Malcolm Laver

Malcolm Charles Laver (1936-2024)

Malcolm Laver was General Secretary of FIEC between 1988 and 1998. He went to glory in May and his funeral was held in Suffolk this week. Retired FIEC Pastoral Ministries Director Richard Underwood pays tribute.

Every now and then, God raises up a spiritual giant. One such man was my hero, Barnabas. It’s easy to see Barnabas simply as Paul’s number two with a gift for putting his arms around slumped shoulders. The fact is, we owe a great deal to Barnabas.

It was he who gave shape to the world’s first Gentile church; who saw great gospel growth in Antioch; who coaxed Saul out of the shadows in Tarsus; and, under God, pioneered the first international mission movement. Above all, Barnabas possessed the ability to see the grace of God and be glad.

Another man with that gift was Malcolm Laver, to whom FIEC owes a great deal.

The heart of the FIEC vision

Although formed in 1922, the Fellowship was arguably still in its developmental infancy when Malcolm was invited to take up the role of Assistant General Secretary in 1979. For the next five years, he worked alongside the then General Secretary, David Mingard. In 1988, he took on full responsibility, holding the post of General Secretary until his retirement in 1998.

I say “retirement” but I’m not sure Malcolm fully grasped the concept because, along with others, he went on to establish a ground-breaking ministry called the FIEC Pastors’ Association - now the Pastors Network - a ministry he served as Secretary from its inception until 2002.

These are the bare facts, but the bare facts never tell the whole story. In so many ways, Malcolm embodied the heart of the FIEC vision.

He was conservative in his theology. Although he wasn’t afraid to take risks for the gospel, he was never willing to take risks with it. The good news of Jesus and his love was safe in Malcolm’s hands.

He was contemporary in culture. He recognised that whilst the gospel doesn’t change, culture and circumstances do. And churches must learn to adapt to a changing world.

Malcolm recognised that what was true for the local church was equally true for FIEC. During his period as General Secretary, he worked quietly behind the scenes to modernise and professionalise the Fellowship’s operations.

Most significantly, he recruited a first-class administrator in Rod Badams and a visionary and energetic young leader called Bev Savage. Bev was later to succeed him as General Secretary and, together, they oversaw a programme called “Partners in Progress” which led to a radical restructuring of FIEC in the 1990s. You’d never find Malcolm stuck in a rut!

Conservative in theology. Contemporary in culture. But Malcolm was also conciliatory in his personal dealings. He was not a controversialist; he was a peacemaker. Like Barnabas, he possessed the happy knack of encouraging the good wherever he found it.

I know this from personal experience. I visited him on several occasions but two stick in my mind in particular.

I remember his kind encouragement when I was first approached to take on the role of General Secretary myself in 2004. He didn’t make light of my huge reservations but urged me to commit my way to the Lord and press forward in dependence on Him.

The second was six years later when I shared some thoughts about restructuring the FIEC for ‘a new day’. As I outlined our proposals, he must have thought we were mad. If so, he kept his own counsel and rejoiced in our vision and our desire to stretch out in reaching a lost nation for Christ. Once again, and with a characteristic smile, he urged us to press on.

On the shoulders of gentle giants

Today, FIEC’s vision remains the same. The Fellowship has grown both in numbers and in influence. Under God, it has become a force to be reckoned with in the evangelical world. But that has only been possible because today’s leaders have been able to stand on the shoulders of a gentle giant like Malcolm who went before.

And if I’m right in thinking that we really are surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses, none will be cheering more loudly for the churches of FIEC in the days to come than Malcolm Laver.

Malcolm's memory brings a smile to my face. The thought that his earthly race is over and he has been caught up in the embrace of the Saviour he loved brings joy to my heart.

Malcolm; we honour his memory and thank God for our Barnabas!

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