A Tribute to Paul Kember: Excerpts from Funeral Service

William Seale, Jr.

For any that knew Paul even just a little bit you would understand that the time that is allowed for this tribute would not begin to even speak of all that our brother has meant to so many and all that he has done. I am thankful to have heard that just two weeks ago there was public tribute given to Paul while he lived. And all of us gathered here today are here to give public tribute and to pay our last respects to a man who was a great man. I couldn't help but think of the words of David as he spoke to his servants concerning Abner, and he said "know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day."

There are a number of things, many things, that have come to my mind and a few words that have been on my heart as I thought of brother Paul, and I would just like to share them with you and pass them on as a tribute to brother Paul. The word that came to mind first of all, a word that is found in the tribute that is written on the back of your programs is that word "faithful." Paul was faithful as a husband, Paul was faithful as a father. There were times that he had to be away. He didn't want to be, he didn't like to be. Paul was faithful in his work as a shepherd amongst the people of God in his own assembly, and in the assemblies of others. Paul was faithful in the meetings of the assembly. Faithful in the gospel, faithful in the ministry of the word of God. I am only one of many who traveled literally hundreds of miles, most of the time in his little Honda, as we would go into back roads that I didn't know existed, just to knock on a door. A farm that was tucked away in the middle of nowhere, because Paul was faithful to souls.

Paul sought after individuals. He never sought after the limelight, he never sought after the spotlights. Paul had a love and a care and a burden for the hearts of souls. Paul was faithful to the truth - always faithful to the truth. While he was very kind, Paul was very direct and he never, never compromised. And one of the things that always struck me was that in Paul's life he was such a balanced man. Balanced in his ministry, balanced in the preaching of the gospel, balanced in his care of the people of God. He was faithful in admonishment and in his exhortation, he was faithful in follow-up. He was faithful in the fellowship of the believers, and there are many, had we the time, that could stand up and speak a long time and speak well of the faithfulness of brother Paul Kember.

He worked in Clinton, and he worked in Grand Bend and he worked in Berlin, and he worked in Chatham, and West Lorne and St. Thomas and Cocksackie, NY and Sarnia and London and I know I've only mentioned a few. He was faithful.

The world measures the end of our life with success. God doesn't measure us that way. God measures our lives with faithfulness. And that's why I read those words from the book of Matthew. After that servant had taken what God had given to him, the talents that God had committed to his trust, he said here are the five talents that you gave me, and here are five more.

It has been said many times in ministry of the Word of God that when any child of God goes into the glory, how nice it would be if we could take at least one soul with us. Paul will have many to bring. And many here are living testimonies to the faithfulness of Paul to their souls, and the faithfulness of the presentation of the gospel. "I have brought other five," the servant said. Yes he was indeed "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.'

But I couldn't help but think of Paul as a father. You remember the apostle Paul in writing to the Corinthian believers, he says "for though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet ye have not many fathers."

But Paul was a father to me in the work of the Lord. There are many here this morning that could say the same thing. He was one that came alongside. He was the one that when the going was a little bit rough, he'd just come and put an arm on a shoulder, an encouraging word, say "just keep pluggin. Keep at the work." That's what he was known for, he was so faithful. This is the best word to describe the way he was.

He encouraged us, and he taught us mostly by example, he taught us. He always worked side by side. There was nothing that he would ask any of us to do that he didn't and hadn't already done many times himself. And oftentimes when he came through the end of it he was dirtier than the rest of us because he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty and work side by side with us.

As an individual, as a couple, my wife and I, and I know with many others, we had a confidence in his wisdom, and his dear wife's and their advice. There was a solace in their comfort. It was always available. And there was always joy in their company. Their home was always a place of quiet and rest, a place of respite. Many times his phone rang with one of us on the other end just to ask for some advice and to ask for help, and no matter what he was doing he always had time. As he was unto us, a father.

He was a friend, and he endeared himself to so many. He was a real person. He never put on airs. He never tried to give himself place. Never tried to take the first place. In fact so often Paul, he often had a low opinion of himself. And perhaps that's one of the things that endeared him to so many of us. Because he was a real friend; you knew that he was human. You knew that if you went to Paul that whatever it was that you said to him that's where it stayed. There was confidence in the man as a friend.

Paul was always fresh in his approach and fresh in his ministry. Sometimes he would tell some of us at the conference especially what he had to speak, or what was on his heart to speak on. And oftentimes the response was "are you really going to speak on that?" And you remember the smile he had and the twinkle, and he'd say "yep, that's what I'm going to speak on." There was an approach that was unique to Paul and he took up subjects that were very needed and very necessary, and very appropriate, and he did it with decor and finesse. He did it with love, and he was always, always fresh when he spoke to us.

Paul was also fearless. One of his many responses to questions about what he was doing and the things that he might do was, "well, what's the worst that can happen to me?" He went to places where many of us might back away from. He spoke to people that were not very pleasant. But Paul never got angry, and Paul never was afraid. He never let it show, anyway. Paul was willing for the sake of his Saviour, and for the sake of the gospel, to take that message anywhere and to anyone.

He was also fearless with the people of God. In times when difficulties would come, problems might arise, and though he would do it with, the way Paul would do it, he wasn't afraid to say what needed to be said. He was a fearless man. I know that if Paul were able to tell us, Paul would say "don't spend time speaking about me, give the time for the preaching of the gospel.'"And that's what I want to do but I want to finish with one more word that I have thought a lot about just in the last couple of days. And that has to do with what we have read from II Timothy chapter 4. And that word is "finished."

The words of verse 2 and verse 5 speak much of the work of this dear man. The work that he did, the work that he was given to. They spoke of his labors, they spoke of the activities of his every day. But his work is done. Family have spoken to me and it's very, very clear and was made very very evident to them at the time of the accident that with all things that were involved, that it was meant to be. Split seconds, and things would have been different. But God did not intend that. Paul in writing to Timothy, he says "I have finished my course."

The last day of Paul's life before his accident, Paul had spent a great deal of time at the market in distributing seed sower texts and distributing the refrigerator magnets that are so popular at the market. Paul spent the morning in the work that he loved, and working with his older brethren there at the market. And then after that he spent the rest of the day, until shortly before the accident, with brother Jim Bergsma in visitation. Doing what he always did, and doing what he did so well. Doing what he was uniquely able to do. And then he was on the way home. Because He had to get home in time to eat his dinner because he still wasn't done. He had more to do. He had a Bible reading to get to in Straffordville. He wanted to make sure he was home in time, but God said "that's enough." Paul died in a harness. Paul died doing exactly what he wanted to do for God. We can thank God for that. We can thank God that Paul wasn't left to suffer. He wasn't left to linger, Paul would have hated that. Paul died working hard for the Lord.

I would just like to leave a challenge with all of us. From what I understand in the last two or three times brother Paul spoke, it was almost as if he knew that something would happen. That his time was short. He spoke of the brevity of time. He implored the young men in particular, he implored young Christians to get busy now for God. Because none of us knows how long we have. The challenge is this: for me, and for all of us that knew him as a brother in Christ, the challenge is that we follow after his example. In the way he labored, in the way he worked, and to follow after the word that he preached.

It's so easy to hear a message, it's so easy to say, "that was good." It's another thing to live it. The challenge is that God would help us to live the exercise of the heart of brother Paul.