The Revd John Lewis: 1957-2018
Evangelist, visionary leader, family man and a father figure to the Church
John Anthony Lewis was born in December 1957 in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). His father was a senior policeman and John attended school there until he was six. The family then moved back to the Manchester area because of serious unrest in Tanzania. (John was a gifted swimmer - he held a number of records for swimming.)
He joined the Merchant Navy from school, training to be a navigation officer and travelling the world in this role. He loved seeing so many interesting places, but he often fell in with bad company. After one ‘heavy night out’ he was a bit down and searched his luggage for a photo of his Mum. Before he left home, she had packed a photo and placed it inside a Gideon New Testament. He got the picture and opened the Bible, by chance, at ‘Be not drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit’ - (Eph. 5:18). This really challenged him, leading him to ask Jesus to forgive him and come into his life.
John immediately felt he needed to ‘change the world’ and he contacted AIM (Africa Inland Mission) to ask about going to Africa as a missionary. They asked about his Bible college training and experience. He said that he had not received any and consequently ended up at The Faith Mission College in Edinburgh - it was quite a shock and a bit restrictive for a young mariner!
After College, he was employed as a youth pastor in South Chadderton preaching anywhere there was an opportunity - churches, pubs, clubs and in the open air. (It was in South Chadderton that he first met his future wife Mandy.)
He moved to Goodshaw Chapel as a student pastor and continued studying in the Northern Baptist College for a further two years. He was ordained as a Baptist pastor in 1983. (John and Mandy married in 1984.)
His next church was Skipton Baptist where he was pastor for about 10 years. The church grew dramatically under John’s ministry with many young families joining. Following his time at Skipton, John was called to Gorsley Baptist Church, near Cheltenham. He was there for 19 years.
Gorsley became the largest, rural Baptist church in the UK with an annual, five-day flower festival. Over 5,000 visitors came for the weekend, for Bible teaching - (it was a bit like a mini New Horizon). John then joined Portstewart Baptist Church as Senior Pastor four and a half years ago.
John was an evangelist: He would go anywhere, do anything and talk to anyone to share about Jesus. He had a passion to see young and old saved - to have a personal encounter with Jesus. He loved meeting new people anywhere.
John was a visionary leader: He was always working ahead on future ideas, plans and projects to see the Church and its ministry grow and develop especially in the community. He was always working away on some new dream or idea as we were trying to catch up with his last one!
John was a family man: He and Mandy had a wonderful relationship and he encouraged Josh, Bethany, Dan, Ben and Naomi in their different roles and careers. He was a great Dad. He never missed school plays or sports events - he was committed to his family.
John was a father figure to the Church: When he stood up in front of the church with that big smile, he immediately commanded the stage. His smile not only reflected his love for Jesus but also his deep desire for others to meet Jesus, his Saviour, as well.
Our thoughts and prayers are with John’s wife Mandy and their children – Josh, Bethany, Dan, Ben and Naomi.
Abbreviated version of tribute given by Norman Lynas - elder in Portstewart Baptist Church on Saturday, 8 September 2018, when a Service of Thanksgiving was held for John.
This tribute first appeared in the October/November 2018 issue of Insight. Insight is the magazine of the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland.