Humble Men with Big Hearts: a Mark of True Gospel Greatness

Posted on 01 April 2008

Evangel 21:3 (Autumn 2003)

Humble Men with Big Hearts: a Mark of True Gospel Greatness

Evangel 21:3 (Autumn 2003)
When I was involved in pastoral work in London (and it commenced over a quarter of a century ago!) I had the privilege of sharing leadership with a number of excellent people. As a young pastor, these friends were invaluable: a God-given gift to help me launch out into full-time Christian ministry. Above all, they were humble men with big hearts.

  One, in particular, comes to mind. Leslie Squires was a former pastor himself and he had strong views over which we not infrequently clashed. He was sure my eschatology was incorrect, was scandalised that I was not committed to the Textus Receptus and viewed my Calvinism as suspect because I believed one could ‘offer’ the gospel to sinners! To some with like convictions this would have been enough to list me with ‘Turks, Infidels and Heretics’. Not so Leslie! Indeed, I always knew that if I appealed to his heart I was on secure ground. Perhaps the most vivid memory I have of him was my last visit to him before he slipped into the unconsciousness that pressaged his death. After I left, I realised that virtually the entire conversation had been directed by him with a view to my encouragement and support in the service of the LORD!
 
I have met others like this: some ‘household names’ within the evangelical community. I recall, for example, the person with a world-wide preaching and teaching ministry who sat down in our kitchen and was ready to be ministered to by my wife. I remember, too, the famous scholar who didn’t know me ‘from Adam’ but who penned an eight sided foolscap response in a small hand in response to a question I had asked. I reflect on others, too, who over the years have given time, encouragement and support in the midst of often hectic schedules: people who have proved ‘behind the scenes’ to do all as ‘unto the LORD’.
 
My ‘problem’ is that I have come to recognise that such are rare jewels amid the pantheon of evangelical leaders. Thus, I have in mind some very different examples from those noted above: all personally known to me. I think of the leader who was so caught up in her own ‘vision’ of the LORD’s purposes that she revealed no sensitivity to those around her, no respect for their views and only used and manipulated them to promote her own agendas. Of course, all this was presented in highly spiritual terms: it always is! I think, too, of those leaders who are always ‘too busy’ to relate to ordinary people! Sometimes they hide behind the wife, the PA or other acolytes. I recall several examples of those who were simply unable to respond to serious needs in others that were ‘in their face’ because of being caught up in their own ambitions and priorities. I am aware of the way that often ‘dog eats dog’ and recall a friend viciously slandered by the leaders of his own mission organisation because he did not ‘fit’ their image of a ‘typical’ worker. I am also all too sadly aware of those who are one thing in public but very different people out of the public eye. Thus there was the leader whose public personna obscured the reality of a self-driven ministry that had demoralised and divided his family and closest friends.

Then I think of Jesus! And I realise that I struggle to catch glimpses of him in the people I have just mentioned. They may speak of him but do they reflect him? Where is the evidence of the self-sacrifice that clothes true service of Jesus? Where is the readiness to meet the contemporaries of Nicodemus or the woman at the well: well out of the public limelight? Where is the willingness to recognise, as Jesus did, that the Father’s will is not necessarily identical to what we want? Where is that gentleness and tenderness of spirit that shows a bias to the vulnerable and weak rather than a wish to dominate them? Where is genuine integrity of life?

I realise, of course, that ‘there but for the grace of God go I’. But I remain troubled and grateful. Grateful for those in whom I have seen Christ Jesus and through whom I have come to recognise the truly great in the kingdom of God are those who walk with him. Grateful that in humble men with big hearts I have seen true greatness: a reflection of the greatness of their Saviour.

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