Father to pass on the keys to Rock Church to son

Published 11:13 am Saturday, August 9, 2014

David Dillon, left, is passing the microphone to his son, Danny Dillon. Danny will take over head pastor duties at Rock Church starting next June. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

David Dillon, left, is passing the microphone to his son, Danny Dillon. Danny will take over head pastor duties at Rock Church starting next June. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

FRANKLIN—On Sunday, there were a lot of tears at Rock Church in Franklin. But the tears were of joy.

Pastor David Dillon announced on Sunday that when Rock Church turns 40 next summer, his son, Danny Dillon, will become the church’s leader.

“I can count on my hand the times that I have heard my dad cry or get choked up,” said Danny, who has served in the youth ministry for the church for the past 10 years. “He is a very passionate person, but you just don’t hear him cry much.

“But as he is going into making this announcement he gets choked up, and I am just done. It was all just a blur — I couldn’t see because of the tears that were just literally flowing down for like 30 minutes. I was a hot mess.”

David said that there was a lot of excitement, too. Once he had made the announcement and went into his conclusion sentence, something happened.

“I was going to conclude and say, ‘I’d like you to stand and acknowledge the future pastors of Rock Church,’” David said. “Before I could get that part out, they were already up clapping and hooting and hollering.”

Before the service was up, Danny, his wife Jill and their four boys served the church communion, and it was a special moment for a special day.

“One by one, the entire church just came through and hugged our necks,” he said. “They just had words of encouragement like, ‘We are here for you,’ or ‘We are so happy for you,’ and ‘We love to see your calling.’ And it’s not because of me, it is because they love their pastor so much, and whatever he is for, they are for.”

It’s the right time, David said, because Biblically speaking, 40 years signifies a generation. And in June 2015, when Danny will be installed as the senior pastor, it will mark the 40th year of Rock Church.

“I feel like it is an opportune time for the next generation to have a greater opportunity and a greater visibility,” David said. “So, essentially, I’ve had 40 years to really minister to this town and my generation. Now it is his time to lead, and we are just excited because we have a lot of young people in the church — a lot of young families.”

His son is also completely ready for the task, as Danny has been out in the community for years, teaching and coaching in the Franklin City Public School system, as well as leading athletic training camps for youth at Rock Church and for Franklin Parks and Recreation.

“Danny is very gifted, and he has a lot of impact in the community,” David said. “His impact is not only because of sports, but just because of him being a people oriented person.

“He also has a great passion for God, and he has a deep compassion for people. That is really what constitutes ministry.”

While David is not going to step away from the church completely, he said it’s also a good time to take a step back.

“My heart is like the athletic analogy in that we are passing the baton,” David said. “My wife and I have been running the race, and we still have some energy, but we are breathing a little heavier than we were years ago.

“So we are handing it off to them, and we are going to cheer them on as supporters. They have fresh legs and fresh energy.”

With a heavy heart, Danny is also having to take a step back from something — coaching Franklin High School basketball. He said he prayed about it and felt like it was the right decision.

“What we really want, is in June, when this takes place, to have a smooth transition,” Danny said. “Like when you are passing the baton in the exchange lane, you really want things to go smooth. If a guy is not paying attention, and he has his hand back there reaching for it but he’s looking in the stands.

“That’s what I feel like I would be doing with basketball, taking away from the attention of what is being pressed on.”

But in the long, it will be the right decision.

“On Sunday, all I could just feel was that this is fulfilling what I was born to do,” he said. “I love coaching, and I will continue to do that. But I was born to pastor to people and reach the lost.

“Every since I was 11 or 12 years old, I knew that this is what I was called to do.”

He also isn’t turning his back on his students.

“I plan on being up there and around them at the same time. I am going to still be involved,” he said, as a team champlain. “The reason we did this is so we could go ahead and when June comes, we are not just starting, but it has already been happening.

“So, to all of my former players, I just want to tell them to continue to lean on Jesus, and to come to 130 Lakeview Road because I will be here for the rest of my life for them.”

As far as Rock Church, Danny said it’s not really going to change that much. They’ll just keep working to continue the growth that his father and mother, Patty, had started.

“We’re going to take it in the same direction that it has been going in all of these years,” Danny said. “We are teaching people to love God, teaching people to love family, and teaching people to love their community.

“Rock Church has never been about numbers, but in the end, we are about lost souls. I always say that Rock Church isn’t for everybody, but God is. So our goal is that anybody who wants God, we want to draw them into his place, and in turn, disciple them so that they can disciple to others.

“We want Rock Church to be one of those places were it doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is. It doesn’t matter what your class is. It doesn’t matter where you are at spiritually. We want it to be a place where you can come and you can be loved as an individual.”

Almost 40 years ago, David Dillon and his wife started this church from scratch when he was 23. Danny said he and the church leaders, including his brother, Ben, who is the principal of the school, would really benefit from that.

“When dad started, he had another job for the first few years,” Danny said. “We don’t have to do a painting business on the side. We are going to be able to invest all of our time in this. We are going to be able to reap all of the labor that he has sowed over the years.”

The church is paid for. The new child care center is paid for. The soccer field is almost done. The youth cafe is done. The school is there. And they have 60 acres of land to build on, and one of the things they are looking to add is a gym through grants.

“We are just reaping,” Danny said. “And all of this stuff is just to draw people closer to God.”

Because everything is going so well, however, Danny did add that all of this came as a surprise to him.

“It is humbling because my father is 62 years old, in a 42-year-old body,” he said. “So I thought that maybe he would preach until he is 80, and we’d get the church when we are 60, and we’d hand it off to one of our boys after a couple of years.”

Though he said he’d like to pass the church off to one of his sons, he said he knows that a leader will step up to take it regardless of the last name.

“My father never once asked my brother and I what we think about taking the church over, never once,” Danny said. “He was always just the best father figure and was always behind what I wanted to do, in sports, and in college when I wanted to be a lawyer.

“He never asked, ‘Hey, why don’t you come be a pastor?’ And I won’t do that either. It just happened naturally, through prayer and through sacrifice.”

Even though he thought that it could potentially be years down the road before his father asked him to do this, he never thought about leaving.

“We have had other offers to take other churches during the last 10 years, or to start a church, but we never even entertained the thought,” he said. “That’s because we knew that the Dillons were called to Rock Church of Franklin.

“And it’s not just the church, it is based on how much we believe in this community. This is where my whole heart is, and I will be here the rest of my life.”