Pastor is an odd word. I hear it on a near-daily basis in the Christian world, but I rarely stop and think about what it actually means. Wikipedia tells me that pastor comes from pascere, a Latin word for shepherd, and I’ve surely heard it equated as such many times. That said, I feel many modern pastors never get the chance to truly walk out the life of a shepherd. With live video-casts, online sermons, and e-Bibles…with many churches boasting hundreds or thousands of members…our modern-day shepherds often have their hands full.
In that vein, I know of few pastors who had their hands as full as David Huskins. As the presiding bishop of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches, he oversaw a flock spanning dozens of countries, thousands of ministries, and millions of members, all from his relatively humble church in rural Cedartown, Georgia.
Tragically, David Huskins was found dead in his home on Monday, August 25, 2014. Four incredible children and a loving family, of which I have been honored to be a part of, survive him. As of now, I know little of the circumstances. I’m sure details will be forthcoming in the days that follow, as will countless stories, articles, and testimonies to David’s public ministry. However, I feel moved to share a little of the private ministry that many never saw, as a means of honoring this man who had more impact on my life than most could ever know.
The top priority of a shepherd, as I see it, is to protect his sheep. He is to ensure the safety of creatures that are, as Robert Robinson put it so eloquently, prone to wander. Thousands…perhaps millions…could attest to David’s knowledge of scripture, his strong teaching, and his willingness to say what needed to be said. These are all strong pastoral giftings, and his congregation was blessed to have them. However, I had the privilege of seeing beyond that…of directly witnessing the protective, fatherly heart that drove David…even at a relatively young age…to pursue me.
It still amazes me that this father?…no…uncle?…no…close cousin?…nope…try second-cousin in-law once-removed…there it is…could care for me and invest in me like he did. David and his wife Michelle hosted me at their home for multiple weeks over my childhood summers, and I have vague but wonderful memories from those days. I remember the tiny shofar (ram’s horn trumpet) that was reserved for me to sound. I remember spending time at the Victory 91.5 offices (David was on the air there for a while), listening to their vast collection of Adventures in Odyssey tapes when I got bored. I remember falling asleep to the sound of my shoes bumping around in the dryer (are you even supposed to dry shoes…and what was I doing that got them so wet anyway?). I remember feeling left out when I didn’t get a gum ball for using the toilet while their oldest son was potty-training (I was probably 5 or 6 at the time and definitely didn’t deserve it)…and then feeling awesome when I was given one anyway. My family tells me of others I’ve forgotten (I was apparently wont to follow David pace for pace as he walked around the room preparing sermons).
I was a very shy child…a restrained child. I was quiet and tended to stick to myself. However, when I was around David Huskins, that all changed. I ran all over Cedar Lake Christian Center…hid behind the altar kneelers, climbed up in the chairs on stage, and ran down the long staircase to the backstage bathroom (and it was a loooong staircase). Thinking back, it was all pretty irreverent. However, even if I had understood that at the time, I don’t think I would have cared. When David was near…I felt really, truly safe. I think it was because I was loved…perhaps as near perfectly as a boy can be on this earth. It was living proof of I John 4:18…perfect love truly does cast out all fear.
I think my clearest memories are from the day of my mother’s wedding…or my aunt’s wedding…or any other family wedding…or any other family gathering for that matter. Despite the long drive from west Georgia and his busy schedule, David took part in most every family gathering and significant event…and he was a treasure to have around. He could easily dominate a room, but tended to just speak when necessary, which was fine as his wit was sharp enough for two…or three. That said, he was often still near the center of attention, given that he officiated most every wedding, prayer, baptism, or game of pass-the-blessing that arose. David truly was a mainstay of my childhood.
The most important investment David ever made in me was in my spiritual development. David Huskins read me scripture…David Huskins prayed with me and for me…and after I accepted Jesus, David Huskins baptized me. Even in the latter years when I saw him less and less, I still was blessed by the insights on living a covenant life from his books and the process of discipleship from sermons like “A Diamond in the Rough.” I truly believe, like his namesake, that David Huskins was a man after God’s heart. Years before prayer rooms began springing up across the U.S. thanks to the work of international organizations like 24/7, David Huskins had a prayer tower at his church, and David Huskins frequented that prayer tower.
As often befits a man of his influence and calling, David’s life and ministry were, regrettably, not without controversy, and I suspect that his passing may bring its own brand. My hope and prayer is that in the coming days, any such controversy would take a back seat in light of the hope and faith that God brought to so many through David’s life. In 2008, David spoke powerfully about the desire to leave a legacy (http://bit.ly/1p7MT8J – starting at about the 1:20 mark). While I cannot speak to the legacy of his children or his church, I can truly say from personal experience that David loved one of the least of these…me…a shy second-cousin in-law once-removed…about as well as a child could be loved. Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 that when we do that, we are really loving Him. Had he never preached even a single sermon, David Huskins would have still been counted as the best pastor I ever had the privilege of being shepherded by due to the love that he showed me and the feeling of hope and safety that it provided. If that’s not a legacy, I don’t know what is.
My heart breaks with his loss, but my heart is filled with hope as well, for John 12:24 says “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The Christian life is a path to death, that in and through death we may find life in Christ.