The total number of young men who were mentored by the late David Plaster, former pastor of the Grace Brethren Church of Columbus, Ohio, may never be known this side of heaven. Here are stories from a few of them detailing what the experience meant to them and how they plan to continue to chain of mentoring in their own lives.
Aaron Peer, Pastor, Charter Oak Church, Churubusco, Ind.
Late in my freshman year of college I was desparately searching for a mentor. I asked my pastor in the area to mentor me and he said, “yes.” A few weeks after we started, he left the ministry. I was devastated. One day I was telling this story at lunch and Dr. Plaster was eating with my group of friends. A few days later he called me into his office and said that he would love to meet with me once a week. For two years I met with Dr. Plaster and he helped me through some transitional years. I was grateful for his advice, encouragment, and spiritual guidance. After college he became my boss as I was a adjunct for awhile, and he took every opportunity to stop and talk and continue to help me in whatever way he could. After I became a pastor, when I got into situations I didn’t think I could handle, Dr. Plaster was the first person I called for advice. He was a man that willing to help, and God used him in mighty ways. He will be missed.
Kirt Henman, Senior Pastor, NewSpring Church, Maitland, Fla.
Dave Plaster mentored me in seminary through his classes on theology. He made the time to meet with me once a week. And we talked about life and ministry. He was there for me at a critical time in my life when my Dad passed away. He was instrumental in getting me my first pastorate. He impacted my life deeply by his personal pursuit of God, his family life, his graciousness, his leadership and faith.
I was mentored by Dr. Dave Plaster from the fall of 2007 until the present. Our last meeting was in early January of this year. During my time as a student at Grace College we met most every week. He was also my ‘boss’ when I worked as an office assistant in the academic office during my sophomore year. When he became head pastor of the Polaris Grace Brethren Church he also became my pastor. From our earliest interaction he was always my teacher, friend, mentor, and spiritual father.
We began meeting sometime during my freshman year. I don’t remember the circumstances of the first meeting, whether it was his initiation or my own (I vaguely recall the former). But however our relationship began, I am grateful for it. College is a pivotal time for many; those are the first years of living away from home and the traditional time for making choices regarding marriage and career. Spiritually this is also a time of soul-searching and reevaluation, when theological inheritance is either embraced or scuttled. For me it was all of those things and more. In the midst of this tumult of personal change, Dr. Plaster provided encouragement, council, theological insight and emotional support. His influence helped me navigate through so many choices and challenges that to merely list these would be a sizable task. Among them would be the standard trials and triumphs of college relationships and academic miscellany. But the list would further extend to problems with habitual sin, institutional disenfranchisement, and spiritual doubt. In all of these circumstances I can’t recall a single instance when his advice failed me, either in sorting out the right decision to be made or in providing the perspective and encouragement needed to carry on.
Dr. Plaster’s encouragement shaped me into the man I am today. When I was deciding whether or not to study abroad at Oxford he encouraged me to apply, wrote a recommendation letter, and then helped me decide on the subjects I would study. I decided to study philosophy of religion, largely because of the questions that arose out of my theological education under Plaster (inter alia) during my undergraduate years at Grace College. Later, Dr. Plaster would be pivotal in my decision to apply to study philosophy of religion at Oxford. This effectively launched my interest in philosophy, an interest that has flowered into an (very young) academic career. But none of this would have occurred had it not been for Plaster’s nudging me toward academia and the ways he encouraged my intellectual pursuits.
When I reflect on this fact it highlights one of the most amazing things about Dr. Plaster. Even though he was part of a theological and sociological context that often decried the errors of abstruse scholasticism, which considered a career in academic philosophy at best a waste of time and at worst a surefire indication of ‘liberalism’ and heterodox theology, these things did not prevent him from encouraging my engagement with these issues. In this way Dave Plaster was able to align himself with conservative theology and morality without succumbing to the fear of heresy and intellectual browbeating often associated with conservative positions. This combination made Dr. Plaster a rare gem in that he was able to defend his convictions while not succumbing to the pressure to alienate opposition. And this is a testament both to his spiritual maturity as well as his razor sharp intelligence.
But the intellectual and academic influence of Dave Plaster is but a small slice of his impact. These areas are more difficult to communicate; suffice to say that in my darkest of times, when I was burdened by profound personal hardship, I found myself walking toward his office for help. The quintessential example occurred during a stretch of time during which my mother fell victim to cancer, a horror that was quickly followed by the near fatal illness of a close friend. In those months, as I grappled with senseless evil, as I felt the tremendous loss of my mother, I became embittered toward some of my fellow Christians, spurning most especially those who offered mere platitudes in lieu of substantial comfort. Precious few were able to sit with me and face down the evil without resorting to flippancy. Dr. Plaster was among those few. This is one of the things I respected most about him; he did not multiply words offering explanations for what are inexplicable and irreconcilable events, he did not try and ease my pain. Rather, in conversation and in prayer, he felt my pain along with me. How many men are strong enough to do that?
Now as I reflect on the loss of Dr. David Plaster, a loss felt by a teeming host of family, friends, coworkers, students, and parishioners, I am reminded of the sting only the most significant losses engender. And I am also reminded of the ways he helped me in my own loss. Thus I will not attempt to end this on some lofty triumphant note about Dr. Plaster’s place among the heavenly host. It is my hopeful belief that those things are true, but they do nothing to fill the hole death leaves behind. The sudden, untimely death of a man so wise and good, a man with so much more left to give, a man more than deserving of a long, healthy and fruitful life, is surely among the worst evils. So I say only this: I lament his death, I lament our loss, and I miss him dearly.
Nate Dunlevy, Grace Brethren International Missions staff in Argentina
Dave was my professor for theology and send me a note one day asking if I would like to meet with him. We met weekly for the next three years, and he played a major role in helping me figure out who I am and I what to do with my life. I think daily about advice he gave and things he taught. He was the best teacher I ever had and one of the most important figures in my life.
Remembering Dave Plaster
Less than a week ago, our world lost a wonderful man, Dave Plaster. Here’s a man who loved Jesus with great commitment, allowing God to speak through his life in many ways.
Dave gave much of his life to knowing and mastering the Bible. I remember sitting in his New Testament Survey class in 1993 (freshman year for me), challenged and inspired by his seemingly-unlimited knowledge of the content, setting, interpretation, and power of God’s Word. He inspired and challenged his students.
Dave had an incredible way of remembering names, dates, facts, and information about people. He knew and encouraged so many people!
Even though he had the jam-packed schedule, the big office, the VP title, his door was always open. My grad-school roommate, Kary Oberbrunner, was one of many who consider Dave like a spiritual father… He remembered so many of us and paid attention and cared. He didn’t play the “I’m too busy” card.
He taught us what it means to “do theology.” In 1997 and 1998, he was my professor in Systematic Theology. It was obvious that he had wrestled with ALL the issues a thousand times, yet was willing to put the cookies on the bottom shelf. He taught us what that means – to make the Bible understandable to all of us.
So much of the way I think of God, the Bible, and theological issues comes from his teaching. He was the one to model what it means to “always be prepared…” to give an answer, and to do so with “gentleness and respect.”
I’m so glad he came to Columbus a few years ago… His leadership, patience, endurance, and candor in the face of some tremendous challenges… God has used him greatly here!
