Robert Gordon (1888 – 1971) Sydney evangelist
Working mainly in Sydney and NSW, his ministry at city parks, factories and Sunday evening city meetings will long be remembered. Crowds of fifteen hundred miners would surround the wagon for hours as he preached to them during depression days on the Newcastle coalfields. Thousands were converted under his unique ministry.
Robert Hamilton (Roy) Gordon was born in Dunedin, New Zealand, on l April 1888. He trusted in Christ at age seven at the Trinity Methodist Church, Dunedin NZ, affirming this when nineteen. A tailor by trade, he moved to Sydney before World War One for greater business experience. The marriage of Roy Gordon to Marguerite Munro Dick took place on 17 March 1917. He became involved with South Sydney Methodist Mission as local preacher and organist at open air meetings soon developing a love for this type of evangelism, and displaying considerable gifts as a preacher. At the invitation of James Flucker, of the Sydney City Mission, himself a unique and gifted open air speaker, Gordon joined the Mission, later becoming superintendent of the Balmain branch until 1923. That year, at the suggestion of William (Cairo) Bradley, he attended prayer meetings of NSW Evangelistic Prayer Band and organised a mission in Balmain town hall with Cairo Bradley as missioner. Other missions followed.
An invitation to join the staff of the Prayer Band, now know as Open Air Campaigners was extended to Gordon which he at first declined, but later, pressed again by Bradley, he accepted position of evangelist in 1923. H Alec Brown, the first OAC evangelist, had resigned to take up children’s evangelism with Children’s Special Service Mission. Roy Gordon was soon joined by several evangelists in OAC work which majored in preaching the gospel in streets, parks, beaches, workplaces in NSW, as well as conducting indoor and tent missions. A fleet of seven specially equipped vehicles operated in Sydney and country areas, manned by honorary workers.
Roy Gordon’s ministry frequently involved spending extended periods in country towns where he first called on local clergymen explaining the purpose of his visit and seeking their cooperation, with the result that many converts were added to local congregations. His vehicle was equipped with sleeping and cooking facilities, a drop side as a platform, which, with his organ or concertina, made Gordon a self-contained preacher. At one particular north NSW town, the proprietor of the local cinema had a standing arrangement with the evangelist to announce that ‘screening would commence after the conclusion of the night’s meeting’. Roy Gordon’s association with OAC continued for fifteen years until 1938 when he resigned to form Sydney Evangelistic Crusade, an organisation similar in aims and operation to OAC. He continued his involvement in open air evangelism until the early 1960s.
His strategic grasp of the scripture, which came to him not only by regular study and meditation, but also his custom of reading the Bible through at least once each year, equipped him well to answer, without notice, the multiplicity of questions from the floor, be it grass or pavement. His ministry also extended to speaking at various conferences, such as Katoomba Christian Convention, across Australia. James Duffecy, director of Open Air Campaigners International, wrote in his 1971 report: ‘
Roy Gordon preached a forthright bible centered message. Supported by real life illustrations, there was a manliness about his preaching that was irresistible. As an open air evangelist I have never seen his equal. I believe he ranked with Whitefield, Booth, and the other greats. Working mainly in Sydney and NSW, his ministry at city parks, factories and Sunday evening city meetings will long be remembered. Crowds of fifteen hundred miners would surround the wagon for hours as he preached to them during depression days on the Newcastle coalfields. Thousands were converted under his unique ministry.’
He died in Sydney, NSW on 21 Sept 1971.
Australian Christian Endeavour Union records, 1880 – 1996 http://archival-classic.sl.nsw.gov.au/item/itemDetailPaged.aspx?itemID=943010
Australian Christian Endeavour Union https://www.ce.asn.au/about/our-past/australia/
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