There are many good things about the internet, and perhaps just as many if not more negative aspects. But one of the things I enjoy most is being able to attend events which I otherwise could not. These include lectures, happenings, and memorials not publicly significant enough to be shown on television.
Today, on a sunny Colorado winter afternoon, a week’s worth of snow melting and running down curbsides, I watched a two-hour funeral service being held live in California.
With very few exceptions, only the funerals of former presidents and major figures, such as Billy Graham or Queen Elizabeth, are shown on television. I watched the Graham memorial on television back in March of 2018, but having just buried my mother two days earlier, I was hardly focused on the timely importance of it.
Today, I was blessed to watch the funeral of the Reverend Dr. Jack Williams Hayford, Jr.
I did not know “Pastor Jack” and had met him only twice – first when he spoke at the seminary I attended in Virginia and lastly when he visited my church here in Colorado (he was 51 on the first occasion and I, about that same age, on the second) – yet he was in a way, not my pastor of course – I have a fine pastor – but my adult-life-long Bible teacher so to speak. The professors at my seminary, Regent University, actually invited Pastor Jack to come and speak to the students during what was called Spiritual Emphasis Week. He spoke four times over two days, and left lives changed in the balance.
He was the rare combination of pastor and scholar, as many pastors do not have the formal training to be learned scholars or theologians, lacking the time to spend poring over Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, studying languages, literally spending hour up on hour, week after week, delving through musty lexicons and ancient commentaries; and most theologians with letters after their name (Ph D., Th.D., and so on) are academicians, not created with that delicate and wise shepherd’s heart to lovingly watch over a flock. Each takes a special type of person. Centuries ago they were more likely to be the same man, actually, but what education today is in fact as rigorous as it once was? The great German pastor and theologian of Jewish heritage, Alfred Edersheim, knew multiple languages, for instance.
Pastor Jack was a lot of both: pastor, scholar, theologian, perhaps a modern day apostle, leading other leaders, and offering senior authority status.
Thanks to my brother, I was able to access a box of Hayford’s “Soundword” audio sermon tapes in the 1980s, not a small box, but scores and scores of them, and have listened to them over and over for almost four decades, taking notes, looking up Scripture references, scrutinizing and praying over the passages. This culminates and continues to an almost 40 years being tutored by Pastor Jack, complementing the other men, in what began at my mother’s knee, with the Lord’s prayer. Pastor Jack’s mother was a teacher like that as well, and his dad led and provided for the family, as did my own. We had at least that in common.
The service today was, for reasons I am unaware, held at Shepherd Church across town in suburban Los Angeles from The Church on the Way (located in Van Nuys), where Jack pastored since the 1960s, and co-officiated in part by Jack’s grandson, who also is a pastor in California. I was aware of neither officiant before, but they both excelled. In addition there were family testimonies, and video tributes from other well-known Christian leaders. I dare say all were younger, as Pastor Jack died while approaching his 89th birthday this coming June.
Notably not present was Jack’s wife of over 63 years, Anna, who preceded him in death several years ago. Their’s was a love and ministry story for the ages. Also absent was his sister, Luann, who was lost to cancer earlier, and his son in law, Scott Bauer, who succeeded Jack as senior pastor of Church on the Way. Bauer suffered a sudden and fatal, burst aneurysm down in front of the pulpit after preaching a Wednesday night service in 2003. But other family members were very present, son, daughters, grandchildren, and his second wife, a dear family friend, whom he married during terribly lonely years as a widower.
Church on the Way is a rare megachurch, in that its services include traditional forms of worship and liturgy. The memorial began and ended with great hymns of the faith, those well-loved and often sung at Church on the Way: All Hail, King Jesus, Crown Him with Many Crowns, and It is Well with My Soul. A prolific author of songs and choruses himself, including the world renown Majesty, which we of course heard today, Hayford never put his own music ahead of or even on par with the centuries old hymns of Wesley, Luther, Newton, and others. His choruses only complemented the hymns sung by his congregations and the attendees today.
When Jack’s own song Holy Spirit Come was sung early in the service, it was as if I were listening to it on an audio cassette in my little pea green Chevrolet Chevette as a pre-seminary student.
