What Mike Ovey taught me

This weekend, we heard that Mike Ovey, Principal at Oak Hill College, had died suddenly aged 58.  The news was sad and a shock.  Mike is going to be greatly missed, though we are encouraged by the reminder on the Oak Hill website “that for Mike, death is not an end but a glorious beginning”[1] because he is now with the Lord.

For Sarah and I, Mike was one of the people who made our time at Oak Hill so precious. Not only was he an outstanding teacher with a remarkable ability to explain complex things with great clarity and lucidity, but he was a kind and caring man who always had time for you – and not just for the students, but for our families too. This mattered to Sarah, who was busy working as a teacher. Mike always took time to show an interest in how she was getting on with work. Mike had a wonderful sense of humour and enjoyed laughing with you.  Mike was humble and generous in spirit. He wasn’t just a lecturer, but a pastor who watched out for those in his care and a mentor who modelled gracious Christian leadership for us.

Mike particularly cared about the need to equip people for ministry to unreached people and into tough and challenging areas. This was a great encouragement for those of us who have a particular concern for urban, inner city and council estate mission.[2]

But I do want to come back to Mike’s role as a teacher and highlight 4 things he particularly taught me.

  1. To allow God’s Word to deeply challenge me

It was Mike who really helped me get the point that because God is a real person who really does speak, then that means he is going to disagree with me. If someone always seems to agree with me and support my point of view, then can I really be sure that they are real and not just a projection of my own thoughts? Now, if someone else disagrees with me, then sometimes I will be right and they will be wrong, but sometimes they will be wrong and I will be right.  God is perfect, all-knowing and wise. So, when God’s word disagrees with me, then it is always right and my responsibility is to get in line with what he is saying.[3]

  1. To enjoy and delight in the Trinity

So often we treat the Doctrine of the Trinity nervously as something we have to try and defend.  Over the years, I’ve become more and more aware of how central and how wonderful this truth is. It’s actually one of the best starting points for apologetics and for pastoral advice. It’s a truth that moves us to worship.  Two people really helped me with this: Mike was one and the other has been Mike Reeves, President of Union School of Theology.[4]  For Mike, the revelation of Jesus as God the Son was so vital because it meant that we can know God as Father.

  1. That I am justified by faith

As a Protestant-reformed evangelical, I obviously already got that I was justified by faith long before I went to Oak Hill. However, the course that Mike taught with Peter O’Brien on the Doctrine of Justification was so helpful in deepening my grasp and appreciation of this beautiful doctrine.

We often talk about Justification meaning that, “It is just as if I’d never sinned.” That is true, but it can still leave us thinking in terms of Christ’s death wiping the slate clean and giving us a fresh start so that we can try again. If so, it is still all too easy to slip into a legalistic religion where I’ve been given a second chance, but it is still down to me.  It was Mike who suggested we took the old catch phrase a step further, not merely “just as if I’d never sinned,” but “just as if I’d kept God’s law perfectly.” You see, Jesus did just that; he loved God with his whole heart, mind and soul; he loved his neighbour as himself, even his enemies. Jesus is the obedient Son where we are rebellious. He was obedient, even to death. This means that on the Cross, Jesus didn’t only take our sin on himself, but through faith union with him, his righteousness is imputed or credited to us. This means that I have a new identity in him and my past, present and future sin has all been forgiven.

  1. What we believe affects how we live

I don’t remember him using the exact phrase which we use as our site motto – but he may have done. However, what stood out for me was that Mike saw Doctrine not as an intellectual hobby. Rather, for him, Doctrine was about being obedient to God’s Word, knowing it truthfully, but also living it. So, when we were writing exam and essay answers, Mike didn’t just want to know about the doctrine and why such and such a position was right or wrong. He wanted us to be able to say “This is important because….”

Doctrine was also a motivator to prayer and praise. Often, lectures were punctuated by the opportunity to stop, reflect on what we had learnt and then respond in prayer.

Today, I want to give thanks to God for Mike Ovey.  Many people have been equipped to serve God and many people are hearing the gospel and being discipled around the world because of Mike’s ministry.



Credo Magazine have created a page pulling together much of Mike’s talks, writing etc. Have a look here http://www.credomag.com/mike-ovey/


[1] See http://www.oakhill.ac.uk

[2] See Duncan Forbes’ moving tribute here http://duncanf.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/a-tribute-to-mike-ovey-we-need-more.html

[3] On this see Chris Stead’s post “Will you let God disagree with you?” https://steadfastreflections.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/will-you-let-god-disagree-with-you/comment-page-1/  Chris captures how it is exactly at the point of grief that we need to know this.

[4] See Mike Reeves, The Good God.