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Dr. Arnold Cook was born on August 28, 1932 and joined his first Alliance church at the age of 20 in Owen Sound, ON. He earned his Master of Divinity degree in Missions from Canadian Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Missiology degree from Fuller Theological Seminary, School of World Mission.
After serving fourteen years as a missionary in Colombia, Argentina, and Peru, Dr. Arnold Cook became the Vice President of Personnel and Missions (1981) for The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) in Canada and was then elected as president of the C&MA in 1992. He served as the president for eight years before he became the president of Alliance World Fellowship. Dr. Arnold Cook is the author of Historical Drift: Must My Church Die?, a book to help “define, diagnose, detect and reverse historical drift.”
Dr. Cook is survived by his wife, Mary-Lou (Catto), his children Charles (Darla), Tim (Sandy), Mike (Sandy), John (Beth), and Beth-Ann (Walter), as well as 8 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.
Dr. Cook will always be remembered for challenging everyone to make their MIFG—Maximum Impact for God. The tributes below are written by people who knew him well and were eager to share his impact.
Rev. Dr. David Hearn, President, C&MA in Canada, wrote:
Mark Batterson wrote, “An inheritance is what you leave for someone, a legacy is what you leave in someone.” 1 Those words describe so clearly the impact Dr. Arnold Cook had on those he served. He spent his life depositing into the lives of those around him a deep love for Jesus and a contagious vision to bring the Gospel to the nations.
I first met Dr. Cook at Canadian Bible College. I was one of his students and recall how he was not only a profound missiologist but had an amazing shot with a piece of chalk. He would not tolerate sleeping in his class and could shock a slumbering student into attention with a direct hit! I held the record for four “chalk encounters” in one hour. His humour kept us laughing, but it was his profound passion for the “deeper life and mission” that inspired our hearts. There were times I left his class speechless because I was so deeply moved by his prophetic voice and his vision of a deeper life movement that was unapologetically missionary to the core. He could see an army of believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, courageously reaching those who had no access to, or had never heard about Jesus.
Dr. Cook was a unique combination of a revivalist and missiologist. He longed to see a spiritual renewal that would spill out of the Church and become a dynamic “awakening” around the globe. He was deeply touched by the Canadian revival of 1971 and was passionate to see God “do it again!” My heart would resonate deeply with his as he would speak about a “sweeping revival that would transform Canada and the world.”
He was a master of the unforgettable phrase. He used them often, and many of them became part of the Alliance vocabulary. I called them “Cook-isms.” Some of the most compelling included, “Making your MIFG (Maximum Impact for God)”, “Love by Faith”, “Don’t be a cheapskate”, “Use your time twice”, “Wherever you are, be all there”, and “Historical Drift.” It was this last phrase in particular that has been a clarion call to every leader in the Alliance movement! He passionately challenged us to beware of the “danger of drift.” He riveted into our souls a commitment to stand firm on God’s Word and move forward in faith. I still recall my licensing interview where Arnold’s first words were, “Hearn, have you grown up yet?” It was his way of calling me to go further and deeper in my intimacy with Jesus. He would never let you stand still. He continued throughout his ministry to call each of us to be “all” that God wants us to be.
The last time I saw Arnold was in his home. Agnes and I had the honour of kneeling at his feet as he laid his hands on us and prayed for God’s fresh anointing on us. His voice was filled with grace, care, and conviction. I can still hear him now and he left something “in” us that continues to shape us and inspire us. His hopes and dreams of a preferred future for the Alliance shape those who are leading today, and will continue to shape those who lead the Alliance into the future.
Thank you, Arnold, for living with such intimacy with Jesus that you became contagious. Your legacy lives on!
Rev. Arie Verduijn, Former President of the Alliance World Fellowship (2004-2016), wrote:
Among the things I learned from Dr. Arnold Cook was one that deeply impressed me: when celebrating the Lord’s Supper, he would urge all present to remember those, for whom the table had not yet been set. To share God’s love with the nations was his zeal. He passed on that passion to the international Alliance family and to me personally.
