In 1996, the funeral for the tailor Sigurd Bratlie was the biggest funeral in Norway since the death of King Olav.
Sigurd Bratlie was not known as a gifted speaker or a great writer. Neither was he a particularly charismatic leader.
Nevertheless, 3300 friends from all over the world attended his funeral. What was so special about this tailor?
Sigurd Bratlie was born in July, 1905 at Bratlie gård [Bratlie farm] at Nordstrand in Oslo, Norway. He grew up in a Christian home and at the age of nine, he gave his life to God.
Six years passed. Sigurd attended Otto Treider’s Trade School, and while there, his life suddenly took an unexpected turn.
Through a classmate, Sigurd Bratlie was introduced to Edwin Bekkevold, the leader of the church in Oslo, which is part of Brunstad Christian Church.
“As soon as I understood what was being preached, I did not waver for a moment,” Bratlie said 35 years later. He had found his purpose in life.
Here Bratlie met many people who would become very meaningful to him, among others Johan Oscar Smith and Elias Aslaksen. He could sit and converse with these men late into the night, getting help for his personal Christian walk. In that way, Bratlie quietly progressed in his spiritual development for many years.
Serving. Thankful. Faithful.
Bratlie was an unassuming man. He found great joy in what Johan Oscar Smith preached – the revelations about “Christ manifested in the flesh” and “The body of Christ.” He became so excited that he devoted the rest of his life to putting these truths into practice in his own life and preaching them to others.
That is what was so remarkable about Bratlie: He put these truths into practice throughout his entire life. In this way he would preach about following Jesus in his death, and it rang true in his own life. It was the focal point of his whole life, and therefore he had this scripture put onto the wall of the meeting hall in Oslo: “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:16)
Another thing that characterized Bratlie was his genuine sorrow over the superficial doctrine that turned “forgiveness of sins” into “permission to sin.” He fought against this his whole life, both in writing and in preaching.
Anchored in God’s Word
Sigurd Bratlie would often ask, “Do you have a Word of God for what you are doing? When what you do or say is based on God’s Word, you cannot go astray. Not even a fool goes astray on the Highway of Holiness.” (Isaiah 35:8) Therefore, he often used God’s Word when he was asked to give his opinion in a matter; in that way he was able help all people, regardless of culture or circumstances. Also, he was not the one who was left with the honor – all he did was to share God’s Word with them.
“I’m not preaching; I am only presenting what God’s Word says,” he could say from the podium.
Christ, the Head
“Sigurd Bratlie makes himself unnoticed when he speaks God’s Word. Those listening get to see Christ and the Life of Christ,” said Elias Aslaksen about Bratlie on his 70th birthday.
Uniting individuals together with the Head, Jesus Christ, was crucial for Bratlie. That way, everyone whom he led to the church by his life and simple preaching could also become spiritual, with a direct connection to Christ. His desire was for everyone to experience God personally; therefore, he preached the gospel as simply as possible, so that an ordinary person on the street could understand.
Missions – I do all things for the sake of the gospel!
In 1975 Bratlie wrote a letter from a house with seashell siding, between the Andes mountains and the Pacific coast in Chile. He had stayed there for one week at the home of a Polish family whom he described as being “exceptionally Godly;” however, after Bratlie went home, he lost touch with them and was unable to find them again.
Twenty-five years later, Andreas Schneider and Kjetil Evensen were on a missionary trip in Chile, singing songs from the church’s hymnal, when a Chilean man suddenly came over to them and asked where these songs came from. “I have many cassettes at home with these songs,” the Chilean explained. “My parents had a Norwegian visitor named Bratlie who stayed with us. For 25 years I have been looking for someone who knows him.”
This shows how Bratlie worked. If he heard about a soul somewhere in the world who was searching for the truth, he wasted no time finding a way to travel to that individual; even if the person lived alone, far away in a foreign country.
His missionary work produced results. One by one, people were gripped after having experienced him radiating the glory of Christ and hearing his simple, life-giving words. Bratlie did not stop after people had been saved; he continued working to present each one “perfect in Christ Jesus” just like Paul had done. (Colossians 1:28)
Bratlie traveled in the same manner, first throughout Norway, Denmark and Sweden; thereafter all around Europe; and finally to countries throughout the world.
In 1976 Brother Elias Aslaksen went home to the Lord, and Bratlie took over as the leader of the church. He had this ministry until his death.
Imprisoned in Baghdad
Few people in Norway had heard of “Sigurd Bratlie” before the fall of 1978. At that time, this quiet man unexpectedly got the attention of the Norwegian press and government.
During a Christian gathering in Baghdad, the Iraqi police came and arrested Bratlie and the others who were there. The Norwegian government was not notified, but after a couple of days when Bratlie did not arrive in Egypt as planned, his wife reported him missing. A whole month passed before the Norwegian authorities found out that the Norwegian tailor, Sigurd Bratlie, had been arrested and imprisoned in Iraq, suspected of participating in secret activities against Iraqi national security.
This is how it came about that Sigurd Bratlie was imprisoned there for 143 days, from November 1978 until Easter 1979. Many government officials worked hard to free Bratlie, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Knut Frydenlund, Secretary of State Thorvald Stoltenberg, and Yvonne Huslid (who traveled to Baghdad to meet Saddam Hussein and personally see to it that Bratlie and the other prisoners were released). Sitting in an Iraqi prison was no joke for a 73 year old man in poor health.
“and then it’s written…: ‘all things work together for good to those who love God.’ That has to be put to the test. It makes no difference what circumstances come in life. Obviously, you can have much worse circumstance than being in prison and all of that. Obviously. Daily life presents many difficult circumstances,” said Bratlie in his first message after being freed from the Iraqi prison.
“He is an apostle of God.” Aksel J. Smith had no doubts about what conclusion he could draw about the life of his close brother and co-worker, Sigurd Bratlie, on his 90th birthday. Seventy five years had passed since Bratlie had come to the church. What Bratlie had testified about back then – that God would perfect him in the ministry – was something Smith could attest to as having been realized in Bratlie’s life. Bratlie’s ministry as an apostle had a great significance in the growth and development of the church.
Half a year later, when this highly regarded and beloved man died, he left behind thousands of people who were thankful for him.
The funeral took place January 31, 1996 at the church’s conference center, Brunstad. About 3300 people came and gave a final, worthy farewell to a man who had meant so much –who had eternal significance – for them.