John Newby has left an indelible imprint on the lives of many people through the years because he loved the Lord Jesus and desired to be of use to the Lord he dearly loved. Even in his retirement years, he longed to be useful in the Lord’s service, as much as his health permitted.
The legacy he leaves behind is the role he played in teaching, equipping and mentoring those preparing for and in Christian service. I consider myself immensely privileged to have been numbered among John’s close friends, grateful for the role he played in my life as one of my life’s mentors over the past nearly 35 years. He was always willing to share his insights on life’s experiences, joys and sorrows – with which he was well acquainted, as well as his vast experience in pastoral ministry. He was affectionately called “Doc” by his students, yet also known as “Dr. Snuggles” to many close to him.
John was a wonderful scholar, decorated with a doctorate, and a keen desire for more, in the field of church history. He was well respected in his field by fellow scholars too. He was an expert of the life of the yesteryear Bishop of Liverpool, J.C. Ryle. Yet despite his brilliance, he engaged the ordinary person, expounding God’s word whenever he had opportunity to do so. He was a truly gifted preacher, communicating God’s word understandably for his hearers. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to John’s preaching, learning much from his keen insights. As a Yorkshire man, suitably dressed in collar and tie, he had an excellent command of the English language, using words often that had many of us consulting a dictionary. And his preaching and teaching had his trademark alliteration.
He had a quest for knowledge with a remarkable memory, and never stopped learning as he read to develop his relationship with the Lord Jesus, his Saviour, to enrich his devotional life and ministry. John was always up for a chat and was a fount of great biblical insights; his theological insights, for which many consulted with him, will be sorely missed.
John joined CESA (Church of England in South Africa) because of his reformed biblical convictions and was incredibly loyal to this denomination. Under God, he planted two churches; the first was St Matthew’s Church in Leondale, Germiston in the then Transvaal, and the second while serving as Rector at Christ Church in Hillcrest in KZN where he planted Christ Church Waterfall. I was privileged to be the first pastor of this church plant. From Hillcrest he was whisked away to serve as the Dean of students at Bible Institute (BI), to coach (CESA now REACH SA [Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church]) at George Whitefield House which eventually became CESA’s Bible College, now known as George Whitefield College (GWC), where he became Vice Principal before his retirement. He was greatly loved by his students and made his subject, Church History, come alive.
There are a few things that stand out especially that characterized John:
His pastoral heart
John always brought comfort and consolation whenever it was needed. In this regard, I benefitted immensely through many extended conversations to seek out his wisdom in pastoral matters. And whenever he had to be firm, telling a few necessary home truths, he’d be apologetic afterwards for causing any hurt, if he was too harsh. He was gracious and gentle.
His insights and understanding of the Scriptures
He would expound God’s word clearly. He had reservoirs of knowledge and acted as a trustworthy sounding board, sharing his vast experience.
His vulnerability and authenticity
John never hid his struggles; he never pretended or hid behind a façade. He showed the immense value of vulnerability, almost to a fault, which was a massive strength, worthy of imitation. John taught me to be real in a world littered with fakes. He gave me courage to face life’s brokenness and personal struggles by God’s grace. He willingly shared his heart in personal vulnerability and never covered up or masked things to make him look better or superior. He taught me to live with integrity before God in transparency and trusted God through each struggle in this imperfect world. He was a fellow struggler. He was an authentic person.
His caring nature
John really cared and this showed in so many ways. I was privileged, among many, to be a beneficiary of John’s love and godly guidance.
His sense of humour
John was sharp witted and had a keen sense of humour that kept us entertained. In his latter year when asked how he was health-wise, he gave an “organ recital”, explaining what organ in his body didn’t work as well as it ought anymore.
John loved his wife, Megan, as well as his children, David and Linda and their respective spouses, and was a proud grandfather of his grandchildren. Just a bit of interesting trivia about John: he never drove a car so relied on his wife, Megan, to be his taxi unless he could persuade one of us to drive him; for reward it was a Spur breakfast at his expense. He also was well-known for his lack of handyman skills but made up for it by his marvellous intellect from which many of us benefitted immensely.
John touched many lives who benefited from his godly example, his teaching and preaching ministry over the many years.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing”
(2 Timothy 4:7-8 [New King James Version]).
He is now at home with his Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom he loved and served faithfully. We give God thanks for the life of John Newby.
Written by Rev. Wayne Barkhuizen