During the years 2000-2004 I had the privilege of working closely with Dr. Cook. In the year 2000, he was elected as president of the Alliance World Fellowship and I was secretary of the Executive Committee during that period. For me, coming from the Netherlands, it felt easy to collaborate with him, because Dr. Cook appeared to be straightforward with a no-nonsense mentality. It felt like he could be Dutch. But on top of that he was gentle, wise, and passionate about the Lord Jesus. He would always call for revival of our relationship with Him.
I am grateful for his example, for the rich experience he brought to the table of the AWF Executive Committee, for his and Mary-Lou’s hospitality and exemplary prayer-life.
I wish and pray that my life shows the same dedication to our Lord as his did.
Dr. Bob Fetherlin, Former VP/Missions CMA US, wrote:
With much respect and appreciation for Dr. Cook, Esther and I give thanks for his life and express our sincere, deeply-heartfelt sympathy to the Cook family. Here are fond memories I have of Dr. Cook:
- While I was a student at Nyack College, Dr. Cook came either there or to a nearby church to speak. I’m so glad I was able to hear what he had to say. It was compelling, focused, and extremely challenging.
- Three key themes I remember from Dr. Cook were a deep concern and passion for people not having access to the gospel, the God of the second chance, and having maximum impact for God.
- Dr. Cook had a key leadership role in the independence of Canadian C&MA missions, moving out from under a US-dominated model to a truly Canadian one. At the same time, he had a key role in fostering cooperation between the US and Canadian C&MA work.
- He provided distinguished leadership to the Alliance World Fellowship, valuing Alliance partners and partnerships between various countries around the world.
- As President of the C&MA in Canada, Dr. Cook longed and prayed for health and revival to come to Alliance churches in Canada.
- He was deeply concerned about missional and theological drift, not wanting the Church to lose her biblical moorings.
- He faithfully loved his wife and children, carrying them in his heart even as he traveled the world.
Esther and I give thanks for Dr. Arnold Cook. He lived life well, and with God’s help had maximum impact over a lifetime. He has left for us an example truly worthy of emulation. We’re so thankful our lives intersected for brief yet very impactful seasons with his!
Richard and Merinda Enns, International Workers, wrote:
We remember Arnold and Mary-Lou Cook from their missionary tour days when they came back and spoke in our church during our week-long missionary conference. Later our connections were when we were at Canadian Bible College, and as we were preparing to go overseas, Arnold would often seek us out to say hi, and ask how we were doing. In the middle of our home service, we received a hand-written letter from Arnold saying that he was praying for us and asking how we were keeping the flame burning for the call that God had put on our hearts to serve overseas. He said it was so easy to get settled and comfortable and he wanted us to keep the call in mind. He sat in our pre-appointment interview and was in fact the one to sign our appointment letter to Côte d’Ivoire. We are so thankful for his encouragement and challenging words spoken into our lives which were significant in our coming to Africa.
Brem and Donna Frentz, Vice President of Venture and Associate Vice President of Venture, C&MA in Canada, wrote:
In January of 1978, I made my way to Canadian Bible College with no idea how God would use both that place and the unique and gifted people there to shape and direct the entire course of my life.
Over the next 11 years, Dr. Cook played a key role in my life both as a mentor to be trusted, as well as, a mold for me to observe the heart, character, passion, and vision of a true man of God.
This was experienced in the classroom, the hockey rink, the halls of the colleges as well as in the feared office of pre-appointment interviews for any would be/aspiring missionaries. He was larger than life in each context and led with authenticity, intentionality, incredible insight, and wisdom. My heart and soul resonated with the possibility of Making My Maximum Impact for God.
Later as a married couple at seminary we had Dr. Cook in our home for the famous breakfasts he enjoyed having with mission candidates. He displayed decorum, grace, and dignity even giving Donna warm compliments for the capacities he could see in her as someone who could turn a place into a home! Comments that have never been forgotten. He pursued our interest to serve in a Moslem ministry context and nearly sent us to Pakistan yet showed both patience and discernment to recognize with us that Indonesia is where God seemed to be directing us.
