Yesterday (Thursday, November 17), was Bruce Charpie’s funeral. He passed away a few days ago after a brief bout with leukemia. The funeral was one of the most Christ honoring that I can remember attending. It was genuinely a model of how believers ought to mark the death of a fellow saint.
I’ve known Bruce and his wife, Pennie, for decades. We used to go to the same church and attend the same school, Bruce as an undergrad and I as a seminary student. I may even have had him in a few classes when I started teaching. I know that Pennie was in some of my classes. That was back during the early-to-mid 80s.
Bruce went into church planting in Ohio and Arizona. I left to pastor a church in Iowa, then plant another in Texas, all while pursing doctoral studies. Twenty years or more passed during which we had little contact with each other. Then Bruce moved to Minnesota to work on his MDiv at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, where I was a professor.
In Minnesota, Bruce became very active at Fourth Baptist Church. He served as a teacher and a deacon. At one point when I was president he actually sat on the board of Central Seminary. He eventually left Fourth Baptist to help in a daughter church, Family Baptist Church. He was still serving faithfully there at the time of his death.
While in Minnesota Bruce also served in interim pastorates and helped as pulpit supply. The Lord never led him back into a pastorate, but that didn’t make Bruce any less a man of God. He reared three children of whom any father could be proud, and he left seven grandchildren behind him.
I am thankful for the life and example of Bruce Charpie. His funeral was a rehearsal of the grace of God in his life. We heard his children blessing his memory and his pastor thanking God for his leadership. We heard of his trust in Christ; we also heard of the Christ whom he trusted. His son David in particular offered a genuinely thoughtful and ordinate reflection upon his father’s life of faith.
Most of the world never heard of Bruce. He served joyfully in obscurity. I don’t know whether he saw himself as a success or not. I do know that God used him to touch and shape lives, and God is continuing to do so. Even in his homegoing he has set an example to which we ought to aspire.