Testimony from the pew

Posted Aug 29, 2013 | Center for Pastoral Excellence


By Verity A. Jones

Rev. Dr. Gary Byrkit Testimony from the heart sometimes says it best, especially when trying to describe pastoral excellence.

My father would intimidate the boldest of preachers. He taught systematic theology for more than 35 years, serving as dean in two seminaries and as president in one university. The vitality of the church and the rigorousness of its thinking and practice matter to him, really matter. As a philosopher, he loves the give and take of debate, of making an argument that can hold water for longer than a Sunday. And he readily shares his point of view. Not every preacher would welcome his entry into his or her congregation, I dare say.

A year ago, my parents moved back to their hometown of Oklahoma City and joined a Disciples of Christ congregation in nearby Edmond. Rev. Dr. Gary Byrkit welcomed them with open arms. But perhaps more importantly, Gary preached powerfully in their presence week after week. Every time I spoke with my parents, they would extol Gary’s ability to think theologically out loud with his people, giving them a message of hope that had some teeth.

Gary died suddenly in his home on August 13, 2013. His family and congregation are devastated. My father, who maintains a blog on his website, A Grammar of Christian Faith, posted his testimony at Gary’s funeral. Because he speaks and writes about his preacher and pastor in such moving, powerful language, I decided to share it with you rather than write my own post this time.

Gary demonstrated excellence in ministry, particularly in preaching, according to Joe Jones. Oh, that more of us preachers could have this kind of effect on a church-loving intellectual eager for spiritual food rich enough to satisfy his hunger. I invite you to read the beautiful testimony about an excellent preacher, “In gratitude for the Reverend Dr. Gary Dean Byrkit: Pastor Theologian Par Excellence.

Verity A. Jones is the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Excellence at Christian Theological Seminary.

The Center for Pastoral Excellence at CTS addresses the long arc of ministry from discernment to training to sustaining excellence ministry. To request permission to repost this content, please contact centerforpastoralexcellence@cts.edu.