Pastors don’t often like to think about retirement, especially after spending decades with the same congregation. So, when God began whispering to ParkwayHills Baptist Church’s founding pastor that it was time to pass his ministry on to another, he did not readily embrace the idea.
Pastor Sam Dennis remembers arguing with God over the matter. “I asked the Lord what I should do. But I did not like what He said. I thought, ‘There are other guys out there who are my age and older, and they are not quitting. Why do I have to quit?’” , said the 67-year-old Dennis. “ My name is not on the (church) sign. I have never published a book. I never did any of that stuff. That’s not fair!” Dennis said God’s response was very clear, “‘Oh, Pastor. It’s fair’, God said to me. ‘This is my deal. Remember, it wasn’t about you. You’ve done well, now I want you to pass it off well.’”
Not long after, the church began searching for the next pastor of ParkwayHills. At the end of May, Dennis formally became Pastor Emeritus, and plans to keep his membership at the church. However, he is not letting the grass grow under his feet. Just weeks after retiring, Dennis began a 32-day ministry trip to Brazil. Dennis said he has been surveying the state of North Minas, and meeting with pastors for potential new church starts. In addition, he is gathering groups of pastors in each area to discuss staging seminary classes so that new, young pastors can receive ministry training. Dennis said he is also proposing the idea of creating associations of churches so that they can be more effective in church planting and ministerial outreach.
Before returning to Texas, Dennis will travel to Vitoria do Conquista in the state of Bahia, to partner with a missions team from ParkwayHills Baptist Church. They will spend a week staging evangelistic crusades, as well as speaking with students in various public schools about abstaining from sex as a means to share the gospel. Dennis has chronicled his ministry in Brazil through videos posted to his personal Facebook page.
In his retirement, Dennis is hoping to spend his time doing missions work, writing, and mentoring young pastors. “I think that if I had retired in the early 60’s or 70’s, I would have become an evangelist,” said Dennis. “I would have become and preacher and do crusades. But that is gone.” He also hopes to pick up his guitar again and turn his attention back to music.
Looking back, Dennis is surprised at the career path that lead him to start a new church and then lead it as pastor for 28 years. Unlike his successor, Josh Allen, who wanted to be a preacher from the age of 14, Dennis began his career as a musician when he was in high school when he formed Sammy and the Showmen. “I was a decent guitar player, but I really was a lead singer,” he said. Dennis’ musical career was on the rise and he was a regular in the Dallas-are music scene. Eventually, he and his cousin became the duet, Dennis & Pinion. “We made a pretty good living,” he said. “I was making good money, and I wasn’t on drugs and didn’t drink, and I went to church on Sundays. So we were well respected in the community.”
His career took an unexpected turn while playing for a party hosted by former Texas governor Bill Clements when one of the guests asked Dennis to write some advertising copy. That was the birth of the advertising agency, D. Samuel Dennis Company and he went from being an entertainer to being a businessman. Eight years later, through his membership with Northway Baptist Church, Dennis would find his way into ministry as an executive pastor, and eventually would be asked to take eight families and launch a church plant where Denton, Collin, and Dallas counties all come together. That church start would grow to become ParkwayHills Baptist Church.
In addition to mentoring, the pastor plans to spend his time sharing life with the people he meets. “Not only are we crossing the street, we are opening our home,” he said, many of which are of Persian decent. “My house has become a place that is open for them. My doctor is Iranian, and we have seen her come to faith in Christ. I just want to share the Gospel.”
THE ENCOURAGER MAGAZINE – SUMMER 2017