The death of a friend, Bob Shaker

By Michael A.G. Haykin

I have just learned that an old friend whom I first met in 1983, Bob Shaker, has to gone to be with the Lord. He would have been 100, I believe next year. A Syrian immigrant with four sisters and a couple of brothers raised in the Syrian Orthodox Church, Bob came to faith at Jarvis Street Baptist Church and was discipled under TT Shields—he served as one of his deacons at one point in the 1950s. In later years he attended Knox Presbyterian Church and then most recently Mount Pleasant Road Baptist Church.

He had a bookstore in Toronto that served to distribute Reformed literature at a time when few bookstores in the 1960s and 1970s were carrying it. And what gems he had there: The Banner of Truth magazine, books by Lloyd-Jones and Packer, fabulous biographies and rare studies in Scripture and Church History that no other Toronto bookseller would carry since they would not sell. As a sign in his bookstore window put it: “We sell books, not fluff” or something to that effect!

He was a friend and mentor to hundreds of pastors who came to his bookstore not simply to buy books but to spend time with Bob. Here many well-known preachers visiting Toronto would come. I vividly remember him telling me about the visit of Ian Paisley with two bodyguards. In his latter years I went to see him regularly at the bookstore, where he dispensed nuggets of practical Christian wisdom about Reformed theology, how to work with other evangelicals, the need for a solid Canadian evangelical witness, his love for TTS (he never ceased to admire him)—and then after an hour or two we would pray together. What a rich prayer life he had.

In his final days, I saw him irregularly—at his home in the heart of Toronto (one of those beautiful homes from the 1910s or 1920s with rich hardwood). The last time would have been at Mount Pleasant Road Baptist Church, I believe, when they celebrated an anniversary and where Lucien Atchale is doing a tremendous ministry. Of course, at a time like this, I regret not having gone to see him more. So I am glad we had a celebration of his life at Mount Pleasant Rd BC a few years ago before his death and rejoiced in what God had accomplished through this humble servant.

It was an honour to have known Bob and to be able call him a friend. And now he is in the presence of the Great King: the delight of his heart!

____________________ Michael A.G. Haykin is the director of the Andrew Fuller Center for Baptist Studies. He also serves as Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Haykin and his wife Alison have two grown children, Victoria and Nigel.