Today I want to talk about a man named Buddy Hoffman. I met Buddy in 2009 when I started my first job, fresh out of college, at Grace Fellowship Church in Snellville. Buddy was the pastor of the church, and he was my boss’s boss. It’s been a few years since I’ve spent significant time with him, but the man still had a positive impact on my life that I won’t forget anytime soon.
Two weeks ago I read the news that Buddy was sick. Not with a stomach bug or allergies, but from an infection around an aneurysm in his aorta. Sadly, it’s expected to be terminal.
I’m realizing that the older I get, the slower I am at processing things. This is one of the (many) reasons I don’t talk about political controversies on social media – by the time I’m remotely close to a conclusion, people have already moved on to the next controversial topic. Not sure if this is good or bad, but I’ve been thinking about Buddy for almost three weeks now and still don’t feel like I have the words to do the man justice, but I feel I need to try.
It has been said, “what we do echoes in eternity.” This isn’t a Biblical quote, it’s from Gladiator. But I think it has merit – just check out Matthew 25:34-40.
If what we do echoes in eternity, then Buddy has made a lot of very loud noises. Here are a few ways that Buddy has made an impact on my life, and the lives of countless others.
Grace staff, Buddy, and I – all dressed in our Sunday best.
1) His Love for the Next Generation
I don’t think I’ve heard anyone talk about the next generation with more passion than Buddy Hoffman. The warm-up for today was Psalms 78:1-8, and I chose it because of the significance it had in Buddy’s ministry. The churches he started were built with the next generation as a priority.
You could hear it in Buddy’s voice when he preached, you could sense it in the children’s ministry, and you could see it during the meetings where high school kids discipled and mentored the middle school kids. From an early age, children and teens were taught far more than a moral code, they were taught the gospel.
It is often tempting for pastors to focus on “important” people like adults. We see the disciples falling into this trap in Mark 10:13, they rebuke children who are trying to talk to Jesus. But Jesus gives a famous response in verses 14-15 with this, “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.“
Buddy understood this, and you can believe he was indignant when anyone acted like kids were not a priority in the Kingdom of God.
2) His Love for the Word
I moved to a different country five years ago, which means I haven’t regularly attended Grace since 2012. Despite this, I can still vividly remember the words Buddy said at the beginning of every sermon: “If you don’t have a Bible, slip up your hand, we want to put a Bible in your hand. If you don’t own a Bible, you can keep it as our gift to you.”
There are a lot of theories about what attracts people to churches. Most include things like great music, hospitality, entertainment value, and so on. While I’m not against those things, the reality is, people can get them anywhere – rock concerts, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters. I think a better approach is to prioritize something that they can’t get from anywhere else – the teaching of God’s Word.
Buddy built his preaching and the worship services around the Word of God. In fact, an open Bible was turned to Psalms 1 and laid under the foundation of the church when it was built. Psalms 1:1-3 says,
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
When Buddy preached, you could tell his delight was in the law of the Lord, and his love for the Scriptures has yielded significant fruit over the years.
3) His Love for the Nations
Buddy had a great heart for the nations as well. Refugees have taken center stage in politics and the media recently. While it can be easy for my generation to post a news story on social media and feel like we’ve made a difference, Buddy has always had a more hands-on approach.
In the Great Commission, given in Matthew 28, Jesus says this, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
For decades, Buddy has gone into both war-torn countries and the refugee neighborhoods of Atlanta. He has taught people about the love of Jesus, prayed for them and with them, and enabled several ministries that teach practical skills, tutor kids, and create jobs. He has worked tirelessly to bring peace to the Middle East, and he has introduced countless people to Jesus.
Not only did he actively work to make a difference, but he invited others to join him. He taught people and empowered them to make a difference themselves. He was a discipler, and the lives he changed will continue to change the lives of others for decades to come.
In each of these things, something that was so remarkable about Buddy is that he truly practiced what he preached. He didn’t hide behind a pulpit or say things and do nothing about them. He went into the heart of darkness to bring people light, and he did it in faith and without fear. He knew that Christ was with him, even to the very end of the age.
As I was thinking through the lasting impressions I have of Buddy, two other things stick out that are worth mentioning. First, I’ll never forget his explanation of angels being “Intergalactic Warriors.” To illustrate, he brought up the traditional, sweet and smiling angel doll in nativity scenes and then replaced it with a Transformer action figure.
Second, the guy loved the musical, Les Miserables. I’m a terrible singer and a dude, so I always felt it odd how much I like musicals. For some reason, Buddy’s love for Les Miserable made me decide it was cool for me to like musicals.
We’ve lived in New Zealand for almost five years now. We knew that life would go on without us – friends have gotten married, children have been born, and somehow the Falcons are in the Super Bowl. But losing someone like Buddy is not what I expected.
Despite being 8,000 miles, it’s encouraging to know that I can pray for Buddy and know God hear’s prayers from New Zealand just as well as he does in the US. I also hope that, somehow, I get to see him again on this Earth. But if not, if the doctors are right and this is terminal, I look forward to seeing him someday soon in the Kingdom of God.
So Buddy, if you get a chance to read this, thanks for all you’ve done and continue to do for God’s Kingdom. Thanks for investing so well in the next generation, your work and your passion will be carried on by the many people you’ve disciples and taught, including me.
“We will not hide them from our descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.”