Alex Gilchrist (1907 – 1987) evangelical leader and broadcaster
In 1950 Gilchrist began broadcasts with station 2CH in Sydney: ‘The Gospel Message For Today’, each week-day morning, and ‘This is Life’, on Saturday evenings. The programs were relayed to 2BS Bathurst and 2KA Katoomba. His broadcasting career lasted twenty-one years. The programs had a simple format: recorded or live Christian music and a brief devotional or evangelistic message.
Alex Gilchrist was the eldest son of Arthur Robert and Florence Maud (nee Stein) Gilchrist. Shortly after his birth in Melbourne his parents moved to Adelaide and then, before the age of eight, to Sydney, where he lived for the remainder of his life and where he gained a state-wide reputation as a religious broadcaster, evangelist and organiser of evangelistic events.
After leaving school at the age of fifteen Gilchrist worked for stationers Yarwood Vane, and then the accounting firm of G H Anderson in Bligh Street, Sydney, during which time he qualified as a member of the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants. Anderson, the principal of the company and a Presbyterian layman, was a close friend of Gilchrist’s father-in-law to be, William ‘Cairo’ Bradley (q.v.), an Irish evangelist and founding member of Open Air Campaigners and Campaigners For Christ. Anderson invited his employee, then twenty-one, to an evangelistic meeting at which Gilchrist was converted through the preaching of another Irish evangelist, and friend of Bradley, the irascible W P Nicholson (q.v.).
It was a turning point in Gilchrist’s life. His musical skills as a dance hall pianist were soon put to use in Bradley’s evangelistic meetings throughout the city. His own gifts as an evangelist began to emerge through participation in open air meetings organised by Bradley each Friday evening in the city’s central fruit and vegetable markets, ‘Paddy’s Markets’.
At the outbreak of World War Two Gilchrist became an officer with Everyman’s Welfare Service, a philanthropic organisation formed by Campaigners For Christ to meet the needs of lower ranking army personnel in training and on military service in Australia and overseas. His postings included army camps at Bonegilla (Vic) and in northern Australia.
At the conclusion of the war he returned to accounting, but only briefly. On the death of his father-in-law in 1945 he succeeded Bradley as the director of Campaigners For Christ in NSW. In the following years Gilchrist figured prominently in evangelical circles, enjoying the close friendship and trust of prominent churchmen and leaders in numerous Christian organisations and societies. He was a board member of the Katoomba Christian Convention, Asia Pacific Christian Mission, Language Recordings Incorporated, Capernwray Missionary Fellowship, Far East Broadcasting Company and the Australian Festival of Light.
In 1950 he began broadcasts with station 2CH in Sydney: ‘The Gospel Message For Today’, each week-day morning, and ‘This is Life’, on Saturday evenings. The programs were relayed to 2BS Bathurst and 2KA Katoomba. His broadcasting career lasted twenty-one years. The programs had a simple format: recorded or live Christian music and a brief devotional or evangelistic message. Gilchrist had no formal theological training, but his simple and practical expositions of Bible passages and themes, combined with a winsome manner and pleasant voice, made him a popular Christian broadcaster and preacher, and a respected figure in the Sydney evangelical community and beyond.
Gilchrist was an active member and, for many years, secretary, of the United Evangelistic Crusade (UEC), an interchurch organisation which promoted evangelistic events. Within the UEC his skills as an administrator and negotiator came to prominence, resulting in his appointment as the secretary and director of the Billy Graham Crusades in Sydney in 1959 and 1961 respectively.
On his retirement from Campaigners For Christ in 1975 he was appointed honorary treasurer of the NSW branch of the Festival of Light. Throughout his public ministry Gilchrist took a strong stand on moral issues, but his pronouncements were typically diplomatic and much less strident than those of some of his FOL associates.
Campaigners for Christ
In 1939, a site had been leased at the Royal Melbourne Showground as a Rest Room and location for direct evangelism among the expected 90,000 visitors to the show.” Whilst Campaigners journey has transversed through many twists and turns Our Lord still in 2009 has chosen to have Campaigners involved in the concept in encouraging personal witnessing and evangelism. “We are certainly living in amazing days ……. movements such as ours are being challenged to reconsider their whole approach to outreach to this generation.” (Campaigners for Christ Bulletin – July/August 1971- Alex Gilchrist, Director, NSW.)
The first Australian Festival of Light committee included clinical psychologist Dr John Court as chairman, with Bruce Townsend of Campaigners for Christ the first secretary. Rev Lance Shilton and Mrs Roslyn Phillips were deputy chairmen, Adelaide estate agent Peter Daniels was publicity officer and Dr Harrold Steward was prayer officer. Lance Shilton and Bruce Townsend helped initiate Festival of Light committees in NSW and other states through their contacts in the Evangelical Alliance. Rev Doug Mill and Alex Gilchrist initially led the NSW branch while Dirk Bakker headed a committee in Victoria.
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