Tribute Dr Michael Eaton

Our friend Dr Michael Eaton sadly passed away in Johannesburg on Friday 9 June 2017. Our heartfelt sympathy goes to his wife Jenny, their children and grand children. 

Tribute to Dr Michael Eaton by Craig Botha during the memorial service at Cornerstone Church, Johannesburg, 15 June 2017:

It’s an honour for me to have known the Eaton family for over 30 years now and to say a few words about Michael who was not only a close friend but also a spiritual father to me and our church, Grace Generation Church Pietermaritzburg.

An African proverb says that the best time to really measure a tree is when it has fallen. How can we measure a giant like Michael, who although he was shy and even awkward socially, touched incalculable lives in Africa, the UK, South Africa and Europe through his preaching, publications, radio ministry and life? I believe Michael was not just an Ephesians 4 teacher but also a prophet to the global church in his ability to impact situations cross culturally. The fact that there are memorials taking place in SA, Nairobi and London is testimony of that. RT Kendall said ‘I regard Michael Eaton as the greatest theologian in the world today. He is an outstanding communicator who makes his writings very refreshing indeed’.

I’d like to comment briefly on three areas we felt his impact over a number of decades:

1. The Word: Michael was undoubtedly a man of the Word, not just preaching the word of truth but believing that God had more light to shed upon his word. He took us further in a host of key areas that Scripture is pointing to:

The doctrines of the gospel of grace – his doctoral thesis on ‘a theology of encouragement ’was a powerful contribution towards a non-legalistic soteriology.

The Spirit and the law – Michael believed that Christ is truly the end of the law for everyone who believes and that if we walk in the Spirit consciously we will fulfil the law unconsciously.

God’s bias towards the poor!

Inheritance and reward – Michael understood that most of the warnings of Scripture was speaking about loss of reward, not loss of salvation.

2. Michael understood what God was doing in the world – as he had positioned himself in Kenya; a context of revival which hugely influenced his handling of the content of God’s word. Michael had the privilege of moving among the churches and seeing what God was doing in different settings.

He was radical in keeping his exposition of God’s word simple and accessible to different sections of the church. I quote from the foreword of the preaching through the Bible series: ‘Just as a good housewife likes to serve a good meal rather than display the pots and pans, so the good expositor is concerned with the ‘good meal’ of Scripture, rather than the ‘pots and pans’ of dictionaries, disputed interpretations and the like’.

Michael was also radical in urging us to take Bible training back into the churches as seminaries had not always been helpful, which is something that motivated us to begin our own Africa Leadership School training. Michael was also radical in urging us to begin to publish materials for poorer Christians as most of the material coming from the richer northern hemisphere were unaffordable for those in the south where Christianity was exploding.

3. Michael’s love of people – we see this in the way he was willing to associate with anyone and touch people’s lives from refugee camps in Kenya to Westminster Chapel in London. He helped us greatly in pioneering cross-cultural churches in Khayelitsha Cape Town in 1985.

4. Let’s preserve his legacy – as has been mentioned here already. Let’s establish a trust like the Lloyd Jones trust where we can make his outstanding material available for generations to come.

In closing I want to thank the Lord for ever bringing Michael across our path and the massive way we have grown as a result of that encounter. I want also thank Marcus and the Cornerstone Church for your amazing care and love you have shown the Eaton family and in so doing served the wider body of Christ. Our prayers and love continue to go out to Jenny and the children that God may strengthen and uphold you in the days and weeks to come.