On June 24, 2022, John “Big John” Phillip Perkins was posthumously honored with the Irving C. Lambert Award for Outstanding Urban Ministry at the 136th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Covenant Church in Kansas City, Missouri. Presenting the award was Rev. Paul Robinson, executive minister of the Love Mercy Do Justice ministry priority. Receiving the award on his behalf was Rev. Dr. Catharine Gilliard, superintendent of the Southeast Conference.
“Pastor John was a dreamer whose community development work was driven by his desire for everyone to have a better quality of life,” said Rev. Dr. Gilliard. “Big John never met a stranger, and you would never leave his presence without being blessed.”
She continued, “If you are a positional leader, all you leave behind is a job. But if you’re a legacy leader, you leave people better than when you found them. Big John was a legacy leader.”
Big John was a bold, loving, and dedicated church planter, pastor, and practitioner of community development. He loved the church and its work. He maintained a large and expansive vision of redemptive flourishing for God’s beloved community, one that echoed the call of Jesus as he quoted the prophet Isaiah—to proclaim good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim freedom for those under oppression. As the executive director of the Spencer Perkins Center and pastor of Common Ground Covenant Church, Big John kept an ear to the acute needs of both individuals and families in the greater Jackson, Mississippi community. His dedication to their flourishing provided hope and inspiration, not only to people in desperate need but also to all co-laborers and co-conspirators in his circle of influence.
Part of that challenge was a willingness to extend his ministry past the bricks-and-mortar and to challenge others to do the same. “Wherever we are,” he would say, “is where the gospel has an opportunity to go forth.” As such, Big John was a consummate entrepreneur. He helped to open a barbershop and beauty salon, started his own lawn care business, and was a culinary artist who, at the age of 22, was the youngest executive chef in Mississippi history.
Big John was a gentleman with an infectious laugh and a joyous presence who offered words, touches of warmth, and piercing prophetic witness with equal potency. In his vocation and ministry life, he was a model to all Covenanters.