I’m quite numb right now. My Pastor left this earth yesterday after a weeks long battle with COVID. He was 63 when Jesus called him Home. Heavens gain is my loss.
I met Johnnie Brewer in the spring of 1997 when I was searching for a church home after re-dedicating my life to the Lord a couple years earlier. A cousin had invited me and my wife to his church for Friend Day. Evangelist Rick Via was preaching that day. Patty received Christ that day. A few days later Pastor Brewer called me to follow up and to let me know he was praying for my son Ben, who was about to undergo surgery, at the age of 5 months, for a tumor in his eye socket.
I started attending New Life the next week. Pastor and I met in his office soon after. I joined the church that day, in his office (Pastoral leadership lesson 1) and told him about my understanding that God was calling me into the ministry. He assigned me to teach a class in VBS on that day, and scheduled me to preach at a Nursing home the next week. No wasting time.
That fall I started preaching at the Baltimore Rescue Mission. In January of 1998 I preached from the pulpit of New Life for the first time. On Super Bowl Sunday night. Leadership lesson 2- Never cancel Church for the worlds delights. Pastor had encouraged me to go back to college and add Theology to my Broadcasting and Communications degree. In the Spring of 1999 I graduated with my Bachelors in Theology. Pastor was there.
He was also there when we lost our last two babies to miscarriages. He was there when any of us had surgeries, at birthday parties, at church picnics and more. He and Sherrie travelled with Patty and I to Lynchburg, VA for Jerry Fallwell’s funeral. The drive back from Lynchburg remained one of our favorite memories that the four of us talked of regularly, including at our last meal together at Cracker Barrel a few months ago.
From the fall of 1997 to January 2016 I saw pastor every month at the Baptist Bible Fellowship Pastors meetings. I travelled with him to those in the first years, and after I began full time ministry in 2001 I met him there. Every month. He taught me the importance of fellowshipping with men of God. We also walked the streets of White Marsh, Middle River, Rosedale, and Joppa MD knocking on doors every Tuesday night and Saturday morning for years. He taught me how to win souls to Christ. How to apply apologetics to ordinary conversations. How to love on people and have pity on those in sin instead of indignantly judging them. He taught me how to be a pastor. How to be a preacher. How to be a Godly man.
I can’t count how many 11:30 lunches we spent together. Pastor always started lunch at 11:30- He was up before 5:00 every morning and in the office soon after. At those lunches I was discipled. Pastor talked, taught, and showed me that discipleship is not going through a workbook, its living your life before men, and showing them how practical theology can be. He was and is the singular figure who influenced the direction of my life from the age of 30 to 54 and will continue to influence my life until Jesus takes me too.
In my ministry life God has put several men in my path to guide me. Johnnie Brewer towered over them all because he was not just my friend. He was my pastor. All but one of those men are in Heaven now. And 24 years after we first met, I am now the old man teaching younger men the lessons Pastor Brewer taught me. I remember many times sitting in the visitor chair in his office, pastor behind his desk, as he rattled off Scriptures from memory, teaching me. I wondered how he did that. 24 years later I find myself on the other side of the desk, rattling off Scriptures from memory to young Marines and Sailors and I look back, thanking God for such a wonderful teacher and example.
We were more than Pastor and member, teacher and student, more than friends. We were brothers in Christ, to the fullest measure of that saying.
I miss you already Pastor. But I’ll see you soon.