RIDLEY, John Gotch (1896-1976) • Australian Dictionary of Evangelical Biography

RIDLEY, John Gotch (1896-1976)

Hubert Watkin-Smith, ,

RIDLEY, JOHN GOTCH (b. Sydney, NSW, 8 Sept 1896; d. Sydney, NSW, 26 Sept 1976). Evangelist.

The son of Thomas Ridley, a partner in the publishing firm of Gordon & Gotch, John Ridley had an intense interest in things military and his ambition was to be a soldier. Prior to embarkation with the AIF in October 1915 he was converted in the Baptist Tabernacle, Burton St, Sydney and determined to become a soldier for the King of Kings. He served as a sergeant and lieutenant in France, where he was severely wounded in the battle of Fromelles, the ill-effects of which persisted all his life. Whenever the circumstances of the Western Front 1915-18 permitted, he conducted prayer meetings and Bible studies and won a reputation from all types of men for his faithfulness to Christian principles and practice. In 1918 he was awarded the Military Cross for bravery at Bullecourt.

After demobilisation in 1919 he became student-pastor of the Morubra Baptist Church until he suffered a severe nervous breakdown, a reaction to his war wounds and experiences. On medical advice he went west as a jackeroo but soon began an itinerant ministry in a horsedrawn waggon to isolated homesteads and villages. In 1926 he married Dorothy Chapman and the two continued the itinerant ministry for nine years. Improving health permitted evangelistic missions in churches and he soon became known for his vehement oratory and graphic presentation of Biblical doctrines. He was increasingly invited to larger centres and from 1933 was a frequent speaker at the convention gatherings at Katoomba, NSW, and Upwey, Vic.

After the birth of daughter Ruth the itinerant caravan ministry ceased and he carried on a constant evangelistic ministry as a convention and conference speaker and as a missioner in the churches of several denominations. His preaching was Christ-centred, reflecting his personal devotion to Christ and his gratitude for a salvation secured through Divine grace by the sacrifice on Calvary. He held forthrightly to his belief in the pre-millennial return of Christ and to the divine inspiration of the Bible. Always he stressed to converts the importance of the devotional life. Ridley also sought to evangelise through the written word, finding inspiration in devotional poetry, biography, and history. He published thirteen books, four volumes of poems, more than twenty poems published as leaflets and over 100 booklets and tracts. He was one of the founders of the prophetic magazine The Herald of Hope.

He sailed as a chaplain in World War Two to the Middle East. When age and ill-health ended his chaplaincy service he became a welfare officer with Campaigners for Christ. Aiming to train evangelists, with himself as president Ridley joined with others after World War Two to form the Australian Institute of Evangelism later known as Ambassadors for Christ International. The trainees participated in missions in churches with John Ridley as leader and inspirer.

Ridley's biographer, Rev H E Evans, speaks of him as a soldier and a saint—a man imbued with military zeal, unflagging loyalty, and a highly disciplined life, all revealed in his devotional life, his public preaching, and the planning of his activities.

H E Evans, Soldier and Evangelist, the story of Rev John G Ridley, MC (Eastwood, 1980)

SELECT WRITINGS: The Deep Sweet Well of Love (Sydney, 1953); Pillars of the Perfect Life (Stanwell Tops, 1963); The Day must Dawn (Stanwell Tops, 1963); The Passion for Christ (Stanwell Tops, 1963)

HUBERT WATKIN SMITH

 

Electronic Version © Southern Cross College, 2004

Content © Evangelical History Association of Australia and the author, 2004
 

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