David Panther – bearing fruit beyond death

IMG_0497 - Version 2

Sunday night an incredible man died after a year long battle with Lymphoma.  To say that Rev. Dr. J. David Panther was a pastor is like saying that Ray Charles was a pianist.  He was a pastor’s pastor, a visionary, a mentor, a trend setter, and a driven leader, whose impact will be felt for generations.  In the past couple days since his death I have been reflecting on many of our conversations over the years, on some of his sermons, on a couple hand written notes he sent me, and on his overall impact on my life as a pastor.

I perform quite a few memorial services and interments each year at my church because we have a memorial garden on our grounds.  My go-to scripture for the interment is often John 12:20-26.  In this passage, Jesus uses the analogy of wheat and the importance of sowing it after the grain has died.  Of course he is teaching his disciples of the reason that he will need to depart from them in physical form, but he gives us powerful imagery to understand what happens in our own physical death. “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24

In short, the fruit of the head of wheat is only truly realized after it falls into the ground.  Then, the power of this seed produces far more fruit than could have been seen or expected when it was still on the stalk.

So it is with David’s life and death.  Now, in his physical absence, the countless seeds he planted in the lives of people and in the greater community will produce more fruit than people could ever have expected.  The kind words that he offered, the services he led, the funerals and weddings that he officiated will all take on new meaning.  The people he nurtured for leadership and the vision he gave to a congregation can now move into a new season of realization, transforming lives and becoming a powerful reality.

I am thinking of the seeds David sowed in my own life and ministry – intentionally and perhaps unknowingly.  I know that they are already beginning to bear fruit and I want to give them the attention and nurture they need, so that his ministry continues to make a difference in me and through me.  I quickly realize that much of my approach, style, vision and confidence are products of seeds that he sowed within me over more than ten years.

What about you?  What seeds have been planted within you?  How have you seen the impact of a person’s life amplified within you in the face of their death?  How will they find new life and make a difference in the lives of others?

God makes all things new, and is in the business of turning weeping into dancing, suffering into rejoicing and death into new life.


Categories: Faith

Author:Chris Heckert

Senior Pastor of Haddonfield United Methodist Church Musician, communicator, husband/father, seeker of a better way through reconciliation by the healing power of God's love


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

2 Comments on “David Panther – bearing fruit beyond death”

  1. May 30, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Chris, this is a wonderful way to think about David’s body of work throughout his lifetime. Thank you for putting ink to paper to articulate this.

    Diane Harris Bureman

  2. John Negich
    June 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm #


    I am not sure of who you are or how you interfaced with David, but I really appreciate you taking the time to help put a positive spin on what most of us view as a tragedy. David certainly had a huge impact on my life, both from being my Pastor but also as being my dear friend. My hope is that the seeds he planted in me as well as my family will continue to produce positive results for years to come. I am committing to do what I can to make one of his dreams (The Crossfire Campus Growth) come true.

    Thank you for honoring such a fine man.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: