Wisconsin Megachurch Pastor & Evangelist Stuart Briscoe Dies at 91

By Riley Farrell
Stuart Briscoe Elmbrook Church
Stuart Briscoe in 2018. Photo © James G. Howes, 2018.

Prominent Wisconsin pastor Stuart Briscoe, recognized for founding the broadcast ministry series “Telling the Truth” and authoring over 40 books, died on Aug. 3.

Briscoe died of “natural causes unexpectedly,” according to a Twitter post from his son, Peter “Pete” Briscoe. He was 91.

The British-born Briscoe transformed Elmbrook Church, in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield, into a megachurch with an attendance of 7,000 people, making it the largest in the state. But his evangelism went far beyond the congregation to encompass books and a radio ministry.

Briscoe was born in the small town of Millom, Cumbria, just outside England’s Lake District National Park. At 17, he preached his first sermon. Later, he served in the Royal Marines and worked in banking. 

He initially worked in international missions at the Capernwray Missionary Fellowship of Torchbearers.

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By the 1960s, Briscoe was a youth minister and an admired public speaker for conferences worldwide.

Briscoe and his wife, Jill, immigrated to the United States in 1970 at the request of Elmbrook Church, a then-Baptist church with a membership of 300 people.

The Briscoes spent the next 30 years expanding the non-denominational congregation. Throughout Briscoe’s leadership, Elmbrook flourished enough to plant “daughter” churches in the greater Milwaukee area.

Briscoe stepped down as senior pastor at the end of 2000 but remained involved in the church and active in overseas missions. In 2019, he was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer but was in remission after receiving treatment.

His media ministry, “Telling the Truth,” which he founded in 1971, continues to broadcast online and on the radio. A recent devotional called “Waiting it Out,” hosted by Jill Briscoe, teaches listeners the biblical lesson on acceptance in suffering. Telling the Truth published a dispatch in honor of Briscoe on Aug. 4, calling him a “founder, mentor, teacher and friend.”

“What was important to Stuart was carrying on and finishing strong—saying yes to every appointment God had for him right up to his dying day,” the dispatch read. “And Stuart did just that.”

One of Billy Graham’s contemporaries and friends, Briscoe aimed to “transform lives” in the mutual mission of wide evangelistic communication, forging American Protestantism into what it is today.

Briscoe, whose ministry spanned seven decades, wrote a letter eight years ago, to be published after his death:

“With untold gratitude to the Lord for allowing us to do what has been done and utter confidence that this ministry will carry on doing things God’s way as He continues to bring about surprise after surprise, I move on and look forward to you eventually catching up with me.”

Surviving Briscoe are his wife, three adult children and 13 grandchildren. 

Information about a celebration of Briscoe’s life will be announced at a later date, the family said.

Riley Farrell is a multimedia journalist and contributor to Religion News Service.

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16 thoughts on “Wisconsin Megachurch Pastor & Evangelist Stuart Briscoe Dies at 91”

  1. Sandy Williams

    Stuart Briscoe was a model of humility, integrity, faithfulness, and so much more. He was a serious student of Scripture and with Jill modeled mutuality in marriage and ministry.

  2. The Elmbrook church is not a member of the ECFA.

    https://www.ecfa.org

    Also Elmbrook had its share of sexual scandals In 2018.

    “Elmbrook resignations are the latest to rock evangelical Christian churches”

    https://www.jsonline.com/story/news/2018/09/22/elmbrook-resignations-latest-rock-evangelical-christian-churches/1396562002/

    I will congratulate them in not trying to rehire these fallen pastors❗

    Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?
    https://www.gty.org/library/print/articles/A256

    1. Agree with Jim Worrest. Briscoe might have been a decent guy himself, but he was one of the great spearheads of the megachurch movement, which has been the worst thing in the history of Western evangelicalism. Did he understand, and own that?

      1. Brian,

        In the words of Ronald Reagan, “there you go again.”

        If you insist on scapegoating then please do your homework and give credit where it is due.

        D.L. Moody
        Charles Spurgeon
        Charles Finney

        All had tabernacles built to hold the crowds that came to hear the word of God preached.

        And don’t forget before Charles Schuler took things outdoors, there was that one guy name Jesus who used to preach to up to five to ten thousand people or more.

        Proverbs 17:28

        1. Julius Syore,

          I don’t idolize any preachers, even the great ones. Idolatry is a sin. Nobody deserves “glory”. God alone does.

