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Quiet Thunder

December 17, 2008

Over ten years ago, I started from scratch again with my fellowship.  A visiting preacher took some of my sermon tapes from my Genesis series with him on the road and he passed them along in Utah to Thomas Corkish, pastor at Anchor Baptist Church of Salt Lake City.   Soon after, I was invited to preach there at a Bible Conference with a creationism theme.   I didn’t know Thomas Corkish and I was truly scared of having any kind of relationship with him because I was afraid I would have to separate from him shortly thereafter for something he believed.  Afterward, I heard that he was also frightened about what he was getting into with me.  I was happy to hear it.  I figured that if he was uncomfortable having me preach at his church then he wouldn’t be disappointed when I told him I would never be back again.

Shortly after I got home, I received a copy of The Lifeline, the monthly news and views from Anchor.  Over several months of receiving it, I found that this Dr. Corkish and I believed the same.  I wrote him and thanked him for The Lifeline and informed him that I thought we believed and practiced the same way, so that we could fellowship.  I had become entirely alone on the West Coast and I was amazed that there were men that believed just like I did.  I wondered why I had not heard about Corkish and others at the conference before.  Later I found out that there were these types of unaffiliated  Baptists spotting the country.  What a find for me!  These guys were a complete breath of fresh air, another planet compared to what I was accustomed to.

I hadn’t been familiar with the Corkish style of Bible conference.  They called it a preaching conference and I have since come to understand that this is a common event for unaffiliated Baptists.  A handful of these churches hold these conferences and men choose a couple a year to get together.  Many who attend also preach.  A couple of years later I traveled to Utah again to attend the preaching conference in Salt Lake City.  From reading others’ accounts, I believe this was 1998.

Impressive First Impression

For a decade or more, Thomas Corkish had Pastor Mark Short as his assistant.  I had known the Short family, because they lived near Watertown, WI and they also attended Maranatha Baptist Bible College like I had.  Mark was several years older than me, but his sister was a class ahead of me at Maranatha Baptist Academy.   Five to ten years before my very first trip to Anchor, the Lord had led Pastor Short to take the office of pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Ogden, about a 45 minute to an hour drive north of Salt Lake City.   When I came back for the preaching conference again at Anchor, Dave Mallinak had just become an assistant to Mark Short in Ogden.

I hadn’t even met Dave when I heard him preach for the first time in a morning session at Anchor’s Bible conference.  I had heard he was a Fairhaven graduate.  I was very interested in how he would preach.   I’m admittedly very picky about preaching.   At a base level, I want a man to preach the Bible.  It seems like a simple thing to expect, but I already knew that it was rare to hear that kind of preaching.  Men would use the Bible, what Dr. Corkish calls concordance preaching, where the man looks up a word in Strongs and then strings together all the references with several stories into a sermon.   Often when I’ve heard that kind of preaching, there is very little explanation of the text and many of those verses are taken out of context.  I try to get as much out of those sermons as I can, but usually they grate me as much as anything and I sit and attempt to bear through.  Sometimes I’m disgusted, not necessarily with the one who preached, but the way separatist men have learned to preach wherever they got their training.

With no disrespect to Fairhaven, I didn’t know too much about the college at the time, but I expected to hear that kind of sermon from Dave Mallinak.  I was hoping the best, but I really thought that he would walk back and forth on the platform and do a lot of hollering and pull out his best stories to make it even better.   Before I talked to Dave for the first time, I had noticed him with Pastor Short.  I knew he was from Fairhaven, and I was interested in Fairhaven.  I had gone to ground zero in my college recommendations, so I watched with curiosity.  He seemed quiet and very serious.  I don’t think I saw him smile.  It wasn’t what I was expecting.  He didn’t seem slick.  I guess I thought I’d see more of that.  I was really wondering how this very stern, humorless younger man could pull off the uvula-wagging blast-fest that must be his preaching style.  I sat anticipating the transformation that surely would take place when he stepped behind the pulpit.

When Dave was introduced and walked onto the platform, he had no change in demeanor.  It wasn’t showtime.  Then he opened his mouth and the tone of his voice was conversational, like he was just talking.   His vocal chords didn’t preacherfy.   If I knew I would be writing this, I would have tried to remember what he preached on.  I might have the notes, because I usually take some.  However, I was delighted with what I heard.  There was nothing contrived or choreographed.  I was getting Dave Mallinak.   He was interested in explaining Scripture, stepping behind the Bible as his authority.  Wow.  I remember smiling.  I was relieved.  Yes!

