Like everyone else during this time, I am reflecting on the remarkable life of Chuck Colson.
"What we heard that night 'wowed' us all. He was remarkably brilliant, grasping issues at a much deeper level than I had anticipated."
Most of us recall the first time we heard him speak in person. In my case it was in the 1970's, about 1978 as best I can recall. By that time, his conversion experience was well known and he was an established author. But I did not know what to expect. What we heard that night "wowed" us all. He was remarkably brilliant, grasping issues at a much deeper level than I had anticipated.
I have been privileged to work with Chuck Colson on a variety of projects and ministries over the years. In 2008, I began to ask him for favors, to come on pastoral webcasts as we fought to defend marriage in California. He was profoundly humble and servant-minded. And I was captured by how much significant content he could pack into a few sentences.
In 2009, Bishop Salvadore Cordilieone and I shared a stage, jointly at an event in New York City. Chuck sat on the front row. His face radiated his sheer delight that a Catholic and an Evangelical had not merely worked together, but had become very close friends. He was effusive as he talked to me after our presentation.
Most recently, just before the 2010 elections, we worked closely on a large national prayer and forty day fast initiative, called "Pray and Act." He co-led this endeavor with me, but I knew quite well that it was his name which gave the endeavor credibility and visibility.
The last time I was with Mr. Colson in person was last summer. We were both speaking at the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, AL, led by Dr. Timothy George, a close associate of Chuck Colson.
We ate a meal together late that evening. We laughed about how late it was for him — but that I was on 'California time,' so I was eager to visit for quite some time. He was so affirming, and kindly agreed to speak on some upcoming Pastor's webcasts that I had scheduled. He was so gracious, but he was profoundly concerned about the state of America.
"I had no idea that would be my last time to see him on earth. There was something about him that caused us to believe like a child looking at his father, 'he will always be here!'"
On that occasion, I told him that he was truly "our collective voice." The Catholics have the Pope. As evangelicals we used to have the strong presence of Billy Graham, but age and failing health had ended that. I thanked him for the remarkable role he was now playing in American life. I did not expect that voice to be silenced so soon.
I had no idea that would be my last time to see him on earth. There was something about him that caused us to believe like a child looking at his father, "he will always be here!"
Last month, on March 25th, I had hoped to have Mr. Colson phone in to Skyline's worship services for a brief time, because we were honoring him as one of 350 persons etched in the tiles on our 250+ feet long "Heritage Walk." He was one of only 15 of the 350 who were still living. However, his staff alerted me that health issues, even then, would not allow it.
"Few of us can be assured that we have fought the good fight, and finished the race with the grace and spiritual fruit that Chuck Colson's life and ministries demonstrated."
On March 30th, a small group of us were to meet together at noon with Mr. Colson in Washington, D.C. Two days before that meeting, I had to cancel my trip due to my wife's health and ended up with her in the emergency room on March 30. It was later on that that Mr. Colson had the seizure that eventually took his life. I will always remember that day and date, both for my wife — as the doctor gave us the most bleak news regarding her cancer — and Mr. Colson's seizure.
Few of us can be assured that we have fought the good fight, and finished the race with the grace and spiritual fruit that Chuck Colson's life and ministries demonstrated. His voice was so strong. His intellect so exceptional. His inclusive ways so Christlike. I cannot imagine the Church in America without his presence. We will all miss him. So very much.