Friday’s Hero ~ 6.7.13; David McEntire

FRIDAY’SI met one of my own personal heroes in 1997.  I had recently moved to South Florida and after moving injured myself on a trip to God’s Country.

The injury was rather severe and kept me off my feet for five months.  During that time I got very depressed and at the advice of my daddy started attending a Church near my home.

Not long after starting to attend the Church, I met the Senior Pastor, Rev. David McEntire.

A jovial guy, David is about 10 years older than I, he has three kids and a wonderful wife Nancy.

As I started attending Church at the United Methodist Church of the Palm Beaches, David and I hit it off and became friends.  I knew there was nothing I couldn’t talk to him about and witnessed through his daily actions a commitment to Christ that made me want to be a better man.

During the first months of our friendship I came out to David.  This was  a scary step for me as I wasn’t sure how he would react, silly me, he acted just like a child of God should act by loving and accepting me.

Sitting in David’s office, he said something to me that I will never forget.  David spoke to me as a friend and brother in Christ when he said that he didn’t know all the answers about homosexuality, but he knew I was his friend and he knew my character.  David said he would always be with me on my journey through life, not walking behind me, but beside me.

During that conversation, David McEntire touched my soul deeper than any Pastor ever had or has to date.

Over the years my friendship with David and his family grew.  The McEntire’s became very important members of my extended family.  I watched Katie, Andy and Molly grow into young adults and my friendship with the “first lady” of the Church, Nancy proved to be a sense of pride for me.

As a member of the Church, I was nominated for numerous leadership positions, David McEntire helped me grow in my faith and leadership abilities.

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A few years back, on an afternoon as I rushed from one meeting to another, I received a cell call from David.  I stopped to take the call and he told me the words I had been hoping not to hear.  He had been assigned to another Church and would be moving in June.  That call shook me to my core, although I put on a happy face, a part of my heart was ripped out that day.

David, Nancy and the kids have been gone for almost ten years, they serve in a large Methodist Church in Lakeland and have a vibrant congregation that embraces the family and their ministry.

David continues to love others, serve others, lead other and be a light for Christ that others can emulate.

David McEntire is a personal hero, a role-model and a friend.

This past Sunday, I was alarmed to see a Facebook post that the Westboro Baptist Church was protesting at David’s church.  I read a few posts and comments which, as suspected, let me know that David was loving everyone, welcoming everyone and witnessing to everyone, in short…. he really was Doing What Jesus Would Do!!!!!

My first thought was, if the Westboro Baptist Church is picketing outside your door, you must be doing something right.

The next morning, I awoke to a post from David…. typical David, loving and showing the light of Christ to all…..

Today protestors from Westboro Baptist Church and counter-protestors showed up at our church (they protested several Lakeland graduations and 7 churches, one of which is the church I serve).  Thank you to the members of our church who did no harm!  I know this was offensive and disconcerting, but the deeper quality of being a follower of Jesus Christ means that we are committed not to hate, even when we are hated.

Westboro, in my opinion has, and continues to, hurt people deeply with their message of hate and does great damage to the church, to families and to individuals.  I consider their message to be antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  I could never support their exclusive message, nor condone their hatred and vilification of most of the world.

And at the same time, I cannot support those who call for physical violence against the members of Westboro.  I am the first to admit that Jesus’ teaching about our response to enemies is difficult and challenging, especially in the face of such hatred, but in reading the gospels Jesus is clear, “Do not return evil with evil, rather, return evil with love.”  Though, (in the words of Clarence Jordan) I must admit I have the minimum amount of love for these folks, at least I did them no harm.  No question about it, being a Christian is tough at times.  I am deeply grateful that God is merciful.

Again, thank you to the good folks at the church I serve.  I am grateful that you are a wonderful reflection of God’s love, obeying the command of Jesus Christ to “love one another” as he has loved us.

For being an example of Christ love, for loving ALL, for being the type of Christian (or just human) that we should all be, I thank my friend, role-model and personal hero, Rev. David McEntire, Senior Pastor of First United Methodist Church of Lakeland, Florida; this week’s Friday’s Hero!

Life’s Playlist…. Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler

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Life’s Playlist…. Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler

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