We will miss him at our monthly pastors’ small group at Scrambler Marie’s by Polaris. Always a good time to share, encourage, pray… it was great having his heart and wisdom there.
This past Sunday, I preached on Matthew 6:19-24 – about storing up treasures in heaven. Barely an hour before preaching, I received word that his struggle was over, that he had passed on to be with Jesus. Dave’s life is a great example of what it means to store up treasures in heaven!
Thank you, God, for blessing so many of us through the life of Dave Plaster!
Matt Householder, Associate Pastor, Ripon Grace Church, Ripon, Calif.
I remember the challenge in one of our classes to find a mentor and start praying for God to put that person in your life. As I was praying, I had all of these great friends telling me how they found their mentor, Dr. Plaster, they began describing how amazing Dr. Plaster was for them. I remember thinking wow, I wish I could have him as my mentor, but I thought he would be too busy for me. So I continued to pray, then one day at the end of theology class Dr. Plaster came up to me and asked me how I was doing, I felt like he really wanted to hear how I was, so I said “not well”. His response was “do you want to meet me later at my office”? We met that evening in his office at 7pm and I shared all the deepest fears that I had had. At the end of the conversation he offered to meet with me every week, I was so blessed to have that half and hour of his time each week. He guided me through my insecurities, weaknesses, and a lot of stupid questions. He was my mentor, spiritual father, friend, and in 2004 I had him as my groomsmen (which was an incredible highlight as he shared it was the first time one of his guys had him as a groomsmen, they usually had him officiate). So much of who I am, has been because of the investment that Dr. Plastor poured into my life.
Scott Devlin, Towable Reload Director, Horizon Transport, Wakarusa, Ind.
Mentored 08/2000 – 2004
Dave was the only reason I graduated college. He believed enough in me to pull the necessary strings that only he could pull to get me to graduate. I even spent time crying in his lap as he cried and prayed over me for other things that have taken place in my life. He was never to busy to let me know he cared for me.
Dave Lewis, Development Officer, GBIM. Winona Lake, Ind.
I’ve been mentored by Dr. Plaster since 1998. It was after a Theology class we were talking as I had several questions, and he intentionally asked me, “Do you have an older mentor figure that meets with you regularly?” It was then that our relationship began with weekly half hour meetings that spilled over to coming to his home, sitting by the fire in his back yard and making “mountain pies” with him and much more. Our relationship had far reaching levels from small things like dropping our Shetland Sheepdog at their home (he also has 2 of this breed) off to stay with them when we were traveling, cutting the grass for him at his property on Crystal Lake, helping me with my taxes every year…to deeper levels of mentoring me to understand the Word of God/shaping my convictions about who God is, listening to my story and the deep challenges that I faced in recent years. He knew things that I’ve faced that no one else on earth knew about. If it were not for him my marriage would not be alive today. He not only knew God’s Word and taught it clearly, but He understood pain and was able to listen and support in the midst of life’s deepest pain. He was available at any moment. He was the one God used to initiate me into manhood. He was a father figure who told me that He saw that I have strength to persevere. He poured himself into me and God used Him as the main “player” in shaping who I am today. Even his story about originally hoping to go to France as a missionary related to my story of originally hoping to go to Argentina as a missionary. He counseled me through this disappointment too. He built so much into my life that I cannot put it all into words. What a life so well lived. I am a life forever changed because of Christ living in Dave Plaster. Thank you, Dave, for shepherding me with Christ’s love. I know Him deeper now because of your walking with me these 12 years.
Chaplain Jeff Mason, 1-134th Field Artillery, Ohio National Guard
2003-2007 I never had a specific time when I would meet with Dr Plaster. I would usually just pop into his office and have a short talk with him or catch him in the hall. He was always encouraging me as I was preparing for the Army Chaplaincy. Every nugget of wisdom that he gave me helped me prepare for my difficult job. My best memory though happened on 29 June 2008 when Pastor Dave and the elders commissioned me and sent me off to war to preach the gospel. That is one day I will never forget.
Lance Hostetler, ESL Teacher, Seoul, South Korea
I met with Dr. Plaster on a weekly basis beginning during the Fall semester of 2002 of my freshmen year and ending the Spring semester of 2007 when Dr. Plaster resigned from Grace and headed to Columbus. Dr. Plaster sought me out early my freshmen year and asked if I would like to get together and ‘talk some theology’ with him. I said that I would like that, and he told me to come by his office and set up a time for us to get together. One or two weeks went by and I never went to his office. Dr. Plaster caught me in the hall after class and strongly encouraged that I stop into the office and set up an appointment to chat. After seeing Dr. Plaster’s sincere desire to meet with me I soon set up that appointment. Dr. Plaster and I met every week (except when he had a random board meeting or something) for the next 5 years. Dr. Plaster helped me deal with some really tough issues at my church; he helped me organized my first sermon; he even left a required fancy dinner for Grace College faculty during homecoming weekend to participate in the events the night I proposed to my wife; he then performed our marriage counseling and later officiated our wedding in 2006. I could go on and on. What follows is from the Guestbook I signed on March 1, 2010 on the CaringBridge webpage.
Words cannot express the impact you have had on my life. I was 25 when I first came to Grace College. You quickly sought me out my freshmen year and invited me to “talk some theology” with you. What began as a theological discussion turned into 5 years of shaping and molding much more than my theological convictions. Thank you! I am a man today because of the direct impact you had in my life. Thanks for allowing me the freedom to pester Elma in the office. Thanks for always encouraging me when I felt like I couldn’t get things right. Thanks for listening to me when I was heart-broken. Thanks for affirming the gifts God has given me and giving me a vision to use those gifts for His glory. Thanks for being a male role-model who was committed to me through thick and thin. Thanks for never being “too busy” to talk with me, and for always having an open door. Thanks for letting me call you at home when you knew things would be tough for me. Thanks for meeting with me during the summers when school was out of session and you didn’t have to. Thanks for being a part of my engagement night when you had that fancy dinner at Grace College you were supposed to be at instead. Thanks for helping me think critically about the world and the church and leadership and servanthood. Thanks for setting me straight when I was clearly in the wrong. Thanks for being dependable. And thanks for loving me.
Matt Garnett, Southern California
Dr. Plaster and I began meeting while I was in Seminary. The thing that struck me the most during our time of meeting together was the love, grace and mercy of Jesus Christ lived out in the man Dr. Plaster. It has such a profound impact on me that it is my desire even more so for others to see Christ, not me.
Rhett Edwards, Resident Director, Malone University, Canton, Ohio
In the passing of my friend and what I think of as a Spiritual Father- Dave Plaster, I’ve been reflecting on the impact he had on my life. Interestingly as I’ve remembered back, it’s been within the frame of a specific moment or scene as discussed here. Dr. Plaster was not a man who’s influence was from afar but rather very near and consistant for a period of time. The following are a few of those memorable scenes that left an imprint in my life.
-Attending a youth conference in 2002, “The Bible Answer Man” was my first impression of whom I would come to know as Dr. Plaster. He was a jolly intellectual who seemed so excited that I was planning to attend Grace College. Along with the other students in a gathering around ice cream to connect with future fellow-students, he weaved through us shaking hands and making Grace College seem like a place where even the most intelligent theologians would meet students at their level. And this excited me.
