Help Believers to Stay Faithful in a Changing Culture

Editors’ note: 

TGC’s Ordinary Pastors Projects seeks to find wisdom and honor in faithfulness, demonstrated in varied contexts. Learn more from the introduction by Matt B. Redmond. If you’d like to honor and encourage the ordinary pastor who shaped you, tell us about him in about 500 words and include a photo, or record a video testimonial of five minutes or less and send the link to [email protected].

“Hello, my name is Tony Jones and I will not be letting you off the hook,” is not what Tony said to me when we first met, but in the interests of full disclosure, he probably should have.

Tony (now the senior minister of Christ Church, Durham) was the curate at St Ebbe’s Church in Oxford while I was a 20-year-old undergraduate at St Catherine’s College. St Ebbe’s was the church I had chosen to attend, not because of any theological or architectural leaning, but because the congregation counted among its number a particularly lovely second-year literature student.

Tony, bookish and slight, was unaware of any of this. What he saw, sitting alone in the pew, was a person who needed to meet Jesus.

Gifted with all the friendly tenacity of a famished pit bull, Tony immediately invited me to meet him for coffee one afternoon in his study. I didn’t really see the point, but clearly, he did, so rather than offending him, I agreed. And even after we’d met, I still wasn’t sure I saw the point. Pretty much all we did was look at a short Bible passage together. Tony would throw out some gentle questions to make sure I understood what I was reading, asked me how he could be praying for me, and that was about it. Then we’d doggedly repeat the process a week or so later. Poor chap, I thought to myself. He’s obviously lonely.

This continued throughout my first term at Oxford, throughout the winter, and into the spring. By the time Easter arrived, I knew when I sat down in that overstuffed armchair that I wasn’t doing it for his benefit. I had met my Creator. And I had been introduced by a man who was slimmer than some of the books on his own bookshelf.

I also began to realize that I was not the only one. Over the years, I have met numerous men whose lives were changed irrevocably and wonderfully when, rather than offending Tony, they started meeting him for coffee.

The relationship with the second-year literature student, sadly, did not work out. However, another relationship—this one supremely satisfying and eternally secure—bloomed in its place. As far as it was in his power to do so, Tony made sure of it.