          Do you honestly think the Lord personally approves of the “ministries” of Hybels, Warren, Hinn, etc.?

          1. Brian Patrick,

            There are a lot of things that I know, and a lot of things that I don’t.

            1. I know that none of the people you listed are people who I mentioned in my post. So that informs me that you are deflecting to avoid dealing with the consequences of addressing my question.

            2. I know that I never mentioned idolatry, or idolizing preachers. Nor did my comments assign glory to any of those who teach or preach the words of God faithfully. So I know that your accusation is a misdirection designed to plant an accusation flag that has nothing to do with my actual comments.

            3. I know that given your deflection, misdirection, and false accusation that you are not someone who likes to either play fair, or take responsibility for your own actions. That infers that you have some entitlement and narcissistic tendencies that you are not aware of.

            Unfortunately, that clouds your reflection of Christ, if that indeed is who you desire to reflect with your life. I can’t say for sure because I dare not judge another mans heart. I just. know that Jesus said that no good tree can bear good fruit, and that deflection, misdirection, false accusation, pride, entitlement and narcissism are things that I don’t see reflected in the person of Christ. So, I don’t know your heart.

            4. I know that I cannot speak for anyone else, but based on the body of your commentary posted by your own hands, that I am personally glad that I will be judged by the Ancient of Days and not by you.

            “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us.”
            Isaiah 33:22

      2. Brian, I agree with with you. Churches with a thousand people are capable of some helpful programs that small churches can’t provide.😑
        ‘….
        But, Keller also noted that megachurches “tend to grow fast under a founder” and “depend too much on the gifts and personality” of the founder. “(T)he sooner that addictive dependence is broken, the better,” he said.’

        “Tim Keller: Megachurches are “Poor Places for Formation” & Have “Addictive Dependence” on Founders”

        https://julieroys.com/tim-keller-megachurches-poor-places-formation/

        I would also point out that the problem is that Briscoe’s church public sufferings apparently all happened after he stopped being the lead pastor.

        Also two articles that –might– apply to Pastor Briscoe’s time as head pastor.

        https://www.checkmychurch.org/post/how-to-check-your-church-s-financial-transparency

        and —

        “Body of Christ or Family Business? Nepotism in the Church”

        https://www.apologeticsindex.org/3001-nepotism-in-the-church

        A generous helping of financial transparency and a lack of nepotism are good things for a church. 👍 But, other things are needed for a church’s ultimate survival as a Christian body!

    2. Salvatore Spina

      I notice that it was the staffers who were involved in the sin and not Stuart or even his family have ever been implicated. Credit where credit is due. Although I do agree that the mega church model has failed miserably and needs to be radical altered or maybe even torpedoed.

      1. Salvatore Spina,

        “I notice that it was the staffers who were involved in the sin and not Stuart or even his family have ever been implicated”

        Yes, but do we know how much Briscoe knew about what was going on? He could have been in the dark, he could have been aware of it all, or anywhere in between.

        1. Salvatore Spina

          Brian Patrick, speculation on such a subject about who knew what and when is unwise. This is because speculation, such as you offer, is akin to creating gossip where nothing of the kind previously existed. Search your heart about this and I hope you will agree.

          1. Salvatore Spina,

            Lionizing fallen mortal men is not wise. I already said that I assume Briscoe was a good guy. I have no reason to doubt that. I’m not sure what you are looking for.

            Nonetheless–his church *was* involved in impropriety–I think it is foolish, if not sinful, to overlook that.

          2. Salvatore Spina

            You missed the point Brian, as I had a feeling you would. However I have no problem believing that if Stuart knew something and didn’t do anything about it, it would have come out a long time ago and that nothing of the kind currently exists either past or present about him or his family. That is why I’m saying that what you’re introducing is speculation, and how you offer it is akin to gossip. And what makes you think he overlooked any of it?

  3. As a teen I fell in love with Stuart Briscoe’s preaching and humour. My dad had purchased several of his cassette tapes to listen to as we traveled across the county in ‘72. All these years later I appreciate his Biblical knowledge, wisdom, and wonderful stories even more.

  4. Stuart Briscoe was an honorable man, and all these years we NEVER heard anything about him that has EVER brought shame and denigration on the precious name of Jesus! So, to imply, speculate, and to throw out baseless slander is very un-Christ like. His dear wife, Jill, was/is also an honorable woman who taught the Word of God well. May God bless the loving memory of Pastor Stuart Briscoe.

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