According to his autobiography, Pawson's immediate ancestors were all farmers, Methodist preachers or both - dating back to John Pawson, a friend and follower of John Wesley. His father, H. Cecil Pawson, was head of Agriculture at Durham University and also Vice President of the Methodist conference. From his childhood in the north of England David Pawson had wanted to be a farmer, but by the time he had completed his studies for a B.Sc. in Agriculture at Durham University, he felt God was calling him into full-time Christian ministry. He then studied for an M.A. in theology at Wesley House, Cambridge University, and subsequently joined the Royal Air Force as a chaplain, serving in Aden.
After leaving the RAF he served as a Methodist minister, but became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of infant baptism. After appearing before a doctrinal committee of the Methodist church, he volunteered to leave the denomination, and did so. Shortly thereafter he accepted an invitation to become the pastor of Gold Hill Baptist Church in Buckinghamshire.
Later, as pastor of Guildford Baptist Church ('Millmead', which he helped to design), he established a reputation among both evangelicals and charismatics as a Bible teacher. From here his teaching tapes - originally made for the church's sick and elderly members - became popular worldwide. Under his ministry, Millmead became one of the largest Baptist churches in the United Kingdom.
Pawson left Millmead in 1979 and engaged in an itinerant worldwide Bible teaching ministry. As of 2010, Pawson, aged 80, is still preaching at events across the globe.
In The Normal Christian Birth, Pawson argued that a biblical initiation into Christianity should involve more than a simple 'sinners prayer'. Whilst accepting the fundamental basis of salvation by faith, he argued that the Biblical model of a person's "birth" into God's kingdom included aspects which are frequently ignored or forgotten today. He proposed four principal steps: repentance towards God; believing in Jesus, baptism in water and receiving the Holy Spirit. This, according to Pawson, is the biblical pattern for a "normal Christian birth". According to the book itself, "David Pawson advocates a synthesis of the 'liberal' emphasis on repentance, the 'evangelical' on faith, the 'sacramental' on baptism and the 'pentecostal' on the Spirit." This work of Pawson has been influential and is taught at a number of theological seminaries and mission stations.
In Leadership is Male, he teaches that leadership is a role given by God to men. In so doing, he criticizes men for not taking proper responsibility in important aspects of family and church life. He argues that modern men too often neglect their social obligations and should return to the Biblical model of manhood. This book's foreword was written by a woman, Elisabeth Elliot.
In The Road to Hell, Pawson is critical of Annihilationism, the teaching that the punishment of hell is not eternal. He teaches that people who go to hell experience eternal suffering. According to the book itself, by "challenging the modern alternatives of liberal 'universalism' and evangelical 'annihilationism', David Pawson presents the traditional concept of endless torment as soundly biblical."
In Unlocking the Bible, Pawson presents a book by book study of the whole Bible. The book is based on Pawson's belief that the Bible should be studied, as it was written, "a book at a time" (certainly not a verse, or even a chapter at a time); and that each book is best understood by discovering why and for whom it was written. It is based on an arranged series of talks in which he set out the background, purpose, meaning and relevance of each book of the Bible, and was transcribed into written form by Andy Peck. The groundwork for this study was laid in the 1960s and '70s, when Pawson took his congregation through nearly half of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament line by line (recordings of those studies are still distributed).
In When Jesus Returns, he critically considers in the light of scripture the major views on eschatology popular in the church today, specifically the preterist, historicist, futurist and idealist schools of interpretating the Book of Revelation. He rejects postmillennialism in favour of a premillennial understanding of the Second Coming, so that Jesus will return bodily in power immediately before his reign over the world for a millennium from Jerusalem. He asserts that the supernatural taking up of believers alive at this time (following the 'tribulation' period of persecution), so as to join the returning Christ, fulfils the Rapture prophecies; he argues against a pre-tribulation timing of the rapture. He further argues that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land is a fulfilment of scriptural prophecy, and that prophecies spoken about Israel relate specifically to Israel (not to the church), so that the outstanding prophecies about Israel will be fulfilled before the end of the age.
In Jesus Baptises in One Holy Spirit, Pawson discusses the evidence for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as a separate event from believing, repentance and water baptism. He argues that a believer does not receive the indwelling Holy Spirit until s/he is baptized in the Spirit, a distinct experience evidenced by charismatic gifts such as prophecy or tongues. This differs from the evangelical view that the Spirit is automatically received when a person believes, and the Pentecostal view that receiving the indwelling Spirit (at conversion) and receiving the Baptism in the Spirit are two experiences with different purposes.
In The Challenge of Islam to Christians, Pawson documents the present rapid rise of Islam in the West. He explains what Islam is, arguing that its rejection of Jesus Christ's divinity mean the two faiths cannot be reconciled, and he proposes a Christian response, based on the church purifying itself. The book details Pawson's testing of his premonition that Britain would become Islamic. In comparing the situation to that portrayed by the Hebrew prophet Habakkuk, Pawson implies that the rise of Islam could be impending judgement for the immorality into which Western churches and secular humanist society has sunk.
