“He praised the Lord-then went to Heaven! PASTOR DIED IN A PULPIT!” This front page headline was printed in the Daily Sun, the largest daily newspaper in South Africa.
Pastor John McKay had entered the pulpit to preach on a January morning in 2010. He had introduced his topic as “The Sermon that Must be Preached”.. After the introduction, he entered into the presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Two days later, I would hear the news about death of my friend, John McKay. He was sixty-six years old. Six weeks after John’s death, I would serve the Lord’s Supper and preach the Word of God at the Maraisburg Family Fellowship Church, which John McKay had started several years ago. I enjoyed the time with his family and church; yet John was greatly missed in my visit there.
I had met John McKay in 1983. Sharon and I had recently arrived to minister in a church in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. I had a desire to start an Awana youth program in the church. At the time, The Evangelical Bible Church of Bosmont had an Awana program. I decided to visit their Awana club. Their Awana Club was impressive, but I also met their pastor, John McKay. His love for the Lord and the Word of God was very clear to me. From this first meeting, our friendship grew rapidly.
God used John McKay in my life in many ways. One blessing was that he introduced me to several other pastors who were like-minded in the faith. We would gather each week for a Bible study and then a meal. I found these times of fellowship extremely helpful. Even to this day, I have never enjoyed being with a group of pastors as much as I did with these South African pastors.
John McKay also came to my rescue in a very difficult time in my ministry. In 1987, our family planned to return to the States to fulfill our furlough responsibility of visiting our supporting churches. A recent Bible College graduate had agreed to minister in the church for the year I was away. Two weeks before we left, he said he was unable to minister in our church. John came to my rescue as he assured me that he would oversee the church. I scheduled many of our pastor friends to preach as well. John did a great job of caring for our people. The church was ready for its next growth spurt when I returned. His help was a very sacrificial gift because he had his own church as well.
John was also a blessing when he invited our church to have joint baptismal services with his church. Our people in Hillbrow always looked forward to these joint services. The singing at the Bosmont church was very uplifting for our people. John and I would baptize each person together. These services created an even closer bond in our friendship.
In 1990, we would leave South Africa to minister in Portugal. In 1996, we returned to the States to minister. During those years, John and I didn’t do much communication with one another. In 1999, Sharon and I visited South Africa. We were glad to renew our friendship with John and his family. At this time, John and I participated in the ordination council for Grant Hoyland, whom God greatly used in the Hillbrow church until his death three years later.
John made his first visit to see us in June of 2003. This was a difficult time in my life. My mother was in the hospital living out the last couple weeks of her life. John went with me on the one hundred sixty kilometer trip to visit my mother. It was an encouragement to have my friend with me for several days during this very trying time. Our church in Charlotte also enjoyed hearing John preach.
The last time, I would see John was in 2005. He invited me to preach a series of messages at his church. John was excited because his church had been able to purchase their own church building. I remember his joy as he showed me each part of the church. Little did I know that this trip would be the last time I would see him.
In the Daily Sun article, John’s son, Marlin (who is presently the pastor of the Maraisburg Family Fellowship Church) said these words. “My father wanted me to become a pastor…but it gives me goosebumps to think that I could fill his shoes. He was an incredible man–we will miss him. It (John’s death) was not a mistake that God took him.”
Yes, John is with the Lord. He is not only missed by his family, and his church, but he is also missed by the many people he had greatly influenced. I am one of those lives. I thank the Lord for the privilege of having known John as my friend in the ministry. “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
Note: This is number five in a series of posts on the people who have greatly influenced my life.