Home > Leadership > Death of a Friend: 9 Helpful Tips on Leaving a Legacy

Death of a Friend: 9 Helpful Tips on Leaving a Legacy


Graham Johnston

Graham at Vancouver Point Group 2006

I may not have the exact day correct, but I have been thinking a lot about my deep close friend Graham Johnston the last few days. It was in 2011 about this time that my friend Graham passed from this life.

I’m missing him a lot these days.

I wish I could talk with him about what Brenda and I are going through with her cancer diagnosis. I’m also missing how much fun we would have mixed of course with passionate discussions about ministry and vision. We longed to make an impact in the world that would glorify God. I miss him because I have recently been communicating with Susan Perlman and Martin Sanders. The four of us with Graham were like the “Rat Pack” of Leighton Ford’s Point Group. Often at our annual gathering we would stay up late into the night talking, laughing, sharing and praying.

Harvard Faculty Club 2008

While meeting at Harvard Faculty Club in 2008 Graham got going on something that has be entranced. I can still hear his Australian drawl.

Graham was one who would get incredibly passionate (and loud) about certain topics near and dear to his heart. These would include his wife Tracey; Paige and Carson (love that man’s name); “Subi” his church in Perth; his closest friends; preaching; mission work and of course his immediate family.

To Graham, a minister out of touch with today’s culture was like an uninformed missionary trying to teach in a foreign country. He was an amazing communicator and understood that to communicate God’s Word effectively, teachers need to know how to connect with and confront an audience of postmodern listeners. That is what inspired him to write Preaching To A Postmodern World: A Guide to Reaching Twenty-first Century Listeners. His insights written there continue to help speakers and teachers are birthed out of praxis and having been widely travelled.

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Jeremy and Shari Pue living the life in Perth with Graham in their first year of marriage.

Despite Grahams enormous influence globally, his legacy means more to me on a very personal level. Our son Jeremy and his wife Shari had the privilege of working with Graham at the church in Perth Australia in 2009. Seeing Graham modelling how to live life as an authentic Christian changed our kids. They returned back to Canada transformed. They loved church and made many friends there. They returned empowered, confidant, inspired, passionate and with a love for those in culture who perhaps would never enter the doors of a church.

As I share some of my friend Graham’s legacy let it be an encouragement to build on our legacy. You can start with some of what I learned from Graham:

  • Be passionate about the things you really love and act on it. Get loud.
  • Don’t be afraid to express and show your love for others.
  • Love your church and let them know that.
  • Communicate in a credible way with others about the love of God. Practice it.
  • Build into and mentor those younger and empower them with confidence.
  • Be generous. Share you time, your home, your resources, and your influence.
  • Love your spouse and kids and let others know you do.
  • Be authentic.
  • Finish well!

So today Graham, I raise a toast to you. Your friendship endures to this day for we are indeed ‘forever friends.”

Categories: Leadership
  1. Sandy
    April 23, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    You and Graham shared such a special friendship Carson! It was inspiring to glimpse over the years.
    I’m thankful for this surprise moment in my day in coming across your words, in pausing to recall with great thankfulness the richness of memories stirred by your reflections. I still miss my long, deep conversations with Graham as we ‘chewed the fat’ exploring leadership challenges and opportunities, always with layers of delightful laughter woven in. I loved engaging with the strength of his views and his yearning to continue to grow in wisdom and effectiveness as a leader. I miss being able to pick up the phone or organise a coffee when I’m in Perth but I’m thankful his influence remains. He continues to inspire and motivate me to this day. Thanks for reminding me afresh of how much I valued our friendship, and the privilege of journeying for a season with that mutuality of investing in one another to sharpen strategic gospel thinking, engagement, influence…. and our own growth in Christ. I remain humbled by this gift of God’s grace. Thinking of you as you miss his company and listening ear. Love to you and Brenda.

  2. Kevin Bourne-McRae
    January 17, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    He inspired me to strive for the things that God has empowered each of us to use to His Glory. I miss him.

  3. doffie and dale
    January 16, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    thanks and I have posted this on my facebook page as well as I know it will help. One of our friends had a quite daunting funeral yesterday of her dear mother. With cancer and passed all very suddenly and quite young. Graham touched my life as so many others and is never forgotten!

    • January 17, 2015 at 7:30 pm

      Thanks – he was an amazing man.

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