As we approach Father’s Day I recall Peter Marshall’s maxim, “The measure of life is not in its duration, but in its donation.” My dad’s short life framed a vast donation that continues to enrich the cause of Christ today. Warren Shibley died July 17, 1965, when I was fifteen. He was only forty-four, but he left a great legacy.
Here are just a few of Dad’s donations that keep benefiting me:
Love for Jesus and a heart for missions. My dad wanted people everywhere to know the Christ he loved. More than once growing up I would wake in the night and hear him praying for missionaries by name, for nations, and for the needed funds for missions projects. Although my father’s only international travel was when he served in World War II, his heart and thinking were global. He was a Great Commission Christian, often referred to as “the man with a missionary heart.”
Love for family. My dad and mother were a solid ministry team and loving, affirming parents. Our upbringing was strict but my folks also shaped a climate of grace laced with laughter. So their strictness didn’t come across to me as legalism, it came across as love. I always remember my dad as busy in the Lord’s work – but not too busy for us kids.
Love for God’s Word. Although his formal education ended with high school, he had an insatiable thirst for learning. This All-State football player’s college aspirations were interrupted by war, but he remained a life-long student. His Bible was a close companion. He learned to do Greek word studies and was an avid reader. The large portions of Scripture he memorized made his preaching richer than the sermons of many who had much more formal training.
Friend to pastors. Like most other homes in the 1950s, ours had just one wall-connected telephone. I got a valuable education just hearing my dad talk to fellow pastors. He was always an encourager, but I also remember overhearing him take a pastor-friend to task for failing to be a godly example. Years after his death a pastor told me with tears, “If I ever had a real friend, it was your dad.”
Unselfish. Another pastor told me, “Your father was the most unselfish man I ever met.” He lived for Jesus and for others. He took to heart Paul’s admonition, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). Like so many in his generation (those Tom Brokaw aptly calls America’s “greatest generation”), my dad was humble. He didn’t like to talk about the kamikaze planes that bore down on his ship in the South Pacific. Although he suffered severe frostbite that rendered his feet largely disabled, he would not take any government compensation. When asked why he simply said, “My country doesn’t owe me anything.”
Kind. Children especially loved to be around Warren Shibley. Even during his final illness, children sought him out to talk with them. A little girl in our neighborhood dubbed him “the sunshine man.” One could literally hear the compassion in his voice. I’ve heard only two other preachers who carried compassion in their voices in the same way: Charles E. Fuller and W. A. Criswell.
Consistent. My dad “walked the walk.” Like all of us, he wasn’t perfect. But he lived what he preached. He “pressed toward the mark” (Phil. 3:14). There was no duplicity in him. Even though his death left me a broken-hearted teenager, I would rather have Warren Shibley as my dad for fifteen years than any other man as my father for all my life.
Generous. More than once I watched him empty his pockets for missionaries. He led the church he pastored in giving fifty per cent of every offering directly to missions – and that was from the very first offering ever received at the church. This small church’s impact was completely disproportionate to its size – because they were led by example to give liberally from whatever they had for the gospel’s global advance.
In retrospect, I now realize that our family probably would have been classified economically as “lower middle class.” But it never occurred to me that we were financially limited – because my dad was so consistently generous. Although we got around in a used car and lived in a small, wooden house, I felt somehow we were wealthy. And, in fact, we were.
Thirty-eight years after his death, some 100 people gathered at the church where Dad served as founding pastor to remember and celebrate Warren Shibley’s life. That night I heard story after story of how his life continued to affect people decades later. My father exulted in the grace of God, and he demonstrated that grace toward others. At the same time he had a healthy reverence for God. He left his children (and many others) a profound legacy. “In the fear of the Lord is great confidence, and his children will have a place of refuge” (Proverbs 14:26).
Have you noticed that the stock of the truly great tends only to grow over time? Warren Shibley’s investments are now bearing compounded interest. Thank you, Dad, for your donations. I’m looking forward to our family reunion.
* * *
Find out more about Warren Shibley’s life and profiles of 22 other notable missions leaders in David Shibley’s book, Great for God. This book is a valuable tool used by thousands in family and personal devotions and as a supplemental history textbook in Christian schools and home schools. Available at www.christianbook.com and www.amazon.com.