Dr. Jack Hayford, founder and chancellor emeritus of The King’s University (TKU) and Seminary, passed away on Sunday, January 8, 2023, in his home in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, California. He was 88 years old. His family said he died peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of the morning, having eaten dinner with his wife, Valarie, and having spoken to one of his grandkids the evening before.
In addition to founding TKU in 1997, he was the founding pastor of The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California, President of The Foursquare Church from 2004 to 2009, bestselling author of more than 50 books, and wrote more than 500 songs, including “Majesty.”
“The home-going of Pastor Jack is a bittersweet moment for The King’s University family,” says TKU President, Dr. Jon Chasteen. “Like many of you, we mourn the loss of Pastor Jack but rejoice at the thought of him hearing, ‘well done, good and faithful servant’ as he walks on the streets of gold. It is one of my greatest honors to steward this great university, and to ensure that his legacy lives on for generations.”
Pastor Jack was born on June 25, 1934, with a life-threatening illness. Family and friends interceded for him, and he was miraculously healed. He experienced another healing miracle only a few years later when he contracted polio as a child. These miracles sparked in Pastor Jack a steadfast belief in the power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He believed in them, practiced them, and taught them. As he did so, his influence in the Church began to grow rapidly.
“I believe Pastor Jack was an Apostle Paul for our generation,” says Robert Morris, TKU chancellor and Gateway Church Senior Pastor. “Paul was a man of the Spirit and a man who knew the power of God. At the same time, he was a man who knew Scripture. He was a brilliant man who could communicate to different people and different churches in many ways, which is represented by the letters he wrote. So when I think of the Apostle Paul, I think of a man who had a diverse and rich background. A man who was an effective teacher of the Scriptures. A man who was of the Spirit, and a man of great intellect. A man who saw the power of God work within him. A man like Pastor Jack.”
In fact, it was his emphasis on that power of God—the present-day power of the Holy Spirit—that drew so many to learn from him.
“My wife and I met Jack in 1983 when we started attending The Church On The Way,” says former TKU trustee and friend, Dennis Newman. “We had attended another church that taught that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not for us today, and that really troubled us. We weren’t sure what to believe at that point. Our first time attending Church On The Way, Pastor Jack taught on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He taught so powerfully, beautifully, and clearly that even those of us who had little understanding of the Word could understand it clearly. That morning began a new season in our walk with God.”
The empowerment and the gifts of the Holy Spirit were central parts of Pastor Jack’s legacy, but so was scholarship. During a time when the charismatic church distrusted seminaries and academic theological studies, Pastor Jack had a passion for bringing the two together. “During that time in the charismatic church, seminaries were thought of as cemeteries,” says Larry Dantzler, who has served as a trustee since 1997. “Jack didn’t appreciate that perspective and he thought there was a way that scholarship could be lifegiving.”
Pastor Jack’s passion for bringing academic scholarship together with the charismatic-Pentecostal church galvanized many who believed there could be a seat at the greater theological table for theologians who believe in the present-day power and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The moment that sparked him to act happened while 30,000 feet in the air flying home from preaching at a rally in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1996. God spoke to him about starting a seminary, and so he obeyed. The next year, The King’s College and Seminary (now The King’s University) was born with the help of Dr. Jon Huntzinger, who still serves TKU, now as Dean of The King’s Seminary.
“He was constant and steadfast,” says Dr. Huntzinger. “He was the same person in public with other people that he was in private with his family. That was such an encouragement to me, and I’m so grateful for the time he gave me and my family. That’s one way the love he had for Jesus showed itself—in the way he gave time to people even as his sphere of influence increased. He was really a pastor. He engaged people as a true pastor.”
“Pastor” is one of the many words people use to describe Jack. Since learning of his death, thousands have flooded social media with stories and memories of Pastor Jack. Some refer to him as a leader, teacher, theologian, friend, spiritual father, mentor, but those who were closest to him knew his heart.
“Jack was a worshiper,” says Dantzler. “He’d get up every morning and roll to his knees and worship Jesus. I was honored to be his traveling companion, and I have a memory seared into my mind from when we shared a room in Oregon where he was speaking at a men’s event. That morning I saw him wake up and instantly roll to his knees to worship Jesus. My first thought when I heard the news of his passing? A true worshiper is experiencing worship with Jesus right now and he’s in the presence of the Lord.”