Bible Scholar & Author Warren Wiersbe, ‘the Pastor’s Pastor,’ Dies at 89

Popular and prolific Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe died on the evening of May 2, 2019, at the age of 89.

Warren Wendel Wiersbe was born on May 16, 1929, to Fred and Gladys Anna (Forsberg) Wiersbe in East Chicago, Indiana (25 miles southeast of Chicago). At that time, the steel town of East Chicago was the most industrialized city in the United States.

Wiersbe traced his call to ministry to May 1945, when as a 16-year-old high school sophomore he attended a Youth for Christ rally and heard the ministry’s first full-time evangelist, 26-year-old Billy Graham. A few years later, the president of Youth for Christ, Torrey Johnson, asked him what he wanted to do with his life. Wiersbe responded, “I wanted to go to school and get some Bible training and then preach the gospel.” Johnson responded: “Young man, find the one thing you do that God blesses, and stick with it! Around that time, Wiersbe later wrote, “I had developed an insatiable appetite for the Word of God, and I wanted to study and understand the Bible more than anything else in all the world.” He began acquiring and using his first books: the Scofield Reference BibleStrong’s ConcordanceCruden’s ConcordanceSmith’s Bible Dictionary, The Christian Worker’s Commentary by James M. Gray, Notes on the Pentateuch by C. H. MacIntosh, using tools from a dispensational perspective.

After attending Indiana University in Indianapolis and Roosevelt University in Chicago in the late-1940s, Wiersbe enrolled at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, a northwest suburb of Chicago. As a seminary student, he was ordained in 1951 and began serving as pastor of Central Baptist Church, a blue-collar, 150-member neighborhood church in East Chicago. In June of 1953, he received his bachelor of divinity degree from Northern and married Betty Warren. Together they had four children—two boys (David and Robert) and two girls (Carolyn and Judy).

In 1957, he left his pastorate at Central to become Director of the Literature Division for Youth for Christ International.

From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio. A local Cincinnati radio stations broadcast his Sunday sermons as the “Calvary Hour.” His Sunday During his tenure the church grew from a capacity of 800 people to one that could hold 2,000 worshipers.

In 1971 he received a call from the famed Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, succeeding George Sweeting, who became the president of Moody Bible Institute. Wiersbe’s sermons were featured on Moody’s “Songs in the Night” national radio program. Wiersbe served at Moody from 1971 to 1978, during which time he wrote for Moody Monthly, penning the “Insight for the Pastor” column, where he offered not only practical theology counsel but also wrote biographical sketches of noted figures in church history, which formed the basis for his books Listening to the Giants (1976) and Walking with the Giants (1980). Each of the entries included bibliographic information for further reading—a feature that encouraged and guided many pastors to explore primary sources for themselves. Phil Johnson, Executive Director of Grace to You, writes: “The backbone of my library today consists of books he introduced me to. He sparked my interest in Lloyd-Jones, the Puritans, and preaching—among other things.”

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Source: The Gospel Coalition