When someone passes away, often an inheritance or will is left for close family but what really matters is not what has been deposited financially but rather relationally. What will we leave behind? What will we pass on? What will your legacy be that lives on after your life? On Thursday 19th March 2020, my spiritual father, pastor, mentor and friend Dave Ayling sadly passed away & went to be with his heavenly father after suffering a severe heart attack earlier in the week. It has been hard to accept the loss of such an influential figure in my life but I have been counting my blessings and giving thanks for having known him and journeyed with him for 7 special years.
His life has left such a huge impression on me and so many others and his legacy will forever live on. It is hard to express the difference that Dave has made in my life and tough choosing words that aptly describe him, here a few…
1. PASSION FOR JESUS & HIS CHURCH
Dave’s love for Jesus was so evident and was wholeheartedly devoted to His church. Dave believed that the local church was a place where people can experience God but also grow in community. He knew that he was stewarding Gods church; taking that responsibility seriously and with a smile. He loved to help people connect with God, grow together and serve others. He renovated the building in recent years and was always keen to find ways to help people encounter God; he led 100s of people to a relationship with Jesus. Dave was committed to serving the Elim movement too; knowing details about so many pastors and churches across the country; having also made lots of wonderful friends along the journey.
2. THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY
Whilst Dave had an incredible ministry, he always knew and modelled that beyond our relationship with Jesus, family always comes first. His family are amazing and a testament to the man he was. He cared for his family so well and always encouraged others to do the same. As much as his primary focus with me was to help me grow in leading church and being a pastor, he taught me that family was our first ministry. I had the privilege of spending lots of time with his two amazing sons (Ben & Tom) and incredible wife (Julia), who have also been such a blessing to me and reflect the impact Dave has had on them and will leave behind in them. The phrase he said at several funerals: ‘what matters in life is not what you have but who you have’ will forever be something I hold onto and cherish.
3. MAKING A COMMUNITY IMPACT
Dave had an incredible influence across the City of Derby over the past 18 years. He chaired city vision and connected with all the other churches and pastors as best he could. He was invested in the YMCA too being on the board. However, his legacy of the Hope Centre will live on for many years; as he bought the building and pioneered an incredible ministry with great team around him. The Hope Centre has provided clothes, toiletries, household items and food parcels to help support those in crisis. The impact of Dave’s heart for community will last for decades beyond his years. ‘Transforming the atmosphere of the City’ was his vision and he certainly did that.
4. HAVING A GLOBAL FOCUS
Whilst family and local church were high on his priorities, Dave had a big passion for overseas mission and partnering with other pastors all around the world. He had taken on a role with Elim representing the global aspect to the movement. He had travelled to so many countries even in the time I had known him, India, Germany, Brazil, & Macedonia to name a few. I know he enjoyed the different flavours of each continent and country he visited but more importantly he made many friends and built some wonderful connections around the world. He had a deep rooted belief that there was One body, One church and that if he could help serve the nations in any way, then he would play his part.
5. LIVING WITH A KINGDOM PERSPECTIVE
Dave was a great preacher of Gods word and on his final Sunday at Derby City Church, he preached an incredible message and spoke specifically about living for eternity. He would often remind people in his teaching not to focus too much on their life here on earth now but to live for the Kingdom of God. He lived a full life and gave God everything. I have no doubt that Jesus will have said ‘well done good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your master.’ He lived for Jesus and with an eternal mindset. He believed it, preached it and ultimately lived it. This perspective helped him make decisions and also reflected Kingdom principles in everyday life. Even in the sadness of losing his presence with us on earth, I have taken great heart from knowing where He is; loving life in heaven with His saviour.
6. PASTORING MASTERCLASS
Dave was one of the best, he really was. He emphasised to me the importance of what a pastor should do – care for the sheep and feed them. If one of the congregation had an emergency Dave would be there. He spent so many hours at the hospital, visiting people, dealing with situations, caring for people, on the phone praying with people. Whilst he raised up a team of pastoral workers as church was too large for him to visit everyone, he knew the moments when he needed to be present in people’s lives. He taught me that people won’t remember your sermons, but they will remember when you were there when it mattered.
