I was a squirrelly 15-year-old, so I don’t remember what started the conversation. But I do remember the first piece of doctrine I learned from my senior pastor.
Interestingly, Daniel’s lesson to me that day was one he’s teaching this very month: from Matthew 5, about outer realities versus inner. It isn’t enough, he taught me, to technically adhere to the law while still longing to break it. Jesus “raised the stakes”, he said to me; he taught that inner darkness is the real sin, and inner righteousness is the real treasure. A crucial lesson, and a very “Daniel” one.
Last night, eighteen years later, our church family gathered to celebrate Daniel and Vicki’s 25th year of service. They’d ventured out to Montana in 1991 as – well, kids, almost, a decade younger than I am now(!), to follow Daniel’s call to pastor. I still remember Vicki showing off her second baby bump one Sunday morning while Daniel joked about having lost the church basketball (that bump graduates high school this summer; their first is a Marine). Decades later, God has borne salvations and baptisms, missions on every continent but Antarctica, training of a number of pastors now spread across the country, and in general, great spiritual progress in this corner of the nation – all through their ministry, and those of the people they discipled. I would not be surprised to one day spot them witnessing to the penguins.
Daniel has kept our church grounded in a love for the Word, foreign missions, and personal holiness. He’s a bulldog towards sin, yet a great people person. He’s welcomed a variety of associate pastors of different molds and personalities than he – something requiring a specific, underestimated humility. He fought tirelessly for my family when it was threatened with dissolution. I have very much needed to see all these qualities in a spiritual leader. Were I to find myself running from a zombie apocalypse and somehow asked to start my own (mobile) church, I would have a good foundation thanks to Daniel. Love the Word, love people more than yourself. And know how to use a firearm.
Vicki, for her part, has been a wonderful partner for him, not just as a pastor’s wife and mother (almost two full-time jobs) but as the worship leader. It doesn’t hurt that she has the voice of an angel, but her devotion to the call and her enthusiasm for including others has truly made her act tough to follow. Who knows how many date nights she’s surrendered while Daniel was called away at the last minute to some hospital bedside. May she be rewarded.
Pastors have a front-row seat to the sin of their congregations, get blamed for everything, and are least positioned to enjoy their families even as they fight for others’. I do not envy their job. Today, I am grateful for Daniel and Vicki for their many hours of advice to me and their steadfast friendship. Many will see God because of their service.
May we all be blessed to find such examples.