Remembering Phil Olson

By Ron Sider

Reverend Philip Olson (MDiv, Princeton), the first director of ESA’s program on holistic ministry, went to be with the Lord on August 28 after years of battling cancer.

Phil was a friend, a wonderful husband and father, and a gifted church leader. We were so impressed with his work combining evangelism and social action as an associate pastor at the thriving First Presbyterian Church of Mt. Holly, N.J., that we asked Phil to join ESA and develop a new program designed to help local congregations combine word and deed. To our delight, he agreed and established ESA’s Network 9:35 (based on Matthew 9:35, which says that Jesus preached the Gospel and healed every infirmity).

At ESA, Phil designed a variety of tools to help churches strengthen their holistic ministry. The book he co-wrote with Heidi Unruh and myself, Churches That Make a Difference: Reaching Your Community with Good News and Good Works, is still in print and blessing people.

After a number of productive years at ESA, Phil became a pastor for the innovative Church on the Mall in the Plymouth Meeting mall. In his final years, while battling cancer himself, Phil effectively ministered to others as a member of the Pastoral Team of Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

Joining me in thanking God for Phil’s wonderful life and praying for his widow, Holly, and their children.

Ron Sider is the Founder and President Emeritus of Evangelicals for Social Action.

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