March 8, 2014
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - Dick Woodward—cherished pastor, teacher, author, mentor and friend—departed this life on Saturday, March 8. He was 83.
Known to hundreds of thousands of Christians all over the world as the author of the Mini Bible College, a practical survey of the Bible, Woodward began his ministry as an associate pastor at his brother-in-law’s church in Norfolk after graduating from Biola University. Initially a shy, angry young man with crippling social anxiety and a learning disability, Woodward seemed an unlikely candidate for a powerful preaching and teaching ministry. He said,
“I spent a good part of my early faith journey as a reluctant, confused, and even rebellious disciple. I have learned, though, how God responds in amazing ways when we humble ourselves and determine to live life as He designed it.”
Indeed, “amazing” accurately describes the early years of Woodward’s ministry. In 1956, he founded Virginia Beach Community Chapel with 20 members and became its senior pastor. By 1979, it had become a mega church. Pastor Woodward appeared on the Mildred Alexander talk show and spoke on radio programs and before multiple Bible study groups. A weekly prayer breakfast Woodward had started for local businessmen, known as “The Thursday Morning Happening,” had grown to an attendance of 400. He moved to Williamsburg and helped establish a second church, Williamsburg Community Chapel. In the midst of managing such a successful ministry, however, Woodward held a memory of an early encounter he had with God’s divine love:
“I discovered where God is...and I discovered where I wanted to be for the rest of my life, connecting the love of God to the pain of hurting people.”
Little did Woodward know where this encounter had yet to take him.
By the late 1970s, it was clear something was amiss in Woodward’s body. A man who once ran several miles a day now struggled to walk. The doctors came back with devastating news: Woodward had a rare degenerative disease of the spine. By the mid-1980s, he was a paraplegic—by the late 1990s, a housebound, bedfast quadriplegic. To Woodward, it seemed that his vibrant ministry had suddenly ground to a halt.
Instead, it proved to be a new beginning. As his health declined, Woodward began writing and teaching a survey of the Bible designed to help common people grow in their understanding of the scriptures. He called it the Mini Bible College. Dois Rosser, a successful Virginia businessman, found Woodward’s approach to the Bible so clear and compelling that he vowed to put the Mini Bible College into the hands of people all over the world. Dois founded International Cooperating Ministries, which set to work translating the Mini Bible College into various languages for distribution in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. Today, the Mini Bible College exists in 31 languages spoken by 4 billion people worldwide and is actively undergoing translation into 10 additional ones. MBC is now available on the Internet, solar-powered audio devices and radio broadcast.
Perhaps the most powerful facet of Woodward’s ministry, however, was his persistent faith in the face of incredible suffering. Throughout his life and ministry, he continued to pray and believe fervently for the healing of others. He mentored many at his bedside and ministered to the health care providers who attended him in the hospital.
“Somehow, my acceptance [of my condition] was so complete that it washed out the denial, anger, and depression I had felt before. Since the inward person is a greater value than the outward person, inner healing is a greater value than physical healing. I believe God has done a far deeper healing in my soul which few people can see; it’s a greater miracle than the healing of my body would be, which everyone could see.”
In 2008, Woodward started a blog to share with the world the lessons of faith that had long since become the foundation of his ministry and the Mini Bible College—which he called “the Four Spiritual Secrets”. In 2010, he published a book by the same name. Woodward’s story has ministered to the hearts of countless people in difficult circumstances, connecting the love of God to the pain of the hurting in a tender, tangible way.
“God has given me His ability in exchange for my disability,” Woodward would often say. “I’m not, but He is. I can’t, but He can. I didn’t, but He did. I don’t want to, but He wants to—because I am in Him and He is in me.”
Dick Woodward leaves behind his beloved wife Ginny, two sons, three daughters, two sons-in-law, one daughter-in-law, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Visit http://www.wcchapel.org/DickWoodward.
held at Williamsburg Community Chapel, Williamsburg, Virginia.
The family has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations designated for MBC be made in his memory to International Cooperating Ministries (ICM). Call 757-827-6704 or visit www.icm.org.
You can e-mail your prayers, thoughts, stories, or condolences with the Woodward family here: firstname.lastname@example.org.