Our pastor’s birthday is June 19, and I want to take this occasion publicly to express the deep gratitude and appreciation the entire elder board has for our pastor and friend. When the story of the past fifteen months is told, it will be about the many ways, large and small, that God has kept His promise to build and protect His Church. Central to that story is the faithful, gracious, and discerning leadership of Pastor John. Privately and publicly, he has provided a master class on biblical spiritual leadership during some of the most difficult days in the history of Grace Community Church. In the midst of cultural and political upheaval, not only has he kept the church open and thriving, but he also led the efforts to honor law enforcement during the riots and provide food for the needy. He performed weddings, officiated funerals, encouraged the sick, and personally ministered to countless people in so many other ways, despite inconvenience and hardship, without fear or hesitation, and while dealing with opposition from government officials.
Through it all, he steadfastly proclaimed the unchanging truth of Scripture with the same extraordinary clarity and conviction that has distinguished his ministry for the past fifty-two years. In fact, our pastor has preached some of the most timely, profound, and poignant sermons of his pastoral ministry during the past fourteen months. We rejoice and thank the Lord for the privilege of serving with such a remarkable leader.
The church’s stance over the past year has never been motivated by rebellion or partisan politics. It is an expression of our collective commitment to the lordship of Christ and our determination to obey the commands of Scripture, regardless of the cost. And there has been a cost. As our leader, Pastor John absorbed much of the criticism, challenges, and threats. Even his personal character was dishonestly attacked and slandered. While our pastor’s leadership has been praised by many, it has also been met with silence or open disapproval, by friends and adversaries alike. Yet, whatever the personal impact of these afflictions, Pastor John has never wavered or waned in his commitment to Christ or the Church.
Of course, we are also grateful to the people of Grace Church who have remained faithful and resolute. Pastor John’s ministry and faithful exposition of the Bible for more than fifty years bore the fruit of a congregation anxious to be back together at a time when the church was most needed and when the government, and others, were most threatening. Once the church re-opened, the Lord saw fit to bring many new people to Grace Church, and we have seen many come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. With the clarity that recent events have provided, we all have a greater understanding of and appreciation for the mission and purpose of the church.
Together, I know we are profoundly thankful to the Lord for Pastor John. We rejoice at the imminent resolution of a public, direct, and sustained assault on the church by the government, but we also understand that this is probably not the last time the church will be opposed by public officials. It is more likely a sign of things yet to come. We are grateful for how our pastor’s leadership has prepared us for whatever may come, and along with that resolve, we rely on the continued care and protection of God.
Chairman of the Elder Board