My brother Joey and I were blessed to have a wonderful father. He was a great pastor of two congregations during our childhood and another after we were grown and out of the house. Dad always excelled; his congregations grew much larger than they were before he found them. His influence in the community was widely known and valued. He was a true lover of people. The further someone was from God, the more attention they received from Dad.
One of his more memorable sermons was titled, “Put A Lamb On Your Shoulder.” The message is based on Luke 15, the story of a shepherd who has 100 sheep and loses one. The shepherd leaves the 99 and finds the one lost lamb, puts it on his shoulders, and carries it back to safety.
Dad, in his lifetime, put a lot of lambs on his shoulders. Honestly, there were times I wanted his shoulders, but someone else was on them. But, there was plenty of opportunity to get on those shoulders, and I spent a great deal of time there well into my adult years.
More than anything, the lambs on his shoulders became examples to me of how loving and careful we must be in our lives with sheep who have gone astray.
Dad grew up having to work very hard. He was loved by his parents, two brothers, and sister, but their lives were not easy. He and his siblings learned the value of hard work and they all achieved impressive success in their respective fields as a Navy Chaplain, a pastor, an educator, and a businessman who also served in the Navy.
Our mom was all about taking care of the home front by providing the finest home-cooked meals, a comfortable, well-decorated home, and plenty of love. But ministry was a difficult assignment in those days and she found the ministry "fish bowl" very uncomfortable. Ministry in the late fifties, sixties, and seventies was very different from the way it is today; by the time I became a pastor, the demands were nothing like those my parents faced.
I've been blessed to serve my church in Oklahoma City for 36 years, and my parents have always encouraged boundaries that protected quality personal and family time. So, Kim and I made our marriage and our kids a priority. There were times when the schedule was very challenging and time at home wasn't what it should have been, but my kids loved and still love our church. Kim and our kids have embraced the path our church has taken; we did this together as a family.
I get far too much credit for the success of our church. I've been blessed with a family that served alongside me every step of the way and they are a vital part of the story. They have a great deal to do with the success. As I look back, if Dad was still with us, he would say that Joey and I loved being at the church with him from our earliest childhood years and we still feel the same today. Dad showed us what a great church looked like. Mom played the organ or the piano and, when she wasn’t playing, she was singing in the choir. Joey and I played a lot of hide-n-seek in the church on those days when Dad was in his office and Mom was in the sanctuary practicing.
I was very proud to be my father’s son, the son of David Grubbs. He was constantly opening doors for Joey and me. To this day, some of our closest friends are the sons and daughters of our dad’s closest friends. He walked alongside other spiritual giants who often found their way to our dining room table. They were songwriters, authors, college presidents, distinguished pastors and leaders in cities around the country. African American pastors were among the most frequent guest speakers at our church. These were nationally-known leaders such as Dr. James Earl Massey, Dr. Ron Fowler, Dr. Marcus Morgan, Ben Reid, Sam Hines, and others who have made a significant mark on my life.
Dad always brought the best he had to every situation and that, in turn, brought the very best to his life as well.
He called me most Sunday evenings to see how the day went at church here in Oklahoma City. He celebrated the big days and on the less-than-amazing days, he reminded me that every church has those days. He gave me some great advice; I'll never forget when he told me that pastors should not make any decisions on Mondays. Many pastors wake up on Mondays wishing they had done a better job the day before, sometimes discouraged when the crowd was smaller than usual, and always tired. This often leads me to remember lyrics from Karen Carpenter’s famous song: "rainy days and Mondays always get me down." Ask any pastor and he or she will tell you we don’t need rain on Mondays to feel discouraged.
No one can fully understand the unique demands of ministry unless you’ve been there. Since Dad had been there, he could relate to me in ways that proved to be very helpful. He loved my Oklahoma City church. I asked him to speak almost every year and he formed many very close friendships with the people of Crossings. Dad was very instrumental in helping raise millions of dollars to build our school. Most of his Sunday messages at Crossings came on Father’s Day. I have video I will always cherish from his 2008, 2011, and 2013 Easter messages here at Crossings.
Dad died on May 11, 2015. Among his possessions that made their way to Oklahoma are a few pairs of shoes. Nice shoes. Dad had great taste in clothes and shoes. Those shoes are now in my closet; I got them because we are the same shoe size. And whether or not I’m wearing a pair of his shoes, they remind me every day that he paved the way for me to experience things that shaped my life, my thinking, and my love for Jesus and His church.
God is the ultimate example of the perfect father. He not only shows us how to father, He gives us the power to do it. Thanks, Dad, for following Jesus, and showing me the way to do the same.