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Peter Jeffery (1937-2017)

October 2017 | by Mike Iliff

Peter was born in 1937. In 1955, aged 17, he became a Christian, even though that same day he had vowed, ‘I will never become a Christian!’

He married his high school sweetheart, Lorna, at the age of 21 and they had their first child two years later. Nine days after the birth, the baby died of spina bifida. Though Peter had been preaching since he was 18, this was used by God to call him into Christ’s service.

He was ordained to the ministry in 1963, aged 25, and served as minister of Ebenezer Congregational Church in Cwmbran, Wales. In 1972 he accepted a call to Rugby Evangelical Free Church, in Railway Terrace, where he ministered until 1986. During his time at Rugby, the church experienced a period of special blessing, with very many being converted.

He ministered at Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ first church, Bethlehem Evangelical Church, in Port Talbot, South Wales, until 1994 and afterwards undertook an itinerant ministry of preaching and evangelism at churches and conferences in the UK, Ireland, Australia, Spain and the USA.

Peter Jeffery authored over 40 books, many written for new Christians or for those seeking Christ. His Seeking God, All things new, Walk worthy and Bitesize theology were a particular help to readers.

Peter passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family, on 10 August. His funeral took place at Baglan Community Church, Port Talbot. He leaves a widow and three married children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mike Iliff has written the following tribute for Evangelical Times:

Trying to put into words the incalculable debt under God myself and so many others owe to Peter isn’t easy. Living through those blessed years at Rugby left a mark on us.

Forgive the personal nature of this account, but, if it stirs up thankfulness to God and refreshes our zeal for Christ and the gospel, then all the praise goes to our glorious Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

‘Freaked out’

In September 1979, I walked into Rugby’s Christian bookshop (run by a local Charismatic church) and announced to Wally, the manager, ‘I’m saved!’; followed by ‘I need a Bible’ and ‘I need to go to church’.

He could have sent me anywhere and I would have gone. But he said, ‘Go to Railway Terrace. Peter Jeffery is the pastor there. He’s a good man and you will get good teaching’. That was the first time I heard of Peter Jeffery and ‘The Terrace’.

Knowing absolutely nothing, in the providence of God I turned up to a ‘Terrace’ anniversary service. Peter faithfully and powerfully proclaimed the glorious gospel of the grace of God and, over the following years, nurtured and grounded many of us with no church background in the faith.

What a shock the first prayer meeting was — a completely new experience! Afterward Peter shook my hand and I said, ‘Man, you freak me out!’ He replied, ‘Come back again next week, and we’ll freak you out again’. Classic!

Some weeks later, a few of us visited him at the manse. In the study we showed him our New English Bibles. But he told us to dump them in the bin and get NIV’s, which of course we did. His doctrine wasn’t cold, but warm and experiential, warning us not to lose our love and become cold-hearted as we discovered the doctrines of grace.

God’s grace

Another time I decided to visit without warning. Peter came to the door with a look of consternation. ‘What’s the problem?’, he said. ‘There isn’t one. I just thought I’d come and visit’. A look of relief came over him and, with a smile, he said, ‘Come in. Come into the study’.

The grace of God changed our lives forever and we became gospel men. We got to know the gospel and love the preaching of the cross of Christ. We came to know what the gospel isn’t, as well; Peter tuned our gospel radars.

He spent time with me, and not just me — he was doing this with many others as well. He helped me with my first sermon. He encouraged me to read church history (C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography and then Arnold Dallimore’s George Whitefield).

My wife Sue was converted under his ministry, and my mum and dad. He baptised all four of us and married my parents before God. They had previously been married at a registry office.

There are so many things to say. He encouraged us in open-air work. He took Trevor Thomas and myself with him to Spain, where we witnessed a man of God. He encouraged Sue and I to lead a ministry for the young people.

My dad loved him, because he was straight to the point and called a spade a spade. He visited my parents, I think just before they were saved, or maybe just after. Dad loved to do his garden on a Sunday and said, ‘But what about my garden’. Peter replied, ‘Well Maurice, it’s your garden or the Lord’. That was Peter!

Herald of the truth

He was a preacher, heralding the truth of the gospel. He preached for a response, with pointed application and ‘as a dying man to dying men’. When preaching on the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) he wept in the pulpit, saying, ‘If I wasn’t affected by the preaching of hell, I would never preach again’. He preached passionately and powerfully, especially when preaching the cross of Christ.

Some were offended by his message. ‘Who does that man think he is telling me I’m a sinner?’ But Peter uncompromisingly heralded the King’s message. Even through ill health, he was undaunted in his work for Christ. A lot of us regularly received booklets, tracts or CDs through the post. Just the week before he departed, a booklet on Hosea dropped through my letterbox.

He preached of a righteousness from God, revealed from heaven. All we have in ourselves is unrighteousness, but Jesus is our righteousness; he is all the sinner needs. He would preach, ‘Take all your bad deeds and put them in a heap. Take all your good deeds and put them in a heap. And flee from both of them to Christ and the cross, for forgiveness, pardon and justification’.

His preaching wasn’t merely from a strong personality; it was Holy Spirit anointed. Part of his explanation for this were the prayer meetings on Saturday mornings and before the Sunday evening services.

Prayer and preaching

Peter would read a short passage from Scripture and then say to Will Sale, ‘Would you pray to start us off’ — and that was it for the next hour! There was prayer for revival and for the preaching on the Lord’s day. Occasionally the room would be full of people wanting to pray. With a few minutes to spare, he would then be off to the vestry.

We thank God for the ministry of Peter Jeffery. As the years pass, we realise more and more just how important those foundational years were to us as young believers. It isn’t really about us or Peter. If he taught us anything, it’s all about Christ and the gospel. This tribute comes with that realisation.

Peter is with Christ in glory, with my Sue, mum, dad, and with many others who thank God for Peter, who, like John the Baptist, preached: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’.

Maybe you have enjoyed reading this, but even now are still standing in your own righteousness. Why do that? The righteousness of God is offered to you in the gospel, through the blood of Christ. Flee to Christ and find a welcome from the Saviour who is mighty to save!