I often find, when it comes to Christianity, I operate in a tiny corner of God’s vineyard and I know just a tiny fraction of all what is going, supposedly in the name of Jesus. I have sometimes reflected with sadness there is a lot going on that shouldn’t, including many who follow false teaching and widespread spiritual apathy (for such is the state of the church) but it is good to be reminded there is a lot happening that is good too. I recently stumbled across a video series (available on YouTube) titled “Facing the Canon”, where the host, internationally renowned evangelist, Canon J.John, spends the best part of an hour interviewing some well known Christian personality about their life and faith, in a relaxed setting, and it seemed to me that J.John does this very well, and is adept on getting their guests to open up, often saying fascinating things I was not aware off. I list below four guests that have particularly influenced me:
I first came across Gerald when I was at university. One college friend was a member of his house fellowship and spoke about Gerald in glowing terms. He was then a controversial figure (as opposed to now, a pillar of the establishment). My early mentors disapproved of Gerald because of his charismatic tendencies and the fact he did “church” a lot differently to how it was meant to be done and appeared to irreverent, although as a young rebel myself that gave him added credibility coupled with some skepticism. His name has cropped up from time to time ever since and it was good to hear him now, mellowed maybe with aged. What impressed me was his concern for people and his being able to speak God’s word into their lives, from the highest to the lowest. I liked the way he took seriously what should be the focus of the church i.e. to make disciples, and not being beholden to tradition (as a member of the Brethren myself I can well understand his earlier parting of ways from the Brethren). I also liked the way he tackled head on difficult issues few others would, yet ones needing addressing, like pornography.
George made a profound impact on me as a youngster. When I left school and just before going to university, a friend persuaded me to go on an Operation Mobilisation crusade, and it changed my life, insofar I realized as a result of working on the “frontline” I needed to be serious about Christian living and mission. Radical and revolutionary are two adjectives that can well describe OM. As I think about it, getting young people like me to go and join OM teams with the intention of doing evangelism and serving others, worldwide, was inspired. The one behind all this was OM’s inspirational founder, George, who I saw then was as on fire and out and out as you can get as a Christian. It was good to listen to George give his testimony, admit his faults and describe how he has changed over the years, in particular when it comes to respecting Christians who see things different to his then black and white and somewhat dismissive of those who thought differently view of the George I came across in the early 70’s. It was good to listen to him describe his journey, including realising the need to work with disparate partners and to embrace social action, and yet throughout was his unabated burden for mission and some of those basic messages from yesteryear like brokenness.
I suppose if I have a favorite preacher it would be J.I.Packer and he would be closely followed by R.T.Kendall, both coming from the Reformed tradition. Again it was good to hear someone I admire being interviewed about his life, although I know him most because of his preaching and having read some of his books. While no doubt with faults, he struck me as not just one who is sound in his doctrinal understanding but possessed qualities often lacking in preachers, like humility and paying attention to detail, who spends much time studying the Bible and prayer and encouraging others to do so. One fascinating snippet was when he spoke about two “difficult” Bible passages and how he now understands them.
Andrew came over as an eccentric man but as one with a remarkable story and ministry. His work in reconciliation, in particular in the Middle East is fascinating. What draws me and many others to the Vicar of Bagdad was his preparedness to go into the most difficult situations, because of his desire to be obedient to God and his love for the people. Some of the awful things that has happened to members of his congregation, e.g. at the hands of Isis, has been horrendous, but it is a place where faith is vibrant and joyful. Andrew’s simple, childlike faith in his loving heavenly father to provide for the many compassion ministries, which he bears some responsibility for, and seeing answers to prayer, was inspirational.
Many of J.John’s guests I have been aware off for a long time but not all. While most of his guests come from the conservative Evangelical stable I am well acquainted with, they do represent many areas of life and ministry and are all quite different in their outlooks. While my choices are all preachers, other guests operate in other areas of public life and have all made a significant impact and have been inspired by their faith. The first three of those mentioned above are older than me and are still prolific in Christian ministry, and an encouragement to oldies to keep going and not to give up, which is pertinent to me when beset by doubts and lack of motivation. J.John is himself a remarkable character with a powerful, inspiring evangelistic ministry, who I understand has influenced and encouraged many others. He clearly related well to all of his guests and brought out the best from them.