We have lost a gifted leader and a dear friend.
We have lost a gifted leader and a dear friend. The death of Jere Patzer, 61, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Pacific Northwest, is not only the death of a personal friend—I’ve known Jere for thirty years since ministry days together in Oregon. But it is also the loss of an uncommonly gifted church administrator in our community of faith. Jere’s passion for God and his church, his energetic vision and buoyant leadership style, his personal commitment to mission lived out in his own evangelistic preaching on nearly every continent (all the while serving as an administrator), his loving devotion to family (his wife Sue and sons Darin and Troy and daughter Carissa and their four young grandchildren) and friends—it isn’t hyperbole to recognize that men like Jere are a rare gift. And I shall miss him.
I was thinking of Jere as I wrote and preached last week’s teaching on theodicy, “Is God to Blame?” Jere waged a two and a half year battle against non-Hodgkins lymphoma. His emails through that dark and difficult passage of his life, however, are not only the candid admission of suffering and pain—they are also the brave and confident testimony of a disciple of Christ, who not unlike Job, declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
In 2003 Jere wrote one of his four books, The Road Ahead: A Vision for Spiritual Leadership in the 21st Century. His autographed copy is one I now treasure. In a chapter dealing with the adversity that all leaders face, he noted that “sacrifice has always been part of leadership” (117). As an example, he cites a letter William Miller, one of the progenitors of our community of faith, wrote on May 3, 1843: “My health is on the gain, as my folks would say. I have now only twenty-two boils from the bigness of a grape to a walnut, on my shoulder, side, back, and arms. I am truly afflicted like Job. And about as many comforters—only they do not come to see me as did Job’s, and their arguments are not near so rational” (118). Touché!
Jere never embraced the evil that cut him down. Nor did Job. Nor did Jesus. But woven through the final chapter of his life was the shared testimony: “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (II Timothy 1:12).
Jere lived and led with the radical hope of Jesus’ return, as does his family, as must we all. For in a world as unsettled as ours and a life just as uncertain as his, trusting in the only One who can save us is the most rational hope of all.