Many in the church do marvelous work, often quietly and without public recognition, and those are truly the heroes of the church. One such man was David Nicholas, 79.

The heroes within ministry are those who give of themselves to others – over and over again; without ceremony or headlines or acclaim. They do the work of the Kingdom and that is all the reward they seek.

One such man was David Nicholas, 42 years in pastoral ministry at Spanish River Church (PCA) in Boca Raton, FL, who went to his Lord on January 25. His name was not a familiar one for me, but his work in church planting and leadership development impacted thousands of lives.

“Before Christ, David said that he displayed no signs of leadership whatsoever,” recalls Ryan McInerney, who worked with Nicholas in The Church Planting Network and in Gospel Boot Camp. “He privately confessed that before he met Christ as his Saviour, he was ‘running scared.’ After he met Jesus, however, he became a giant of the faith and a world class leader.”

However he saw himself, others saw him as a giant within the church. As a church planter he oversaw the supporting of nearly 300 churches in nine countries, and led more than 100 pastors through his Gospel Boot Camp that, says McInerney “prepares men to effectively preach the Gospel to the lost and the found in every message, every Sunday, without falling into the trap of the ‘seeker sensitive’ watered down Gospel and easy believism in modern evangelical America.”

Google his name and you’ll find a lot of David Nicholases around the world, just not this one. He would say that “my job is to keep my head down and my hand on the plow, to do the work that God has placed in front of me.” Still, he was close to his people and remembered your name, and your children’s names.

Notable churches that he led the supporting of are Tim Keller’s Redeemer in Manhattan, Darrin Patrick’s The Journey in St. Louis, Chan Kilgore’s CrossPointe in Orlando, and each of those have become church planting churches too. He and Mark Driscoll co-founded the Acts 29 Church Planting Network.

The night of his death he was prepping for a trip to Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI, to hold two sessions on the gospel and what he saw as his exciting ministry life. At his memorial service 2,000 people attended, with an additional 430 watching online.

Says Ryan McInerney: “Near the close of the service, Tommy Kiedis, pastor for the past two years at Spanish River Church, asked for those to stand whom had come to accept Jesus as their Lord under David’s preaching. Many estimate that upwards of two-thirds of the assembly stood. There was literally a gasp as the army of people stood.”

Beside David at all times was his beautiful wife Eleanor, whom he affectionately called “Nori.” “They had a comfy two-person chair that David would often join Nori in for time to relax and snuggle in between work at his home office,” recalls McInerney. “Everyone on staff knew that if David was out with Nori, you weren’t going to reach him. When you said her name to him his face lit up.” They were faithfully married for more than 47 years and he had three sons.

In the 19 months after leaving the pulpit he wrote a book, started the Gospel Boot Camp, revitalized local congregations in decline, started a monthly church planter gathering, and oversaw the supporting of 25 new church plants in four countries: 10 in India, four in Brazil, nine in the U.S., and one each in Haiti and Columbia.

How did he do it all? Ryan McInerney says “David kept joy at the center of his life.

With every piece of even small good news, he would burst out with a ‘Praise God.’

The gospel was central, not in just mere words, but in his heart.” That’s his living legacy to each of us in ministry.



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