In Once Saved, Always Saved?, Pawson uses scripture to question the frequent evangelical claim that someone who has once believed in Jesus Christ will end up with Christ in heaven whatever that person subsequently believes or does. (Twelve years earlier, another evangelical, RT Kendall, summed up this claim in a book having the same title without a question mark.) Pawson points to the need to persevere in faith, and to the repeated exhortations in scripture to do so.
In Word and Spirit Together: Uniting Charismatics and Evangelicals (a revision of Fourth Wave), Pawson calls for an end to the division between charismatic and Evangelical Christians over the issue of Spiritual Baptism and charismatic gifts. He argues that the charismatic gifts are for the church today but that their practice should be built on a solid scriptural basis. He therefore argues that the two groups should learn from each other, to the benefit of both.
In Defending Christian Zionism, Pawson puts the case that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land is a fulfilment of scriptural prophecy, and that Christians should support the existence of the Jewish State (although not unconditionally its actions) on theological grounds. He also argues that prophecies spoken about Israel relate specifically to Israel (not to the church, as in "replacement theology"). However he criticises Dispensationalism, a largely American movement holding similar views about Israel. Pawson was spurred to write this book by the work of Stephen Sizer, an evangelical Anglican who rejects Christian Zionism. A debate can be heard between the two at Pawson/Sizer debate. Pawson's book Israel in the New Testament continues the Christian Zionist theme.
In the Come with me through series, Pawson goes through an entire book of the Bible. This series is also based on the preaching of David Pawson to his congregation back in the 60's and 70's. There are currently just a few titles released in this series with more to come.
Christianity Explained, 2006, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, ISBN 190194946X
Explaining Water Baptism, 2000, David Pawson, Sovereign World Ltd, ISBN 1852400838
Explaining the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, 2004, David Pawson, Joyce Huggett, Sovereign World, ISBN 1852403837
Explaining the Resurrection, 2000, David Pawson, Sovereign World, Ltd, ISBN 1852400897
Explaining the Second Coming, 2000, David Pawson, Renew, ISBN 1852401184
Hope for the Millennium, 1999, David Pawson, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0340735597
Head in the Clouds, 1999, David Pawson, Hodder & Stoughton Religious, ISBN 0340608129
Is John 3:16 the Gospel?, 2007, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications International Ltd, ISBN 1901949559
Infant Baptism Under Cross-examination, 1976, David Pawson, Colin Buchanan, Grove Books Ltd, ISBN 090171089X
Is the Blessing Biblical?, 1996, David Pawson, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 034066147X
Jesus Baptises in One Holy Spirit: When?, How?, Why?, Who?, 1997, David Pawson, Hodder&Stoughton Religious, ISBN 0340693983
Jesus Baptises In One Holy Spirit, 2006, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, ISBN 1901949443
Leadership Is Male, 1990, David Pawson, Thomas Nelson Inc, ISBN 0840790236
Loose Leaves From My Bible, 1994, David Pawson, North Bank Graphics, ISBN 0952298503
Not as Bad as the Truth: Memoirs of an Unorthodox Evangelical, 2006, David Pawson, Hodder Headline, ISBN 0340864273
Once Saved, Always Saved?: A Study in Perseverance and Inheritance, David Pawson, Roger Forster, Hodder Headline, 1996, ISBN 0340610662
Tell me the truth!, 1977, David Pawson, Harold Shaw, ISBN 087788837X
The Road to Hell: Everlasting Torment or Annihilation? 1996, David Pawson, Hodder Headline 1996 and Terra Nova Publications International Ltd 2007, ISBN 034053964X
The Normal Christian Birth: How to Give New Believers a Proper Start in Life, David Pawson, Hodder & Stoughton 1989 and Hodder Headline 1991, ISBN 0340489723
The Challenge of Islam to Christians, 2003, David Pawson, Hodder Headline, ISBN 0340861894
Unlocking the Bible Omnibus: A Unique Overview of the Whole Bible, 2003, David Pawson, HarperCollins UK, ISBN 0007166664
When Jesus Returns, 1995, David Pawson, Hodder & Stoughton Religious, ISBN 0340612118
Word And Spirit Together, 2007, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, ISBN 1901949532
Where is Jesus now?, 2001, David Pawson, Kingsway Publications, ISBN 0854769307
Why Does God Allow Natural Disasters?, 2007, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, 2007, ISBN 1901949567
Defending Christian Zionism, 2008, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, 2008, ISBN 9781901949629
Practising the Principles of Prayer, 2008, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, ISBN 9781901949582
Living in Hope, 2008, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, ISBN 9781901949605
The God and the Gospel of Righteousness, 2008, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, ISBN 9781901949599
Come with me through Revelation, 2008, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, ISBN 9781901949612
Israel in the New Testament, 2009, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, ISBN 978-1901949643
Come with me through Mark, 2009, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, ISBN 9781901949667