Five years ago in the early summer of 2013, Lisa and I were making a huge transition. We had been in full-time ministry at our home church, WFR Church in West Monroe, since the fall of 1988. 25 years of our lives were spent in training and serving the people of God as well as trying to rescue the souls of as many as possible through sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. We weren’t burned out or disillusioned and we didn’t get asked to leave. We decided that God was opening a door for us through our family business at Duck Commander as well as the mushrooming success of a reality show about our family. It was a hard decision to leave and a lot of people that mentored us and loved us really tried to talk us into staying put, but sometimes you just take that leap of faith and see where you land.
The day-to-day routine changed immediately because Lisa and I were working every day for the company and appearing sporadically on the show, but I was still preaching quite a bit and teaching and so from the church’s perspective, I was still there. That first year at Duck Commander was quite the learning curve for us as we were working overtime trying to get the products out the door and also working on licensing agreements for the family as the success of the show was opening up opportunities faster that we could get to. We often referred to those days as “drinking out of a fire hose!” Along with our DC work, we were also writing books and doing appearances with family members around the country. The bigger this new world got, the less I was available back home at our church.
When we wrote and released our own story, A New Season in January 2015, things really took off for us and what was now shifting again into an international ministry opportunity to help marriages, help people hurting from poor life choices and sharing the gospel with audiences around the world. My role on the show expanded enough that people began to know me as the beardless brother who was a pastor, which only increased our opportunities to go and speak. It seemed pretty clear to us that this is what God wanted us to do now. It still stung a little though when we would get to be home at WFR and people were still asking when we were coming back or would jokingly introduce themselves to us as if we were visitors. I consistently asked God, “Are we doing the right thing? Are we following your will?” I had always planned to make enough money in this new venture to eventually come back and work voluntarily at our church as a shepherd, teaching and preaching when asked, but with this crazy ride we were on, I was rarely ever home to do anything locally.
If we fast forward to 2018, we see things have shifted yet again. It’s been five years since I left paid ministry and the pace finally seems more manageable. The show ended in April 2017 and we left our jobs at Duck Commander around that time to dedicate ourselves fully to our ministry to hurting people, our writing, and our speaking. This website and blog are part of that effort. I also got the opportunity in the fall of 2017 to start a production company with my cousin Zach Dasher called Restoration Production Company and we are now producing two shows for CRTV.com, including Dad’s new show called In the Woods With Phil. It’s been a lot of fun getting to work creatively again with Dad and Mom and also working on creating better content for the internet and television. Only God knows where this will lead.
In the past month, I have been asked to speak at four funerals here at WFR and to perform a wedding in NW Arkansas. I also preached one Sunday in there, as well. It has felt like I have finally been able to plug back into the local lives that I love so dearly and still work toward the goals of using the platform God built for us to glorify him in our culture. Lisa and I are currently writing another book named Desperate Forgiveness that will be released early in 2019 by Focus on the Family. A wonderful writing couple named Steve and Lois Rabey are helping us with the book and we can’t wait until it gets out there to help people.
Working on the concept of forgiveness has played a big role in my “local ministry homecoming.” The first of the four funerals I spoke at was my cousin who had committed suicide in his jail cell. He had been addicted to opioids for about the last 12-15 years and his life snowballed into quite a mess. At the funeral, which was mostly composed of my family, I knew that almost everyone there had been hurt, betrayed, swindled or abused by my cousin’s addiction. His two ex-wives and daughter were also there and I knew the pain he had brought to them, so the two themes that the Holy Spirit laid on my heart were hope and forgiveness. Most of the family that doesn’t live here didn’t know that my cousin had committed his life to Christ, been baptized and tried really hard to escape the devil’s snare of the drugs, but sadly succumbed one final time and it cost him his life.
In Romans 4:18, Paul wrote that “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations….” When you are reeling with a family member that took his own life in such a bad circumstance and never got the chance to make amends, it seems like there is no hope to ever see him or make that situation right and yet I hope against all hope and I believe. My cousin’s eternal fate is in the hands of the Almighty, not mine, but I still hope and I wanted my family to know that. Hope is most important when hopelessness abounds and I would never want to take that away from anyone.
I also knew that forgiveness was the ultimate healing opportunity for all the relationship carnage that was in the room so I closed my eulogy by doing something I have never done before. I invited everyone there to forgive my cousin for any sin, hurt or wrong that he ever did to them. I added that it’s not for him, but for you. Forgiveness allows LOVE to replace hurt, bitterness, anger or even hatred. Forgiveness fills wounds with healing. I knew that some might be thinking, “I’m not ready for that right now.” I get that because it has to be more than just the words, but I warned them to be careful with that delay. The Hebrew writer says in Hebrews 12:15 that once a bitter root is planted in your heart it grows to cause trouble and defile many…beginning with you! I closed with the story from Luke 7 where Jesus told a bitter, jealous Simon the Pharisee who was hating on a broken woman cleaning Jesus’ feet with her tears, desperately seeking forgiveness. Jesus told Simon, “To those who are forgiven for much, they tend to love much, but to those who are forgiven little, they tend to love little.” I then had a few minutes of silent reflection for some conversations to happen with the Almighty about relationships, hurts and a road to healing through forgiveness.
I made a decision that I would close every funeral forward with something similar because that is always a great opportunity to bury hurts and pain along with a loved one’s body. The Lord gave me three more funerals in a short span and a lot of people told me how much that helped them and some were offering forgiveness to family members that had nothing to do with the person that had passed away! I love it when the Holy Spirit gives you a new tool to help people! I got a wedding in there too, which is a lot more jubilant and uplifting setting, so thank you Lord for giving me just what I need to do ministry and to trust you to guide my path along this journey.