Peter Jeffery (1937-2017)
Peter Jeffery was raised in Neath, coming from a fine Welsh working-man’s terraced home. He never lost his roots in that grand culture and communicated the gospel to the people there in a way that they easily understood.
Wherever in the world he traveled people grasped his message and loved his preaching. He came at a time of the new dawn of Calvinistic Methodism when the convictions of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones were percolating through much of church life. His protege, the Rev. I. B. Davies, was preaching to huge congregations in the Neath C. M. Mission Hall. The new generation of preachers with those Presbyterians were such an attractive group of men—Vernon Higham, John Thomas, Huw Morgan, Gareth Davies, Eifion Evans—and Peter as a teenager came under these gospel influences and was converted.
Soon he felt a call to the ministry and he entered the Swansea theological college of the Welsh Congregationalists to join such fellow evangelical students as Neville Rees, Jeffrey Cox, and Phil Williams and together they battled for the truth when they were fed the diet of the social gospel by most of their lecturers.
Peter’s first church was Ebenezer, Cwmbran, where he followed Derek Swann who had left Wales for his long ministry in Ashford. He built on the foundation that Derek had laid, before accepting a call to Rugby Evangelical Church where a group of people were crying to God for such a ministry that Peter could give them. During a series of sermons on the attributes of God the Holy Spirit bore his witness to the truths Peter was preaching and there were many conversions and considerable growth. Gospel ministers everywhere were encouraged by these blessings.
Gwyn Williams had moved from Sandfields to become the minister of the Welsh language Evangelical Church in Cardiff. Sandfields, first church of Dr Lloyd-Jones, called Peter and he accepted, moving back to a place five miles from where he was born. Most of us thought it was a match made in heaven. Providentially it was, but the reality was different and for the first year not a single profession of faith was made. Then a trickle of conversions commenced.
Peter wanted to introduce changes such as a move from the KJV to a modern translation. It was fiercely resisted as were additional new hymns. A group finally left the church and started a new work which thrived in its first ten years. Peter had heart trouble followed by major heart surgery and he had to resign from the pastorate. American churches were generous in supporting his new writing ministry, recognizing his ability to communicate Christian truths lucidly and edifyingly.
So for the last twenty years of his life Peter enriched the church worldwide with many books introducing men and women to the gospel. The common people read them gladly. I remember sharing the ministry with him at a camp of young teenagers in Bala. I was heavy but when he spoke he got through to them all and I was ashamed of my plodding orthodoxy.
Peter has left a fine legacy of good books. His last work addressed his heart’s concern for a revival of gospel preaching in the land. Had we given up preaching Christ and were we instead slaves to correct exegesis with which we were completely satisfied?