Burning in the Bosom

Dave was real.  He was himself.  A major characteristic of his style was the piecing together of rhetoric, his choice of words, that were saturated in thought about a passage.  He didn’t move around.  The power behind what he spoke wasn’t in the histrionics, but in the content of the sermon.   The interest was kept by the carefulness of his syntax.  As I think about that first meeting, I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 12:10-11:

The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.

Still Dave’s manner of preaching is content driven.  He seeks to find those acceptable words that act as goads.  He rarely raises his voice, and yet the suspense over what he’ll say next holds the attention.   What I am describing is why I believe a friend of mine aptly describes him as “quiet thunder.”   The thunder is in the attention grabbing and holding substance, not in the theatrics.   The words are burning embers that hold a constant glow.

I looked around when Dave left the stage and sat down.  I wondered if other people appreciated it as much as I did.   After the morning session, we headed to “fellowship hall” for a lunch provided by the church.  I went through the line for my food and then turned and looked to sit with Dave so that we could talk.  I don’t remember what we talked about, but I do recall that he was soft-spoken and serious again.  Since then I have learned the dry, cerebral sense of humor, sometimes spiced with sarcasm.  He wasn’t trying to impress anyone.  He was fine being second man.   He didn’t try to dominate the conversation but was fine giving his opinion.  I liked him.

Stepping Up

The next time I recall meeting Dave was the summer of 2001 when we did go back to Anchor’s conference, but this time we scheduled a youth drama and music tour that would visit eight or nine churches in two weeks.  We started on Monday night in Salt Lake City and then drove up Wednesday afternoon to Ogden to be at Berean with Pastor Short.  This was the first time I had come to Berean.

The church at Ogden had scheduled activities with their young people.  We performed our drama and music and I preached in their midweek service.  We headed to Berean’s gym and Pastor Short and I talked while we sat and watched the volleyball with the two teen groups and and the adult youth leaders, Pastor Mallinak leading the whole festivity.  I didn’t talk to Dave much on that trip, but it was a fateful summer.  I stayed at the Shorts house that night and we had a great time together.   We shared stories and laughed and ate some more.  He bragged about Pastor Mallinak and also shared the story of his oldest daughter and son-in-law, who were recently married and beginning a ministry for the Lord in Fiji.  He suggested that we do this same kind of trip every two years and make sure that we come to his church when we did.

Not much more than a few weeks later, I got an email from Pastor Short, asking me if I would be interested in financially supporting his son-in-law and daughter as missionaries.  He wrote that he would try to get something scheduled between the two of us.  He said he was having a great time there and that it would be great if I could come and visit sometime. The next day Mark Short died, drowned by a rogue wave in the Pacific Ocean, leaving a wife, four children, and a church behind.

I wept for the Shorts, for Berean, and for all those who knew and loved Mark Short.  I made arrangements to be at the funeral.  Dave and I didn’t talk much there.  I didn’t talk much to anyone.  I cried and cried.  Dr. Corkish preached a great message.  Then I flew home the next day.

I prayed for Berean and my own desire was for Dave Mallinak to pastor the church.  I thought he had the conviction and temperament to do it.  He was loyal to Pastor Short.  He would have the best interests of the church in view.  And he became pastor.  I don’t remember the details, but I knew it would be tough.  He would be compared to the best memories of Mark Short.  Mrs. Short was right there in the church.  She and the rest of the church would be analyzing everything that Dave did next to how their beloved pastor had done things.   Even outsiders who loved Mark Short would watch carefully.

Someone like Dave could get it done.  He wasn’t chomping at the bit to get into that position.  He comforted the church.  He mourned with them.  He loved them.  One thing I’ve learned as a pastor is that you can’t do everything.  You can’t please everyone.  You can’t solve every person’s problem.  There’s no way that anyone could have been everything to every man that every man could want.  Dave could be what God wanted him to be, and he was.

Dave sought counsel during this time.  I’m sure strong men were an encouragement to him and a help.  He looked for advice.  I know he talked to Roger Voegtlin and Thomas Corkish.  We talked on the phone.   He acted wisely.  In my opinion, he treated the Shorts in the best way possible, guiding the church to take care of Mrs. Short and her family financially.

