Why evangelicals will miss Melvin Tinker, not a celebrity but a prophetic teacher

It’s strange how you can feel sorrow at the death of someone you have never met. Sometimes it is just general human compassion that causes you to sorrow over the death of a person you hear about in another land. Sometimes it is a celebrity that we think we know. And then there is a specifically Christian sorrow – when someone whom we have never met, yet who has greatly helped us, or has been a source of fellowship – or of much wider use to the Church – goes to glory.

In his letter to the Romans Paul writes about how he longs to see them, to be with them and to share with them.  He writes with deep affection and love of people, most of whom he has not met and does not know.  The bounds of Christian fellowship run deep.

I thought of this when I heard this week of the death of Melvin Tinker, a 66-year-old, ex Anglican vicar from the city of Hull in England.   In the eyes of the Lord all the deaths of his saints are precious in his sight (Ps 116:15), but there are some deaths, which those of us who are left on earth, feel more deeply.  The loss of Melvin Tinker is one such. “A commander and great man has fallen in Israel today” (2 Samuel 3:38).

I suspect that most of the readers of Eternity will not have heard of this preacher from a far-off land. He was not a celebrity, did not have a TV station or travel the world with his entourage. He came from a coal mining background – and though he hadn’t read a book until his mid-teens – he ended up writing over 15 of them!  He was an intelligent, compassionate and biblical pastor – leading his people through some deeply troubled waters. And therein lies his importance for Australian readers. We have all heard the bad news about celebrity pastors and evangelists who have not finished the race well – if they were ever in it! But we don’t hear so often about those who humbly serve, whose finish brings glory to God and encouragement to his people. There are two areas where we can learn a great deal from Melvin Tinker.

Firstly, as an example of a faithful leader and pastor. As his friend Gavin Ashenden put it “Under his ministry his congregation grew energetically. He showed the Church of England how pastoral ministry and intelligent, faithful, biblical preaching could open peoples’ hearts and carry they into the arms of Jesus.” Yet the Church of England rejected him. When he was invited to preach for student Christian groups in cathedrals – he was sometimes banned. He refused to give into the spirit of the age and to compromise any biblical teaching.  But he also refused to give in to a spirit of despair and cynicism. He did not become bitter – even when he led his congregation out of the Church of England – the largest one to leave so far. Whereas his friend Gavin Ashenden went to the Catholics, Melvin remained faithful to the evangelical doctrines he preached and set up a new grouping. He was also not afraid to call out sin and wrongdoing in his own tribe either.

Secondly as a prophetic teacher.  This is what got him in so much trouble.  If he had kept his head down and just got on with his local pastoral ministry, doubtless the C of E establishment would have been happy to take their money, and leave them to get on doing the Lord’s work in their own way. But Melvin had a wider vision. In his book That Hideous Strength he wrote:” “Wilberforce used both hands, the right hand of proclaiming the gospel, and the left hand of refuting present-day ideas and values, using all the means at his disposal to effect change. This took great courage”. Melvin followed that example.

If there is one book, I would recommend for understanding where we are in today’s Western culture I would suggest that you get a copy of That Hideous Strength. Even though it is only a  short book it will enlighten, inform and encourage you.  In my view, this should be in every church library and every Christian home in Australia! https://theweeflea.com/2018/11/20/that-hideous-strength-how-the-west-was-lost-melvin-tinker-part-1/

I never met Melvin – but through the wonders of modern technology, I got to interview and share with him.  https://theweeflea.com/2021/11/25/coffee-with-job-69-pure-gold-and-melvin-tinker/. It was a stimulating experience.

I cannot help but wonder whether the removal of leaders like Melvin, whilst a mercy to him, is a judgement upon us?  Or maybe the Lord will have mercy and raise up such courageous, gracious, prophetic leaders in our day?

“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.”   (Revelation 14:13)

David Robertson

The ASK Project – https://www.newchurches.org.au/ask/