October 22, 2019
I was unemployed when 17 years ago a phone invitation changed much about my life. Dr. Lon Allison was putting together a mentoring group for evangelism leadership called the “Star Fellowship,” and inquired if I might be interested in joining. I explained I wasn’t leading and was rather dormant, but that hadn’t fazed Lon. I gladly joined his new group.
For the past 17 years, Lon had gathered the members of our group for a 5-day retreat of growth, accountability, rest and fun. Away from any work, the agenda was always the same: go deeper in personal devotion to Christ, go broader in cultural understanding, and go higher in reaching people with Christ’s love. There was always good teaching via a book that was shaping Lon, often with the author on site. Our 10-year reunion was with teacher and pastor Eugene Peterson, tucked at a church retreat center near Eugene’s Montana home. Lon tried not to beam with pride as a hero of his, the esteemed author of “The Message,” applauded Lon for taking care of workers and pastors in evangelism in a sacrificial, life-shaping way. Eugene knew Lon, (second from right) was a rock star, we all did too.
Lon was a founding member of the American Board for Context TV. He taught at our first staff retreat to launch us. His schedule, always booked a year or more in advance, was carefully protected. But that week, Lon had a funeral of a dear friend. I remember moving to reschedule the Context retreat. Still, Lon explained he had discussed the conflict with his family, and together they had agreed the best way to honour his friend’s memory would be to launch more people, using media, into God’s strength, and that’s what Lon did at that early Context staff retreat.
The fine Ed Stetzer has written far more eloquently about amazing pastor Lon, and I know there are so many of us remembering how Lon’s fantastic wife Marie, and amazing children shared Lon with the world. (Short video link here of Lon in 2017 Germany, explaining the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation).
I last interviewed Lon in 2018 for a book I wrote on healing, where he said: “Did we search out therapies, both medical and holistic? Yes, but not in lieu of the spiritual search. I spent more time meditating on the sovereignty and love of God than I did on chemotherapy vs. radiation and so on. The benefit is that it gave us a spiritual buoyancy through everything. If someone is consumed by their disease, consumed about getting well, then I think they are probably in sin because they have made health an idol. I have never seen the righteous not have peace in the face of a terminal illness. I’ve never seen the righteous ones who are suffering greatly, not have the optimistic glow of God’s presence and control.”
Last month was the last time the Star Fellowship met with Lon on earth. It was holy ground, and a precious evening together.
So many of us will miss Lon deeply. We are far healthier in our souls because Lon walked and taught among us.
Here’s to continuing Lon’s legacy of mentoring!