Packer’s life shows that renewal begins in building homes and doing personal work in small places. Renewal requires a bedrock belief in God’s trustworthy Word and the lordship of Jesus Christ. Renewal requires accepting costly vocational discipleship and manifesting character.
When J. I. Packer died in 2020, post-war evangelicalism was left with very few remaining representatives of its early days. He lived through three waves of evangelical ecclesiology and scholarship and also helped launch a fourth. Can his life and ministry show us the way forward?
If there’s to be a healthy next wave of evangelicalism, foundation stones will need to be set in place, or perhaps simply cleared and used again. Packer has left at least four of these stones. Each one is biblical. Each one is often overlooked.
1. Strong Family
Packer left the foundation stone of a strong family. Packer was married for 65 years to Kit. They raised three children. They made a home in Vancouver, following their sense of God’s call at a time in life when many people won’t make such a change. Having earned little money in England, they trusted God to provide in a new and expensive setting. Kit managed the household alone during Jim’s many absences. Their partnership honored God and served his people.
2. Humble Service
He modeled the foundation stone of humble service. He taught in small colleges that boasted no international scholarly reputation. Every one of those colleges needed building up or rebuilding. He and his colleagues shared a vision of evangelical theology, formation of shepherds for God’s people, and high-quality scholarly and popular writing. Many of his colleagues are remembered but most are not. Packer’s willingness to serve in such places and in such ways shows a commitment to doing what he believed God asked, no matter the circumstances.
3. Faithful Writing
Packer wrote the books and articles that came his way.