-Within the first few days of my attending college, while walking along our paths were intersecting. In my attempt to look like a friendly freshman, I said “Hey Dr. Plaster.” And he stopped for a moment and cheerfully said “Why hello Rhett!” I quickly gasped for a quick breath because he remembered meeting me the previous summer. And I wasn’t sure if this was a compliment or problem for the VP of Academics to already know my name. The fact of the matter was, he called me by name. Even with a brief interaction the previous summer he knew who I was. He took time to know who the students were around him. When leaders know peoples names, it’s a sign that you are known within the community. I felt known and that was very significant at 18.
-Towards the tail end of my freshman year I set up an appointment to meet with Dr. Plaster to discuss the topic of interest my group was focusing on for our final project. We set up the time and I expected to get a couple resources and a few wise words since he was well educated on theological matters. Our conversation on the topic of divorce lasted roughly 7-8 minutes. He handed me a couple books and pointed me to a few passages. He then asked me… “So tell me about your life, how are things going?” I remember feeling disarmed by the question. Walls went down and I began to talk about my fears, insecurities, sins and family… for the remaining 50 minutes. He was one of the first men to ask such a question that I truly trusted the counsel of. He later advised me to set something up with his secretary, to ensure that our conversations would continue the following year. They did for 3 years.
-Spring of 2004 I recall sitting in his office, he would ask the same question. “So, how are things going?” I began to be brutally honest with him about the struggle I had at getting a handle on my emotions that were out of whack regarding a previous relationship. I was shifting blame on the individual… “if they would only do this or that then I wouldn’t feel this way.” It’s as clear as day… he leaned in after my venting and says “Rhett, why do you let this control you?” Puzzled, I didn’t know what to say. He went on to instill confidence that I had the power to make a choice whether I was dictated by my emotions or not. I walked out of his office that day, feeling strong and empowered and a little more free from the crippling emotions. Dr. Plaster affirmed the God-given strength that dwelled within the men he met with, that they failed to be aware of. He saw it and called it out of us.
-My senior year of college, almost like clockwork I’d sit down and he’d greet me with “Hello Mr. President.” Referring to the opportunity I had to serve my fellow students my final year of school. Even when I felt like a failure… he communicated with you like he saw the man you were becoming, and he delighted in it reminding you that you have what it takes.
-Early Spring 2008 I remember sitting with him at Panera Bread in Lewis Center, OH. I discussed with him the struggle I had with trying to serve in a role that I didn’t see myself in. The battle of what I thought I was supposed to do… but didn’t feel confident in it. He discussed with me that the beauty of life is this process of trying to reconcile between whom I see myself as, whom others see me as, and whom God sees me as and living from that centered understanding of my identity. Dr. Plaster had a way of putting things that allowed you to feel clarity, challenge and comfort that you were right where you should be. And all you have to do is the next step, because God was still and always would be delighted in you.
-My final one-on-one conversation occurred at a Caribou Coffee in the spring of 2009. It had been months since we saw each other. I wanted to discuss with him my desire to pursue a Resident Director job. In a way, I wanted to clear it with him. I wanted his blessing. I wanted him to look at me, smile and tell me how great that sounded. Feeling that confidence that a young man needs to feel from a man who’s lived a lot more life. His words were empowering. Supportive, encouraging and refreshing. He shared the delight he had in his challenges as a pastor and it was inspiring to see a man following his heart as he approached his 60’s. As much as Dr. Plaster spoke life to the many young men he met with, he invited us into the challenges and things that blessed his heart. He taught us to listen to the passions God has instilled in our hearts.
It truly is an honor to be one of the hundreds of men that Dr. Plaster poured himself into over the years. It’s a legacy that we share being influenced by the time, words, and love of this man. One friend refers to us as Plasterites. A few other dear friends have written their own words to honor Dave Plaster. Here, here and here.
There is dear comfort in knowing that he is with our Lord for eternity. His life demonstrated the love of Jesus to so many on this earth. He will be missed, but his legacy lives on through the many who called him Dad, Dr. Pastor or Dave.
Dale Harris, Pastor, Grace Connections Church, Englewood, Ohio
Mentored Fall 2004
I didn’t really seek out a mentoring relationship with Dave Plaster. That’s not because I didn’t respect him. His teaching was brilliant; his love for God obvious; his passion for making more and better disciples quite clear. I just already had a mentor at the time (Jim Brown). However, I signed up for a class that Fall on preparing for the Grace Brethren licensure exam. Pastor Plaster was the prof. When nobody else signed up, I assumed the class would be cancelled. But that didn’t happen. Rather, Dr. Plaster used the time to mentor me one-on-one as we met together weekly in his office.
What did I learn from Dave Plaster? I learned why I am Grace Brethren. I’m not just talking about why I baptize people three times forward or why I took water to some guy’s feet during communion. No, I learned that I am Grace Brethren because I believe that God really loves people and wants to see them transformed. I learned that being Grace Brethren, at its core, meant emulating a man like Dave Plaster, who loved God’s Word and loved sharing it in a way that helped real people in real, practical ways. For 15 weeks, I got to talk to Dave Plaster about theories of justification, eschatology, pastoral issues and all kinds of interesting topics. But more importantly, for 15 weeks I got to see Dave Plaster’s heart for loving God and loving God’s people. He had a great heart. His heart impacted me. And I hope that what I learned from him I can pass on to those God allows me to mentor.
Tim Sprankle; Pastor/Narrator, Leesburg, Ind., Grace Brethren Church
When Zac Hess and I prayed for Dr. David Plaster today, he used the phrase “Plaster-ite” for his loyal band of disciples. As VP of Grace College, Plaster seized the opportunity to mentor myriad of young leaders. We were a ragamuffin crew: athletes and addicts, chaplains and chumps, promising pastors and apparent failures.
My freshman year my closest friend Casey told me, “You have to meet with Plaster.” Casey was a man of imperatives. (I recall the imperative to attend Grace, otherwise my salvation was in jeopardy.) This call to action was non-negotiable.
By the end of my freshman year, Dr. Plaster and I regularly dialogued in his office. The discussion lasted for four years. Two of my greatest insecurities were part of an ongoing confession. He provided assurance and a sense of normalcy. “I cannot relate to people,” I admitted when considering a future in pastoral ministries. “Neither could I,” he responded, “but I learned to push the button.” His band of Plaster-ites would suggest that button has rarely been unpushed.
My second insecurity emerged when I started dating my wife-to-be. Often I felt like a relational imbecile: selfish, guarded, horny, and incapable of spiritual leadership. “The hallmark of your relationship,” Plaster affirmed, “is your willingness to communicate. That is key.” Perhaps I’ll author his book on marriage: communicate. In the style of my friend Casey, it will be an imperative.
I found out about Dr. Plaster’s sickness last Sunday morning. I was getting ready to preach on faith without works, which is dead (James 2:14-26). As an illustration I intended to flaunt my baptismal certificate as a sure sign of my vibrant faith. (This was a great improvement from earlier markers: Christian tee-shirts and D.C. Talk cassette tapes.)
Baptism is a ordinance that names (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:27). Trinity names are conferred upon the person immersed in the waters. The baptized, baptizer and witnessing church likewise apply their names to the holy union. Then we frame a document and make it official.
