He being dead yet speaks. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Heb 11:4 ; Rev 2:7
July 20, 2010
Tonight we gather to remember our friend and brother in the faith, John Fortin, who I think most here will always affectionately remember as "Pastor John." As we gather however, we are not alone. The Book of Hebrews says that we are "surrounded by a cloud of witnesses." And I believe that if we could see into the spirit realm and look above us right now in this building, we would see a balcony of heavenly guests that have assembled to watch us pay our respects to our brother. I believe John is among those guests. I believe he is here tonight listening to us, as is our Lord Himself.
I had the privilege and honor of serving for the
better part of a decade with John as a worship leading team at
John was, of course, a pastor in every other right
as a teacher, a counselor, and a consoler of the hurting and wounded--as
all of you know. In the years after
The Searcher for
the Authentic Faith
The Searcher for
the Authentic Faith
But underneath John's obvious pastoral role was another, deeper heart dimension--one little understood or appreciated by most of us. This dimension was John's passion to be a worshipper of God not just in Spirit, but in the Truth. What I really feel called to testify to tonight is John Fortin's relentless search for the authentic Christian faith and the authentic expression of the church underneath his visible ministry.
What do I mean by the "search for the Authentic Faith?"
Most of us here know our Bibles. From the
beginning, all of God's work to redeem His People has been shadowed and
dogged by an imitation--a counterfeit of the real thing designed to steal
the hearts of Gods people away from Him while using His Name to do so. In
Later, Jesus and John the Baptist had to contend
with the Pharisees and the
Still later in church history, the Reformers and Evangelists contended with the state church worshippers who saw the worship of Christ and the state church all as one. The Reformers also contended with the commercializers of the faith who sold "indulgences" promising you could "buy" your way out of hell with a few hundred duckets.
Down to our day, the imitation is still present. The tares remain in the wheat field. And the contest remains between those who worship God in spirit and Truth and those who use the Spirit and Jesus Name to purvey a flashy but hollow ministry based on human prestige, personal agenda, theatric program, and, of course, the love of the dollar bill--even to the selling of answers to your prayers "for your faith donation today of $500."
Our John saw all of this. Across the years of his ministry, like as Jesus and John the Baptist "grew in wisdom and stature" under the shadow of the imitation, so "Pastor John" awakened to this conflict between the authentic and imitation faith in our day. And as he did so, he dedicated himself to discovering and living out the authentic expression of the church through nothing more than transparent relationship and simple service.
Eventually, this dedication would cost him his visible pastoral ministry among us.
John Fortin's True Christ-likeness
Many have remarked how Christ-like John Fortin was as a pastor. And that he was. Many especially know of Johns emphasis on Christs love. One of his favorite verses was I John 4:8--"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."
But less appreciated is how John's passion for the love of Christ was anchored to his dedication to the truth of Christ. Johns concept of love was founded on truth, and his Christ-likeness went beyond that of the gentle shepherd to that of the genuine cross-bearing disciple, inwardly uncompromising in his quest to discover and build only the authentic church at the expense of resisting the imitation.
Isaiah 53 provides a glimpse into this less perceived aspect of John Fortin's Christ-likeness. Like the suffering servant of that passage, John was a man "acquainted with sorrow." His sorrow was for a city-wide church wracked by broken marriages and believers departing into open sin. He was a man without a charismatic personality "that we should desire him." He was a man "despised and rejected" under the shadow of the imitation--No, not openly stoned as a prophet would be (our John was not a prophet). Rather he was rejected "by default"--i.e., simply overlooked and bypassed for leadership in favor of those more able to prove themselves smooth with people, smart with numbers, and skilled at climbing the social church ladder.
Not escaping any of his Lords footsteps, John went on to experience the Zechariah 13:6 "wounding in the house of his friends." After being release into his own ministry, the spirit of the imitation still dogged him demanding, "Show us the money, show us the fame." In response John could only resolutely say, "Show me the glory; show me Your Name."
The parallels over time between John's ministry and
that of His Lord stand out. Like the Lord, John began in obscurity. As
Jesus later came to nationwide prominence through His calling and
anointing, John too rose to semi-prominence in arguably the largest and
most renowned charismatic church in
Something oft said of our Lord was perceptively observed of John by someone who said to me last night at his viewing, "He died of a broken heart."
In praise of those who follow His deepest footsteps, and in the same way Jesus eulogized John the Baptist at the close of John's ministry, I can hear Him eulogizing our John here tonight:
"What went you out to see? A charismatic mega-leader who loved a title and name recognition? Behold, such leaders live in the palaces of cable television. But what came you here to honor? A pastor? I say to you, yea, much more than a pastor...."
Was it Really 'Time to Go?
Many of us have asked the Lord why He took John from us. Seeing how much potential John had yet to fulfil, we have asked whether it was really his time to go.
The simplest answer my heart finds as to why God took John is found in Isa 57:15: "I dwell in the high and holy place with him who has a contrite and humble spirit; to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." John had simply come through his testings to a place of humility that qualified him in the Father's eyes to be taken to that most blissful of dwellings in which one can find healing and restoration.
Still, we have asked underneath, "What about his ministry?" One prophetic brother said to me over the weekend, "I just dont feel it was Johns time to go. There was still a great work for him to do." And I partly agreed. A few years before the collapse of the great church John and I and most of us had served in together, I had had a vision of a great tree soon to be felled by an ax, and out of the stump of the tree I saw a shoot, and that shoot was John Fortin. Well, the tree did come down, and in the years since, I held onto this vision believing that John Fortin was one day destined to grow into a great place of recognized genuine ministry leadership in this city.
Nevertheless, in speaking with someone else much closer to John than I, I was told, "It was time for John to go. His work was perfected."
"How to reconcile this?" I pondered. And this is what I came to:
At the time of Jesus' death, there was so much more
ministry He had planned for
A mystery? Yes, it is. But I think it provides the
answer to our question about the Lord's taking John now. There was more the Lord wanted to do
through John here in
The Spirit's Voice to the Churches
In closing, as the Lord spoke to the churches of
the cities of
If John was and is such a messenger to the church in Manchester, and if as Hebrews says the legacy of the faithful dead yet speaks to us, and if John had a way to communicate to us from his heaven-side balcony seat tonight, what would he say to us? Well, Im sure it would depend on whom he was passing the message through! But knowing him in the way I did, I will offer three closing words I believe John would convey through me as a fellow searcher of the authentic:
First, especially to Jonathan and to Celeste he would say:
"Son, behold your mother;" and "Woman, behold your son. Now that I am no longer present with you, the Father has a new relationship to forge between you. I have left a torch, a mantle, an anointing behind. It is now for you to pick up together. It is too heavy for either of you to pick up alone. But together you can pick it up. The Father is with you and He will show you how. Ben and Nicole, be ready to help your brother and your mother. They will need your help."
Second, to those in places of spiritual leadership in this city who through ignorance either wounded him or otherwise overlooked him for his true leadership and authority potential, John would simply say,
"I forgive you. I am reconciled to you. Be reconciled to me through my family and help them as they seek to pick up my mantle."
Lastly, to all the rest of us, but especially to the young people of the next generation, John would say,
"Though I'm now in
These are words among others I believe our friend and brother would want to pass on to us tonight. And so then,
"To us who have ears, let us
hear what the Spirit has said to the Church in
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