My Tribute to George Verwer – Facing the Canon
It was only three days ago I posted: “My Tribute to George Verwer – a man of God”. Since expecting (rightly as it turned out) there would be many other tributes found on the ether I didn’t expected to add to mine. But as things begin to settle, there was so much said about George and his example that is worth sharing.
Things that stood out for personal reasons as they relate to my own journey, struggles and how the Church (church) is or at least should be (imo) in this world beset with assorted craziness (a lot of it bad crazy) was triggered by Canon J.John (on his Facebook page). He writes: “George Verwer died on Friday 14th April at the age of eighty-four. With his passing the church has lost a man who had an astonishing global influence on the way the church carries out its vital task of sharing the good news of Jesus. In Operation Mobilisation – known as OM – that George started and led for over forty years, quite literally countless thousands of individuals have been brought to Christ and, no less significant, an equally vast number of Christians have been equipped to share their faith with confidence and boldness. Many church leaders that I know can say how formative their time – long or short – with OM has been for their lives and ministries” and then refers readers to a fuller tribute where he makes several valid points (see here).
What the Canon had to say about George was pertinent and true. What particularly fascinated and encouraged me was a one-hour interview he did with George (who was still going strong up to the end) 9 years ago on his “Facing the Canon” show (see here), which was full of good stuff. I daresay, if I watched it again, more will wow me but here are a few snippets that impressed me. Anyone who wants to know George’s story, such as how he become a Christian as a young teen and soon after embarked on his lifelong activities as a sold-out missionary and radical disciple of Jesus, this is a good place to go. Besides reinforcing the impressions that I detailed in my previous George blog, I saw more than ever he was the real deal, as he shared his faults (which by his admission were many) and his struggles, e.g. with pornography, people who influenced him and who he engaged with, such as one of my theological heroes, John Stott, and also those whose theology and world view I find decidedly dodgy, like Tony Campolo. While he no doubt mixed with the good and great, and as a speaker he was much in demand worldwide, traveling extensively, he retained the common touch as he sought to honour and encourage the lowly.
I loved his humility, faith in a God whose promises can be relied upon and love for the people of God regardless of church etc., as well a world his life work was to win for Jesus. I loved his wisdom and insights, for example while admitting he had many regrets, felt if he were to indulge them it would be a form of idolatry. I loved the way he was able to retain his focus on winning souls the world over for Christ, while coming to recognise (as I had done) community engagement and social justice were important. I loved his love for the Church and his confidence that the Lord is working through it. As one who spent many years as a church missionary secretary, I loved his vision for mission. As one prone to be discouraged by failures in the C(c)urch, I felt his confidence God was greatly at work through those, who like him, were imperfect vessels, as much as the rest of his message his servant, George Verwer, helpfully delivered, was something all of us would do well to take on board. J.John aptly ends his tribute: “a hero of the faith and promoted to glory”.
Unsurprisingly, since posting, I have seen several tributes to George Verwer, by those ranging from nobodies like me to high profile Christians, all of which were profoundly influenced by his life and ministry. Here are two high profile tributes that moved me:
Raw Passion and Messy Missiology by John Piper
One Night with George Verwer Changed My Life by Greg Livingstone