My Farewell Letter to My Pastor2
Where to start?
Well as Richard Rodgers wrote:
“Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start.”
I first met Tyrell, appropriately, at a Reformation Day conference in 2006. Back then he was a bachelor youth pastor discipling a crazy band of young people (you know who you are).
We hit it off straight away. We were both young, restless, reformed, incredibly good looking (joke), loved evangelism, theology and the Triune God.
A short time later Tyrell moved to Constantia Park Baptist Church as an intern and later an assistant pastor. During this time Natalie and I ran a Christian bookshop from our home. One of the highlights of my week was to travel to the bookshop at Constantia Park to collect orders. The main highlight was the lunch that Tyrell and I would enjoy together (It was also nice to be with Tyrell). During those lunch appointments we managed to solve the world’s problems, as well as the church’s problems and all theological problems.
At some point Tyrell began to court Ainsley and spent a lot of time on the Wits campus where she was studying. While spending time at Wits and in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg he was moved by the lack of faithful churches and the non-existence of churches with our theological positions and ethos in the area.
Tyrell asked me if I would be interested in planting a church in that area. I immediately said no, as my plan was to finish my theological studies (which Tyrell had encouraged me to pursue) be called to a well-established church with a Sir Herbert Baker designed building, a wood paneled study where I could spend the week reading and studying and appear, magically, on Sunday to preach. God had other plans!
Tyrell would continue to raise the idea with me. And so Natalie and I began to speak and pray more about the suggestion. Slowly the Lord gave us a burden for a church plant in the northern suburbs and we began to plan. God blessed our endeavours and in January 2011 we held our first Sunday service in the passage of a house in Parkhurst. Before the end of the month we were meeting in a Scout Hall and within a few years we had managed to purchase our current venue.
One of the foundational positions that sets us apart from most other churches is that we hold strongly to the position of a plurality and equality of elders/pastors. We have never had nor, by God’s grace, will we ever have a senior or assistant pastor. We have actively sought to resist the danger of building a church around a personality or preacher.
Tyrell and I have met together nearly every week over the last ten years. We have had to deal with difficult situations, difficult people, the sins of others as well as our own sins.
The more horror stories I hear about the experiences of other elderships with heavy shepherding, egos, carnality, fighting, abuse etc. the more I praise the Lord for what we have had. I have asked the Lord to forgive me for so often taking for granted the amazing relationship we have had. We have had something truly special.
I am so proud of what Christ has accomplished through us weak vessels at Heritage Baptist. To see so many people from all different backgrounds and ethnicities worshipping the Lord, serving one another and dying to self, is an amazing privilege. You are a brave man to leave a church like Heritage, not a perfect church, but what a blessed, kind, patient flock the Lord has given us. I know that your desire is to do hard things for God’s Kingdom, it is one of the things I so admire about you, and that is why you are leaving.
In Acts 13 the church at Antioch in Seleucia was blessed to have the apostle Paul and Barnabas as members and preachers. Do you know what that church did? They sent those men out to expand God’s kingdom. They sent their best out and that is what we are doing. Sorry Heritage, you are stuck with me, second best, but God has raised up Mpumelelo, a better man than me, to help grow the church here.
I know that if we had all been present on the last Sunday you preached there wouldn’t have been a dry eye. In one sense I am quite grateful for the lockdown so that no one apart from my family could see me crying like a baby. Even as I write this, I want to say that the ink is smearing because of my tears but actually I’m more worried about my keyboard short-circuiting.
In closing, it is my joy to honour you as the writers of Scripture command (Cf. 1 Tim 5:17; Rom 12:10). Not hagiography, you are not perfect, I have seen your sins, but I have seen your Davidic heart that is quick to repent when confronted.
First off, you are one of the most teachable individuals I have ever met. I have always known you to give other opinions and positions a fair hearing. You are not too proud to learn from others. In fact, I don’t know anyone else who more faithfully follows the dictum that in the multitude of counsellors there is safety (Cf. Prov 11:14, 15:22, 24:6). You have always sought to remove blind spots; you are more concerned with what is true than stubbornly holding a position.
Secondly, whatever you have set your mind to you sought to do it excellently: from preaching to podcasting, counseling to Krav Maga, blogging to bench-pressing. In you I have seen a graphic fulfilment of 1 Timothy 4:15 and 16. Your progress in Christlikeness over the years has been evident to me.
Thirdly, and most importantly, you love God and you love people. I have seen you grow as a pastor and preacher. Your sermons seek to make much of Christ, your aim is that we would see Him and be changed. As a pastor you have walked many roads with many people, not just at Heritage, wherever I go I meet people who have been blessed and helped by your ministry. I and my family are glad to be counted among that number.
I will greatly miss you my dear brother, but I know that any separation is only for a moment, we will spend eternity together worshipping the Lord.
It has been said that pastors will be the only people without a job in the New Heaven and Earth as there won’t be a need for evangelism or discipleship. Perhaps we can open a Glock shooting academy?
Love you brother,