Dr. Plaster baptized me, making me a certified Plaster-ite. In this fact I take pride. Perhaps I resurrect an old argument from 1 Corinthians 1 about the baptizer, but I wonder if our arguments for mode are any less embarrassing. I suppose Plaster would be the best guy to ask; he wrote a book titled Ordinances. At this point, though, we need to resurrect bodies, not theological arguments.
So we, Plaster-ites (or not), pray…in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Brant Leidy, Pastor of Children and Parents, Community Grace Brethren Church, Everett, PA
Ironically, during seminary, Dr. Plaster helped me avoid taking some of his classes by leading me through the process of advanced standing due to my Bible College background. (This saved me a year of seminary work.) After taking several tests to see what credit I should receive, Dr. Plaster mentored me through a couple of my weaker theological areas. He didn’t have to do that, but he wanted to. I remember meeting with Dr. Plaster several times in his office while attending seminary. Dr. Plaster always took an interest in me, personally. He genuinely cared for students, administrators, pastors and our Grace Brethren fellowship. Several years after that I was a site coordinator for the Gracenet Distance Learning program. I was able to sit in on his theology classes 500 miles away from the Grace campus. I remember sitting there thinking….What a profound theologian we have in our fellowship. What a man of God. I was very grateful I was able to have this “theological refresher.” I remember when he served as moderator of our Fellowship and lead us through some troubled waters in the 90’s. I believe his wisdom and grace as our leader helped our Fellowship from having irreparable damage. He is an icon in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches and I’m sure his impact will be felt for decades to come because he poured himself into the lives of people, specifically young adults, who have gone out from the Grace community and impacted the world for eternity.
Mike Miller, Youth Pastor, Lighthouse Community Church, Des Moines, Iowa
I was mentored by Dr. Plaster for two years, beginning in 2004 while I was completing my undergrad at Grace. He talked me into doing an incredible independent study with him, and we met in his office for an hour a week to talk theology and life. I attended the church he was an Elder at in Warsaw, and interned there for one year. Dave not only taught me sound doctrine, which I needed, having not grown up in a church, but he also taught me about marriage, conflict, administration, and life as a godly man. He also pretty much got me my first pastorate, and traveled to Michigan to conduct my “installation service” at my first church.
Wes Spain, Associate Pastor, Agape Christian Church, La Porte, Ind.
I was a student at grace 1997-2001, if I remember correctly Dr. Plaster mentored me my last 2 years. His teachings I still hold to. In fact I have preached sermons from his notes given during his theology classes numerous times. I was always impressed during his church history class when he would just spout most of the facts from his mind without notes. What I appreciate most was Dr. Plaster and I would talk sports just as much as life centered issues, and then move to theology all in one session. Our loss is heavens gain.
Kary Oberbrunner, Pastor, Grace Church in Powell, Ohio
Yesterday I hopped in the car and drove through a predicted 12 inches of snow.
I arrived at the Cleveland clinic with mixed feelings.
I was told my mentor and friend was very sick.
A little over a month ago I sat in my office talking and laughing with David Plaster, lead pastor of the Grace Brethren Church of Columbus, and former Vice President of Grace College and Theological Seminary. He agreed to ordain me this Spring. A few weeks later he was in the hospital with a life-threatening disease. His loving family is sharing daily updates with us on this site.
I had already prepared myself for the worst. Anyone who knows Dave is familiar with his incredibly sharp intellect. He taught me and my fellow classmates most of what we know when it comes to theology. Standing at his bedside yesterday Dave couldn’t say or do much.
Still, I was touched by the strength of his family. I felt it natural to tell them of Dave’s investment in me at a very dark time in my life. In fact, he is very instrumental as to where I am today. Although Dave couldn’t talk, as I told my stories he cried.
I prayed for he and the family and he cried some more. I told him the whole city of Columbus was praying for him.
His supportive wife fed him his lunch and he even drank the unpleasant drink the nurses provided him. I’ll tell you though- he let us know it tasted nasty.
The whole way back I thought about how Dave has mattered to me:
– 1998 – Dave heard I wanted to be a military chaplain with the CMA denomination and so he asked me to come to his office. He told me that I should be a Grace Brethren Chaplain and stay on for Seminary at Grace.
– 1998 – After I agreed (you can’t tell Dave no) he began to mentor me on a weekly basis.
– 1998 – Because I was going to be a military chaplain Dave told me I needed to do an M.Div. in counseling not an M.Div. in pastoral studies. Turns out it was a good choice because a year later I met my wife Kelly in marriage and family counseling class.
– 1999 – Dave bought me my first NASB Bible as a college graduation present.
– 1999 – Dave did some digging and found a pretty significant scholarship so that I could attend seminary and remain debt free.
– 1999 – Dave got me my first “pastor” job, an intern under his friend Galen Wiley at Warsaw Community Grace Brethren Church.
– 1999 – Dave prepared me for my license exam as a pastor.
– 2000 – Dave baptized me.
– 2000 – Dave counseled me for marriage, cracked the code on how to do taxes as a pastor, and was involved in my wedding.
– 2000 – When I was senior pastor at Tiosa Brethren Church, Dave helped me do my first funeral when someone in my church died suddenly.
– 2000 – Dave filled my pulpit so I could go on my honeymoon.
– 2001 – Dave helped me prepare my flock at Tiosa for my transition to my new church (Grace Church).
– 2003 – Dave edited my first book using his theological grid.
– 2003 – Dave stayed at our house as he taught at the Grace Seminary site in Columbus. He couldn’t eat much of our food because we like sugar a whole bunch.
– 2005 – Dave agreed to be part of my Advisory Board for my Doctorate program.
– 2006 – Dave helped me defend my dissertation.
– 2008 – Dave began mentoring me again as he returned to Columbus while filling his new post as lead pastor.
– 2008 – Dave joined my monthly NCO small group and blessed us younger pastors with his wise counsel.
– 2009 – Dave and I co-taught a seminar at the Equip 09 conference.
– 2010 – Dave began to prepare me for ordination.
This September my new book YOUR SECRET NAME releases. In it I tell my story. Naturally, Dave Plaster, fills several pages including this one:
I started the first semester of graduate school apprehensively, knowing all too well the horror stories about the difficulty of the seminary’s counseling track. My mentor Dr. Plaster, who also served as the Vice President, encouraged this track because in his mind it would better prepare me to be a military chaplain. I followed his recommendation, but at the moment all it felt like was twice the work.
Under the seminary banner I had Greek and Hebrew classes to confound my brain, while under the counseling banner I had Addictive Disorders and Abnormal Psychology classes to challenge my soul.
Relatively new into the semester while sitting in one of my counseling classes I saw a stunning girl who not only took my breath away, but also my attention. She walked in extremely late-and extremely confidently-and I promptly tuned out the rest of the class, much more interested in her than the lecture.
Dave played a major role in me discovering MY SECRET NAME. Amidst my bout with depression and self-injury, when a professor failed me from a counseling class for my confession of cutting, Dave stepped in and overruled his decision. At a time when hardly anyone believed in me Dave stepped forward and defended me.
I’ve dedicated each of my books to a loved one. My first one ( The Journey Towards Relevance) to Kelly. My next one (Called) to Keegan. My 3rd one (The Fine Line) to Isabel. And my upcoming one (Your Secret Name) to Addison.
Yesterday I told my mentor and friend I was going to jointly dedicate Your Secret Name to him as well. I did tell him though that Addison looks much more beautiful than him.
He laughed and then he cried.
