Pristine Grace

A Tribute to a Faithful Pastor
Henry Mahan
August 19, 1926 - May 31, 2019
by Don Fortner
A Tribute to a Faithful Pastor

     It seems to me that in every generation God raises up one specific man by whose voice he leads and instructs his church. Oh, there are many, many others, faithful, gifted men by whom God speaks to his people. But they, too, are taught and led of God by his singular, gifted messenger to that generation. Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, John the Baptist, and the Apostle Paul are all biblical examples of such men.

     In my opinion, Bro. Henry Mahan was that voice in his generation, at least in the United States, if not the entire English-speaking world. That statement will raise many questioning, if not disdaining, eyebrows. But, in my opinion, the statement is not an exaggeration. I know of no single man who was more widely used of God for the furtherance of the gospel than Pastor Henry Mahan. I know of no single man to whom so many preachers and so many churches are so greatly indebted.

     Bro. Mahan was pastor to God’s saints in Ashland, Kentucky for 54 years. In all those years he proved himself faithful to Christ, faithful in preaching the gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ, and faithful to the people he served. He was equally faithful to other gospel preachers and other gospel churches. He gave himself tirelessly to the work of the ministry. He was generous to his own injury. I never knew him to say or do anything to promote or enrich himself. I know that he did much to promote other men and their ministries. He and the congregation he served so faithfully generously supported gospel preaching missionaries, pastors, and churches around the world.

     More than any man known to me in history, since the apostles, Pastor Henry Mahan taught this generation, and taught us correctly, that Jesus Christ and him crucified is the message of Holy Scripture. Almost every conservative pastor or theologian acknowledges that Christ is the central message of the Bible. But the Scriptures clearly teach that he is more than the central message of Scripture. — Jesus Christ and him crucified is the singular message of Holy Scripture (Luke 24:25-32, 44-47). In the Book of God, “Christ is All.”

     The Lord God graciously brought three men into my life at crucial, decisive times, whose influence upon me has not ceased. In 1969, when I was nineteen, years old, I met Pastor Ron Rumburg who taught me by word and by example the necessity of study. A faithful pastor must be a man of relentless study, one who diligently prepares to preach. That same year I met Pastor Harry Graham who, by word and by example, taught me that a preacher must be a man of unbending boldness. In 1976 God graciously brought Pastor Henry Mahan in my life. By word and by example, he was used of God to exemplify and reinforce the necessity of study and of boldness. But Bro. Mahan taught me a third lesson, one every preacher must learn. At the end of my first visit with him in his office at Ashland, he pointed me to those words in Colossians 3:11, “Christ is all,” and said, “Young man, if you ever learn that, you will learn what it is to preach the gospel; and the Lord might use you.”