Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’ - Ecclesiastes 12:1
John Wagner, a member of Burning Hearts Community Church since 2013, died this past month. When John first came to Burning Hearts he was mentally sharp, very able to drive his car and known for being more than a little bit feisty. Indeed it was this final element that is probably best remembered when thinking about John Wagner.
John and his wife had five children. It was during those child rearing years that John, a Roman Catholic, came to understand and embrace the good news of Jesus Christ. His coming to faith in Christ was part of what some have called “the Roman Catholic renewal.” John’s conversion, at this time, was not from unbelief to belief, but from a non-spirited belief to a born-again experience of Christ and the Holy Spirit. In the years that followed, John grew in his faith, came to embrace Protestantism (as being equally true compared to Roman Catholicism), and became a church leader. Though he never held the office of pastor or elder he headed up various small group Bible studies and became known for his teaching of the scriptures.
By the time John landed at Burning Hearts, his wife had died and his children had all grown up and left home. The way that the scriptures were taught at Burning Hearts rang true to John’s heart and when he was offered the opportunity to teach an adult Sunday School class he jumped at it. His teaching was quite entertaining for he delighted in presenting questions that could potentially prove divisive. He did this because, as he said, “I want people to think. I don’t want to hear rote answers. I want them to really think.”
John experienced a life-altering physical stroke three or so years ago. This left him a semi-invalid, unable to walk and quite dependent upon others. This, in turn, led to some (very understandable) depression. Being bound to his bed or a chair, day after day after day robbed John of the excitement and joy he had previously experienced in life. It was during this period that I had a number of deep conversations with John. Years earlier John had told me, “I don’t pray.” I never knew if he was being honest with me or just trying to “get my goat.” The last time I visited John, after questioning how our unbelieving son was doing, he said, “I will pray for him.” He and his prayers will be missed.