John Legg went to be with the Lord he loved and served on August 23rd 2023. He was an ordinary, hard-working pastor, known by those close to him for his love of books, cricket, music and really awful puns, but most of all for his faithful ministry.
He was brought up in the Congregationalist tradition in Derbyshire and saved through the work of the Young Life ministry. At the age of 17, he went to study in London and, along with many other students at that time, benefited greatly from the ministry of Martyn Lloyd–Jones at Westminster Chapel. Whilst studying for degrees in English and then Theology, he served as president of the Christian Union at University College London (where his future wife, Beryl, was Lady Vice President) and, soon after graduation from London Bible College, was called to be the minister of a group of churches in Swaledale. Once they had recovered from the culture shock of moving from London, John and Beryl, stayed in North Yorkshire for 25 years.
For many years, John was simultaneously minister of Reeth Congregational Church and the recently formed Northallerton Evangelical Church whilst also holding down a full-time teaching job in a secondary school. He used to take a 10.30 service in Northallerton, drive the 27 miles to Reeth for a 2:30 service, and make it back for the evening service in Northallerton! During this period, at the age of 33, he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Despite this, he continued to organise the monthly North Yorkshire Bible Rallies which were a great blessing to the many people who travelled miles to hear God’s word expounded.
Alongside his ministry, John wrote numerous books and articles. One of his earliest was ‘The Church that Christ Built’ (originally published as ‘The Footsteps of God’ and now republished with that title), an introduction to church history. This title demonstrates well how he continued so faithfully for so many years, without any particular plaudits or remarkable encouragements. He really believed that he was to walk faithfully, and God would send the increase. The book grew from his approach to church history; not as a dry, academic subject, but as a fascinating view into how God’s sovereign plans have been worked out over the centuries, graciously using the efforts of his children.
In 1986, John and Beryl moved to Shrewsbury to a church which itself showed great faith in calling him with only 11 members. He continued his ministry; writing ‘Just Looking’ evangelistic small group courses for church members to bring their friends to, children’s catechisms and songs, taking school assemblies, serving on editorial boards for EP and ET and working towards his goal of knocking on every front door in what he considered his ‘parish’.
As a pastor, he believed that theology wasn’t just for theologians, but that it is edifying for all believers; enriching our understanding of our Heavenly Father and, as such, should be made accessible to everyone. Most of his books are written to this end; a commentary on Matthew (EP Welwyn series) as well as books on the lives of Elisha (Covenant Books UK), the minor prophets (Jonah and Habakkuk) and ‘Dear Tom’ (and now, Dear Beth too) - based on articles written for ET as a homage to C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters.
When he ‘retired’ in 2001 (preaching four times that week-end!), anxious not to cause any issues for his successor at Shrewsbury Evangelical Church, he moved to Cardiff to live near his daughter Viv and family. He did slow down gradually, but remained busy for many years, supporting his local church, mentoring young preachers, and preaching at innumerable fellowships, large and small, throughout South Wales and its valleys – anywhere there was an opportunity for the Gospel to be heard. A long series of mini- strokes finally prevented him from preaching and eventually took his speech from him, but he wrote one last book on a doctrine he felt is not given the pre-eminence it deserves by Christians today, although of paramount importance: the Trinity.
He will be missed by his wife, Beryl, their four children and their families. We mourn his passing, tempered by the hope that he has at last heard; ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’, from his Lord.