7. RAISING YOUNG LEADERS
I will forever grateful that he brought me on the team in Derby as intern back in 2013. He had already raised up and released a young leader previously (Dan Rubens), then did it with another (Dom John) before commissioning me on to my next chapter. He had also begun to do this with another young man (Dan Hudson) after I’d left. The legacy that he has left through this process will be so vast. He believed in me, gave me correction and feedback to help me grow, released me into opportunities and trusted me to lead in his absence. I know that Dave also connected with other pastors and took an apostolic role within the region supporting other churches and encouraging other young leaders. I have heard that the church needs more spiritual mothers and fathers to raise up sons and daughters. He certainly did that. Please see his article on raising leaders.
8. SOAKING IN GOD’S WORD
He absolutely loved the Bible; reading Gods word and allowing the Lord to speak to Him through it. One of his favourite meetings in his weekly diary was a one hour bible study with a member of the congregation on a Thursday morning. He would make time in amongst so many other tasks demanding his time to journey through the scriptures and helping this particular individual. The soap acronym of Scripture, Observe, Apply and Pray was something I will forever add to my devotional life and ministry toolkit. Dave also had incredible wisdom, speaking into situations and seeing things many others wouldn’t notice or be able to interpret. This wisdom often flowed from His understanding of the scripture and a closeness with the Holy Spirit.
9. SINGING PRAISE & WORSHIP
Dave loved to sing. He loved modern contemporary worship songs but he also loved classic hymns from years back. I heard someone joke that he had ‘Pentecostal Tourette’s’ and that he would break out into songs at various times throughout the day. His heart was full of praise for the Lord, full of Joy and it overflowed. Some days I would close my door when I was trying to concentrate but the walls were so thin that his great voice would fill the office with his worship. Dave was thankful and loved to sing old choruses or new songs in praise of his Lord and saviour.
10. GENIUS OF CONFRONTATION
I had a few times where I would avoid confrontation in ministry only for it to come back to me and only be worse. Dave wholeheartedly believed that it was better to address the issue sooner than later and would apply incredible wisdom in dealing with difficult situations. Dave would eat difficult conversations for breakfast; refusing for unnecessary and unhealthy tensions to grow. He not only taught me to do the same but modelled this regularly. Whilst some might have perceived him strong and direct in his style, he was a big softy underneath and love always shone through even when words that could’ve caused offence were exchanged. He was a genius in this.
11. SPIRIT LED LIFESTYLE
‘What’s the Lord been saying to you lately?’ was a question that he asked me on several occasions. He helped me listen to God more in my prayer times, reading the Bible and in every day life. He not only taught me to walk closely with the Holy Spirit but he also made key decisions that were based upon the promptings of God. He hired staff, bought buildings, helped plant churches, and so much more based upon sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. He was prepared to get things wrong yet wanted to take faith steps, trusting in God for His guidance and provision. Dave was also so gifted in leading services and facilitating the presence of God; allowing encounter moments with the Holy Spirit.
12. ‘ENJOYING THE JOURNEY’
Lastly this was one of his life mottos; which he repeated at various points was ‘Enjoying the Journey’. He even started a blog a few years back entitled just this – Enjoying the journey. Dave’s default posture was one of Joy, smiling and having fun. He modelled life in all its fullness; loving the people around him and loving the tasks that God had called him to. He loved his food and we shared many meals together including his Thai Friday favourite. He loved the church website and ordering things off Amazon. He loved Christmas and recording the infamous staff Christmas video. We had so many laughs together and shared many fun moments. Whilst Dave appreciated that life wasn’t always easy, he was a big believer that following Jesus should be something we enjoy. Dave was a pleasure to work with and for; and his friendship will undoubtedly be missed.
Ultimately, what a legacy he has left behind.
I could’ve shared so much more and have so many more personal stories and highlights from this wonderful man’s life. He has been an inspiration to so many & imparted things into my life that I will never forget. I am convinced that the legacy of David James Ayling will last for many generations. An absolute hero and sorely missed but I very much look forward to the day that we will see him again. Forever Thankful. Rest in peace my friend.