Sunday, August 13, 2006

Complete Text: Glen Shirk Commendation

Here is the text of the commendation for Pastor of the Year presented at Celebrate06, as composed and read by Joel Richards of Modesto:


Born June 11, 1943 in Modesto, California where he was raised.
Attended Modesto Junior College, University of California at Berkley and University of California, San Francisco Medical School (UCSF).

He married Lois Marie Miller in 1966. Together they have five children, all married and serving the Lord.

After internship and residency my friend opened a private practice of Pediatrics in Modesto, California where he was instrumental in establishing the first Neo-natal Intensive Care unit in the area. While in practice he and his wife attended the Ripon Grace Brethren Church where he served on the deacon and elder boards.

After eight years of a successful pediatric practice God called this brother to full time pastoral ministry. Pastoring was something he had felt called to as a young believer and for various reasons had not pursued. Now at age 35 with a wife and five children, he sold his home and moved to Southern California and attended Talbot Seminary where he earned his M Div.

This pastor was called to the Ripon Grace Brethren Church right out of seminary in 1981. The church had had 3 pastors in three years and he was advised by many not to go there. He has served there ever since, 25 years to be exact.

When he came to Ripon, this pastor asked God to do two specific things in his ministry. He asked God that He would make Ripon Grace a church that would embrace those who came into its sphere of influence with love and acceptance. He also asked that the church become a congregation that looks outward toward the world instead of inward. God has granted Glen both of his requests.

This church has sent out short term ministry teams and individuals all over the world.
It has an annual golf tournament that has financed nine overseas projects and is currently working on funding a second training center for Medical Ambassadors International training center in Uganda.
This pastor serves full time at the church and still spends one morning each week (on his day off) working in a pediatric office in Modesto.

He has taught in depth Bible classes for junior high and high school youth who are home schooled while their mothers attend a women’s Bible study.

He has served Hospice of San Joaquin as a pastor and spiritual advisor and serves on the Ethics Committee of Bethany Home, a convalescent hospital for senior adults. He assists with devotions at Bethany Home as well.

One of the things he does well is to support his people while turning them loose to pursue their personal passion for ministry. As a result, the church has supported the following:
1. A skating ministry for teenagers in the back parking lot of the church.
2. Inviting students from Ripon High School (right across the street) for a free lunch on Thursdays during the school year. (Attendance has been as high as 160 kids)
3. A golf tournament that raises thousands of dollars each year for missions. (This year they raised $50,000.
4. Ministry at a local Gospel Mission.
5. Ministry at Ione prison, a facility that houses young offenders.
6. Regular involvement and fund raising for the local Pregnancy Center.
7. Ripon Grace Christian Children’s Center which serves 80+ preschoolers from the community.

What Might Have Been?

My dad is a good man. But try as I might, I can't help but ask, "What might have been?" You see, while My dad is a good man, he is not a great man. Great men move the masses with their words, and change the course of history with their deeds. They amass wealth, and their names find their way onto our lips and into our vocabulary. They are admired, loved, and feared. They become more than men. My dad, on the other hand, is just a man- a good man.

Please don't misunderstand me. I love My dad. Throughout my life he has been to me a life giver, provider, defender, teacher, hand of discipline, obstacle, and hero- all the things that make fathers special. And as my father, my dad taught me that we reap what we sow. Within this context, a short review of my dad's life reveals the series of decisions made and opportunities missed which led to this current mediocrity.

My dad is a brilliant man. I would take his intellect over anyone reading this letter. He has the ability to dominate conversation and overwhelm opponents, though he may not choose to. He reads books like comics, armchair quarterbacks for the Niners, and counsels his Midwest sons by phone . . . simultaneously. This is the kind of mind from which great men leverage their greatness.

My dad started well. With a whole life ahead of him and a medical degree in his pocket, my dad could have had it all. What went wrong? What was he thinking? Had my dad stayed full time in medicine, worked longer days and weekends, and stopped at 2.5 kids, we could be celebrating his retirement today (sans me, Phil, and half of Becky). Instead he celebrates this anniversary knowing that must prepare another sermon to be delivered over next weekend and provide a week's worth of counseling and guidance, all in the relative anonymity of a small town in the Central Valley of California. What might have been?

If the things of the Spirit are foolishness to men, then my dad is surely a fool. For only a fool would sow the seeds that my dad scattered not in spite of, but in hope of the harvest he would reap. As if by design, my dad chose a simple life over wealth, ministry over career, and faithfulness over fame. Incredibly my dad compounds the oddity of his actions by encouraging others to do the same. It is almost as if my dad sees something not visible, believes something unbelievable, and invests in something of unknown worth. While the paths of great men lead others to see and follow themselves, my dad's path leads others to see and follow another. And with all of the intellectual might at his disposal, my dad chooses to constrain himself to another's words, to deliver someone else's message, to build someone else's kingdom. Oddly enough, watching him, I am inspired to do the same.

And so my prayer has changed. I want to be more like my father. God, please allow my simple prayers to move the Almighty, not the masses. Let my humble actions change eternity, not just history. I would endeavor to amass for myself treasure, not here on earth, but equity in heaven, where inflation doesn't devalue, and the IRS can't tax. I wish not an early retirement, but as a good servant to busy myself with the business of the master, not knowing when he will return. And finally I ask not to be a great man, but that my name would be forgotten here on earth that it might be on the lips of the Savior as he confesses me before the Father. That in glory I would stand beside the one who taught me to be a fool and sing the praise of the one who through foolishness made me wise.

So to my father, I say, thanks for showing us how to live. Enjoy the conference and when you get home go to bed early, because the next morning it will all begin again as you pick up your Bible and get back to work.

Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.

If I might add to that, I don't know if this man has the same sense of the gift of encouragement that Barnabas possessed, but I do know I can say of him as it has been recorded of Barnabas, "He is a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and Faith."

And so, It is my privilege to introduce to you the pastor of the year, my friend and your collegue, Glen Shirk.


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