It was also a traditional service, the kind I enjoy, in the way speakers and performers appeared and dressed. All, except for one open collared and shirt-tailed singer, were attired somberly and modestly in black as if they truly were at a funeral. Even the speakers on video, some of whom seek to be “hip” in their own pulpits, perhaps rightly hoping to appeal to a come-as-you-are generation, were funereal in dress today.
Most poignant of family speakers was Jack’s brother, Jim, younger by a decade. My brother was the same age older than I, and a Spiritual mentor, so I very much appreciated and identified with a younger brother extolling the exploits, achievements, and sheltering love of an older brother. How he got through his message without breaking down I will never know.
I learned things today, even things I did not pick up in reading Pastor Jack biography a year ago. For instance, he was a star baseball player and turned down a signing bonus with the Boston Red Sox in order to attend Bible college. He liked that college because its president was in the pulpit when Jack’s parents took him to church as an infant who had been severely injured during the birthing process. Baby Jack was instantly healed by Jesus that day, and his parents accepted that same Healer as their Savior, as did many others watching.
Jack Hayford was an Evangelical pastor who moved in all circles, denominational, Pentecostal, charismatic, you name it. He was ecumenical to a fault, all the while remaining dedicated to his own Church of the Foursquare Gospel, a traditional Pentecostal denomination. But pastors of all stripes looked to him, were mentored by him, and tried, even if subconsciously, to be like him.
He was Pentecostal, i.e., one who believed in and participated in the wonderful, biblical, supernatural movings of the Holy Spirit, but was not plagued with either the excesses or acquiesces of too many of his wannabe peers. For those reasons and others he was once labeled by a national magazine as “the Pentecostal Gold Standard.”
Family was showcased today in very touching ways, and there were far more photos of Jack with his family members in the video tribute than with famous individuals, all under the upbeat Carpenters’ song, Top of the World. Jack surely was on top of the world, lookin’ down on creation when he was with his loving family. Second wife Valarie was appropriately honored in addition to his life mate, Anna, and their children and grandchildren. Although, I noticed that almost each photo of Valarie was followed by another of Anna, keeping things in order.
Tributes were not scarce, including those referring to Pastor Jack as one who bridged the gap among different facets of Evangelicalism, a teacher who uncomplicated the understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit, making His Person seem commonplace in our lives, not mysterious, and one who had a unique place in leading the Spirit-empowered movement among God’s people out to a hurting world. He also had a deep love for Israel and her place in both the past and future workings of God’s plan for all humanity.
Jack often said “Breakthrough happens around me when break-up happens within me” and he lived an open, transparent, life, never bashful to share his warts, sins, and shortcomings with his listeners. My pastor today is like that. In fact, Pastor Jack once served as a senior overseer for my current church, serving as a super-elder of sorts.
I have written before about Pastor Jack’s leadership, his Bible teaching, his reputation, and his effect on my life. I wept up on learning of his death last January 8 and I have been listening to his sermons and music in my car since that day. But today was about Jack the person, the husband, father, grandfather, the friend. One speaker summed it up wonderfully: “He didn’t know he was Jack Hayford.”
Amen. Would that we all live a life like that.
No one is perfect, of course, and I humorously disagree with one thing I heard on a Jack Hayford sermon tape. On a much-needed-today message entitled, Overcoming the Age of the Occult, he said that UCLA basketball led by Bill Walton were actually a better team than the NC State Wolfpack of David Thompson, which defeated the Bruins that year in the NCAA final four, but lost due to their interfering involvement in transcendental meditation. It is hard to believe a Christian coach such as John Wooden would have allowed that had he known, of course, so I am quite sure he was unaware. Nonetheless, I was twelve then and watched every second David Thompson played on television that year. He ruled the court and the air that season.
It has been said that you never see a U-haul behind a hearse. And that is true. The only things we leave behind are the lives we touch. Someone once told me – in a way that affected my life dramatically: “The only thing that lasts forever are people.” Pastor Jack affected thousands.
One thing very noticeable today, however, was the person who was not at the service: Jack Williams Hayford, Jr. That might seem obvious, even silly, to write, but Jack himself was in heaven, of course, with more important things to do, surely worshipping around the throne, serving his Lord and Savior.
The Person who was there today, was Jesus, ever-present through His Holy Spirit. “Where two or more are gathered in My name, there I am in their midst” (Matt. 18:20).
I was glad to be “there” today as well.
Farewell, Pastor Jack.