Geoffrey Thomas has lived a memorable life. But despite his achievements, he tells his story as a man comfortably living in the shadow of something and Someone greater. Geoff shares his upbringing in Wales, his ministerial training in the United States, and his family life and ministry that stretched over fifty years at Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth. Throughout the book, the winsome Welshman introduces us to a host of leaders he has befriended over the years, giving a valuable perspective on the transatlantic evangelical scene. And most of all, you will read of Geoff’s love for the Rock of his salvation.
Table of Contents:
3. The Town Where I Grew Up
4. My Schooling and My Church
5. University in Cardiff
6. Seminary Days, Philadelphia, 1961–1964
7. Coming Home to Wales and Marriage, 1964
8. Aberystwyth, a Small Town with Almost Everything
9. Christianity in Aberystwyth in the Twentieth Century
10. Alfred Place Baptist Church
11. Beginning as a Preacher
12. My Journal
13. Key Brothers and Formative Influences
14. Some Memorable Conversations
15. The Ministry of Mercy in Aberystwyth.
Geoffrey Thomas was the pastor Alfred Place Baptist Church in Aberystwyth, Wales, for over 50 years. During that time Geoff preached through (almost) every word of the Bible. Geoff received his theological training at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, where he was especially influenced by the teaching of Professors John Murray, Cornelius Van Til, and E.J. Young. Westminster awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2011. Geoff is still a frequent conference speaker all over the world. He also holds the position of Visiting Professor of Historical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“For fifty years, Geoff Thomas has been my mentor and friend. His weekly emails recounting details of encounters and observations are often priceless. If I were forced to list my top five preachers, his name would be there. As a young Christian at Aberystwyth University in Wales, his mentorship and care for me proved definitive. I would not be where I am today without his guiding, supportive hand. He has preached all over the world, met and kept extensive diary-like notes of conversations with thousands of people, remained in the one church for over half a century, and influenced generations of preachers. That he should write a self-deprecating autobiography is a measure of the heart of this man. His autobiography is a window into the evangelical/reformed church of the last seventy years and more. I predict that this book will be widely read and talked about for years to come.” —Derek W. H. Thomas
“For some time now, Geoffrey Thomas has been in the habit of sending out occasional letters that reflect on God and the gospel, his travels and life, and people and movements in the Christian world. They are gems. Well, reading these autobiographical reflections is like receiving an eleventy of these letters at one fell swoop! This volume of reminiscences is enthralling, winsome in its wisdom, and a fabulous window on God's work in one influential life, for Geoffrey Thomas has indeed had a profound influence for good in the Christian world, and especially among those people who are Reformed in their theology and vision of church life. It was a recommendation by Geoff to an Baptist elder in Belfast in 2000 that led to my being involved in Ireland, both the North and Eire, for two decades now—and I thank God for the author of this book and the fruit of Geoffrey Thomas' ministry and life. —Michael A.G. Haykin, Professor of Church History, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Biographies and autobiographies usually make for fascinating reading. This volume will not disappoint. Yet it is more than the story of one faithful man’s ministry in ‘Aber’ for fifty years. The reader will gain perspective on the twentieth century as Geoff weaves his own story into the religious climate in Wales either side of World War II. The recovery of historic biblical Christianity is portrayed through his eyes. There are also delightful cameos of his professors at Westminster Seminary, of men who were his friends and had a formative influence on him, and also of some who were converted to Christ under his preaching ministry. The author has been candid and is very aware of his shortcomings but at the same time very conscious of divine mercy and grace that sustained him for those fifty years.” —Austin Walker, formerly pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church, Crawley, UK
“By the time Geoff Thomas began his long ministry in Aberystwyth, the tide had gone out, leaving the churches in Wales high and dry. The higher critical movement had robbed us of the gospel. I arrived in Aberystwyth in 1968, converted, called to preach but lacking any models or mentors. I learned to preach by listening to Geoff and by devouring the books he recommended . And I saw firsthand how the ascended Christ uses a local church for the advancement of his kingdom in the world.
With disarming frankness, Geoff looks back over a lifetime of faithful, fruitful gospel ministry and shares with us the influences that shaped him, and the highs and lows of pastoral ministry. He speaks about his own mistakes and failures with refreshing honesty and self-deprecating humour. But at the same time there is no mistaking the high view he has of the call to full time ministry. “What a marvellously privileged life we lead,” he says, of the gospel minister.
