In the early hours of yesterday morning I heard the very sad news that my dear friend and fellow Every Nation Europe church planter Ray Shiels had passed away after a long-standing bout of cancer. While our grief is deep, even deeper are our feelings for Rays incredible wife Claudine, and his two awesome teenage sons Jack and Sam. And off course Rays father and family. We give them our sincerest condolences, and pledge our whole-hearted support to to help them and the Dublin church with whatever they need now and in the future.
It was about 7 years ago that Ray & Claudine sat with Ali & I in our lounge in London and shared with us their dream to plant an Every Nation church in Dublin, where Ray had grown up. It has been an incredible privilege to send them out and cover and support them from our church in London, and to see Jesus build His church in Dublin over these years.
After preaching my Sunday morning message for the London service to a video camera at 3am (!), I was on a 7am flight to Dublin to be with our church there to share the sad news and support them at their Sunday morning service. This is a very special group of God’s people – and Jesus’ promise to build His church not matter what still stands: Watch this space for the incredible church rising here in future…
On the flight to Dublin yesterday I penned these words in an attempt to express my memories of this great husband, father, preacher, pastor, architect, and very good friend:
“Ray was my friend and my Irish Kingdom co-labourer. A man with an infectious convincing passion for life, and for His Lord Jesus Christ. He walked worthy of His calling, not settling for the rewards and honour of this world. He dreamt big. As a high-flying architect he had been a part of planning and architecting many magnificent structures around the world, but his greater dream was for the church which Jesus Christ is building. He stayed true to what he believed. He always hoped. He fought bravely. He lived by conviction, definitely not for convenience and comfort. He died to self, long before he died yesterday.
Ray was a man in love with his wife Claudine. He was so proud of his two sons Jack and Sam who are fast becoming men, and who will now be forced to grow even faster. He knew and lived out his priorities of family first.
I had the privilege of laughing with Ray, of dreaming with Ray, of praying with Ray, of crying with Ray, of planning and planting churches with Ray, of standing on the upper slopes of great Alpine mountains and skiing down with Ray, and eating Goulash and drinking Glu-wien at the bottom…
Ray loved music, but more than music he loved worship, and I like thousands of others I had the privilege of worshipping with Ray. His saxophone and Irish penny-whistle seemed irresistible to the Holy Spirit. Ray brought a new sound to Ireland. He raised the spiritual temperature there. He worked for unity among the ministers and churches, and saw great fruit in this through the “Arise Dublin” initiative.
I was challenged by Ray’s life and by His passionate preaching of Gods Word. The most impacting message I ever heard himpreach was at our London church men’s weekend last year, which he entitled “Let your pain be your pulpit.” It was the story and lessons from his struggle with the cancer up to that point. It was the best “apologetic for suffering” I have ever heard (And I have heard many, by the best!). He challenged us as men to live beyond all excuses and comfort zones. He spoke of being willing to give it all up and lay your life down for the cause of Christ, if that’s what it required. Our recording equipment failed for that session, and that message was never recorded. But Ray’s life will keep telling the Great Story. His pain WAS his pulpit, and continues to be. I am sure that Ray would want nothing less than that our own pain at his loss would at this time also be our pulpit to tell the Great Story of the life which he had found through faith and hope in Christ as Saviour and Lord – a life which Ray is right now living in its fullness for eternity.
I look forward to worshipping our King Jesus again with Ray in eternity. I know that we can’t take anything with us from this life to the next, but I do hope that Ray will have his sax and Irish penny-whistle with him there, because eternity, like the past, will be all the richer with it! Until then, I and we will miss you deeply my friend.”
Live life to the max – like Ray did…
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” – Jesus
The next part below is not part of the original post, but is pasted from a follow up post to the above, which I wrote following Rays funeral where I shared the message:
In my previous blog I shared some of my personal reflections on the sad passing away of my friend and co-Europe church planter Ray Shiels, who together with his wife Claudine founded and pastured our great church in Dublin, Ireland. Over 4000 people have viewed that tribute I wrote, which is an obvious testimony to the many people whose lives Ray deeply touched.
Allow me for a moment to put on my preachers hat, and share with you some thoughts from my message at Ray’s funeral service in Dublin:
ANSWERS & ANCHORS…
I start with acknowledging that I do not understand at all why Ray died. If I were God, from my perspective, I would not have let him die. I know that “ to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” but right now heaven’s gain seems certainly to be our loss. As we try to make sense of the why? of this tragic loss of a friend/husband/father/pastor/ musician, I am aware that there are no easy answers. At the same time I know that life is not simple, and cannot be understood looked at from just one perspective. It is like a ship with one anchor which starts to drag, but then we throw out a few more anchors and these hold the ship steady in the storm. Just so, while I can’t make sense of it from one perspective, I do find that there are other strong anchors of hope and promise which can hold us all in this storm of life. Here are 3 of these relevant to us in this sad time:
1. The promise of comfort to those who mourn:
In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Mourning begins with weeping, and helps us in time to a place of being able to “live without.” “Jesus wept”, and He still heals the broken hearted.
2. The promise of a better resurrection when there is no resurrection in this life:
In John 11:25 Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies….Do you believe this?” I remind you about what Ray believed: That God loved him. That his sin separated him from God. That Christ died for the penalty of his sin. That because he repented and received Christ as his Lord and Saviour, he was forgiven and born again and right with God. That he had received the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ, and that “though he died, he will live.” My friends, do you believe this? If not, would you consider this, and like Ray repent and turn in faith towards a God who loves you? We may be separated now, but we can all join Ray in his “better resurrection” for eternity.
3. The promise of the church’s future:
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said: “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” Every Nation Dublin was not Rays church, but Jesus’ church. God’s plans and purposes continue and we know that we will be amazed at what will grow out of this seed that has “fallen to the ground and died.”
Hebrews 6:19 says that “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain…” – Ray has gone “behind the curtain” – may our anchors hold us firm and secure to continue living for Christ in this life, until we join him there. God bless you.