Irving Steggles (1945–2020) — Shedding The Robe Of Flesh

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, ..” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2, ESV).

Many tributes have been penned down in honour of Pastor Irving Steggles. Those who knew him well have plumbed the depths of his life and given us a glimpse of his character and life worthily lived in the service of His Master. Our hearts have soared to the heights of heaven in gratitude to God for the life of His servant who lived and faithfully laboured among us. What can one say that has not already been said about Pastor Irving? 

When news of his passing into glory rang out from South Africa on April 22, 2020, it didn’t come as a total surprise to me. I last met Pastor Irving on January 18 when I preached in his church after doing a run of conferences in Kwa Zulu Natal province. It was clear then, as it had been the last few years, that his earthly tent was about to be dislodged from the pegs that held it firmly into the ground. It had evidently been battered and bruised, and it was really a matter of how long before a blast of wind could rip through the frail fabric canvas of his life. Even in his frailty, he led the service that Sunday and offered the pastoral prayer, the voice strong and firm, but his feet barely able to support his physical frame. That he had come this far was nothing but an act of God’s grace. 

I first met Pastor Irving in December 2008 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. My family had just returned from the USA a few months earlier, and after we had found our feet back home, I was asked if I could help with the preaching at the African Pastors’ Conferences that were being held in various places across Southern and Central Africa. My first assignment was in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe from 8th to 11th December. I flew into Bulawayo from Lusaka via Johannesburg, South Africa, and Pastor Irving and the team travelled by road through Botswana. We met that evening during supper and got to know each other. After supper, we spent some time together, and he explained to me what the African Pastors Conferences were all about. Afterwards, we prayed together. He prayed with such passion, energy and intensity, weaving together the petitions to God with words taken from the promises of God in Scripture. His prayer was three times longer than mine. These conferences meant so much to him, and he knew their potential to impact the African continent through the main pastors who would attend them. 
Pastor Irving, Dr. Nakah and me in Bulawayo, 2008
After that conference in Bulawayo, he wrote to me: “Thank you so much for taking the time to prepare and to get alongside the men at the conference. Our great desire is that these men will slowly be weaned out of their dysfunctional ministries, often dysfunctional through ignorance. Please continue to pray that God will point them to the truth, and that sound, good reformed churches will be established through them.” 

And, thus from that time and for the next five years, I took part in two conferences each year across South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and had the unspeakable privilege and joy of sharing the ministry with Pastor Irving in some of these conferences. I spent several nights in his pristine bachelor’s home and was treated to his typical English hospitality. Our numerous conversations would always be about the gospel, ministry and theology. He had read widely, and I found his knowledge of church history and theology profound and encyclopedic. He rarely talked about himself, unless you asked him a question about something personal. It was in his house that I came across the widest collection of Classical music CDs ever in my life, from performers such as Mozart, Bach, Arion, Franz Liszt and Murray Peharia. As we parted one of the evenings, I picked two CDs from his collection and told him I was going to play them on my laptop before sleeping. He chuckled, and said, “I hope you will like that music. It sure will send you to sleep quicker than you thought.” I told him that if he liked it, I probably would like it, too. “But I am British,” he answered, with wittily humour, “and you are African. I have not come across many Africans that love Classical music.” He was right. The music sent me to sleep before the second track finished on the CD. 

Pastor Irving and I during the Q & A at the APC in Bulawayo
Pastor Irving was a selfless man, who rarely thought about his own comfort first before that of others. He was inflexible and not easily dislodged from his decision about something, even when that was for the good of his health. In 2012, we were taking a long drive from one of the conferences in the Eastern Cape, and he was evidently very tired and was failing to concentrate behind the wheel. I offered to help him drive, and he shot back and told me, “You need more rest than I do. You are the one who has more preaching sessions than I do in these conferences.” And with that, we drove on, without the rest he thought I needed because I had to stay awake, praying that we don’t end up off the road, or perhaps in hospital. 

He was a very humble and godly man. In 2013, we had a misunderstanding, and after much prayer and reflection, I opened up and told him what I felt. I was humbled by his gracious response, in spite of our age difference. He apologised, with a crack in his voice, and we prayed together. What a kind, courteous, gentle, patient, and encouraging man he was. Although sometimes eccentric, you could not fail to see that there was a man who loved the Lord, loved the church and had a heart sold out to missions and the training pastors for the gospel labours in Africa. He has been a model for many of us in faithful service to the Lord, to one’s dying breath. His heart was submerged in the doctrines of grace, and he was an able defender of Reformed Theology. 

One of the lasting legacies of the APC - free and affordable, sound reformed literature

In the last few years of his life, Pastor Irving constantly groaned as his earthly tent was yearning to put on his heavenly dwelling. And that day came. He completed his earthly race, having fought the good fight of faith, and he entered into the joy of his Master. And without doubt, he heard the words we all long to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Praise be to God for His grace in gifting the church with such a servant as Pastor Irving!


  1. What a wonderful, personal, insightful tribute. My father Erroll Hulse loved Irving dearly. Now they are rejoicing in Heaven together. African and English brothers in the Lord.

  2. Thank you for the elaborate tribute of Irving Steggles. We thank God for his life.