Tributes to Dr. David Powlison for the Glory of Christ

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).

On Friday, June 7, 2019, after suffering from pancreatic cancer, David Powlison passed away peacefully at his home in Glenside, Pennsylvania, surrounded by his family. He was 69 years old.

Rarely, if ever, have I seen such an outpouring of tributes to one person’s life and ministry. David, as a humble, Christ-honoring man, would want these testimonials to be pointed upward to Christ. As you reflect on these words about David’s life, may your mind and heart reflect on the great grace and eternal hope we have in Christ.

David Powlison’s Commencement Address: Be Unafraid to Be Publicly Weak, By David Powlison

We begin with David’s own words in his final public presentation. David was invited to give the closing comments at the Westminster Graduation Ceremony on May 23, 2019. He was unable to attend personally, so CCEF’s Mike Emlet read David’s address on his behalf. The following excerpt summarizes well the message of David’s address and the message of David’s life.

“My deepest hope for you is that in both your personal life and your ministry to others, you would be unafraid to be publicly weak as the doorway to the strength of God Himself.”

Read the rest of David’s final address here:

Biblical Counseling and the Legacy of David Powlison, by Jeremy Pierre

“You know a man by what he loves. This is true in any role that man takes. I think it’s fair to say that David Powlison filled the role of primary leader in the biblical counseling movement, and as influencer over those in evangelicalism most concerned with pastoral care. David embodied love for the things we aspire to love. David loved many things, but I’d like to point out the particular loves that those of us following in his footsteps ought to follow.”

Read more here:

He Sees with New Eyes: My Love for David Powlison, by John Piper 

“I love David Powlison, who passed away yesterday morning, and would like to honor him and exult in his Savior by giving you seven reasons why. I say “love,” not “loved,” because that’s the way love is. It doesn’t cease to be during separations. And this one will be short.”

Read more here:

Worshipful Winsome Wisdom: A Tribute to Dr. David Powlison, by Bob Kellemen

“No one I ever knew was as brilliant as David and as lovingly humble at the same time. We all know some smart people. We all know some humble people. How many of us know brilliant humble people? How many of us know people who embody worshipful winsome wisdom?”

Read more here:

Tim Keller Reflects on David Powlison (1949–2019), by Tim Keller

“I can’t add much to what others are saying—about how David was unparalleled as a wise, gentle, yet truthful counselor. I could go on about that, but others are doing a good job. Kathy and I often said that we would have gone to David as a counselor before anyone else we knew in the world.”

Read more here:

Of David, My Friend, By Paul Tripp 

“I was stimulated by the nuances of the gospel David was able to understand, by the details he was able to see, and by his surgical facility with Scripture.”

Read more here:

David Powlison (1949-2019): The Embodiment of a Biblical Counselor, by Kevin Carson 

“Rare is the day when one dies and literally thousands of people reflect on how personal the death feels to them. In fact, I do not know any person in my life’s experience that when he or she died, so many thousand would say, “He was my friend.” In life, this alone would be a lifetime achievement. But that is far from the only achievement in David Powlison’s life.”

Read more here:

David Powlison (1949-2019), by Justin Taylor 

Note: This post is something of a mini-biography of David’s life and ministry…

“David Powlison’s legacy will begin within his own family. He was a man who dearly loved his wife, his children, and his grandchildren. His legacy extends to those whom he instructed and touched through the biblical counseling movement, in particular through CCEF and Westminster Theological Seminary.”

Read more here:

Meet David Powlison, by Rush Witt 

“Few people have made a broader impact on me and so many others. Have you met him? You can. He’s still alive. By grace, you can meet him through the myriads of pastors, preachers, biblical counselors, church members, and countless others who have inherited the riches of God’s wisdom through the legacy of David Powlison. You can meet him in his books and articles and audio posts like this. And if you’re in Christ, I have no doubt you will meet him in person one day, shining like the sun, rejoicing in the winsome wisdom of our Triune God.”

Read more here:

In Remembrance of David Powlison, by Peter Lillback 

“Through the years I have often asked our students and alumni about the pivotal moments of their studies at Westminster Theological Seminary. High on the list of frequent answers was Dr. Powlison’s class on ‘They Dynamics of Biblical Change.’ Students have told me repeatedly, ‘That course changed my life.’ We thank God for the gift of Dr. Powlison who has left such a permanent impact on so many, including Westminster Theological Seminary.” 

Read more here:

Thank You, David Powlison, by Ray Ortlund

“Remembering David Powlison moves me deeply. When everything was on the line for Jani and me, David and Nan were there for us. We spent a day together in 2007 – for Jani and me, a catastrophic disaster of a year. David was an oasis of calm, gentleness and reasonableness amid a swirl of accusations, loss and heartbreak. David, with Nan, kept our hope alive.”

Read more here:

Remembering David Powlison, by Kevin DeYoung

“Without exaggeration I can say that I walked away from every encounter with David wanting to know God more and love people better. It’s hard to leave a more impressive legacy. Soli Deo gloria.” 

Read more here:

What Was It Like to Be David Powlison’s Friend?, by Paul Miller

“We frequently shared our hearts and weaknesses with one another. It is sheer delight to open up your deepest heart aches and besetting sins to a good friend and have them love you as you are, counsel you, and pray for you.”

Read more here:

David Powlison: With Thanksgiving to God, by Steve Midgley

“David was a glorious mix of things. He was blessed by God with a wonderfully incisive intellectual rigour. Yet he was at the same time wonderfully warm and personable. David could, and did, speak easily with everyone.”

Read more here:

An Interview with David Powlison, Part 1 and Part 2, by Paul Tautges

Several years ago, Paul Tautges interviewed David Powlison on his journey to biblical counseling. Every biblical counselor, Christian counselor, and pastor would benefit greatly from reading these two enlightening interviews that provide David’s unique perspective on biblical counseling, pastoral care, and one-another ministry. As David said in response to one question:

“Biblical counseling is for every believer. All ‘counseling’ means is having wise, candid, fruitful conversations about things that really matter. ‘Let every word out of your mouth be constructive, according to the need of the moment, so that it may give grace to those who hear’ (Eph. 4:29). That is biblical counseling and that is the charge of being a Christian.”

Read more in Part 1 here: and in Part 2 here:

A Good Counselor Meets the Wonderful Counselor, by the Faithlife Staff

“David Powlison’s story stands out in modern debates that ask, ‘What has Christianity to do with psychology?’ Powlison’s life rose to answer this question.”

Read more here:

How God Saved David Powlison, by David Powlison 

We end where we began…with words from David about his Savior.

You can go here for a video where David shares his testimony of his salvation in Christ alone:

Join the Conversation 

Please feel free to leave a comment with your testimonial about David’s live and ministry—for Christ’s glory.

Also, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email with links to additional tributes.

Bob Kellemen
Bob Kellemen, Th.M., Ph.D.: Dr. Kellemen is VP of Strategic Development and Academic Dean at Faith Bible Seminary in Lafayette, Indiana. Bob is also the Founder and CEO of RPM Ministries through which he speaks, writes, and consults on biblical counseling and Christian living. Dr. Kellemen served as the founding Executive Director of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. For seventeen years, Bob was the founding Chairman of and Professor in the MA in Christian Counseling and Discipleship department at Capital Bible Seminary in Lanham, MD. Bob has pastored four churches and equipped biblical counselors in each church. Bob and his wife, Shirley, have been married for thirty-eight years; they have two adult children, Josh and Marie, one daughter-in-law, Andi, and three granddaughters. Dr. Kellemen is the author of eighteen books including Equipping Counselors for Your Church, Gospel-Centered Counseling, and Gospel Conversations.