick’) Stephen Saunders was born in Hailsham, East Sussex, on 16 July, 1930, the son of a Strict Baptist lay-pastor, Alfred Saunders. He grew up surrounded by the prayers and Godly example of his parents, and trusted Christ as his own Saviour at the age of 18. Soon after his conversion he married Betty (née Thomas).
After the bitter disappointment of the loss of their second child, Dick made a fresh surrender of his life to Christ. Later they joined an Open Brethren Gospel Hall in Hailsham, where Dick became involved with open-air teams. Billy Graham’s Harringay Crusade of 1954 was pivotal in preparing him for a lifetime of preaching the Gospel – ‘the Lord lit a fire of evangelism in my bones’, Dick later recalled.
Dick embarked on full-time evangelism in 1956, first in the south of France, then for 3 years with the Open Air Mission. In May 1960, Dick and Betty joined Counties Evangelist Work where he began as the evangelist for Hampshire with a tent that seated 150 people. He was appointed the national evangelist for Counties in 1967, by which time he was given a tent seating 1,000 people. Dick’s popularity as a ‘crusade evangelist’ grew until eventually he had a ‘cathedral tent’ capable of seating 3,000 people, used for summer missions in towns and cities across the UK. His annual rallies in London filled the Royal Albert Hall and, eventually, the Empire Pool, Wembley (now known as Wembley Arena) which seated 10,000. Hundreds went forward at his meetings to commit their lives to Christ and receive counselling.
In October 1965, Dick’s first Way to Life radio programme was broadcast by Trans World Radio from Monte Carlo. The Way to Life Ministry grew rapidly as thousands of letters poured in from around the world. Dick estimated that he had produced around 24,000 radio programmes in his lifetime.
By the mid-1980’s, as the demand for tent missions declined, Dick began using his tent for Bible conventions. This led to a growing Bible teaching ministry which became the hallmark of his later years. By the early 1980’s, Dick had embraced the doctrine of election, and this led him to the Reformed, Calvinistic theological position of his parents.
In his ‘retirement’ years, Dick served faithfully as an elder and pastor at Gordon Road Evangelical Church, Hailsham, whilst maintaining the international radio ministry with repeat broadcasts.
Dick leaves behind his wife, Betty, their children Paul and Jane and their families.
Paul Barnes (formerly a Trustee of WTL Ministry which was closed down in 2017)