A Tribute to Daryl Summey: An Extraordinary Friend

When Daryl Summey died last week, the world became a little bit darker. Though Daryl is now ‘the late Daryl Summey” in the most profound sense of that sad phrase, his legacy of love, compassion, and faithfulness lives on in the grand mosaic of our memories. He was a friend to the friendless, a leader to the lost, and a father to the fatherless. Below is my small contribution to the grand story of Daryl Summey, a narrative that extends across five decades, multiple continents, and thousands of hearts.

Reflections Daryl Summey

Daryl Summey possessed a special knack for making the ordinary the extraordinary. He turned the collection of a few Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes into a multi-thousand box enterprise that trafficked in massive loads of t-shirts, crayons, toothbrushes, toy trucks, balloons, and balls. He took normal disciple now weekends and transformed them into Encounter Weekends that were full of shaving cream, massive decorations, and passionate sermons that resonated with thousands. He appropriated ordinary mission trips and led students to the edges of the persecuted church, exposing many souls to the glories and the cost of missions. And perhaps most remarkably of all, he and Leigh Anne took their ordinary home and made it into extraordinary place of love, laughter, and faith where family, teenagers, college students, missionaries, and the weary could find rest.

Daryl’s extraordinariness flowed from his commitment to his Savior. When the downtrodden showed up at First Baptist Church Eastman, Daryl shelved his already crazy schedule to care for the stranger within our gates. Many a morning, I saw Daryl walking broken souls over to the Station in hopes of forming a new relationship that would end in friendship and salvation. If widows needed decks built, Daryl called his guys, ordered supplies, and got the deck built. When the uncool kids slunk into the Station on Wednesday nights for Youth Group, Daryl immediately walked over to those on the fringe of the building, introduced himself, and began making them feel as if they were a part of his family. And when three orphans needed a home, Daryl sacrificed his schedule, his budget, and some of his sanity to send Leigh Anne to rescue their three youngest children from abandonment.  Like the great physician, Daryl Summey was a friend to the friendless.

He also cared deeply for the body of Christ. Daryl’s ministry extended well beyond the bounds of the Station. His prayers encouraged many a weary soul worn down by family tragedy or sorry hospital beds. Though the sign on the door said “Youth,” Daryl’s office also served as FBCE’s counseling center. Inside Daryl’s cluttered mess of books and papers, countless souls heard how the glories of Jesus could transform everything from addiction to broken marriages. Even when he took the roll on Sunday nights, he would stop to talk to the souls manning the Children’s Ministry Center Desk. If students or pastors who knew far less about ministry and life attempted to instruct Daryl about theology, philosophy, or ministry, he took their comments in stride, transforming his antagonists into his friends. To know Daryl Summey was to experience the love of Jesus.

It was also this love that made him an amazing Dad who hid easters eggs that no one could find. It was this love that enabled him to push most every youth trip to the limits with calm assurances that the trail really would come to an end around the next bend…ok well the next one, well actually…and…you get it. It was this love that could make a room explode with quiet laughter as he guided professional conversations to craziest of conclusions through his calm suggestions. It was this love that somehow made all those odd pictures of Clay Layfield as a bodybuilder plastered across the church ok. And it is this love that April and I and thousands of others will miss.

Daryl Summery was a good husband, father, son, brothers, and pastor. He was a good man.  


When Daryl first learned he had cancer, we talked of hope of healing and of the need never to surrender to the gloom that can sometimes ooze out of the oncology world. April and I then watched with aching hearts as that determination met setback after setback. When Daryl and I last talked a few weeks back, we spoke of future visits. Though I knew his end was near, we exchanged no final goodbyes that day. And we needed not do so then or ever for one day soon, we will each other again in the land of eternity a place where there, “no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.” Until then….my friend. Until then…

How to Get and Win Good Friends

friendsThe relationship between David and Jonathan inspires our modern psyches which yearn for real friendship. We resonate with the story of A crown prince impulsively and sincerely handing over his future throne to a no-name shepherd boy who killed the mighty warrior Goliath with a rock. We long to be knit to the soul of another human being and to experience the non-sexual friendship that Jonathan and David shared.

To achieve such a quick and satisfying bond, we do not need to major in interpreting non-verbal communication, asking good questions, or being open. We need to major in the gospel. David and Jonathan are friends united in soul and purpose because they both have the same love, concern, and goal: the glory of God.

When Israel was afflicted by the Philistines at the beginning of King Saul’s reign, Jonathan went out to fight the Philistines, facing ridiculously bad odds. He knew that “nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few (1 Sam 14:6).” Then as he led the men to battle, Jonathan boldly asserted, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel (1 Sam 14:12.)”

