Much like that piercing I got my freshman year of college, I probably should have asked my parents permission to write this post before going through with it. Oops.
Also, much like my post on the time I took on my school’s uniform policy, there are a few people who will read this post and want to make it about the “uniform policy” rather then the lessons learned from the risk I took to take it on. Please, please, please, I beg you. Let my words, dedicated to my father on Father’s Day, be about the lessons I’ve learned from my dad and not about your defense of a “policy.” Trust me, you don’t want to go there with me.
Deep breath. Here we go.When I was 13, God spoke to my dad and told him to shut down his very successful private practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist, and go into full time ministry. That was the message. No further instructions. No “when” or “where” or “how” just “jump.” Because my dad is a risk taker, he said yes. He closed up shop at his office and put a “For Sale By Owner” sign next to our driveway. He updated his resume, having no formal ministry experience or seminary degree, and sent it to every and any church around the country looking for a “Family Pastor.”
Within a matter of months, our house sold and a church not more than 12 miles away hired my dad as their full-time “Pastor of Family Ministries.”
That “Yes” was the first of many risks for my dad and his time at that church. Not long after starting his new career of ministry, he basically dared a small group of musicians to join him on stage for worship with a drum set, piano, guitar and base. The “hymns only” congregation gasped and then applauded. Another triumphant risk.
Missions became very important to my dad and he began a ministry of taking teams to Mexico to build homes for sweet families across the border. Dozens of trips, dozens of homes, dozens of lives changed. Another triumphant risk.
There was a season of ministry where my dad felt God asking the church to switch from a traditional model of youth ministry to a “family ministry” model. There was a lot of push back but dad felt he had heard God clearly and took the risk anyway. He wrote curriculum and planned “family camps” and called out the parents of the church to be pastors in their home. I remember one Sunday he set out a painting by C. Micheal Dudash of a father reading the Bible to his kids and dad asked the parents of the church to sign the art piece as a commitment to leading their households in the ways of the Lord. That signed art piece hung in his office for years. “Parents as Pastors” became a theme of his ministry and many families were changed because of this fresh perspective.
With no “formal” preaching training, dad’s sermons were the best. Donned in a Hawaiian shirt, he’d stand in that Southern Baptist pulpit and teach in a way that captivated and challenged. He’d set up “Daniel Prayer Stations” around the sanctuary and invite families to visit them and follow the directions. We’d light candles and draw pictures and pray over maps of various countries and serve communion to each other. It was an interactive sermon that was new and unfamiliar and the church body loved it. Another triumphant risk.
Dad would often pass up a raise and ask it be given to another staff member he felt could use the money more than our family. Triumphant risk.
Fifteen years into ministry, our family was engaged in a spiritual battle like we had never seen or heard of before. A battle of Biblical proportions. There was no sin or moral failure involved, just pure war with the devil who hates us and seeks to destroy. It was messy and unfamiliar and my parents could have very easily decided to keep quiet about what was happening. But my dad took the risk and humbly asked for help. The elders and fellow pastors were called to fight along side my family. After a few months of those men talking and diagnosing, they concluded that partnering with my dad in this fight was too messy and not worth the risk. On a Friday morning, while I was visiting my tired and weary parents, my dad received an email from the leadership of the church informing him that his previously issued paycheck was his last and to come clear out his office. The following Sunday it was announced by this same leadership team that my dad had “chosen to resign” due to “theological differences.”
I have spent the last five years watching my dad “respond” to the fruit of that last risk he took in asking his co-workers and ministry partners for help during that season of battle. As you can imagine, there were hundreds of opportunities to speak out against what the leadership had done and how they had so cruelly lied about my family to save face.
Not. One. Word.
Speaking out in defense of our family would have been a risk. But choosing to keep silent as the rumors swirled and pit of lies being told grew deeper and deeper? The greater risk. The harder risk. The more painful risk.
Five years later there is so much healing. There is so much forgiveness. There is so much freedom. Victory over the enemy is sweet and deliverance is beautiful. My parents do not look like they did before. And they looked good before. Walking out a spirit-filled life produces a radiance that can’t be defined.
So was the risk to bring others into the battle worth it? On paper, it was a failed risk. A hard, ugly, tragic fail. Loss of a job, loss of relationships, loss of “reputation” on some level, a lot of loss.
My dad works 60 hour weeks now. He has re-opened his private practice and leads a home church on Sundays. He still wears Hawaiian shirts when he preaches and loves to see people interact with the truth and the beauty of the gospel. He is on mission to see the lost saved and set free.
For his 60th birthday, I asked any and everyone I could think of to write my dad a letter, thanking him for his ministry, sharing favorite stories, simply saying “happy birthday.” The response was beautifully overwhelming. I presented a book filled with letters of the fruit of a legacy of “yes” and risk. Lives completely changed for eternity because of the risks my dad had taken. The most recent risk of saying “yes” to a spiritual battle and the cost of the fight, being one of the most impactful.
My dad has a lot of “yes” left in him. He is leaving a beautiful legacy of risk and trust and faith. What a privileged to follow as his daughter. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Keep saying “yes.” Keep risking. Keep walking out the path God puts in front of you. Your obedience and faith is powerful.
I’ve always been told I look like my dad. I hope in more ways than one. May his “yes” legacy, be my “yes” legacy.