Guest post by Joe Tyrpak.
My dad was 41 years old, my mom 39. I was eight years old, and for some reason we were moving to Pennsylvania. Decades later I discovered the horrors that my parents had endured that year and the meeting that led us to move.
Trying to “stop the bleeding” from what we had endured in a difficult church situation, my dad sought personal counsel from an experienced out-of-state pastor who, in God’s timing, was preaching in the area. Pastor E. R. Jordan was the short, bald “Pastor Emeritus” of Calvary Baptist Church in Lansdale, PA (only later did I come to learn how influential this little man was—training of hundreds of pastors, planting of dozens of churches, and shepherding of thousands of believers).
When E. R. and my dad met in private, E. R. said in his characteristically direct way, “You’re gonna kill your wife and family if you stay here. Come to Pennsylvania. The church I pastor has lots of people. You could sit in the back row for a couple years, regularly meet with one of our Biblical counselors on staff, and allow your family some time to heal.”
My dad followed his counsel. We moved to PA and went to Calvary Baptist Church for almost six years (until a job change forced us to move). During those 5+ years, we were faithfully taught the Bible several times a week, I was baptized, and two of my sisters met their husbands at church and were married in the auditorium. My parents were also regularly shepherded by Larry Thornton, a seminary prof and assistant pastor at Calvary, who taught them how to think Biblically and help them get back on their feet.
Although I was only starting my teen years when we left PA, I have several distinct memories of “Chief” (the name that all the “preacher boys” called E. R.):
- He was a phenomenal preacher, unusually gifted in powerful, confrontational exhortation. I remember that he would regularly preach on Wednesday nights in the summer. Even though I was a little boy, his preaching was personally engaging, encouraging and VERY convicting. It was under his preaching that I have the first recollections of God’s Spirit powerfully working in my heart through the public proclamation of the Bible.
- He never forgot God’s grace in saving “a wretch like him.” During my years at Calvary, E. R. gave his personal testimony of conversion a couple times (sometimes in church, sometimes in elementary school chapel). Every time he recounted God’s grace to him personally, he was moved to tears to think that God would love a sinner like him. If you’re interested in his testimony, you can read it in his autobiography, Chief, from BJUPress or you can order program #2720 from Pacific Garden Mission’s Unshackled radio drama ($7 for a cd).
- He oozed with passion for personal evangelism. His evangelistic heartbeat seemed evident in every word he spoke.
- He was a tender shepherd. Although he was fierce in the pulpit, he was personally warm. And, even though he pastored thousands of people, he always had the time to talk with me, a little ten-year-old punk, when I would pass his office, meet him in the school hallways, or greet him at the church door. I’ll never forget his soft, raspy, grandfatherly voice.
- He always ended his prayers with a long “Aaaaaaaa-men.” It would last at least 5 or 6 seconds. I remember imitating this “trademark” hundreds of times as a kid.
When I woke up this morning to my brother-in-law’s email reporting to our family that “Chief” had died, I started crying, and cried for almost 20 minutes. I told my wife that it was a “good cry.” It was because God is so amazingly gracious. He loved a dirty street boy like Bob, saved him, and transformed him into a caring pastor that compassionately shepherded my equally-needy family during the darkest tragedy of our lives. And God used him to stabilize, sanctify, and heal our family, and change the whole course of our family’s life.
When I’m finally in heaven, I will never stop praising God for shepherding me and my family, and I’ll never stop thanking “Chief” for his Christlike selfless attention to poor and needy sheep like us.
It’s my pleasure to dedicate my metrical rendering of Psalm 23, The Lord’s My Shepherd, to “Chief,” one of the most faithful undershepherds I’ve ever known.
Psalm 23—The Lord’s My Shepherd
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Filed under: Biblical Leadership, Christian Biographies, Churchworksmedia.com, God is Good!, The Local Church | Tagged: "Chief" Jordan, Calvary Baptist Church Landsdale, Churchworksmedia.com, E. R. Jordan, Joe Tyrpak, Modern Hymns, Modern Psalmter, Psalm 23, The Lord's My Shepherd, Unshackled | 9 Comments »