A lot of what Dr. Don Sisk is known for can be gleaned from the moment you first meet him—his smile is infectious and his laughter spontaneous.
Don Sisk exudes the joy of the Lord in spite of the trials of life. He laughs often. His joy is an intentional choice, and it’s contagious. Don Sisk has learned the skill of taking the ministry very seriously but taking himself very lightly. He allows Jesus Christ to increase and himself to decrease.
Despite losing his wife of more than sixty-five years, Don keeps going. He keeps preaching the same gospel he began preaching over sixty years ago. He never lost interest in seeing people come to Jesus Christ and in personally telling others about the grace of God. Perhaps no other man in our generation has more embodied biblical missions work like Dr. Don Sisk.
Recently, we sat down with him to ask him what it means to be faithful in ministry for over sixty years. His answers will challenge you to invest your life in ways that make an eternal difference.
What Motivates You to Be Faithful?
I often think of the passage in 2 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” In that same passage, it says that we are ministers and stewards.
Sometimes we get the false idea those verses only apply to preachers or missionaries. In reality, every born again child of God is a minister. We have a ministry because God has something for every one of us to do.
In reference to this verse, I have heard people say, “It doesn’t mean you have to be successful, but it does mean you have to be faithful.” That’s true, but by the same token, if we are faithful with what God has put in our hands we are going to be successful.
The Apostle Paul went on to say in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ constraineth us….” From the time that Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus until he breathed his last breath, he was faithful.
What kept him faithful? It wasn’t appreciation. He didn’t receive a lot of accolades from others. It was the realization of Christ’s love. He was not saying that it was his love for Christ that kept him going, but Christ’s love for him. That is a marvelous thing to think about.
I don’t think we can over-exaggerate the fact that if the Lord had known that only one person would have ever been saved, He would have still come, suffered, bled, and died. I think it is the love of Christ that keeps us faithful.
What Has Kept You Faithful to Your Wife and Family?
By the grace of God, Virginia and I were married sixty-five years. We were faithful to one another. We made a vow not only to each other, but to God.
Another thought that has kept me faithful is to think of the horrible results of being unfaithful. I have had the sad experience of witnessing when one mate was unfaithful to the other, and it is a terrible experience for their family and for the cause of Christ.
Are there Any Precursors to Becoming Unfaithful?
One of the main reasons for unfaithfulness would be too many expectations. For instance, if I expect people to be thankful to me because I do something for them, I am going to be disappointed. The Lord cleansed ten lepers and only one turned back to say, “Thank you.” If Jesus only had one out of ten thank Him, we can’t expect to do much better.
Paul ’s challenge in Romans 12:3 was to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to. What causes a man or woman to be unfaithful is thinking we deserve something we are not getting. When you stop to think about it, we all get a lot more than we deserve from the Lord.
What Is it about Pastor Chappell that Caused Your Hearts to Be Knit Together?
Meeting Dr. Chappell was the providence of God. It was at a time when he needed somebody older in his life and, certainly, I needed the encouragement.
The first time I preached at Lancaster Baptist Church was in the old building downtown. There was such a wonderful spirit in the church—a spirit of love, a spirit of anticipation. That was because the pastor was excited, and the pastor dreamed of accomplishing great things.
From the beginning, I realized that he had a heart for missions. I watched the way he treated missionaries when they came to the church. He had a great respect and love for them. He was always looking for ways he could support more missionaries.
Then I think of the fact that he has been so eager to give of himself for other ministries. To be sure, Lancaster Baptist Church, West Coast Baptist College, Striving Together Publications, Lancaster Baptist School—it takes a lot of effort— but he continually gives of himself for outside causes, other ministries and other churches. And he does all of this while leading his family faithfully. It has been a blessing to watch his relationship with his wife and children and to see their success.
I think Lancaster Baptist Church is as close to a New Testament church as any church with which I have ever been associated. There is an obvious love for one another and a zeal to get the gospel out around the world.
How Is God Using Lancaster Baptist Church in the Lives of Churches across America?
I think Spiritual Leadership Conference has been a tremendous tool. Once people attend and receive the materials and training, they return home and see the same kinds of results we are having here at Lancaster Baptist Church.
I cannot think of a greater way that I could have used the last fourteen years of my life after retiring as the president and general director of BIMI, than to be a part of Lancaster Baptist Church and West Coast Baptist College. It is making a worldwide impact.
In Your Opinion, What Will Keep Lancaster Baptist Church from Becoming Like So Many Other Great Churches in the Past that Have Either Declined or Died?
Number one, we should never get to the point where we think we have arrived. As long as there is someone in the world who has never heard the gospel, we have not arrived.
Number two, keep sharing the gospel. If you go back thirty-one years, the thing that was outstanding about Lancaster Baptist Church was the great zeal that Pastor Chappell had for souls. And now he has been able to pass that zeal on to literally hundreds of people.
I remember a few months ago on Saturday the whole first floor of the auditorium was filled with people who were going out to share their faith. That made such a great impact on me.
Think about it. One man faithfully knocking on doors, and now hundreds of people are doing it. That is the reason that Lancaster Baptist Church has not declined, but has continued to grow.
You Have Seen Trends Come and Go. How Does a Church Stay Relevant with the Culture, Yet Remain Faithful to their Calling?
While culture changes, people don’t change. They still have the same needs. The millennials have the same needs as the baby boomers regardless of their outward reactions. They need to be saved. Every person on earth needs to love and be loved. We find people where they are and accept them, but we are too good to them to let them stay where they are.
You may be able to fake a lot of things, but people are going to know whether or not you love them. There is no substitute.
If we have compassion, then regardless of the culture, we can be true to the Word of God and be culturally relevant. We should never expect the culture to be what we are, but we can try to win them to Christ. Once we win them, we try to disciple them. As you disciple them, they become more like Christ.
How Are You Seeing the Heritage of Lancaster Baptist Church Carried to the Next Generation?
It’s all over the world! In every country I visit, I see members who have moved, people who have been called into ministry, or students who have been trained. They are being used all over the world.
I’ll give you an example. Tennessee Temple University and Highland Park Baptist Church are no longer in existence. Yet nearly everywhere I go, I see someone who was trained at Tennessee Temple University under the ministry of Dr. Lee Roberson. Even though the institution itself may be dead, the result of what those people did in their day will be around for eternity.
I don’t think I will live to see the decline of Lancaster Baptist Church or West Coast Baptist College. But if it ever happens, all of those people who have been saved and leaders who have been produced will go on forever and ever.
This interview was first published in The Baptist Voice.