Bruce Berryman - Promoted To Glory

Bruce Berryman - Promoted To Glory

4 May 2009

(A tribute to the Leader of the 90s Red Shed Revival)

Reading: Hebrews 11

In recent weeks, Bruce said to me on a number of occasions, "Brother, I'm preparing practically for the worst. But I'm hoping and believing for the best." Part of his preparing for the worst, included talking a little bit about his funeral. He was unusually adamant about two things. Firstly, that I should deliver a eulogy...his choice of words. Secondly, that there would be much laughter at this service. Sadly, I cannot contribute much to the laughter, because Bruce's loss for me is too grievous. I mourn the loss of a very dear and close personal friend. And I grieve that New Zealand has lost one of its greatest modern revivalists. These days, it seems to me, that every second chorus is about revival...and every man and his dog is a revival expert. In fact, very, very few Christians actually carry about in their hearts and spirits the seeds and the sparks of revival...described by someone as, "A work of God, which consists of a powerful intensification of the ordinary work of the Holy Spirit (convicting, converting, regenerating) poured out upon large numbers of people at the same time". Bruce did carry revival seeds and revival sparks.

He was one of that rare breed created by God to cry out over cities and provinces and nations along with the great Isaiah, "Oh, that You would rend the heavens, that You would come down, that the mountains might flow down at Your presence." He was prepared repeatedly to risk everything, to risk the loss of everything, for the possibility, for the faint chance that God might open Heaven over us, even for a few brief minutes. So that His power from on high could rain down upon us, and make all things new. He was, in the words of the great 16th C intercessor, Teresa of Avila, "Like the apostles, flinging it all aside and catching fire with love of God."

I am very, very sorry, but I have to say in the words of verse 38 of our Scripture reading, "Of him the world was not worthy...He was a man the world was unworthy to contain...The world did not deserve a man like that." Neither the world nor the Church deserved Bruce Berryman. He was quite simply too good for us, and as Leonard Cohen has sung, "He sank beneath our wisdom like a stone." And yet in spite of this, Jesus did send him to us. As it says in Ephesians 4.8, "Jesus ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and He gave gifts of men (such as Bruce) unto us."

How easy it is to eulogise such a man. For "eulogise" means to praise and to bless. When John the Baptist's father recovered the power of speech, it says in Luke 1.64 that he eulogised and praised God. But also in Matthew 14.19, it records that when the Lord multiplied the loaves and the fishes, He eulogised, He blessed them, He gave thanks.

Above all things this afternoon, I eulogise, I bless, I give thanks for Bruce's humility, his modesty, his determination to take the lowest place...which is the greatest mark of Godliness, for our God is in His heart of hearts essentially humble. This may come as a terrible shock to some of today's men of faith and power, who glory in the size of their churches, their bank balances, their houses and their vehicles. For the King and Head of the Church (as we are taught in Philippians 2.6), "did not regard His equality to God as a thing to be clutched to Himself. So far from that, He emptied Himself, and really and truly became a servant, and was made for a time exactly like men. In a human form that all could see, He accepted such a depth of humiliation that He was prepared to die, and to die on a cross." As the Lord said in His own words (in Matthew 11.29), "Learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly, humble of heart".

In fact Bruce's legendary and somewhat zany sense of humour can be traced back, I believe, to his humility. For it was definitely not of the bully-boy variety, which laughs to highlight and ridicule the failings of others. He loved to make us laugh over his own foibles and idiosyncrasies, hoping that might help to ease our own struggles and difficulties and disappointments.

Bruce was a considerable evangelist, who loved and lived to tell others in the words of John Newton (the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace"), "I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I wish to be. I am not even what I hope to be. But, by the Cross of Christ, I am not what I was."

He was also a compassionate and highly intelligent pastor-teacher, who understood along with the great Baptist pulpiteer, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, "Preaching is not child's play. It is not a thing to be done without labour and anxiety. It is a solemn work. It is awful work, if you view it in its relation to eternity."

And he most definitely deserves to share the mighty Finney's epitaph, "He narrowed his mind to revival."

If there are any here today who desire to follow in Bruce's revivalist footsteps, then look no further than his modesty and his lowliness of heart. The Apostle James(4.6) teaches, "God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble." Likewise Peter confirms in his first letter (5.5), "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

I bless the altar boy, who studied Latin through secondary school, perhaps pondering the priesthood. I bless the wiry 1st XV loose forward, always playing and punching above his weight. I bless the hippy in his van with the union jack. I bless the missionary to Asia, whom God sent back to us. But most of all, I praise and bless my friend, who was able to pray with complete authenticity along with Kathryn Kuhlman, "I ask but one thing. Take not Your Holy Spirit from me. For without Him, I shall surely die."

The last time we spoke about revival was by phone a short time ago. I read him excerpts from a venerable account of a local church revival in Scotland in the 1830s. As we spoke, the warming presence of the Holy Spirit settled about us. I quote.-

"While pressing upon them immediate acceptance of Christ with due solemnity, the whole vast assembly were overpowered. The Holy Spirit seemed to come down as a mighty rushing wind, and to fill the place. Very many were that day struck to the heart. The sanctuary was filled with distressed and inquiring souls. A vast number pressed in with awful eagerness. Meetings were held every day for many weeks. The whole town was moved. All Scotland heard the glad news that the sky was no longer as brass - that the rain had begun to fall."

This was ever Bruce's dream; that the sky over New Zealand would no longer be as brass...that the rain would begin to fall. I implore you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ...keep his dream alive.