Commentary: What kind of legacy are you leaving?


In a recent breakfast meeting with Pastor Todd Wright of Midway Church in Villa Rica, our conversation turned to the importance of leaving a legacy for those who will come behind us. It was a meaningful discussion for many reasons, but I was reminded of the words of King Solomon in Proverbs 13:22: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” (NKJV).

Some years ago, my wife and I gave some serious thought to making out our will and deciding how our financial and material resources should be distributed after our deaths. However, since then we have been even more impressed to leave a spiritual birthright that will inspire and embolden our descendants to trust in the saving grace of Christ, live by the precepts of God’s infallible Word, stand for truth and righteousness, and resolve to make a difference in this world for the cause of Christ.

Billy Graham said, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is more than the money or material possessions you get. It’s a legacy of both character and faith.”

Parents must commit their children to God, pray earnestly for them, teach them God’s Word, and show them how to serve others. It is an ever-working law that God “shows mercy unto thousands of them who love Him” and to their children after them (see Exodus 20:6).

Paul Baxter, former pastor of the Church on the Square in LaGrange and currently serving as the Director of Missions for the Pine Mountain Association, explained, “I would like to take my five grandchildren to the Holy Land. That trip would provide a life changing experience they would never forget. He also mentioned writing down some milestones in his life to share with the generations following in his train.

I know someone who writes down his devotional thoughts into book formats that he plans to give to his children and grandchildren. That is meant to be a part of the spiritual legacy he leaves for his family.

Jonathan Edwards, who was the catalyst for the First Great Awakening in America, has a legacy that is legendary, because he not only shook the spiritual complacency of the people and ignited fires of revival through his preaching, but his lineage included 13 college presidents, 65 college professors, 100 preachers/missionaries, 60 physicians, 30 judges, one vice president, as well as U. S. senators, governors, and mayors. The impact of his life is still being felt today through the legacy he left for all of us.

However, I love to read about the heritage of John Bunyan. He was born in Elstow in Bedforshire, England in 1628, but he left a legacy that is still touching lives almost 400 years later. In his early years, Bunyan was a reprobate and known for his lack of reverence for God. He married a Christian woman when he was twenty years old and because of her godly life, he was mightily convicted of his sins.

His conviction led to repentance, to a saving knowledge of Christ, and soon thereafter to a call to preach the Gospel.

After ten years of marriage John’s wife died leaving him with four children. He married a second time, and his wife Elizabeth helped him raise his children and became a great blessing to him.

Bunyan lived at a time when public preaching was considered a crime and at age 32 he was imprisoned for preaching because of the repressive rule of the Royalists after the Restoration of 1660. While incarcerated he began to write about his conversion experience in the book titled Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.

During that imprisonment, he started writing his most well-known work, Pilgrim’s Progress, and completed it during a second incarceration for the same offense. The book is a beautiful allegory about Christian, the main character in the book, and his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic work every Christian should read.

Bunyan died in 1688 after spending many years in prison, but like the Apostle Paul, he wrote epistles of grace and blessing even when his voice was silenced. He was buried in Bunhill Fields along with other great Christians like John Owens, Susannah Wesley (the mother of John and Charles Wesley) and Isaac Watts.

To illustrate the power of Bunyan’s legacy, Warren Wiersbe in his tome, Listening to the Giants, written over 325 years after Bunyan’s imprisonment, talks about going to Bunhill Fields and writing: “I have visited Bunhill Fields twice, and each time I have felt a sense of awe and devotion. Even in the midst of a noisy city, Bunhill Fields still has a holy hush of God over it. I cannot help but give thanks to God for the sacrificial ministries of the people buried there. How much poorer we would be without them.”

You may not have the far-reaching influence and powerful impact of men like Jonathan Edwards and John Bunyan, but as Christians we have the responsibility of leaving our descendants with a profound faith and a passionate desire to live for Christ.

It has been said, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you, so think about your legacy because you are writing it every day.”


J. Gerald Harris is a retired pastor and journalist who served as editor of The Christian Index for nearly two decades. You can reach him at