The gospel according to John — three Johns
    March 29 2011 by Billy Haselton, Special to the Recorder

    It’s a rare thing to see three generations of preachers speaking together at one service. And when they’re all named John, what would you call the event? “The Gospel According to John.”

    And their texts? First John, Second John and Third John.

    On March 6, Pastor Johnny Tiller, along with his son John David Tiller and grandson John Matthew Tiller, preached to a packed crowd at Liberty Baptist Church in Ellenboro. Great-grandson J.D. Tiller was also on hand to quote John 3:16 in English and Spanish. It was the first time the three preachers in the Tiller family had ever spoken together in the same service.

    “It was like living a legacy,” remarked David Tiller, “like the culmination of a lifetime of influence.”

    That influence began in the heart of a 13-year-old boy named Johnny Tiller back in 1939, who felt the Lord calling him to preach. Since he started to preach at age 13, Johnny, now 84, has never quit. In his seven decades of ministry, Johnny has followed God’s call in pastoring several churches in western North Carolina and now teaching at Fruitland Baptist Bible Institute in Hendersonville. He estimates that he has taught 1,500 students over the years, and countless others have been influenced for Christ through his church ministry. But, the greatest influence has been on his family.

    His son David comments that he had a drug problem growing up. “I was always ‘drug’ to revival meetings,” David remarked.

    Johnny’s grandson Matt had a different kind of drug problem.

    “Matt was on drugs and in jail — he lived a wild life,” observed Johnny.

    Young Matt had struggled with Tourette’s syndrome, a disease of the neurological system that causes a person to make involuntary movements or sounds called tics. Being teased by his peers, Matt began to rebel. That led him to turn to alcohol and drugs, and he wound up in jail. The prayers and godly influence of his father and grandfather were not lost on Matt during that time.

    Contributed photo

    Four generations of Tiller men recently took part in a special event at Liberty Baptist Church in Ellenboro. Matt Tiller, from left, J.D. Tiller, Johnny Tiller and David Tiller were part of “The Gospel According to John.”

    “I was paying attention to their example,” Matt said, “even though they didn’t think so.” Later, at a candlelight service at church, he had “an amazing encounter with God.”

    That began a new chapter in Matt’s life, which ultimately led him to surrender to preach — in Spanish. As a freshman at Gardner-Webb University, sitting in Spanish 101 class, Matt sensed that God was telling him he would preach in Spanish one day.

    A few years later, he felt a definite call to that ministry. Matt now serves as the Hispanic pastor at Liberty Baptist Church, with his wife, Adriana, who is from Costa Rica, by his side. He also teaches Spanish at East Rutherford High School.

    Because Matt has only been in the ministry since 2009, Grandpa Johnny had never heard him preach before.

    “I was surprised to hear Matt preach,” said Johnny. “He preached a powerful message, like someone who had been preaching for many years.”

    Johnny was also amazed to see how far God had brought him in such a short time, considering Matt’s checkered past. For Matt, who came up with the idea for the event, it was a humbling experience.

    “It was a great honor to preach with such men of God,” reflected Matt, “especially when it was my father and grandfather.”

    Although Johnny’s son David surrendered to the call to preach at age 25, he and his father had also never preached together at the same event — until March 6. While he was pastoring, David had his father Johnny to speak at churches where he served, but they had never preached during the same service.

    Currently, David teaches in the College of Education at Tennessee State University.

    God’s hand was obviously at work in putting together the messages preached by all three pastors.

    “We prepared our messages separately,” commented Matt, “but you could see a woven pattern. All the messages just fit together.”

    Matt preached the first sermon, based on 1 John 4. He emphasized the love of God, explaining that if God’s love has touched your heart, you’ll touch someone else. David preached a message from 2 John 8 entitled “Lost and Found.”

    He warned against losing your influence, your integrity, or your joy because of doing things your way instead of God’s way. Finally, the elder John Tiller capped off the service with a stirring challenge from 3 John entitled “Three Portraits of Today’s Church Members.”

    He used the examples of Gaius (who was easy to love), Diotrephes (who loved to be first), and Demetrius (a man of love) to highlight types of people we find in churches today.

    All three pastors were amazed at how God led them to make similar applications. Then again, since their sermons were based on the writings of John, the Apostle of Love, that would seem fitting.

    The “Gospel According to John” event was not primarily about the John Tiller family, they contend. “It’s not about us, but about bringing glory to God.”

    A DVD of this event is available for a suggested donation of $7 through T-E-A-M Ministries (Tiller Evangelism and Missions Ministries), led by Mark and Ann Tiller. For more information, contact P.O. Box 6616, Asheville, NC 28816.

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Haselton is a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and teaches English as a Second Language at Wake Technical Community College.)

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    3/29/2011 3:39:00 AM by Billy Haselton, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

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