We are praying for you and your family Dave.
God knows when he needs you more than we do.
Jonathon Herr, MA Theology, MA Church History (Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary), BA Grace College 2002-2006, Currently in limbo
From the advice of a close friend, I began looking for a mentor as my first year in college came to close. Thus somewhere in March 2003, I began meeting with Dr. Plaster. What I loved most about him were our conversations. They were always rewarding and enjoyable, uplifting and encouraging. Our conversations were always a highlight of my week or year, even when as my junior year rolled around I began realizing that our pattern of conversation was always circular- Theology, Church History, politics, pastoral issues and finally relationships. When the time came for me to pursue further education, he was incredibly helpful in guiding me toward looking for a seminary that was evangelical, academically oriented and able to prepare me for future study in historical theology. What stands out to me the most about him was his seamless ability to wear so many hats (Academic dean, professor, scholar, pastor, mentor and friend) without ever seeming intrusive, or out of place. My last meeting with him was in November of last year. I recall as we sat talking how comfortable and familiar everything seemed- this was quite a transition from nearly seven years previous to that time, when as a wide eyed freshman I sat nervously across from him. I remember thinking it so strange that a man I was once deeply intimidated by, would now be such a close friend. I did not fear his intellect, but welcomed his guidance. Once again, our conversation followed its usual pattern and our discussion continued in theology and church history, politics, and the like.
I will always remember his lectures, his stories, his passion for his students and fervor for the Word of God. I am blessed and honored to have known him and to have learned from him. He truly could have taught or studied anywhere he desired, that he stayed at Grace, mentored students, and eventually returned to the pastorate is a testament to his character. As a theological dwarf I am delighted to stand on the shoulders of this giant. I long for the day when we will meet again and resume our conversation once more.
Beau Stanley, Pastor of Young Marrieds, Grace Brethren Church of Columbus
I first met Pastor Dave in Phoenix, Arizona, while I was a student at Phoenix Seminary. He had recently accepted the senior pastorate at my home church, GBC of Columbus, and was visiting Phoenix Seminary as part of an accreditation team from the Higher Learning Commission. He called himself the “token evangelical” on the team. Shortly before his visit I had applied to teach freshman Bible classes at Worthington Christian High School. Little did I know that I would not get that job, but later that year end up as a pastor at GBC of Columbus serving under Pastor Dave.
Dave and I met just about every week for the two year period during which our ministries here at GBC of Columbus overlapped. I found it helpful and comforting that I could discuss just about anything with him, from ministry challenges to taxes to his sleep habits. Routinely I would come up with questions to ask him, questions to which I anticipated that there was really no good answer. He often came up with excellent answers to these questions. Pastor Dave impressed me often with his insight and his ability to think rationally and logically about complex issues. It was obvious that he had thought deeply about a myriad of subjects, and he was able to express his opinions and convictions respectfully, but with a great deal of confidence.
I have shared elsewhere that I found it interesting how his decline in mental health and consciousness of his own speech did not reveal hidden bitterness, anger, or hostility toward people, at least in the times I shared with him toward the end of his life. To me this is strong evidence of something we all knew already: Pastor Dave was more than a strong theologian, more than a skillful pastor, more than an insightful mentor. He genuinely loved Jesus and genuinely believed what he taught. He was real. When you pulled back the externals and saw the content of his heart, hypocrisy was nowhere to be found.
Pastor Dave’s death is certainly gain for him, but it is a loss for the many men like me into whom he poured his life. We take comfort in the knowledge that God granted us exactly as many days with Pastor Dave as He wished us to have. And while Dave lived precisely the number of days that God had ordained for him (Ps. 139:16), we all can’t help but wish that God’s number had been a bit higher.
Caleb Hoffman, Englewood, Ohio
Mentored 2002-2004: Dr Plaster holds a special place in life. I was actually the one who approached him and asked to be mentored. I did not have a clear direction for my life, and had taken 2 classes with him. It occurred to me that someone who loved God so much and had such insight into life would be able to help me find a direction. He not only helped me see my path clearly but he taught me many other things along the way.
He became a type of surrogate father to me during the time that he mentored me. He taught me about life and how to live it. He helped me get through a period of my life that was filled with turmoil and strife, and he taught me how to do it with reliance on the Holy Spirit. I owe him a debt of gratitude that I cannot repay and am eternally grateful for.
Micah Heckert; Associate Pastor of Student Ministries, York GBC in York, Pa.
I met with Dave on a weekly basis from fall of 2005, through spring 2007 when he left Grace College to accept the Senior Pastor role in Columbus. I then served internships for the next two summers at the church in Columbus and continued regular meetings with him for most of that time, and communicated intermittently until his hospitalization and passing on to his ultimate Home.
There is simply no way to adequately sum up the impact that Dave Plaster had on my life in a few paragraphs, but here is my best attempt at doing him justice.
Our relationship began during the summer of 2005 at BNYC youth conference at Cedarville University, through the process of choosing a recipient for the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches Leadership Scholarship Award. I was among 10-12 students who were nominated for the award. Pastor Dave was one of 3 individuals on the panel entrusted with choosing the student who would receive this full-tuition scholarship. I know now that Dave saw something in me that I did not see in myself at that time, something most people did not see and I was chosen for the scholarship. After they announced in a session that I would receive the scholarship, and that session ended, Dave came and found me outside on the lawn. He congratulated me, spoke some truth and encouragement to me, and told me that if I was interested in getting together regularly when I got to school in the fall, that he would love to do so. I didn’t know until after I got to school that this guy was actually the vice president of the college. I got to school and I was a pretty big mess, from a lot of things that had happened in my life and family in the past couple years, and I wasn’t very disciplined in keeping Dave and I’s meeting times. That first year was marked with times when Dave would come to my dorm in the evenings and find me on days that I was either too busy or too lazy to come to our meeting earlier. Never any judgment or condemnation, he just kept coming back and finding out how things were going for me and what was going on in my life. Eventually I wised up, things started getting back on track between God and I as I dealt with some wounds (things Dave helped me through doing), and I started really valuing our time together. He was with me as I began getting back into leadership and ministry. He walked with me as my parents officially separated. And he was with me as I began dating the girl that I would eventually go on to marry. He spoke truth into my life through the questions, the doubts, and the fears, particularly as I began navigating the waters of commitment and thoughts of marriage, helping me to redeem my broken view of marriage after having seen so much pain, suffering, and abuses come out of other marriages. Dave taught me, through informal times of discussion and prayer, what it meant to be a true man, a true friend, a true husband, a true father, and a true spiritual leader. He became a father to me at precisely the time that I needed a father the most.
His influence continued as I served in his church, as I continued my studies at school, and especially as I served as student body president at school during senior year. I learned so many lessons about ministry in the local church through the past five years, just because Dave was willing to talk to me and answer my curiosity-driven questions. I see now that those were also Holy Spirit-driven questions, because much of the wisdom gained is hugely valuable to me as I am now getting my feet wet serving as a local church pastor as well.
In so many ways, I owe my faith, my marriage, my education, my leadership skills, and any future success in ministry and (God-willing) being a father someday, to Dave Plaster. The Holy Spirit has worked so much in my life through the direct conduit of Dave Plaster, and I am eternally grateful for his willingness to be used in my life.
