Hebrews 13: 7
I was saddened to hear of the death of Bishop John Reid. John was a great man of God who faithfully and lovingly stood for the truth of the Gospel. As a young minister I had the privilege of working with John in several areas and to be the beneficiary of his advice and encouragement.
He and John Chapman were running a lunchtime city Bible ministry and as Chappo’s sidekick it fell to me to implement the plans of the two Johns. I found in John Reid a great commitment to expound the Scriptures carefully and faithfully. He never pulled any punches but always spoke with the quiet confidence of one who trusts his Lord to bring repentance and with loving concern for those with whom he disagreed.
John also involved me in Katoomba Convention. He had recently become the chairman of the Convention and recognised its need for renovation and rejuvenation. His idea was to commence a new Youth Convention, and invited me to take some responsibility for it. Over the next few years, he and I shared regularly in the growth and development of the Convention.
In these contexts I saw the fibre and character of the man.
· He consistently upheld the great truths of the gospel, always graciously pointing to the Saviour by expounding God’s word. He was committed to the truths expounded in the Reformation, while diplomatically developing relationships with those who did not share them.
· He was his own man, (or rather Christ’s man) but he was a great admirer of John Stott and Marcus Loane, and ministered with the same kind of intelligent care in the use of words as those two giants.
· He was humble, generous and hospitable – always the first to wash up or put people at their ease. He never played the Bishop card, as if he were something special and above the ordinary.
· He was consistently concerned for the salvation of the lost. Evangelism and world mission were never far from his agenda. He is well known for his work with the Lausanne movement, but that is but the tip of the iceberg.
· He was a compassionate man with a real soft spot for the underdog, the outsider, the foreigner, the disadvantaged, and the marginalised.
· He understood, more than most of his generation, how quickly and comprehensively the society was changing through the revolution of the 1960’s. He not only understood it but also tried to meet the needs of the day by evangelistic innovation and the transformation of old institutions. He engaged personally, evangelistically and diplomatically with the political, religious and sexual radicals of the time.
· He was a strong man, who put his viewpoint clearly and took action to implement his ideas even in the face of opposition.
One memorable episode in the history of Katoomba Convention was the night John invited the members of the Council to resign for the good of the Convention. It was a very large Council, over 20 members, and most had served on the Council for many years if not decades. It was an eclectic Council, not simply reflecting a diversity of denominations but more significantly representing a diversity of para-church organisations – especially missionary societies. These were good, godly, faithful, prayerful Christian people who had laboured long and hard to reconstruct the Convention after WWII, and then had slowly seen it decline through the 1960’s. John was younger than most of the Council members, I was a mere boy (of about 30) observing a great man at work. At a critical moment in the Convention’s history, John addressed the Council from the chair. He carefully thanked them for their years of labour, pointed out the importance of bringing in fresh energy and ideas by making way for the next generation, observed how many were really representing other interests on the Council rather than having the Convention as their primary interest, and argued that the Council was far too large and uncommitted to the task of the Convention to operate effectively. He then invited everybody to resign unless they were serving the Convention’s interests as first priority. The deathly silence that ensued was broken by one older saint who spoke up in agreement and immediately offered his resignation. His was the first of many such resignations and the work of the Convention went forward from there.
We can and ought to thank God for the life and ministry of John Reid. In serving the Lord Jesus he blessed many people, both in this world and already in eternity. We will not know until we come to that eternity the many people who were affected both directly and indirectly by his actions. The courage and wisdom of his stand on that one night alone, has benefitted many thousands who have been part of Katoomba Convention since then – you may be one yourself.