During those times, Dave called me a few times and we talked.  I came to the church and preached.  We spent hours talking when I visited.   There’s a tremendous amount to admire about Dave Mallinak.  He led the church with strength.  He made good decisions based on convictions from God and founded in his own moral integrity and knowledge of God’s Word.

What I Think of Dave Mallinak?

I see Dave every year.  Starting a few years ago, we started an academic and fine arts meet with each other.   Dave came here.  We went there.  Dave came here again.  This year we go back to Ogden.  Every meet has gotten better.  We enjoy the fellowship.  I say this all to say that I know him.  Here’s what I think Dave Mallinak is about:

First, he loves the Lord.  Dave has a real salvation experience which has resulted in a clear demonstration of the grace of God in His life.  I don’t take that for granted.  What spurs him on is the time with God he has, because he loves God.

Second, he loves the Word of God.  Dave cares about how he handles the Word of God.  He is willing, I believe, to be honest with it.  That might be the thing that draws us together the most.  He is a thinker and he thinks through what a passage says.  He’s not fly-by-night, but he will alter what he’s doing to fit the Bible.  I admire him for that.

Third, he’s a man.  Dave is strong.  He won’t back down on something he believes.  I like this.   We’ve got the kind of friendship, that you may have noticed, that will smack a little.  He’s very respectful; don’t get me wrong, but we go at each other.  You may think it’s just on this blog, but what comes to mind is our discussion we had about debate at our last academic meet.  Most males couldn’t have that kind of combat and come out of it with the same kind of relationship.  It would have ruined it.  It made ours stronger.  He doesn’t mind being challenged.  He even asks for it.

He serves in a very tough area and has toughed it out.  He’s had numerous personal hardships in his life.  He doesn’t quit.  I’m thankful for Dave in this way.

Fourth, he is humble.  He can’t talk about this, but I can.  Dave has been attacked by some in a very unfair way in different situations.  I’ve seen it.  Dave could have pulled the rug on all those relationships.  He hasn’t.  He has a real spirit of reconciliation.  I believe this takes more of a man.  He will change if he sees it is best.  He won’t keep doing it a certain way just because that was his way before.  He is very kind and treats people with kindness.  I see the fruit of the Spirit in his life.

Fifth, he is sacrificial.  He and his wife don’t live for themselves.  They are the Lord’s.  He works very, very hard.  He does it for the Lord and for the people of his church.  When I see him, he almost always seems like he needs sleep.  Sorry Dave, but sometimes you have looked like death warmed over.  He has always tried to do it a little better than what he has had time to do it.

Sixth, he is a good friend.  Dave is loyal to his friends.  I know he’s been loyal to people in the past.  He’s been loyal to people who may not have deserved his loyalty.  I’m not saying that he would be loyal if it meant disobeying Scripture.  I don’t think he would be that way.  He’s obviously loyal to his wife.  He isn’t going to give up on the people he cares for.   I know he would try to reconcile or help someone to change before he would give-up on a friend.

Seventh, he is flexible.  He doesn’t walk according to some mold.  If he thinks it is right and best, he’ll do it.

Eighth, he isn’t trying to be somebody he isn’t.  I already said that Dave is real.  What you see is what you get.   You may not like everything you’re getting, but you do know it is him, nothing put on.  I like that he hasn’t tried to be someone else.

I’m sure there is more to say about Dave Mallinak.  I’m glad he’s in Ogden, Utah.  He and his wife are salt of the earth.  If the Lord led him anywhere else, I’d be happy he was there too.

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  1. Daniel Kelso
    December 17, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    “our discussion we had about debate at our last academic meet.”
    It was more like a heated debate you had about debate, a very entertaining one to watch to say the least.

  2. Don Heinz
    December 18, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    I have found that there is no colder place for debate than the anonimity of the internet. These personal pieces put out this month really help to “humanize,” in the good sense, the content of your page. It will help me comment with greater wisdom and care as well… I hope. Thanks for the testimonies.

  3. December 18, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Daniel,

    I did use “discussion” didn’t I. I think we should call it a debate, yes.

    Don,

    Thanks for that comment. It is the most uncomfortable month. I didn’t mind writing about Dave and Jeff. I agree with Bobby in his comment before that it is OK in a certain way to talk about what’s happened with yourself. That’s edgy though. I thought Dave talked about himself in the right way. Jeff’s 57 questions weren’t bad to answer.

    Thanks.

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