I miss his friendship and his wisdom/influence dearly, but I couldn’t be more happy for him and all that he is experiencing now. Continues to blow me away on an almost-everyday basis.
Jordan Gillette, Junior at Grace College, Covington, Va.
I first met Dave Plaster through my Dad, Dan Gillette, when we ran into him at Grace College. Interacting with him through the next several years was strictly through visits to Grace to see my sisters, and were limited to brief conversations. It was not until the summer of 2005 when I gave my first NAC “Teen Challenge Speaker” at the BNYC youth conference that our relationship really began. He was one of my judges, and as a freshman in high school, I was scared to death to see him in that position. Even though I completely botched the whole thing, Dr. Plaster came up to me afterwards, and talked through what I had done well, and the many things I could improve on. The next three years our relationship grew as he continued to come here me speak, even when he was not a judge, and then meet with me afterwards to give me pointers. He became a role model to me, and I was excited about going to Grace because he was going to be there. However, he decided to leave Education and become a Pastor at the Grace Brethren Church of Columbus. When I heard that I figured our relationship was dissipating because we had never maintained constant contact, however, that summer he showed up at Momentum again, and came right up and asked when my time to speak was. He was there, right on the dot, and then afterwards talked me through it, just like he had before.
I started attending Grace College in 2008, and happened to run into him on my first day of school. It was then that he mentioned that I should consider coming to his church for a youth internship. I was really honored, but assumed he meant after I got older. Later that same year, he asked if I was going to apply. I was shocked and quickly e-mailed Dave Nicodemus and got an application. The summer of 2009 I struggled lots with whether to work at Springhill Camps or go to Columbus for the Internship. A big part of why I decided to go to Columbus was because Dr. Plaster told me that he had made it clear to Dave that he wanted me to come there, and he thought it would give me a great image of ministry.
That summer was huge for me. The weekly meetings with Dr. Plaster, or Pastor Dave (as he insisted me call him), were really good times for me. I remember telling him through my tears how my girlfriend, of two years, and I had broken up, and he treated that as a matter of importance. We also talked through theology questions I had, or ministry areas I was curious about. Our last meeting for the summer, I remember sitting down in his office and talking about everything that had happened. When I stood up to leave, he said, “So, are we gonna get you back next summer?” Such a simple question, but when you consider who it came from, it had impactful meaning on me.
The confidence that he had in me to do great things for God, gave me confidence that I could succeed. He believed in me, and made it known by pursuing me. He barely knew me, but apparently he saw something in me in 2005 that made him choose to invest in me. I loved my time with him. I am back in Columbus in 2010, and I miss him very much. However, the impact that he had on this church will last for years to come.
Keith Watson, Grad Student, Indiana Wesleyan University; Warsaw, Ind.
During my last couple of years at Grace, Dr. Plaster and I spent a lot of time together. We met weekly for 3-6 months or more. When my father was in Kuwait for Army duty, Dr. Plaster filled that void for him, and my father had the opportunity to thank him for it.
He helped me with some of the big questions in life, who to marry?, what to do with my life?, whether or not graduate school was for me.
Zac Hess, Grace Theological Seminary student
I first met Dr. Plaster at then BNYC during the summer of 2006 at an interview for scholarship to attend Grace. Then in the Fall of 2006 I started at Grace and became a Plaster follower. I always went to his chapels or speaking times and then took my one and only Plaster class in the spring. Through class and other interactions we developed a friendship.
That spring of 2007 was when he accepted the call to the Columbus GBC and he asked me to be the Junior High Intern at the church. This was a great experience, but the best part about it all was the time I was able to spend with now Pastor Dave. We met every week that summer and our meetings were much like the meetings all the other guys had with him. We covered a range of topics from relationships to theology to ministry. This was a huge summer for me and I matured in amazing ways. I even met my wife at the church that summer. Dr. Plaster told my father in law that he would take the blame for the relationship.
Pastor Dave’s mentoring continued after that summer when i returned to Grace. Like the rest I would call or email anytime I had a theological or ministry question. I returned to Columbus the following summer of 2008 and we started our weekly meetings once again. Our relationship developed and changed and I always looked forward to these meetings with great anticipation. Like the summer before my favorite part was my “Plaster Talks.”
After my Junior year at Grace I went home to Southview GBC in Ashland Ohio and I thought my summers of Plaster wisdom might be over. At his suggestion we met bi-monthly half way between Ashland and Columbus for breakfast.
Our relationship continued to the fall and winter of 2009 and in December my then fiance and I started our marriage counseling with him. Little did I know that these times with him would be the last I got to see him face to face. He was supposed to officiate our wedding May 22, 2010 but the Lord had other plans. I praise God that Sarah and I were able to learn so much from him in those sessions.
My 3 and 1/2 years relationship with Pastor Dave has been one of the most meaningful relationships I have ever had. I am probably one of the youngest Plasterites, but he is a huge reason why I want to be in full time ministry and I constantly think of our meetings together. I am and will be forever marked by his influence and leadership in my life. He was like a father to me and to so many others. I can’t remember ever shaking his hand, every greeting and farewell was with a smile and a hug. Even though my last farewell has been and still is with many tears I smiled upon my last sight of him knowing that he was not there, but hugging our Lord Jesus.
I praise God for Dr/Pastor/Mentor/Father Dave Plaster
Chris Richardson; incoming online Grace Seminary student
In 2008, at thirty years old, I met with Pastor Dave about how to pursue my M.Div. With three years of undergrad work but no degree, I asked him, maybe a minute into our meeting, if I should finish my undergrad, and then kind of rising out of his chair a bit, he said “Forget about all that” He then went on to explain how I should start with the Certificate in Biblical Studies at Grace Seminary, then the M.Div. “This certificate was designed for someone just like you” he said. Problem Solved. Thanks to Pastor Dave’s advice, I’m begining my studies at Grace Seminary this fall (2010). I am sure the full impact of his guidance in my life is yet to be seen.
Brad Deetscreek, Grace Church, Akron, Ohio, Bath Campus, Pastor of Student Ministry
Dr. Plaster was such a mentor to me and the thing I remember most was when I was working on my MDiv out at Grace. He grabbed a hold of me and two friends and gave us first year seminary students an incredible opportunity, one that would shape the way I do ministry as much as anything else. He gave us the opportunity to sit down with him for 3 hours once a week and throw out any topic; nothing was off limits. For us who desired to understand Theology, we learned an incredible lesson about the need to multiply ourselves into those who were hungry. I learned so much information but for me the principle was even greater. My funniest moment I remember was when he took me and a friend to Warsaw Community Grace Brethren Church one evening and taught us how to baptize people and he figured the best way was to let us baptize him. I will always remember dunking him three times in the baptistry. What a privilege it was to spend some awesome time with this servant of God.
Jeremy Gray, Access Coordinator, Columbus Regional Airport Authority, Columbus, Ohio
I first met Pastor Dave on a personal level when I was struggling with a personal issue that I knew I needed wisdom and counseling to deal with. I worked up the courage to call his office hoping to meet with him that day as I didn’t want my courage to seek help to wane. I was thankfully surprised that he took my call and that he suggested we meet that afternoon. In our first meeting, I opened up to Pastor Dave about something very personal and difficult. He listened intently and asked questions when needed. He showed great kindness, compassion, and understanding throughout our conversation. He didn’t seem phased at all with what I had to share but with great reassurance encouraged me and spoke truth to me. In that first meeting, I knew I could trust Pastor Dave with personal matters knowing that I wouldn’t have to feel embarrassed or afraid, which allowed me to be completely honest and open.
