I got a text Sunday morning from a friend of mine in Texas telling me that a man I knew in the town we lived in for many years had been killed. His name was Brian Jennings, but everyone called him BJ. He was 41, a youth pastor, with a wife and three children.
Late Saturday night, he was driving near his home when he came upon a person whose car was broken down in the road—a two-lane with no shoulder, ditches on each side. As he was helping the driver, along with two other people from a nearby home who had come out, a pickup full of high school teens, reportedly drinking and driving too fast, plowed into them all. The impact killed all four people standing beside the car.
Many years ago, when my wife and I first moved into that small Texas town and joined a church, we started hearing about “this kid” who was always there when the doors were open, but was constantly getting into some kind of mischief. BJ was “that kid.”
But as with so many of us headed down the wrong road, Jesus entered the picture and BJ’s life made a radical change. He ended up becoming a youth pastor, having a heart for “those kids” just like he was, in this same town where he grew up.
Today, BJ was well respected in the community among Christians and non-Christians. And no one—no one—was surprised to hear he had stopped to help a stranger. And, ironically, one of “those kids” caused his entry into Heaven. The very kids he lived to help and to see come to know the Jesus he himself had met.
Several years ago, BJ came to me to help him improve in a particular area—just a life skill that he wanted to get better at and felt I could help him. After a few months and major strides forward, he stopped by my office to thank me for my help and to share all that God had done for he and his family in this area. I thought to myself then, and I was reminded Sunday morning, who does that anymore? Who stops to graciously thank someone for their help and to report how God had moved in his life? Who stops to help someone in a potentially dangerous circumstance? Well, BJ did. That was the kind of man that Jesus had made Him; the kind of man who would humbly thank someone; the kind of man who would stop at midnight to assist a stranger; the kind of man who wanted to see every kid in his sight find what he had found in his teens—the God Who changes everything.
Saturday night, the world lost a good man; a warrior for Christ passed from the battleground to the palace; a pastor who loved every sheep God placed in his care entered the presence of The Good Shepherd. Whether 41 or 81, that’s quite a legacy. And, you know, in light of Scripture and I’m sure BJ would agree, we’re all one of “those kids” until we choose to become one of His kids.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. —Psalm 23:6 NLT
Kip Boydston June 18, 2013
Powerful words, Robert! He will be missed so much. But, at the same time, I can't wait to see how He will be glorified in the memorial service tomorrow & the days to come! I shared this post on my Facebook page, and on his tribute page on Facebook. Thanks for sharing!
Scott June 18, 2013
This so captures who BJ was! I deeply appreciate your reminder that we were ALL one of those kids until we became one of His kids. Truth! BJ could have been the driver of that truck about 25 years ago. No doubt about it. BJ's legacy will continue to impact our community of faith for many, many years to come. Thanks for sharing your heart. I was blessed today by you!
Morgan Bush June 18, 2013
Robert, thanks for your testimony about Brian's life. You speak the truth we need to hear.
Cynthia Arango June 18, 2013
I did not have the privilege or honor to know BJ, but i feel like i know him by all the posts and beautiful things i have read so far. I too have teenagers and i too have had awesome youth pastors who have been there when i needed a lil help or advice. I salute BJ and all in ministry who make a difference everyday. BJ finished his race and has left a beautiful legacy it seems. To his wife and children, I am so sorry for your loss, i pray for the Holy ghost to strengthen & comfort you in this very difficult time. May he rejoice in Gods presence. God Bless all.
BARBARA FISHER June 18, 2013
Very Beautifully written. Such a selfless act of kindness! May he rest in Peace, and May Light Perpetual Shine Upon Him, and Grant Him Eternal Rest. Blessings
Nathan Martin June 18, 2013
I met Brian on a mission trip to Reynosa, Mexico. I was leading a group from our church and he was leading a group from Alsbury Baptist. At first I was a little hesitant about being at the orphanage at the same time as another group, but it wasn't long before our two groups blended and it became a memorable trip. BJ's passion for the Lord and his willingness to serve others was evident. Our entire group is devastated by this loss and his family is certainly in our prayers. Thank you, BJ, for impacting many lives, more than you may have ever known.
Keith Pipes June 19, 2013
Great post. I, too got a text early Sunday morning (leading worship was very emotional). What a picture of redemption that his legacy will not be who he was in high school, but who he was in Christ. Yesterday before he flew back to Dallas I got a chance to sit with Rick Eubanks at a restaurant near the Nashville airport to catch up and talk about BJ. It brought back so many memories of a special time in my life. While my heart aches for his family and his church, I rejoice for where he is today and what I know God will do through this tragedy. Thanks, Robert, for putting into words what all of us who knew him feel.