JOHN NELSON PARR
John Nelson Parr, Fleetwood, Lancs. England.
“Incredible”: autobiography of John Nelson Parr — Contents
Chapter Nineteen: An Incredible Service
INCREDIBLE EVANGELIST TO THE WORLD
In November, 1964, my wife and myself went by air to Florida to conduct crusades and this commenced my world-wide ministry in Belgium, Florida, California, South Africa and in various towns in the British Isles, in addition to my ministry on various radio stations. We have travelled over 70,000 miles and had the joy of seeing hundreds accept the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour.
Just before we left for what proved to be the greatest soul winning crusades of this period in South Africa, the following report appeared in the “Manchester Evening News”.
“Evangelist to the World.” Beryl Jones meets a veteran Manchester evangelist who has built up a large congregation and is in demand as a preacher overseas. Just back from the U.S. he is preparing for a South African tour.The meetings held in most of the churches in South Africa were absolutely colossal and especially the Christmas Convention Meetings convened by Pastor Nicholas Benghu. There would be about ten thousand Bantu Africans at these meetings and the blessing, the power, the glory and presence of God in those Christmas Meetings baffle description. At the first Crusade held in South Africa two men came to Christ; one was a criminal and the other an atheist. The pastor said if nothing else happens while you are in South Africa it has been well worth coming to get those two men to Christ. The following extract from a letter dated June 20th, 1968, received from Pastor J. S. W. Bond. B.A.(Theol.), Chairman of the General Executive, Assemblies of God (South Africa) speaks for itself.
One of the greatest blessings in the life of former Manchester minister Mr. John Nelson Parr was that God stopped him entering a theological seminary.
This unorthodox evangelist, who at the age of 80 had just returned from a preaching tour of California and is now planning one in South Africa, says that firmly and with only a hint of a twinkle.
He goes on to explain: “My education in Manchester did not get very high, but I taught myself Latin and Greek to pass the entry exam and go to the seminary with a friend of mine.
“I pulled out at the last minute after a talk with a minister whose brother had been there. My friend went, and came out a ‘higher critic’, as we called it then. Now we’d call them modernists.”
Which more or less covers his views on conversational parsons who meet their critics more than half way.
“They are missing the bull’s-eye by trying to adapt the Christian message to the moods of the age in this way,” he says.
“I agree that Billy Graham’s style is old fashioned, and be is doing tremendously good work. He is on par with the great Americans of the past, like Moody.
“The best things in life are old fashioned, like oranges and bananas, and I’m told I’m old fashioned too. I thump the pulpit, but not all the time. That’s bad for the pulpit.”
His wife, 65-year-old Elsie Parr—they were married three years ago, a widow and widower, as he was “retiring” chimes in: “He’s forthright and down to earth. He doesn’t mince matters.” Her husband chuckles: “Some people say pugnacious.”
In America he is known as “the Reverend”, and he has collected three honorary doctorates. In Britain he is “Mr.” and to people all over the world he is a friend’s voice on the radio, making fortnightly recordings in Manchester for transmission from several radio stations. He has thousands of letters from a score of countries to prove it.
After 47 years as minister of the Pentecostal Church in Longsight, he is still on a voyage of discovery of the world and humanity. He was first invited to America in 1946 by ex-GIs who had attended his church when they were stationed at Burtonwood—“they discovered an Englishman could preach”—and has been back three times for lengthy tours as well as visiting Russia and East and West European countries.
Under the angelically white hair, like a flattened aureole (“Is it real?” a Californian woman asked Mrs. Parr) his eyes are keen for human oddity and his curiosity is never satisfied.
Taken through San Francisco to see the Hippies (“They inject drugs in their hips, and they are 50 times worse than our beatniks”) he noticed one Hippie selling magazines, and immediately asked his driver to stop “because I wanted to find out all about them.”
Unfortunately, the magazine turned out to be “the most disgusting thing I had ever seen in my life”.
He quickly denies American allegations of British immorality and godlessness.
“There’s glue sniffing, for instance. I’d never heard of it, but apparently it’s all over America. And the students at the University of California—you never saw such specimens. Some of them walk the streets in bare feet I was told, because they wanted to keep humble.”
Mrs. Parr interjects with a touch of his forthrightness: “Their expressions didn’t justify it”.
But he adds just a little wistfully: “They are more generous to their ministers than English congregations. It’s quite a common thing for a new car to be brought to the minister’s door on an anniversary or his birthday.
He might have been a leading businessman, for he was one of Geoffrey de Havilland’s staff when the firm had only 150 men.
“He sent me up in an open plane in 1917, and the pilot shouted: ‘We’ve lost a wheel, so hold tight as we land’.”
Or he might have been a diplomat. The European Evangelistic Society, of which he is chairman, sent him to Russia to discover what had happened to 300 ministers who were jailed or exiled.
“I left the inquiries until my last night, then I felt nothing much could happen even if it was all reported.” he says drily. And he got the information — the ministers had been released after Stalin’s death, though their chairman had died in Siberia.
But he was converted at a Manchester meeting when he was 17 and that shaped his life, sending him first to part-time preaching and then to the full-time ministry.
“We believe Jesus Christ is coming again,” he says with breathtakingly simple sincerity. “I decided it was possible he might come in my lifetime, so why stay in business and make money when I could go out and save thousands of people?
“When I was 65 I dedicated my life afresh to God and asked Him to enable me to bring more people to Christ in the next 10 years than I had in all my previous life.”
Yes, he says promptly, he thinks he has saved thousands of people.
“I didn’t know how it was going to be done, but then I received a phone call asking me to broadcast on a religious programme,” he says.
He gives individual instances, a crippled millionaire he met in Florida (“We called him the diamond worshipper”), and a 21-year-old criminal in an American prison (“A month later his pastor told me he was definitely a changed man”).
“We’re the Pentecostal Rolling Stones” she chuckles. “After working as a canteen manageress in Romiley for years, I’d dreamed of retiring to the seaside and we only come here to rest between trips!
“On the South African tour, which starts in November, Mr. Parr will find his Pentecostal congregations carefully divided into three, African, Coloured and European.”
Dear Brother Parr,Appendix A
Last week I attended Executive meetings in Johannesburg. I was asked by the Executive to write to you expressing the gratitude of our Fellowship for the very blessed tour of our Assemblies which you have just completed.
This task is, of course, a great pleasure for me, since I shall always remember with joy the fellowship we had with you and Sister Parr. I would like you to know that many of our Assemblies have found that your visit to them was a milestone in their assembly life.
In Cape Town we certainly feel that this was so. Your ministry among us was deeply appreciated, but the effect of your vision will transcend in importance anything that you achieved directly while you were among us. Thank you sincerely for what you brought, and for what you left behind. May God spare you for many more such tours. You can rest assured that they are fruitful. Perhaps they could prove even more fruitful than your many years of successful ministry in Bethshan Tabernacle, blessed as those have been.
I do trust that you will remember us all in South Africa, and do not forget your promise to celebrate your hundredth birthday by giving us a campaign in Cape Town.