At the end of our meeting it was Pastor Dave who asked if we could meet regularly in the weeks to come to follow up on what we discussed. He knew I would need someone to make the investment of following up with wisdom and counsel to help me stay on the right path. He offered to make that investment in my life, despite his already demanding schedule and vast amount of responsibilities. I only asked for one meeting and he took it upon himself to invest once a week for the next two years into my life. He probably knew I wouldn’t want to impose such a commitment on him, but he gladly offered himself without hesitation. He even made it a point to track me down after church to see how I was doing and if we were still on to meet that week.
During that time, he mentored and counseled me with godly wisdom in all different areas of life. Many times I would come to him with questions regarding theology or various Bible passages I was studying just to pick his brain and glean from his wisdom. Other times we would just sit and talk about life. One of the things I appreciate most about my time with Pastor Dave is that I never felt that he looked down upon me or thought worse of me no matter what I shared. Instead, he was understanding and always ready with wisdom, encouragement, and a cheerful attitude. Our time together developed into a friendship where we both shared personal details and stories of our lives.
Sometimes I think that the gifts and abilities God gave Pastor Dave allowed him to accomplish more in his time here on earth than most. But he didn’t waste those gifts or just use them to serve himself. He faithfully used those gifts to serve God and serve others. Especially in the area of discipling and mentoring many people like myself.
Even though Pastor Dave was my mentor, counselor, and pastor, I don’t think that any of these titles would be the first way that either he or I would classify the relationship that we had. He was my friend and brother in Christ first. He saw a younger brother in need and made the decision to honor and serve God by loving me and pouring his life into mine. He deeply impacted my life for Christ in our time together and by the example he set. I hope and pray that I can follow his example by pouring my life into others for Christ. For all these things, I am eternally grateful.
Eric Bowling, Teacher/Head Sophomore Football Coach, Wheaton Academy, West Chicago, Ill.
I grew up attending Community Grace Brethren Church in Warsaw, Ind., the home church of Dr. Plaster. During the course of attending CGBC, there was a crisis situation that as a young man, had personally rocked my faith and my trust in church leadership. Dr. Plaster, never one to shy away from difficult circumstances, assumed the leadership of our church in helping a wounded, hurting congregation recover their trust in God and their faith in his providential plan for why God allows difficult things to happen to his people.
I remember the anxiety and uncertainty of his first Sunday to speak to us, his church family. His admonishment to the church body that day was “these sheep don’t scatter.” A timely reminder that God’s people stick together because Christ is their shepherd, not man. His sermon that morning made a profound impact on the way that I looked at and processed the situation and it allowed me the opportunity to stand and with determination and face this crisis head on, knowing that Christ is my leader and my “good shepherd.” That Sunday morning was a defining moment in my faith journey.
In the myopic view of the young, I never stopped to think about Dr. Plaster and what he personally was going through during this time. He had to be hurting just like the rest of the body, yet he focused on us and our pain, never mentioning his own. His focus was on our recovery and our healing. To me, that summarizes Dr. Plaster. He was a person who displayed integrity and faithfulness, even in trying times and difficult circumstances. I knew that when Dr. Plaster spoke, I could trust it; a rare thing in our culture.
Even though I was never formally mentored by Dave Plaster, seeing his example of how a Godly man thinks and acts, lived out in the “day-to-day” taught me how to think and act as a Godly man. I had the opportunity to see these examples through watching him as a father to his children, teaching at Grace College, a co-teacher with me in a Sunday School class, as a Pastor in my church and finally, as a friend.
To this day, when my high school students are faced with a challenge, the words of Dr. Plaster, spoken on that Sunday morning years ago, that “these sheep don’t scatter” reminds me that no matter what the Christian faces, they are called to persevere. I am grateful that I had the privilege of knowing Dr. Plaster.
Matt Simms, Student Ministries/Associate Pastor, Kish Valley GBC, Reedsville, Pa.
I met Dr. Plaster my freshman year at Grace (Fall ’04). We really connected after he was the faculty member assigned to the freshman breakout group I was helping lead. He invited us his house and showed us the proper way to make a mountain pie (we made cherry and apple). He showed us the proper way to hit the iron on a rock to make it perfect. He loved spending time with students even though he was very busy. He was always very sincere.
Soon after, I was taking Church History and other Bible classes taught by Dr. Plaster. After chatting with him about my desire to learn Tagalog the national language of the Philippines he suggested I go there for a summer.
He promptly did the paperwork to become my advisor and since he was academic dean he could sign every form to make it happen! It was through his interest in me and seeing me pursue my passions that made him a great man.
Anytime I had a question about what I had been reading in the Bible I would go straight to Dr. Plaster, he would usher me into his office (even if he was busy) and sit me down and walk me through the Scriptures.
The last time I saw Dr. Plaster he was in Winona Lake for a GBIM board meeting when I still worked there. I told him I was looking for a youth pastor job and he told me he would have let me apply for the job they were looking for at Worthington (but they had found the right guy). He showed genuine concern for me and wanted to see me in a local church.
When I started at Kish Valley GBC in Reedsville, PA (Doug Sabin Sr. Pastor) Doug told me that when he had a question he would always call up Dr. Plaster. It seemed like most pastor’s had Dr. Plaster on speed dial! 🙂
I will never forget his passion for God’s Word, his people and the academic world. I was able to see him preach at Worthington soon after he got there and I could see how excited he was to be behind the pulpit again.
What impressed me the most was Dr. Plaster humbling saying in class, “There are certain hills I would die on (in-errancy of Scripture, salvation, baptism) but some hills aren’t worth dying for. There are a lot of good people who interpret Scripture differently then we do. Don’t get so wrapped up in differences and build walls against other believers.
I am privileged to have known Dr. Plaster and he has shaped me as a man of God and youth pastor.
Casey Morgan, Middle School Teacher Denver, Co.
Coming to Grace, I knew no one….I had just become a Christian and was ready to take on a new world. I met Dr. Plaster the Welcome Weekend, opening day, of my freshman year. A few weeks into school he offered to meet with me on a weekly basis. From there, the next 7 years I spent at Grace were weekly meetings , at the very least, with Dr Plaster walking through Scripture and WOMEN. Even though Dr. Plaster was more educated, I gathered, in academics than women, his godly advice and great hugs helped me get through some heartbreaks with girls and God.
Many times I spent at his house having his famous “pies” with growth groups and RA’s. Even the WEEK in my freshman year where I was contained to my room with some rare outbreak of something, with no one allowed to come into my room, Dr. Plaster visited every night with my dinner served.
There are several more stories that need not be shared, but Dr. Plaster was my first example of a godly Dad, or shall we say, “Uncle.” I will never forget his impact on my life and the others with I know he did the same.
Chase Dillingham; Inside Sales for CBTS, Cincinnati, Ohio
It’s hard to put into words how much God used David Plaster in my life. I first met Dave in 2003 when my roommate suggested I speak with him about my struggle with depression and spiritual warfare. I remember pacing around the hallway nervous to meet the “Vice President for Academic Affairs.” He quickly calmed my nerves with his humor, smile, honesty and compassion. From that point on Dave and I met regularly until he went to the GBC of Columbus in 2007.
