Parents pass on Rock Church leadership to children

Published 12:32 pm Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Rock Church congregation, with bolstered numbers from ministries with connections to the Rock, put out their arms as a show of support for their new leaders, Danny and Jill Dillon. After founding the church and leading it for 40 years, David and Patty Dillon will move on to the next chapter in their service to God. -- CAIN MADDEN | The Tidewater news

The Rock Church congregation, with bolstered numbers from ministries with connections to the Rock, put out their arms as a show of support for their new leaders, Danny and Jill Dillon. After founding the church and leading it for 40 years, David and Patty Dillon will move on to the next chapter in their service to God. — CAIN MADDEN | The Tidewater news

Two Sundays ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find a more energetic event than what happened at Rock Church in Franklin. People were jumping, singing, dancing and lifting up their arms in praise, all leading up to a singular moment — the symbolic passing of the baton from father to son.

“When you worship with all your heart, God shows up,” said the Rev. David Dillon of the service. “His presence invades the atmosphere; people’s hearts are changed and supernatural overtures of God’s healing power manifest. There was a great sense of unity, love and support by our local church family.”

On that day, with Bishop Mel Davis officiating, David Dillon retired as full-time pastor after 40 years of leadership, and his youngest son, the Rev. Danny Dillon, was affirmed and accepted by the congregation. They reached out their hands in prayer toward their new leader, a leader many had accepted as the successor years ago. Of the more than 450 people gathered in the barn converted to sanctuary, it would have been difficult to find a completely dry set of eyes in the room.

On that day, the church was also passing from mother to daughter, as Patty Dillon gave her approval to daughter-in-law Jill Dillon. Patty said that she and her husband could not have picked a better partner for Danny.

“Mission accomplished,” David said of completing the transition after the service had ended. “We were tired, but exhilarated. We passed the baton; we were elated and we began to cheer on Danny and Jill and ‘Generation Next.’”

Passing the pastorship to family was a unique feeling, and David quoted from Psalm 145:4-5:

One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.

I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty, and on Your wondrous works.

“We have the utmost confidence in Danny and Jill and their leadership abilities,” David said. “We’re excited that Danny has a great team of young leaders at his side. The primary leaders of this group are his brother, Ben [Rock Church School principal] and his wife, Micah, and newly appointed Elders, Bobby and Melinda Woodward.

“Patty and I have been surrounded by a great team of leaders. Leaders Mark and Tina Scott have been in the church for over 35 years. They represent a great team that is committed to support Danny and Jill and see our church develop to a greater expression of service in our community and beyond.”

For the past 10 years, Danny has been on staff, and the congregation has come to accept that he would be the next leader. David said he’s known since Danny was in college that he had the potential to one day guide the church.

“Danny is the real deal,” he said. “I don’t just say that because he is my son, I say it because he has paid the price to develop his character and equip his heart for ministry. I always say that ‘Public ministry is based on private victory.’

“Danny has an incredible relationship with Jesus Christ. Jill does too! They have a great marriage and their ministry will flow from the strength of their family. Our church is behind them and ready to run with them.”

The years of service have not ended for David and Patty. The following day, they were doing something like what God has in store for their future. They took more than 30 Bolivians — members of ‘Agua Viva de la Roca,’ or Living Water from the Rock — to see Williamsburg and the Atlantic Ocean. Many had never been outside of the country, so it was special for them to be able to spend time at Rock Church and see the sites, David said.

“We will continue to oversee the ministry in Bolivia, working with [Agua Viva leaders] Marcus and Jennifer Morris and spending more time there,” he said. “Also we will travel and minister in this region, speaking at churches whose pastors are ordained through our local church or have asked Patty and I to serve as spiritual mentors. We’re not retiring, just re-firing.

“Pastor Danny is clearly our church’s new lead pastor, but we will continue to serve with him, in the short term, in areas of Bible teaching, counseling and caregiving. As time goes on, our ministry will focus more on international ministry and overseeing our fellowship of local churches.”

Patty said that Danny has always been outgoing and energetic. When they set the dinner table at their home in Carrsville, he would wonder who he’d get to meet. When he saw a large group of people, he would wonder who would save their souls. During college, he and his brother started a rap group, “Big Slam,” and brought a lot of people to God.

He continued that ministry through his coaching efforts, even though he was at a public school, and many schools might have frowned on such activity.

But not Principal Travis Felts at Franklin High School, and Danny used coaching track, basketball and soccer to bring many student athletes to Christ.

“I knew from when I was 11 years old that I was called to preach the gospel and pastor a church one day,” Danny said. “I was excited leading up to Sunday, but definitely nervous and also humbled by the fact that my father would pass such a great responsibility to me.

“He could’ve pastored the church another 20 years because he’s a 63-year-old in a 43-year-old body. He’s healthy and energetic, but yet he decided to let me run the race that God has for me!”

As his father and mother spoke of his accomplishments, the past and of their great faith in him for the future, he became emotional but continued to hold onto the hand of his wife, Jill. Many of the pastors offering charges said that marriage would be the foundation, the example, to help Danny lead the church.

“The service was greater than I expected,” he said. “The different charges from the different pastors were so inspiring. Now that it is over, I feel strengthened and encouraged because this is what I spent my whole life preparing to do. This is what God had in store for me.”

Others said that Danny was blessed to inherit a ministry where much of the work has already been done. Forty years ago, it wasn’t easy starting Rock Church, but David and Patty have opened Franklin’s doors for it.

Danny was inclined to agree that all he had to do was continue their momentum into a season of growth.

“We will strive to love everyone as Christ loves us,” he said. “We will look to make Franklin and Southampton County more on fire for God.”

The church grounds themselves will also receive upgrades. Recently, a soccer field was built, but there are still 60 acres of land to improve upon. Danny anticipates building a multi-purpose gymnasium, as well as a baseball field. As the congregation grows, they will look to construct a dome-like structure to seat 500 to 1,000 people.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world to honor my mother and father in this way, as my wife and I take what they started 40 years ago and continue it,” he said. “We will be here for the rest of our lives and will work side by side with my family, church and our community to make this area one of the greatest places to live in.

“My wife and I were offered other churches to pastor, but we knew we were called to Franklin, Virginia. I want to thank my parents, my brother and sister and their families, my church family and our community because all of you played a part in helping me fulfill the will of God for my life.

“I will live every day to make you proud and we believe that God’s best is yet to come. God, let our future begin!”