Though I cannot move away from cheering for my province of birth Saskatchewan Roughriders, I have arrived in pure “Wherever you are, be all there”, vintage Dr. Cook making the Toronto Maple Leaf’s my hockey team of choice. Dr. Cook this will be the year!
Perhaps most impactful was the way that Dr. Cook affirmed us as a relatively young and green couple in 1998 to come under the direction of Wally Albrecht (and with some other IW couples) to pioneer the development of Canadian C&MA global ministry regions, in our case that of Asian Spice.
I have been mentored, molded, and shaped beyond expression of words and I am forever grateful that I was able to have so many points of intersection and development through such a remarkably admirable man of God. To God be all the glory!
Errol Rempel, District Superintendent of the Canadian Pacific District, C&MA in Canada, wrote:
Dr. Cook had a significant shaping influence in my life as a professor, colleague, and missionary statesman. He embodied the passion and the practices of someone living his life on mission with God. In addition to his impact on me in the classroom and from the pulpit, I recall an occasion when we had scheduled an early morning indoor tennis game. As we walked through the facility towards the dressing rooms, he stopped for a follow-up conversation with a facility employee he had previously been pointing towards Jesus. First things first: our game wouldn’t be starting until after he had greeted this employee and engaged him in a spiritual conversation.
Rev. Raul & Donna Santos, Regional Developers for the SILK ROAD (Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East), wrote:
We were one of those who became international worker candidates with The Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches in Canada while Dr. Arnold Cook was the Vice-President of Personnel and Missions.
Dr. Cook was passionate about the Great Commission especially to the “least reached”—those who have no access to Jesus because they often and typically don’t have a choice simply because of where they live. Because of this steadfast focus, when he first asked where we sensed God was calling us to serve Him overseas, we answered, “Send us to the Philippines!” We thought this was only logical because Raul was born and raised in the Philippines. Imagine our chagrin, frustration, and confusion when Dr. Cook calmly but firmly said, “No, the Philippines doesn’t need any more Canadian C&MA international workers. The Philippine C&MA Church is mature enough to stand on its own!”
At that time, we were upset with this decision because we strongly felt that the Philippines was where God was calling us to serve Him. Also, we had not really considered a second location. But this decision was ultimately what caused us to turn to God and to seek His face and will.
In the end, and after His clear leading, we ended-up serving in the Middle East in the heartland and birthplace of the faith of our “cousins.” Ultimately, this was where God allowed us to grow in our love and passion for Him and His beloved Middle Eastern peoples. This was also where we saw God’s hand of power and His love and mercy for the Middle Eastern peoples displayed in its fullness even as we saw many of the “sons of Ishmael” hear about His saving grace for the very first time with some, even surrendering their lives to Him and resulting in the birth of the one of the first expressions of the church of Jesus Christ in 1,400 years in one of the countries where our International Workers live and serve.
Thank you, Dr. Cook, for your steadfastness to the call of Jesus to the Canadian C&MA—to go to the “regions beyond” where “few or none have heard.” Thank you for not sending us to the Philippines where God would have certainly used us and grown our faith but where we would have missed-out in seeing the amazing miracle of the birth of the Bride of Christ among one segment of the Middle Eastern people that for centuries had no access to Jesus and no choice to know Jesus. Oh . . . by the way, while serving in the Middle East for 20 years, in God’s goodness, abundant kindness, and overflowing grace, He allowed us to also work with Filipino believers who we were able to challenge, mobilize, equip, release, and resource to become “Outstanding Filipino Witnesses”2 among their host peoples in the Middle East. Dr. Cook, welcome home to your Master’s glory and receive His commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant! . . . Come and share you master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21 & 23, NIV).
Derek Burnett, International Worker in Thailand, wrote:
When I heard the news of Dr. Cook’s passing into glory, I thought of the indelible imprint he made on my life. I’m not the only one who can testify to it.
