A tribute to J.I. Packer from MTS’ Director of Training

Eric Thurston, MTS Director of Training, with J.I. Packer.


Christians around the world are mourning the death of J.I. Packer, evangelical theologian and leader. Packer died on 17 July, five days short of his 94th birthday.

While Packer is rightly being recognised by many for his contributions to evangelical scholarship, his engaging preaching, and for writing a number of influential books, MTS’ Director of Training Eric Thurston has another insight into Packer’s ministry.

Packer was a staunch supporter of ministry apprenticeships in Canada, where he was linked to training organisation The Artizo Institute at his home church of St John’s Vancouver. Artizo is the Canadian counterpart to MTS. Eric previously worked for Artizo, and shares…

Dr Packer was not only a great supporter of Artizo in the public sphere, but also supported it generously with his time and gifts.  Here are two special examples.  

Imagine preaching publicly for your first time in Dr Packer’s home service! Dr Packer understood the significance of the moment for the new preacher. He would always sit down with them one to one at the back of the church after the service and carefully talk through their sermon with them. The feedback was always wise, gracious and encouraging.  

The apprentices also had the opportunity to “Ask Dr Packer” when he visited our weekly training sessions twice each year. The questions ranged from “What is your favourite music?”(Jazz) to “What do you see as the most dangerous theological movement of our time?”. This question could well be given an answer which included a wide-ranging discussion of biblical teaching, theology and church history.

He was certainly one of the smartest men I will ever know, but one of his great gifts was communicating his thoughts so clearly and carefully that anyone could understand. He was funny, humble and self-effacing and above all committed to Christ and protecting biblical truth, and training young leaders to do the same.  

While we who remain mourn the loss of such a champion of the gospel, let us rejoice in how God used J.I. Packer to teach and shape so many followers of Jesus.

And let us rejoice most of all that he is now in the presence of the Lord he loved so deeply.