For Bud Penner, two things remain: the Word and people

Posted: May 11, 2010

By Amy Robertson

Front banner: Dr. Bud Penner (centre) with his wife, Beulah (left) and Dr. Dwayne Uglem (right).

Dr. Bud Penner is hooded at commencement April 24, 2010, by Dr. Sam Berg (left) and Dr. Martin Culy (right). Photo by Viktor Karklins.

ne conversation with Bud Penner leaves no doubt about where his joy comes from.

Whether he’s preaching, teaching, or having coffee with a friend, he smiles—and it shines with a light that others can’t help but share.

It’s the love in his heart—love for the God who has been faithful to him since he met Christ as a student at Caronport High School in 1959, and love for the people he’s shepherded ever since then.

Penner first learned about discipleship from his roommate at CHS, who would do devotions and pray with Penner faithfully every day.

It was his roommate who would eventually lead him to the Lord, and missionaries at CHS who first inspired him to pursue ministry. After hearing their stories, he knew devoting his heart to others was the only thing he could do with his life.

Penner knew he’d need university and Bible training, so soon after graduation he began a degree at London College of Bible and Mission (now Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto, Ont.).

During his time there, a chapel speaker would say something that would define Penner’s life and ministry.

Two things remain, the speaker said. The first is the Word. The second is people.

Penner has spent the last five decades devoting himself to those two things. He has led churches in Ontario and Alberta, and shepherded other congregations throughout the country through his care for their leadership. With his smile and a few kind words, the soft-spoken, gentle-spirited man has made countless people feel known, loved, and worthy of his time and God’s.

He has written three workbooks on Christ-centred discipleship. He has led church-planting initiatives, served on the boards of World Relief, World Team, and Navigators Canada.

Dr. Bud Penner. Photo by Rob Schellenberg.
From 2000 to 2008, Penner served as the president of the Associated Gospel Churches—a pastor to pastors.

The work was his heartbeat—and still is. There is nothing more exciting for him than seeing God transform lives before his eyes.

He stepped down as president two years ago to devote himself to a ministry called Partners International that cares for children around the world. And even as he builds the network of support for Partners, he is a shepherd. He visits churches across the county to encourage leadership, share a simple message, and ask congregants to support Partners—all while wearing the joy-filled smile that comes as naturally as breathing and speaks as loudly as any words he might say.

Dr. Michael Pawelke, who has worked with Penner, calls him the “quintessential pastor”—a listener, an encourager, and a challenger who will always ask you what you’ve learned from the Scriptures today.

Penner wore his signature smile April 24, 2010, when the school where it all started—Briercrest College and Seminary, which operates Caronport High School—honoured him for his lifetime of service to the church by granting him a Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, at their college and seminary graduation ceremonies.

Penner had only five minutes to share a challenge with the students who sat before him that day. Ever the pastor, he kept it simple, showing his heart for the two things that still matter the most to him: the Word and people.

He didn’t offer a lecture or a theological diatribe—but a smile, a few words of encouragement from the Scriptures, and a simple, profound list:

  • Read and reflect on the Word daily. Journal about it. The most accomplished people in the world have kept journals.
  • Set aside time each week to study the Word in depth. It has the power to change you.
  • Be real. Be transparent with yourself and with a few trusted friends. Be a friend to your spouse.
  • Be authentic, be compassionate, and be dedicated—and the Lord will give you a life and ministry of fruitfulness.
  • God bless you.