Russell Moore and other prominent Christian figures expressed heartbreak after John Powell, a church planter and pastor, was killed in a highway accident as he was helping a driver who had stopped in the traffic lanes.
On Sunday, Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, shared the news of Powell’s death on social media.
“I am shocked and shaken and grieving this morning, beyond what I can say,” Moore wrote on Twitter. “My former student John Powell was killed last night, hit by an eighteen wheeler while helping stranded motorists off of a highway.”
According to a local news report, Powell, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in New Caney, Texas, and another man stopped to help a truck that had been rear-ended by another car and caught fire around 11:30 Saturday night.
While the men were assisting the truck, a semi-truck came toward them on the highway. According to police, Powell saw the semi-truck approaching and pushed the other man out of the way to save him.
Powell was struck and killed. The driver of the car that caught fire was taken to the hospital and is expected to survive.
Moore remembered Powell as “sweet-tempered, humble,” and “absolutely devoted” to his wife, Katherine, and their four young children.
“He was everything I would want any of my sons to be when they grow up,” Moore wrote.
According to his ERLC bio, Powell moved to New Caney, north of Houston, from Hamlin, Texas, in 2016, and had previously been director of admissions at Southern Seminary, and discipleship pastor at Carlisle Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
Several prominent Christian leaders and pastors expressed their sorrow over Powell’s death on social media.
Under Moore’s post, Lauren Chandler, wife of Village church pastor Matt Chandler, commented: “Heartbreaking. Praying for his precious Katherine and their children.”
In response to Moore’s Twitter post, ministry leader Beth Moore tweeted, “Heartbreaking. Praying, Brother.”
“It is impossible to imagine the heartbreak of this young family in the death of their husband & father & of this church in losing their pastor,” wrote Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “But John Powell loved Christ, preached Christ, trusted Christ. Our hearts break for them. This is why we sing that all we have is Christ.”
Ray Ortlund, pastor of Immanual Church in Nashville, tweeted: “For Russell Moore, a man of greatness, to say to a younger man, ‘We’re proud of you,’ is powerful. What a wonderful man his young friend must have been! What a loss to us all! May God comfort the dear family.”
Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, called Powell “one of the best men I’ve ever known.”
Author and pastor Dean Inserra reflected on Powell’s humility.
"He never cared about being known,” wrote Inserra. “Faithfully plowed daily as a family man and local church pastor. He did not sweat what many sweat."
On Twitter, Garrett Kell, pastor at Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, wrote that Powell “faithfully proclaimed” the Lord. He noted that Powell’s final sermon was from Psalm 77, which reads, in part: “In the day of my trouble, I seek the Lord.”
"May the Lord comfort his family and the many who loved him,” Kell wrote.
A GoFundMe site to raise funds for Powell’s family was set up by Andrew Walker, a professor at Southern Seminary, and shared by Moore, among others.
“We are asking for friends and family to help care for the Powell family as they deal with unspeakable tragedy and grief,” the appeal reads. “As they have shown all of their family and friends love in times past, let us now, as the body of Christ, show them love and care.”
As of Monday morning, the page has raised $103,367 of its $150,000 goal.