I count it a privilege to have known this wonderful man for over 37 years. As a thirteen-year-old high school student I knew him first as John and B.A.’s (Beth-Ann’s) dad. Someone once said that you can tell a lot about a man by looking at his kids. All his kids turned out great. They continue to love God and serve him faithfully, just as their dad did before them.
Dr. Cook was always Dr. Cook to me. His friends at church called him Arnold, but I could never do that. Even as an adult I always called him Dr. Cook. My mother-in-law, a classmate of his at Canadian Bible College, referred to him as “Cook-y.” Only she, and perhaps his close friends could get away with that.
Dr. Cook and I became close through a sport that we both love, ice-hockey. Even at 65 years of age he would strap on his skates for Saturday morning hockey. Often on opposing teams we met in front of the goal that he was tenaciously guarding. I’m sure some of my lower back issues are from his stick pressing against my back. I’ve since thought to myself, that’s what it must be like to play hockey with Gordie Howe.
My most powerful memory of him came on May 1, 1998. Dr. Cook, ever the missionary statesman, was sharing about his experiences at our annual C&MA missions conference. He gave an altar call at the end of his message, like he always did. As a senior in high school at the time I went forward with uncertainty in my heart only to be received by him with grace and gentleness. He gave me a copy of the Princeton Pledge to sign which said, “I purpose, God willing, to become a foreign missionary.” I kept that paper in my Bible for years to come. As missionary myself when I talk about missions, I regularly give an altar call, just like my mentor. All those who have come forward are counted towards his legacy.
Dr. Cook had a great sense of humor. He loved to laugh. One cold Regina morning, I remember surprising him and his son, Charlie, by bringing a date to our breakfast meeting. After the initial shock and laughter wore off, he said in his native low, lispy-like voice, “Yesh, well, we’ll have to go sh-omewhere special th-sh morning.” Or after he became president of the C&MA, I remember sneaking into his office one day and leaving a note on his desk saying, “Thanks for keeping the seat warm for me.” He always appreciated a good joke.
During our second term overseas, we were involved in Theological Education by Extension. Training lay leaders was a passion of his since his missionary days in Latin America. I wanted to learn more about what it means to be a good leader. So that following home assignment, I asked him if we could meet weekly so that I could learn from his vast experience. He didn’t need to think long about it. He gave me a copy of the book, Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders and told me to read chapter one by next week. Dr. Cook loved books. He loved to give away books that had made an impact on his life. As a mentor, he gave me the greatest things: His time. His encouragement. His wisdom.
I remember him for his iconic sayings such as, M.I.F.G., which he later adjusted to become, “Maximum impact for God’s glory,” “Wherever you are be all there” and “Owen Sound is the center of the universe.” Growing up in Markham, I never understood the meaning of that last one.
I remember Dr. Cook for his commitment to revival. He preached and prayed fervently, particularly in his later years for God to bring revival to his church. Like the saints of God who have gone before him and are recorded in Hebrews 11:39, “these were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” Dr. Cook didn’t get to see a mass revival of God’s church in these later years like he had hoped, but he did see the beginning stages. He may not have accomplished all that he wanted to do, but he finished all that God gave him to do.
Dr. Cook left an indelible imprint on my life. I am a better man, missionary and leader because of his input in my life. I even thought for a moment about boarding a plane for Canada in order to attend his funeral, but knowing him as I do, I am sure he would say something like, “Don’t waste God’s money. Stay there. Preach the Gospel. Train leaders. Call labourers into the harvest.” That’s what he would do.
A video series of interviews with Dr. Arnold Cook can be found here.
If you are interested in reading some of Dr. Arnold Cook’s words, you can do so here.
We will be adding to this page as we receive more content throughout the week.
2OFW is the acronym for Diaspora “Overseas Filipino Workers.” The Filipino missions mobilizers that we worked with had redefined what OFW meant to reflect the growing number of Filipinos who were going to work overseas not just to earn a living to support their families back in the Philippines but also to intentionally become witnesses for Jesus among the least reached and least engaged in some of the most hostile and resistant cultures, faith systems, and environments among people groups with whom the church has not emerged and where there are very few believers.