When David encountered Goliath, he expressed the same conviction boldly declaring “The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the Battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand.” David risked his life for the glory of God, trusting in the power of God. Jonatan risked his life for the glory of God, trusting in the power of God. Both David and Jonathan love the Lord to the point of risking death. There is no doubt about their faith. And this faith unites them to one another. As one old theologian noted,

Sincerity in religion and true fear of the Lord are the best bands of friendship.

The story of Jonathan and David also reveals the proper response to salvation. David is not a type of us conquering his own personal fears. He is a type of Christ saving others from their giants. Saul initially misses the point of David’s victory over Goliath and tries to coopt David (1 Sam 18:2,5). He tries to use David to further his own kingdom.

Many times people in the modern church use Jesus the same way. They want Jesus to save them from loneliness so they attend church to convince some sappy girl to marry them. They want to be healthy so they attend a Bible study hoping that Jesus will heal them. Or they go to counseling because they want Jesus to give them a peaceful home. But they do not want to follow Jesus. They simply want Jesus to make their life better. Such self-centered people make really bad friends. Those who will willing use Jesus and then spit him out when they get what they want will happy spit out their human connections once they stop scratching an itch. Selfishness never leads to friendship.

In contrast to his father, Jonathan sells out for David. He does not make David serve him but offers to serve David. This is the heart of the believer. He does not get baptized to make God do whatever the convert desires. No, he surrenders all to Christ because he or she realizes that one greater than him or her has come, conquering the giant of sin and death. The believer sells out for Christ because he or she knows that Christ is the one true savior. He or she knows that life is not found in relationships, money, or health but in eternity with God the father. And because Jonathan understands what it means to love God with his heart, soul, mind and strength, he is able to cross social, political, and legal paradigms and build an incredible friendship with the son of Jessie. He gives up all to honor God and to be David’s friend.

Such is true friendship. Jesus told us in John 15:13-14, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Jesus was the one greater than David. He conquered death not with a stone but with his life and resurrection. He gave up all so that we might live full lives of obedience which leads to joy. Jesus model friendship based upon sacrifice. Jonathan exemplified such friendship.

To be knit to another soul, we must sell out for Jesus and then sell out for those who love Jesus.

Have you sold out for Christ?

Don’t Trust These Christians

ask-more-questionsOur true friends are those who love Jesus. They are those who do great and small deeds to advance the kingdom of God. They are those who love God. For the Christian, friendship is always based on the gospel. We should never limit our friendships to our denomination, to our race, to our musical preferences, or to any other human definition. Godly friendship extends beyond all of our cultural boundaries. True friendship is based on shared experience of Christ’s work.

But true friendship and true acceptances is not blind. We are not called to accept and to befriend all who claim the name of Christ. In Mark 9:42, Christ says,

Whoever cause one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

Jesus wants false teachers to die. While we should befriend all who follow Christ, we must not befriend all who claim Christ. We must not entrust our souls to those who malign the Word of God. We must not trust those who do great works for the poor while looking the other way when men have affairs and when homosexuals ask to be church members. We must not befriend those who paint houses but deny the deity of Christ. We must not entrust ourselves to the pastor who tells great stories but proclaims that all roads lead to heaven. God is unified. God never approves of sin. And the one who claims Christ while simultaneous denying the power of the gospel should not be our friend even if she looks like us, goes to our church, and loves our denomination.  God does not look lightly on errors. He does not excuse sin or condone some lawless. No, God wishes such people dead, laying on the bottom of the ocean.

And when David was confronted with the choice of whether or not he should trust the soldier who claimed to have killed Saul, he thought about this exact thing. Back in 2 Samuel 26:9-11, David and one of his trusted soldiers had a chance to kill Saul. They had a chance to take the throne of Israel, and to take who God had promised David. But notice what David said and did.

But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?” And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord’s anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.

David knew and understood that those who love the Lord obey the Lord. Those who are trustworthy never sin to attempt to get good things for themselves or for others. God has no place in his kingdom for situational ethics. The end does not justify the means. All who love God understand this axiom and obey God. David knew what he had to do. He killed the dishonorable soldier. David knew that the soldier should not be trusted because he boasted in his sin. In the same way, we must not partner with those who excuse and embrace sin in the name of Christ. God is unified. Those who love God will obey him.

Moreover, we must check our hearts. We must be sure that we are not one who causes other people to stumble. We must guard against leading others to sin sexually, against encouraging our kids to curse angrily, and against minimizing our pride. If we share blogs, send text, or have conversations that lead God’s people away from God, we are in danger. God doesn’t want your influence to grow. He wants you at the bottom of the lake. God will not tolerate those who cause others to walk away from truth. Do not be such a person.

Be a good friend. Workout your faith with fear and trembling and befriend those who are doing the same. Our friendships will shape us and influences us. What kind of friends do you have? What kind of friend are you?