And Why We Need His Gifting Today
For many of us, he was larger than life. He’d sit at the piano, lead in worship, and bring us straight into the presence of the Lord. He’d then stand, open the Bible, and do what he was uniquely gifted to do. He’d feed our souls with God’s word.
That song, that voice, was silenced in 1998 when he suffered a stroke.
If you read nothing else, I’d like to introduce you to him. Of all his sermons, the one people remember most, “Life On Wings,” is available to you free of charge. I encourage you to visit his extensive website, with more than five hundred teachings, and download it (www.lifeonwings.org).
But, if you have time, I’d like to tell you more about him.
Most people, when thinking about Terry, remember the special anointing he had to teach the Bible. He had a stunning gift from God to lead the unconverted to the Cross and the converted to an empowered life in Christ.
With all his heart, he believed that if we submitted ourselves under the Headship of Jesus Christ, we could know the perfect will of the Father for our lives. We’d learn as Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, to walk in and fulfill the plans God has for us from the foundations of the world.
And the same principle, he taught emphatically, was true for our churches.
As rector of St. Paul’s Darien, Connecticut for seventeen years, he lived what he taught. He believed that church leadership needed to know the first principles of how to pray and walk together – not in division – not in majority rule – but in the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit. This, he taught, is the gift of Jesus, Head of the Church, as He leads His body into mission and service.
For many, this one teaching changed their lives – and their churches. 1
Clergy and lay leaders from all over the world came to St. Paul’s Darien to hear Terry preach and to see this principle lived in the real life experience of a church submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I think it surprised Terry that something so basic, so clear in the pages of Scripture, was such a surprising revelation to so many.
And it was.
Soon enough, clergy were openly confessing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives – many for the first time. Vestries were beginning to step into the “new life” that comes when Jesus Christ is recognized as presiding over their church – even over the most common, daily business decisions.
The experience of it brought “renewal” to churches all over the world.
And Erilynne and I got to see it – firsthand. She started attending St. Paul’s in 1975. We met there in ‘78, married in ‘81, and until we left in ‘87, mentored under this great man of God who was, to us, a father in the faith.
Terry Fullam -- pastor, preacher, counselor, worship leader.
But there was something more.
He would never have called himself an “Apostle.” In one sense, that unique title belonged to the first century apostles, appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and would never again be repeated. But, in another sense, there is given to the Church, by the Lord, the gift of apostleship as recorded in Ephesians 4:11.
And that was Terry. In the most general meaning, it refers to one “sent.” For years, he was sent out from St. Paul’s to travel the world to preach the message of new life that comes in Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
But there was more to it than that.
With this gift came authority. Authority in the way he preached the Bible. Authority in the way he could stand in front of a congregation – not in arrogance, but with humility – and open a service with the words, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Or, at times, as he brought gentle but firm correction.
“My dear people,” I heard him say in church once. “The worship this morning is abominable. Have you forgotten that we are singing to the God of the universe and to His Son who is King of kings and Lord of lords?” And he’d make us sing it again until our song turned into holy worship before our Lord.
He had presence. He had an apostolic authority given to him by God.
On some level, he knew it. On November 26, 1989, Terry gave his final sermon as the rector of St. Paul’s Darien. In that sermon, he echoed the warning of the apostle Paul to the Ephesian elders, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock…” (Acts 20:29).
There is something about the apostolic gifting that keeps the savage wolves away. It protects the Church from division, from strife, jealousy, in-fighting, false doctrine, and every assault of the evil one against the Church. It keeps, guards, encourages, uplifts, and unifies the Church in Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is the Terry I knew.
I have rarely seen the strength of this gifting in our Lord’s Church. But I know this, because I had front row seats to see it, we need this gifting today. We need our churches strong for the battles ahead if we’re going to win souls for Christ in a world spinning in ever increasing darkness and confusion.
And so, I introduce you to this dear saint of God.
May the Lord Jesus Christ be praised for His kindness in giving us His servant, Terry Fullam, for the strengthening of His Church and for the glory of Almighty God.
St. Mark’s Day, 2014