Theodore Harold Bendor-Samuel passed into the presence of the Lord on 26 February 1998, aged ninety-two. His physical condition had gradually deteriorated following a severe heart attack six months earlier.
His public ministry had two main phases. For nearly thirty years he served as a pastor and then for a longer period he was a leader of missionary work to Jews. But he was also very active in service to a variety of other Christian organizations, especially the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, to which he made an outstanding contribution over many years.
Theodore was born into a Christian family: his father and mother, Elijah and Mabel, served with the Mildmay Mission to the Jews. He came to faith in Christ as a young teenager, and quickly became very active in local preaching and evangelism. On leaving school at the age of fourteen, he began work in a factory, entering the grocery trade two years later. When he was twenty-one, he was invited to become the pastor of a church which was being formed in West Worthing.
Although dyslexia had limited his success in school, he applied himself diligently to rise above this and became a self-taught scholar able to take a place among those with the highest levels of formal education. He learned both Greek and Hebrew and became a writer and editor.
After four years pastoring the West Worthing Tabernacle, he was called in 1931 to the Perks Memorial Mission, now Winchester Evangelical Free Church. For fourteen years God blessed his ministry there with growing numbers and a vigorous evangelistic outreach. Daughter churches were planted in two suburbs. Although with the onset of war many of the men who had been added to the fellowship were scattered, during the war years there was significant blessing among the thousands of service personnel stationed in and around Winchester.
There followed four years at Putson Baptist Church, Hereford, during which God continued to bless his ministry. He was instrumental in starting Youth For Christ activities in the city and surrounding regions. In 1949 he became pastor of Lansdowne Evangelical Free Church, West Norwood. There he was involved in rebuilding the church physically and spiritually after the destruction of the war years. As in his previous pastorates, God blessed his ministry with growth in both the number of those attending and their spiritual maturity.
In 1955, much against his natural inclination, he resigned the pastorate to obey God’s call to lead the Mildmay Mission to the Jews. Here too the Lord richly blessed his ministry both within the mission and in the wider evangelical community. His colleagues in the mission comment on his love of the Lord and his Word, and on his ability to communicate this effectively in preaching and writing. They also say that his wise personal counsel was a source of strength and inspiration. One result of his efforts was the merger of the MMJ and the Hebrew Christian Testimony to Israel, the two missions with which his father had served, which combined to form the Messianic Testimony. He continued first as director and later as co-director and eventually consultant director of the Messianic Testimony right up to his final illness.
While serving as a pastor or mission director, Theodore was also making a major contribution to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. He became a member in 1930, a Council Member in 1935, Assistant Secretary in 1944 and Honorary Secretary from 1946 till 1977. His home became the hub of the FIEC until 1963 when an office was established in a nearby location. He also served as its president in 1967 and 1978.
The present FIEC General Secretary comments that he was responsible for much of the fellowship’s development in its earlier years. His work for it and its churches was very extensive, continuing alongside his other duties until his late eighties. In addition to administrative work, he served as a consultant and advisor to many FIEC pastors and churches over all these years. He will long be remembered for his wise counsel and advice, for his gracious spirit and for the immense amount of work he was enabled to do.
In addition to these primary spheres of activity, he also served many other organizations. He was a founder member of the British Evangelical Council and a governor of the London Bible College. He lectured for many years at Redcliffe Bible College, and was on the council of the Hebrew Christian Alliance, the Campaigners, the Evangelical Alliance, the Central Asian Mission and the Spanish Gospel Mission. During the final twenty years of his life, he served as an elder of Carey Baptist Church, Reading, where he became greatly loved. The fellowship there will miss his gentle dignity, his balanced and constructive approach to the challenges of church life, and his wise and gracious spirit.
He is survived by his wife Alison, his sons John and David, ten grandchildren and twenty-one great-grandchildren.