We continue from last week my personal thoughts and recollections over the recent passing of Rev. Dennis Hartley:
To give you an idea about the type of pastor I knew Bro. Dennis to be, there was only one other pastor that would either come close or surpass him–that of the assistant pastor of the Worldwide Church of God congregation in Albuquerque who in the face of a very challenging personal financial situation displayed the needed tough love and practical mindset and thinking that didn’t accept excuses and didn’t tolerate rebellion against authority or was a pushover for emotional appeals. Rare was that commodity of truth and honesty even at the point of hurt in my life–until I found myself as one of the regulars at Bro. Dennis’s DTBM Monday night services…first at the old location next to the Health Dept., then even following that when he and Doris were able to make arrangements to DTBM’s present location across from the Plainview Post Office where The Unique Touch used to be.
I will tell you something about Bro. Dennis’s personal style as a pastor. If you were looking for a pastor to burp and feed you like a spiritual baby and soothe your hurt feelings, even Bro. Dennis himself would readily admit that he had no time or energy to waste on things like that. If you didn’t like anything he said or did, tough cohooties…learn it, love it and deal with it…or just go ahead and walk out the door…and don’t let it hit you on the way out.
To me, one of the things instead that Bro. Dennis is best known for here in Plainview above all else is that he above all else was a pastor for spiritual grownups…for those who took responsibility for themselves and their relationship with God. If you needed someone to hold you accountable, don’t be surprised if he stepped on your toes if you truly needed it and you got hurt by it as a result. He had not only high expectations not just of himself in ministry, but of the rest of us who became part of his regular congregation. He was never afraid to call you out if you messed up–but was also just as compassionate to the needs of the very city he was born and raised in.
Not too many pastors that I know of had the administrative skills and practical experience that Bro. Dennis had to do what he did. From only his past experience in the grocery business and starting literally from the bottom with almost nothing, the Lord used this former biker of all people to influence people all through the nation and in particular pioneer a unique food and clothing distribution ministry that has continued in even more capable hands for over 15 or more years and that has at times been single-handedly responsible for feeding over 700 or more Plainview area people two afternoons a week most weeks of the year with consistency and high quality items that he knew that the poor and needy would receive and appreciate.
He to me was also a pastor that you could do business with and know that he would ONLY be willing to do something IF the Lord had specifically directed him to do so. You never had to guess when that would happen–because if he didn’t feel led to do something, HE DIDN’T DO IT! But if Bro. Dennis DID have that leading, he would attempt to do what he could and be honest with you with what he realistically could and could not do. And particularly for someone who has been of a church that was just 30 or 40 years ago thought of as a “cult”, he examined the facts at hand that I and others presented to him–and welcomed me as a fellow citizen and servant in His Kingdom and allowed me to be there for part of his own ride.
But most of all, I saw him as a true man of prayer–who was never afraid to stand in agreement with you whenever any needs arose in your life. When he was led to name his ministry “Dare to Believe”–I don’t think it was a casual decision or a coincidence that he did so. He was never ashamed to be bold enough on a consistent basis to literally DARE people to believe in a God that could do the impossible–for he also in many ways throughout his lifetime saw his God do the same for him. He went through many challenging situations in his lifetime (even in most recent years since he added the mantle of pastor of New Covenant Church to the other things he did). But even in the midst of those, it’s hard to deny how much of an overcomer he was to the many challenges that came his way.
There’s an old saying that goes like this–”…It doesn’t matter where you start, but instead it matters how you finish.” Bro. Dennis didn’t have the smoothest of personal or ministry starts–but I believe that when our God opens those books and does His own final tallies on how Bro. Dennis did, in my opinion I believe He’ll at least be able to say that he at least did what he could to finish well–and that he will not have anything to be ashamed for when he personally has to give an account for his life and ministry to His Father in heaven.
Would it be that in this post-COVID era that we could have more pastors for spiritual grownups like Bro. Dennis was–less spiritual nursery working and more holding feet to the fire and insistence on personal accountability? Just a few days ago, I didn’t just lose one of my long-time backers and supporters–but I lost the pastor who I always knew I could count on to tell me the unvarnished truth about any situation I faced and not be ashamed or afraid of how I would react. Even if others turned away from him, Bro. Dennis was one of those my God would never allow me to turn away from. And he was one of those that I was personally proud to consider one of my own personal pastors and undershepherds that I was proud to serve under. That’s going to be one big hole that’s going to now be VERY hard to replace–for it was one of the personal checks and balances on my own personal spiritual growth and journey that I relied and depended on for so long..
Closing commentary and remarks about Dennis Hartley next week…Until then in the meantime (as He graciously may allow), we’ll see ya next time at the CROSSroads–