This book is full of so many rich, instructive brief bios of teachers and colleagues in ministry, some relatively unknown, some household names in the evangelical world. Of particular interest are the vivid little cameos of the Westminster faculty. What a privilege to have such teachers. How vital it is for a lifetime of ministry to set yourself up with the best possible theological education. And how blessed we who came under the influence of this man and his ministry.” —David N. Jones, Hobart, Tasmania, Presbyterian Church of Australia
“I was under the ministry of Geoff Thomas during my doctoral studies at the university in Aberystwyth. His book is a magnificent work of autobiography. It provides the reader with a fascinating account into the life, upbringing, and influences upon this well loved and respected pastor and preacher who for over fifty years was a minister in Aberystwyth. This autobiography also provides fascinating glimpses into life at Westminster Theological Seminary in the early 1960's, into the church scene in Wales during the 20th century as well as the establishment of a couple of confessional Christian churches in mid Wales in both the Welsh and English languages.” —Jean-Marc Alter, school teacher and contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
“You can hear Geoff Thomas as you read this book. There is a generosity of spirit that gushes through the written word as it flows in his preached words, a love for his Lord, for people, for the Church, for his Baptist form of Calvinistic Methodism, for Wales, for Aberystwyth, for the people of Alfred Place. The anecdotes about and insights into his esteemed teachers at Westminster Theological Seminary are a treat. His openness about his own perceived failings and the troughs and peaks of his long ministry at Alfred Place, Aberystwyth, are lessons in honesty. We learn about many much loved people and a multifaceted pastoral ministry. Read it, be challenged, and be refreshed.” —Mostyn Roberts, minister at Welwyn Evangelical Church, Herts., UK
“A man who has ministered for 50 years in a single congregation and remains as enthusiastic for the ministry as when he first began is a man who needs to write his autobiography. For those who know Geoff this book will fill you with thankfulness to God for him and his influence, for those of you who don't know Geoff personally it will be an introduction to one of the most remarkable ministers I've ever known. I'm delighted he has written his story." —Paul Levy, minister at the International Presbyterian Church, Ealing, London
“This is a lively and engaging account of the life and ministry of one man, but it also sheds fascinating light on the state of Christianity in Wales and beyond in recent times. It demonstrates the value of faithful biblical preaching in bringing people to Christ, in building up believers in the faith, and in challenging the widespread godlessness in both the Church and society at large.” —Gwyn Davies. An elder in the Aberystwyth Welsh Evangelical Church
“This personal account of Pastor Geoff’s life makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read, containing a bright array of personal and historical anecdotes, written in a warm and lucid manner. There is openness and honesty, the confession that not all has been as it could have been – a feature so helpful to those of us whose ministries have witnessed relatively little fruit. The brief biographical and eirenically-written sketches provide flashes of fascinating insight; the tracing of historical associations serve to deepen the understanding of evangelicalism, especially here in Wales. Geoff is eager that Christ be glorified, and especially through good theology. This account of his life as a minister of Christ’s Gospel serves to do this. It has been a joy and a privilege to have read this book and it comes with a warm recommendation.” —Gareth Williams, minister Bala Evangelical Church and lecturer Union Seminary
“Geoff Thomas. One of Wales’ best known preachers during the 20th/21st centuries. Pastored a church in Aberystwyth for 50 years, influenced many of us, preached in congregations and conferences around the world as well as writing helpful books and many articles. Godly, wise, interesting, funny and good company! And now his life story in print. It is everything I was expecting and more. The story is fascinating and the way it is written, a real page turner. This deserves a wide audience. One of the true servants of the Lord Jesus.” —Alun Ebenezer, headmaster Fulham Boys School, London
“Geoff is like Boris. He doesn’t need a surname. If a fellow pastor tells me that Geoff’s preaching, or that he’s had a letter from Geoff, I don’t need to ask which Geoff. For countless reformed Christians and especially pastors, there’s only one Geoff. He’s mentored us, encouraged us, inspired us and befriended us. He’s taught us to preach by preaching to our minds and hearts. He’s counselled us through tangles we’ve got ourselves into. He’s driven hundreds of miles to speak at our little meetings. We owe him more than I can say. And here it is at last - Geoff Thomas’s autobiography. All you ever wanted to know about Geoff’s forebears, his upbringing, his conversion and call to the ministry, his heroes, his teachers, his love for the USA, that extraordinary half-century of ministry in Aberystwyth, and so much more beside. Geoff's memoirs are fascinating, moving, self-deprecating, Christ-honouring and at times gloriously indiscreet. Thank you Geoff.” —Stephen Rees, minister at Grace Baptist Church, Stockport
“A year or so after Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones had delivered his Westminster seminary lectures, ‘Preachers and Preaching,’ I asked him for his opinion of Westminster. He paid high tribute to the quality of its scholarship and teaching and to the way in which its professors had upheld the Reformed Faith in the face of considerable opposition. However, his concern was that ‘They are not producing preachers.’ I interjected, ‘But what about Geoff Thomas?’ He replied, ‘Yes, he is a preacher, but he comes from a different tradition.’ In this fine autobiography we can see the outworking of that tradition and ways in which it has been enriched from other tributaries to produce a Reformed pastor and teacher whose appeal has extended far beyond his native Wales. Geoff was converted in Welsh Evangelicalism as a teenager at a time when Nonconformity as a whole was suffering from the debilitating effects of liberal theology. More recently however, a number of congregations were being blessed were by the emergence of a generation of younger preachers who, encouraged by the ministry of Dr Lloyd-Jones had discovered something of the Biblical strength of an older Dissent. The university Christian Unions were being strengthened at the same time. Geoff’s own thinking was undoubtedly sharpened by his years at Westminster Seminary after his graduation from Cardiff. At Westminster he was profoundly influenced by Scottish Highland theology and piety of Professor John Murray. However, he came back to Wales, still a Baptist and was called to his only pastorate, at Aberystwyth in the heart of the Principality. There he served supported by his beloved Iola and their three daughters Calls to preach came from far and wide and he was at home among conservative Presbyterians as well as Reformed Baptists, ever ready to minister to small groups as well as large congregations. How we thank God for the help and encouragement that he has given to us. Now in retirement from his pastorate and living in London with Barbara, his second wife, he continues to serve the wider cause with God-given energy.” —Robert W. Oliver, pastor emeritus at the Baptist church, Bradford on Avon. Church history lecturer at the London Seminary