In a recent letter to pastors, entitled ‘Unforgettable’, retired pastor Lee Eclov included these
“I saw a thread on Facebook asking people to name “Two pastors you can never forget because of the impact they made on your life.” There were over 155,000 posts in that one thread alone. A
handful of famous names were mentioned but what moved me was how many un-famous names
there are—Warren, Aaron, Mike, Leo, Judith, Isaiah, Sharon, Miles. People added comments like,
“He restored my life,” “Tremendous lasting impact on my spiritual formation,” “Taught me how to love and apply the Bible and how to share God’s Word with others.”
In exhorting believers to persevere in their faith, Hebrews says,
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Heb. 13:7)
Put that way, ministry is pretty basic. Whatever else we do—vision casting, programming,
hobnobbing—speaking the word of God and exemplifying the life of faith are our lasting legacies. It also reminds me that, as ordinary as we are, people do not easily forget their pastors’ influence.”
I share this because I read the piece just after hearing about the passing of John Lancaster in the early hours of 7th October. John was 97. He had lived a long and fruitful life. He was one of my heroes, and I miss him already.
I first encountered John when he visited my home church in Wigan in the early 1970’s. That year he had been elected to the honorary position of ‘President’ of the ‘Elim Pentecostal denomination, and he spent the year travelling around the country, visiting many churches. It was in that capacity that
he visited ours. I don’t remember too much about it, except that he was quite understated, he preached about Elijah, and my dad and mum bought his book.
Fast forward a few more years, and in 1975 I began to train for ministry at the ‘Elim’ Bible College in Surrey. Most Friday mornings during our first year, Pastor John Lancaster drove up from Eastbourne, where he had been a minister for many years, and delivered lectures in ‘Systematic Theology’. Really they were Bible Studies. They were anointed. Our souls were nourished. It was a privilege to sit at his feet.
John was one of the very best preachers/teachers I ever heard. But he was an even better man. The word ‘gracious’ has often been used to describe him. I remember how week after week, walking
through the corridor of the College building, on his way to coffee, he would pause repeatedly to greet students and ask, ‘How are you?’ He was genuinely interested.
Once, as I was walking down the college driveway, he pulled up alongside me in his car, wound down the window, and asked, ‘May I give you a lift anywhere? I was so awe struck that I declined! It’s one of life’s ironies that in later years he became a cherished
(but always revered) friend, regularly visiting our church in Boston Spa to speak God’s Word. I have even given him the occasional ride in my car!
A young man from our church in Leeds, who went to Bible College a number of years after I did, told me that the then Principal would say to the student body, ‘If you’re going to emulate anyone
emulate John Lancaster.’ John exemplified what it means to be a faithful pastor and a man of God.
Great preacher that he was, his life was his best sermon. Without this his words would not have carried the weight they did.
I am profoundly grateful to God for the life of this humble man who influenced so many. He has left a huge imprint on my soul. I learned some of the best things I know about being a pastor just from observing him.
God bless you dear John. It was an honour to know you. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.