My second, slightly delayed, portion of Tribute to a Pastor:
Leading a Meeting
This would be where his pastoral gifting and leadership anointing would be seen. As a church who believes in the priesthood of all believers, we see an appropriate sensitivity to allow others to minister. At one of our Encounter meetings, for example, he would create space and under his authority others are released to minister. One after another of the saints takes up the gauntlet, bringing a decisive contribution to the meeting, deepening intimacy with the Lord, initiating ministry between each other. There may come a moment at which he goes to the microphone, and simply nudges the meeting or retracks the purpose: ‘If anyone would like prayer, we’re here for you’, or to say: ‘Let’s continue in worship.’
He also confidently carries a larger meeting, with the ability to acknowledge all parts, different ages and needs, and run it in a godly, brisk and sensitive manner. This would apply for inter-church meetings, for the larger joint meetings of our church in times past, and for special occasion meetings, including weddings and funerals.
Leading the Worship
Although this has been a newer development in his ministry – in the last ten years, perhaps – there has always been strong emphasis on the importance of corporate singing at our church. His wife’s consistent input in worship has also tutored and supported his recent work in leading worship. What is so beautiful when he leads worship is the heart to make space for the presence of God to move. He will spend time on a song, and suddenly, although it might feel that we have sung it for ages, the Spirit will breathe life and the Father will start to minister through it. Also he is not partisan in his worship, always going for a particular style, but will embrace upbeat praise numbers as well as more mellow reflective lyrics. When he leads worship, he does it with complete commitment, and with a servant heart.
This links in to the evening meetings that he and his wife have run for a number of years in the church. Many of these have been extremely precious times, whether Beryl has led on piano, or they have both carried the singing together. In a more intimate setting, there have been opportunities for creative and powerful encounters with God and with each other as the Body. Our pastor has also taken seriously special opportunities to be involved with ministering through music, whether at a special day with a guest speaker or an Away Day, and a desire for excellence has permeated his preparation and delivery. He can be deeply critical of his own performance technically, and yet the singing has still been anointed, which shows the crucial importance of the state of your heart when involved in the singing.
Over the past seven years I have got to know John in the eldership setting, and over the last fifteen years on leadership team, and I deeply appreciate his skill in leading a meeting, in handling different characters, in prioritising in a godly way, and in his kindness in dealing with other peoples’ shortcomings, including my own. John is a completely genuine man of God; he does not pretend to be anything he is not, but he has never lost his passion to see the kingdom of God come in power, and to see people saved, healed, delivered and set free. He has not been unduly disappointed by setbacks, he has not waited or strained after personal recognition (so this is probably extremely difficult for him!), and he has quietly gone about his ministry when it has often been given at huge personal cost, particularly during times of ill-health. Philip Keller discusses kindness this way:
“It is getting involved with the personal sorrows and strains of other lives to the point where it may well cost me pain – real pain – and some serious inconvenience. The truly kind person is one who does not flinch at the cost of extending kindness. He forgets his own personal preferences to proffer help and healing to another. At the price of inconvenience, labour and personal privation he goes out quietly and without fanfare to bring pleasure to another.” He also says that “we give up our little games of playing tit-for-tat with others. No longer do we show love to get love back. No longer are we kind in order to be complimented and thought well of. We no longer give for what we can get. Those days are done – those tactics are terminated. Selfish self-satisfaction is no longer the mainspring of our actions.”
While I am still playing my games of tit-for-tat, I have watched this man of God observe at times thoughtfully, wisely and discreetly, and say nothing, and yet in his discretion teach me much.
So how do I sum up the years of ministry that I have been privileged to witness? I think a different way to do it is to look at the church that he has pastored. It is well-regarded in the community – known to be clear in what it believes. It works with other churches. It reaches out to those around. It is a close-knit community, and it is friendly to visitors. There are faithful individuals within it who have stuck it out through thick and thin. Perseverance, determination, joy and peace are hallmark traits of King’s Gate Church.
What’s more, King’s Gate Church has a Caleb, can-do spirit. It says ‘The time is now’ and ‘The time has come.’ It affirms: ‘We can take this mountain, for the Lord has already given it to us.’ Robert Clinton in his book ‘The Making of a Leader’ defines several phases in a leader’s life: Sovereign Foundations, Inner-Life Growth, Ministry Maturing, Life Maturing, Convergence and Afterglow. I wouldn’t want to presume to identify what stage John is at in his leadership: however, he is a mature man of God and I feel that there is much that has converged in his ministry already. A sister with a prophetic gift on his retirement brought a small coat hanger, and said ‘The Lord is telling you to hang up your coat’ but she then handed him a larger coat hanger: ‘You are putting down one mantle to put on a bigger one.’ I am looking forward to how John will return after his sabbatical and bring a different flavour to the honey. In forty faithful and passionate years he has kept us close to Jesus and close to the saints whom He loves.