A Man of Prayer, Proclamation and Peace

I first met Ernest Lloyd in 1979 when a group of us in our twenties had just returned from a Messianic conference in the USA and went to the Hebrew Christian Alliance conference in Chislehurst, Kent. There we were met by a group of Hebrew Christian leaders from the older generation, many of them in their 70s and 80s. As well as Ernest, there was Harcourt and Theodore Bendor-Samuel, Eric Lipson, Eric Gabe and H. L. Ellison. Each of them seemed like an elderly patriarch and for us young people, with our guitars and a desire to start a Messianic group in the UK, we did not know how we would be received.

But Ernest and his older friends welcomed us with open arms. I will never forget the way he said, with tears of joy in his eyes, “You are the answer to our prayers! We have been praying so much for the Lord to raise up the next generation of Jewish believers! Welcome!”

Ernest and his generation were some fifty years older than us but they graciously made room for us in the Hebrew Christian Alliance and welcomed us into its membership. In a spirit of co-operation between young and old, between those who called themselves Hebrew Christians and those of us who called ourselves Messianic Jews, we managed to avoid the conflict that some alliances had seen, and we worked for a peaceful transition to extend the work of the Hebrew Christian Alliance to the new and younger generation of Jewish believers in Yeshua.

As a Jewish believer in Jesus, Ernest Lloyd was a towering figure, a gentle giant, and a wise and inspiring friend. Three characteristics stand out. He was a man of Prayer, a Man of Proclamation, and a Man of Peace. Let me illustrate this from my experience of travelling with him on many International Alliance activities, sitting with him in countless committee meetings of the British and International Alliances, and knowing him as a former student and great supporter of All Nations Christian College. There Ernest trained for the ministry for three years. He never forgot All Nations and he frequently attended the former student re-unions. He always asked after the college when I saw him, and when we regularly prayed for him, as we do for all former students, he would write back with thanks, a brief personal update and a list of prayer requests for Jewish mission work.

A man of prayer

Ernest was a man of prayer. Anyone who had been in a meeting with him and heard him pray, or preach or, especially, anyone who had received one of his idiosyncratically typed or barely legible hand-written notes – could not fail to be struck by the focused, disciplined, prayerful concern he had for his friends, colleagues and the work of Jewish evangelism.

A letter from June 9th 2008. Three pages of news about his family, members of the Alliance, and what he is reading – and the blessing – “may God’s divine blessing rest on you and your family”. Ernest’s ministry to hundreds through his not always readable correspondence assured you of his love, his prayers and his concern. In the meetings of the International Alliance, whether presiding as Chairman or as a committee member, his concern for the situation of members who were suffering in any way – emotionally, spiritually or materially – was always expressed with heartfelt compassion, practical wisdom and action, and, most of all, prayer.

In one of his final letters to me, just a brief handwritten one, he confirmed this:

“In the Christian life you never retire – my ministry now is prayer”. May it be a comfort to us, his friends and family, that even as his time on earth with us was coming to an end, even then Ernest was still interceding on our behalf.

A man of proclamation

Secondly, Ernest was a man of proclamation. His purpose in life was to share the Good News of the Messiah with his people and anyone who would listen. His gospel presentation was bold and forthright but it was not brash and insensitive. As a humble and shy person, Ernest himself had to overcome the childhood fears and the natural reluctance to put himself in the limelight or draw attention to himself. So when he shared his faith, it was in a winsome and compelling way that made the gospel attractive and won friends to himself and to the Lord. He did not need to ram the gospel down people’s throats, but he was especially sensitive to the issues and problems Jewish people have in accepting Jesus as their Messiah. In his teaching to Christians on the need for and challenge of taking the Gospel to the Jewish people, Ernest never shrank from explaining the difficulties and obstacles in proclamation of the gospel. But his modest and gentle manner did not detract from his fundamental commitment to the task, or from his own gifts as an evangelist and communicator of the Good News.

I was recently in South Africa, where the President of the South African Messianic Alliance, Hershell Raysman, spoke to me of Ernest’s enduring ministry. A stream of Jewish believers and their families, and co-workers there, would testify to his evangelistic passion and practice.

A man of peace

Finally, as a man of peace, Ernest poured oil on troubled waters in many situations. The saying “Where you have two Jews, you have three opinions” is nowhere more true than amongst Jewish believers in Jesus. Ernest came from an earlier generation of believers who called themselves Hebrew Christians. They generally had a greater connection with their yiddishkeit –their Jewishness – they had lived through the trauma of the Holocaust and they were firmly integrated into the mainstream denominations of the Christian Church. Along came a group of young upstarts who wanted to run everything their way, change the name of the Alliances from “Hebrew Christian” to “Messianic Jewish”, and get everyone to leave their churches and join Messianic Congregations and Synagogues. The transition from one generation to another, from one style of churchmanship to another, and the differences in personality, background and culture would have led, and in some cases did lead, to conflict, distrust and lack of co-operation.

But Ernest was a man of peace, who sought to unite, inspire and reconcile these different groups. It was not just a matter of different streams of thought, but of getting old and young, Hebrew Christian and Messianic Jew, to sit down together, to pray together, and to talk and listen to each other. And Ernest was the man to do that. Everyone trusted him and respected him. That’s why he was elected to a second five-year term as International President of the International Hebrew Christian Alliance, an unprecedented step and an honour which Ernest only reluctantly accepted. But he was the man to hold the International Alliance together and see it make the necessary transitions. Not all were happy with these changes. Some thought it was “too much too soon”. For others, it was “too little too late”. Ernest, however, kept the Alliance going through challenging and changing times, and he is to be honoured for it. A few years later, he and others would be honoured publicly at the large Messianic Alliance Conference in the USA, and also in articles in the Messianic Times.

As a man of meace, when chairing the meetings of the International Executive Committee, he had to act as President of all the Presidents of the national Hebrew Christian alliances! Not only would he allow everyone to speak their mind, but he was also able to keep order with a gracious and unassuming authority, and, wherever possible, bring the meeting to a successful resolution and conclusion. If there were any who felt left out or ignored, he would make special efforts to seek them out, bring them back, and win them over to the group’s ways. He sought and pursued peace, and amongst Jewish believers in Jesus, this was a much needed and rare gift.

Ernest, as a man of prayer, a man of proclamation, and a man of peace, you will be greatly missed. The debt owed to you by Jewish believers in Jesus around the world, over your many years of ministry, is incalculable. We thank God for all that you were to us, and for the way you lived a life of service and witness. Now we rejoice to know that you have gone to a better place. You are with the Messiah who called you to know him and serve him, those many years ago in the orphanage in the East End of London. Now you shall receive your reward, as our Messiah says to you, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”.

This article first appeared in the Spring Herald 2011

Richard Harvey is Tutor & Director of Training at All Nations Christian College in Ware, where he teaches the Hebrew Bible, Hebrew language and Jewish studies. His writings include Mapping Messianic Jewish Theology: A Constructive Approach, But I'm Jewish and A Jewish Approach to the Trinity.

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