He was a friend, mentor and father figure. I was a boy and God used him to start the process of creating a man. He and I wrestled through my past baggage and with grace he loved me throughout the process. He was there during my darkest and brightest hours. I struggle even now to put into words how much he meant to me and how much God used him in my life. I was lost, confused and felt alone and God used Dave to help show me the way. He led me to Christ’s truths, love, grace, freedom and cross.
Each day as I experience freedom I am reminded of how much God used Dave in my life. I am a changed man, a changed follower of Jesus because of his ministry to me. I can only hope to be half the man and have half the impact that Dave did. He will be truly missed. I thank our great God each day for using him in my life.
John Lee, Student, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Ill.
“Have your big idea central to the message and come prepared to preach it. Meet me at my office on Tuesday.” Dr. Dave Plaster was talking to a lanky highschooler who had never delivered a sermon in his 15 years of existence! But he took a risk on me anyway.
I had met him in 2005 as a teaching elder at Community Grace Brethren Church of Warsaw. Having just gone through a period of doubt in my spiritual journey, he was a solid rock in proclaiming the Word with conviction. After the service, it seemed he was always available to chat. This is where I first experienced his well-thought answers to theology and issues in the Scripture. I remember asking what he preferred to be called. To all his students at Grace, he was Dr. Plaster. It worked.
Many understand the joy of conversing with Dr. Plaster, whether it was on Calvinism, the Emerging church, or one’s experiences in sharing the gospel. As I developed in speaking, he was always an encouragement, even when I realized he was one of the judges for Teen Challenge at youth conference. Once, we had rehashed a message together only to realize it needed to be typed as a final copy. With one hour before it was due, his wpm were faster than my legs were to the auditorium!
When I was struggling as the oldest brother seeking independence, He told me of a similar trial he had as a senior in high school. Having his own father die shaped much of who he was as a man. He had to work, supporting his mother and siblings during that time. That was a clear demonstration of a heart of dependence on the Lord.
Dr. Plaster always loved the local church. During a time when my family made the decision to move to a different church home, he was one who offered wise advice. This was the period when he was considering moving to Columbus. I would have responded bitterly to the whole situation but he challenged me, just as my former youth pastor had, to love the bride of Christ even if she had wrinkles in her dress. Other than these voices in my life, I probably would be a statistic of young people who had given up on the church.
In fact, during that gap year after high school, he was one who encouraged me to pursue ministry. Where others might have forced ministry on me in the name of spiritual gifts, Dr. Plaster listened. He warned me not to put my dreams in a box. After wrestling with the various experiences and burdens in life, I came to a certainty in my dreams. Over a phone conversation I let him in on my “plans”. He responded with this, “John, God puts various seasons in our lives not just to practice for the future but to glorify Him in that moment.” I never forgot that. He went on to describe how each position he had held was a way for God to fully use him in that context. Now all his experiences had led him to a new ministry in Ohio.
A birthday card that year revealed this: “We’re praying that the Lord will open up the right door for your next step.” I knew he and Mrs. Plaster were seriously practicing that prayer as they did for so many others. God used this encouragement and that season of life to show me the beauty of shepherding a local body. My long-term direction is to pastor a church in a cross-cultural context. By God’s grace, I hope to look back and measure it by the people in life’s path, not necessarily in numbers or decades.
Well, that day as a 15 year old, we didn’t stay in his office. My first sermon was preached to an empty McLain chapel with Dr. Plaster timing it in the back! He labored to have others look beyond the man on the platform to his Lord. Now he himself sees Jesus face to face.
Ed Nicholson, Founder and Director, Sharing The Truth In Love (STTIL)
I am one of those seemingly-countless men that Pastor Dave mentored.
Pastor Dave and I first started to get to know each other as we gathered before the young adult community gatherings at church. He just became our new pastor, and I delighted in being able to ask him theological questions I had on my mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if we also talked about my efforts in personal and corporate evangelism in our church. I also was one of those who had the privilege of moving him and Ginny into their new home here in Columbus. In fact, I fondly remember helping to put their bed together. : )
It wasn’t too long after meeting him, that Pastor Dave approached me and asked if I would like to meet with him on a regular basis. I was delighted. In fact, his request was an answer to prayer. After all, the desire and need to have older godly men invest in my life was the reason I returned to Grace after spending a few years elsewhere including a church plant where the pastor was a few years younger than me. But I never thought it would be a man to the caliber of Pastor Dave.
Pastor Dave and I met on a regular basis for over two years up until he got sick. We always met in his office – never over lunch, of course, because of his strict diet.
A little while after beginning to meet together, he asked me to head up training efforts at equipping people in the church in evangelism. His vision was to “create a culture of evangelism.” Generally speaking, it seemed as though half of our time together was spent focusing on our efforts at promoting grassroots evangelism in our church, and the other half was spent focusing on some aspect of my personal life.
As I reflected on all our times together, I think of how so many of our conversations were both intense and jovial all at the same time. I really appreciated how I could be so real with him. There were times when I felt I had nothing really to report going in to our time together, but I always left our times together so uplifted, encouraged, and challenged. He gave valuable time to get to know me and was committed to making me successful at carrying out God’s call on my life. Pastor Dave got to know what I truly was about and contributed significantly in giving something every man needs: a living example what it means to be a real man. He purposively took valuable time to invest in me. IN ME! Something I did not even receive from my own father. I will always remember him as one of my vicar fathers in my life.
Rob Beswetherick, Pastor to College and Young Adults, First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks Largo, Fla.
In 1998, the end of my junior year and beginning of my senior year Dr. David Plaster helped me through a tough time in my faith. Instead of wrapping my mind around the idea of a sovereign God who has authored life in such a way as to afford man the responsibility of choice all while exercising His omniscient and omnipotent reign over all creation, I was rapping my head into a tainted shallow view of election. The time he spent with me with this helped me to see myself as an instrument of God’s sovereignty all while I am in submission to Him. This seems easy to write now, but back in the day during some intense and formative years in college this was a hiccup in my growth. Dr. Plaster by God’s grace and patience helped me through this. This is just one example of the kind of depth of influence God used Dr. Plaster in my life.
Another valuable experience was the reconciliation of sign gifts, spiritual gifts, and many other hot button topics found in the life of the church. I had family with varying views of the gifts and this was a great journey getting to know God and His plan for the church today. It was met with personal challenge and frustration but the end was sound understanding of God’s Word. Dr. Plaster always let the Scripture represent itself all while yielding to the disciplines of study whereby Holy Spirit did the leading in Truth. What a great example for me and for all of us.
Lastly, he listened to my story then led me through Scripture guiding me through some personal challenges that were part of the old man God had crucified with Christ. Dr. Plaster helped me to overcome my pride the very weight that kept me struggling with my past, and making my present (and then future) seem hopeless. Once through the gauntlet of overcoming flesh by depending on Holy Spirit, I found one of the most powerful things God gives us in our life…Hope… in His plan, in His forgiveness, in His promises, ultimately in Jesus Christ and His resurrection, by which my relationship with God is possible. And hope rightly founded does not disappoint.
Dr. Plaster was always available and God used him in the years following my college graduation and into my graduate studies. My hope is twofold; to be like Dr. David Plaster to any with whom God gives me the privilege to serve and all the while bring honor to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.