He is a risk-taker…” Dale Rhoton said, describing his friend and co-founder of OM, George Verwer, in his foreword to Out of the Comfort Zone. “He loves to live on the edge. You might say that his comfort zone is breaking out of his comfort zone. He only really feels secure when he’s risking it all.”

A Revolution of Love

On 14 April 2023, at the age of 84, George Verwer entered into Heaven. He was ready. Ready to meet his Saviour face to face and stand in the fullness of His glory. “Bless me to go home to our Father,” he asked those praying for him in the months leading up to his passing.

George’s gaze was firmly heavenward. He exuded God’s transformational love and was uncompromising in his willingness to risk everything for the sake of the gospel. But in his steady pursuit of God’s Kingdom, he didn’t lose sight of the realities of life on earth. Quite the opposite. He was rooted and responsive, both to the Spirit and the needs of the world.

George saw the big picture – the billions of people who have yet to hear or respond to the truth of Jesus – yet he also saw the individual standing before him, often weeping or rejoicing with their situation.

George was a conduit of God’s love, on both a vast and deeply personal level. But "[his] global impact did not go to his head,” theologian John Piper assures us. “He was radical down LD NEWS to his toes.” His Spirit-filled passion was authentic, real and honest; he had a deep and profound theological understanding, yet a simplicity to his message. He invited anyone who would listen to be part of a revolution;

“A revolution motivated by love; a revolution executed by love; and a revolution culminating in love,” to use his own words.

This revolution George spoke of would seek to reach every corner of the earth with the gospel and would be underscored by grace and fuelled by prayer.

A Glimpse of his Life

God lit a fire in George’s heart in 1955 at a gospel meeting in New York City, at which Billy Graham was the speaker. He was sixteen at the time, a charismatic, passionate teenager, who instinctively responded to God’s love by telling others. George preached in meetings at his high school, with 200 people choosing to follow Jesus. His own father was among them. This set the tone for what was to come, as George boldly shared the gospel, his creative flair leading to seemingly crazy escapades, motivated by an urgency to share God’s love.

In 1957, when at college in Tennessee, George and two friends sold some belongings and went to Mexico in a battered old van, with 20,000 Spanish language tracts and 10,000 Gospel booklets, unhindered and effective in their quest to place God’s truth in the hands of those they met.

From the start, George was reckless in his faith. This didn’t mean he was unthinking, “…quite the reverse,” he explained in his book No Turning Back, “to be reckless in faith is to be… concentrated, single-minded in your concern that souls should be won.” God worked through George’s single-minded focus, exuberant leadership and innovative ideas, to establish Operation Mobilisation.

Fuelled by the passion of believers from many nations, the movement grew through the 60s, 70s and 80s: first across Europe and into the Middle East, then with volunteers crewing ocean-going ships, Logos, the first of five vessels, being launched in 1971. George became well-known in Christian circles, but this didn’t limit his service to the stage. While George was confident leading large prayer meetings and speaking to thousands at conferences, he was equally at home dressed in a boiler suit, mucking in with emptying a broken sewage tank on an OM ship, or washing buses in Belgium, ready to head out overland to India on outreach.

George was influential, a ‘big name’, but he was also grounded, sacrificial and real.

Motivational Messiology

It’s hard not to look back and marvel at this man – his gumption, his fervour, his unwavering passion for the gospel that began in an instant and lasted for a lifetime. Yet George never saw himself as a spiritual giant. It seems that such a suggestion honestly baffled him; “A spiritual giant – some people have actually called me that. They don’t know me.” George always pointed beyond himself.

George was transparent and became renowned for encompassing the messiness of life in his theology, coining the term ‘messiology’. Ironically, perhaps it was the acknowledgement of inevitable mess in our lives that was so motivating for people who heard George speak. 

George embodied God’s grace, demonstrating that we all have a place in His mission to His world, in spite of – perhaps even because of – our messiness; such is His redemptive grace.

God worked through George’s contagious enthusiasm and grace filled theology to bring missions to the masses. When George, along with other believers, pioneered the work of OM in Europe in the 60s, hundreds of young believers were inspired to step out in short- and long-term mission. Many of these individuals may have previously considered themselves disqualified – or felt disqualified by others – due to their past, their choices, even the colour of their skin, but in OM they had a place and an opportunity to embark on an adventure of a lifetime for God.

Ends of the Earth

Today, the movement of OM has grown to over 3,300 workers, representing 134 nationalities, serving in over 147 countries. But for George, it was never about growing OM, but simply doing whatever he could to see God’s truth reach people groups who may never otherwise hear the gospel.

Countless other Christian leaders trace their passion for mission back to God inspiring, prompting or teaching them through George. Greg Livingstone, the founder of Frontiers, half-heartedly attended an all-night prayer event for the nations led by George at Moody Bible Institute in 1959. He left a changed man and went on to establish the largest mission agency focusing on inviting Muslim peoples to follow Jesus.

Who knows how many lives God has reached indirectly through George’s faithful, impassioned response to the gospel. “Our lives are quieter now, but oh, the noise in heaven! We can only imagine...” Katherine Porter, Associate International Director, OM, reflects. “For us who remain, the memories loom large and the loss is aching – but the legacy is immense.”

Read more about George's impact