My dad, George Christie, went to be with the Lord at dawn on Sunday, October 7, 2018, at the age of eighty-seven. Dad missed a beautiful sunrise that morning but instead awakened to the surpassing glory of his Savior Jesus Christ in Heaven.
Here’s a short summary of Dad’s life and a brief tribute to him. All the glory goes to God for Dad’s consecrated Christian living and service. It was all by God’s grace that Dad was called as a first generation Christian, that he provided his children and grandchildren with a godly heritage, and that he served the Lord so faithfully in his ministerial career.
Dad was born on January 4, 1931, near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. He graduated from Soo High School in 1950 and then attended the two-year college in the Soo. After marrying Phyllis McCarry on March 1, 1952, he transferred to Michigan State University, from which he graduated with a B.A. in Geography. Following graduation Uncle Sam drafted him for a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, which was spent serving in Germany.
Upon returning to the States, Dad intended to go back to school to obtain a degree in geology, but God had other plans for his life. Dad and Mom started attending a newly-formed Bible-teaching church in Lansing, Michigan, and there he came to saving faith in Jesus Christ. (See my August 29, 2013, Perspective on “Appreciating One’s Personal Spiritual Heritage” for an account of both my parents’ Christian conversions.) Before long Dad sensed God’s leading to prepare for vocational Christian ministry. So they moved to Winona Lake, Indiana, where he attended Grace Theological Seminary, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 1962.
Dad was immediately called to pastor the Grace Brethren Church of Grandview, Washington. His entire forty-four-year career of pastoral ministry was spent in Washington State, where he served four established Grace Brethren churches and was used of the Lord to plant three other churches. Dad continued in full-time pastoral ministry until the age of seventy-six.
My most common word of appreciation for Dad, which I have shared with countless people, is that he was a man of integrity. What we heard him preach publicly at church, we saw him live privately at home. I honestly do not recall Dad ever losing his temper or swearing, slandering or gossiping about anyone, manifesting racial prejudice or putting others down, exhibiting greed or covetousness, being envious of the successes or opportunities of others. By the Lord’s enablement, he truly did live a life that was above reproach from a human perspective.
Not that he was perfect. He would have been the first to acknowledge his own shortcomings. But even when he fell short, he modeled how to recover in a healthy fashion. Several times as a boy I heard Dad ask the Lord’s forgiveness in prayer or heard him apologize to one or another of his family members for some small way in which he had wronged them.
As a husband Dad was blessed with the love of his life for sixty-six years. He always treated his wife in a caring, respectful fashion. In the latter years of his life, he did quite a bit of walking in an effort to keep himself healthy. He divulged to me that one of his primary motivations for doing that was so he could continue to help care for mom. (And Mom certainly returned that favor to Dad by attentively caring for him throughout his final years of decline.)
As a father Dad regularly led us in a brief time of family Bible reading and prayer after breakfast or supper, thus seeking to consistently teach us the way of the Lord on a daily basis. He was a firm but fair disciplinarian. He put enough responsibility on his children to help us develop into responsible human beings, but gave us enough freedom to enjoy our childhood years. He supported our interests and attended many of our activities, whether church-related, academic, athletic, musical or merely hobbies. He celebrated our successes in a low-key way that let us know he was proud of us, but without causing us to become overly proud of ourselves. Dad continued to support and encourage us as adults, without interfering with or trying to control our lives. To the degree that he had opportunity to do so (sometimes limited by geographical distance), Dad sought to provide his grandchildren and great grandchildren with a godly example, encouragement, guidance and constant prayer support.
Dad was a friendly individual who was quick to smile at, greet and encourage others. While having a generally serious, dignified approach to life, he also had a lighthearted side. He enjoyed relating humorous, true incidents from his life with family and friends, sometimes laughing so hard that he needed to wipe away tears. He was a good-natured tease, especially with his family. At one of the churches Dad served, he was willing to dress up as Mr. Ho, Ho, Ho! for the gift-exchange portion of the congregation’s annual Christmas dinner.
Dad was a man of God’s Word, the Bible. In his long ministerial career he preached or taught through most of the books of the Bible, several of them more than once. He repeatedly read clear through the Bible each year.
Dad clearly modeled the Matthew 6:33 principles of serving Christ’s kingdom as his top priority in life while walking by faith that the Lord would provide the material needs of his family. Dad served smaller-sized churches on a slender salary, while Mom worked outside the home to help make ends meet. They regularly shared examples of God’s timely provision for the needs of their family or churches. Dad and Mom never owned their own home or even a second car. Their life was definitely about serving the Lord and advancing His kingdom rather than accruing material possessions.
Dad had a heart for those who needed the Savior. After coming to faith in Christ in his mid-twenties, he was ever eager that others would come to know Jesus as their Savior as well. He and Mom were careful to lead their own children to the Lord and also shared the Gospel (Good News) of salvation with their other family members. Dad regularly gave a Gospel invitation at the close of his sermons, led his church people in carrying out a weekly visitation program to share the Gospel with others, and encouraged active participation in evangelistic crusades and campaigns that took place in their area.
Dad was a faithful pastor to the congregations he served. He genuinely cared about the wellbeing of his congregants and sought to minister to their varied needs. Most of them, in turn, deeply appreciated and readily supported him. Dad spent the final seventeen years of his ministerial career serving the smallest of the various churches he had pastored. When asked the secret of his staying power through the inevitable thick and thin of Christian ministry, he indicated the key for him was being in the place of service where he believed God wanted him to be.
Dad’s final years of life were more difficult and discouraging for him, especially as he experienced physical decline which curtailed his ability to carry out his accustomed ministries. But even through those challenging years he remained fully trusting, extremely patient and very thankful for God’s many blessings. He never exhibited self-pity or resentment. The final months of his life he just wanted to go be with the Lord, and we his family members are grateful that God has mercifully granted that earnest desire. We grieve our temporary earthly separation from Dad but rejoice that he is safely with his glorious Savior, has already been clothed with Christ’s perfect righteousness and has begun to experience eternal life in Heaven.
Dad’s life verse was Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” By God’s grace and enablement both aspects of that personal declaration concerning life and death were true of Dad. So also are the declarations of 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”
Copyright 2018 by Vance E. Christie