It’s obvious Southeast Christian Church Pastor Dave Stone is a gifted preacher who connects seamlessly with people.
Anyone who has heard or met him knows he loves Jesus, and he loves his family.
In the last 13 years while Dave served as senior pastor, 19,341 men, women and children have decided to follow Jesus and be baptized at Southeast; 28,206 have joined the church.
That’s a legacy.
It is a big view of the pastor who invested 30 years at Southeast.
Memorial Day weekend will be Dave’s last weekend preaching as a pastor on staff at Southeast.
But there’s a lot about Dave that people don’t know.
Dennis, a man who lived in a homeless camp, could tell you a few things about Dave. They met one night after a baseball game at the University of Louisville. Dave’s son, Sam, who was about 11 at the time, and a friend crawled through a hole in the fence and approached his tent.
They were curious; Dennis was furious. They hightailed it back to Dave as the man ranted obscenities and chased after them.
The boys apologized, and Dennis invited everyone to “his place” through the hole in the fence. Within five minutes, Dave, Sam and his friend sat around the campfire with Dennis. They learned about his hard history.
It was the beginning of an unlikely friendship between a pastor and a homeless man who trusted no one.
“For the next year, my dad went to see Dennis at least once a week,” Sam said. “He’d take a bag of hot food from a nearby restaurant. He got to know Dennis’ friends. He bought phones for five or six people down there, tried to help them find jobs, sometimes took the whole group out to dinner.”
On Thanksgiving Day, the Stone family took dinner plus some gifts of plastic containers and new socks to the group.
When Dennis passed away, his family called Dave.
They weren’t alone.
“Lauren” had Dave and Beth Stone’s cellphone numbers. They met through Scarlet Hope, a ministry to men and women in adult entertainment. They prayed for her, helped her write a résumé and shuttled her to interviews. When she landed a job, Dave connected her with a friend who wanted to donate his car to someone who needed it.
For years at Christmas, Lauren and a large group of women from Scarlet Hope have been honored guests at the Stones’ home.
Dave has preached in 37 states and maintains a packed itinerary. He is the author of eight books, including the parenting series, “Faithful Families.” One of his books, “Refining Your Style,” won the Preaching Magazine Book of the Year Award. He is a frequent guest on radio and television.
More than 24,000 follow him on Twitter.
Dave meets with other pastors across the country. Friends include Mac Powell from Third Day and Joel and Luke Smallbone from for KING & COUNTRY. He calls Tim Tebow a friend as well as pastors Max Lucado and Rick Rusaw.
“He loves them, but he also loves those who may feel forgotten,” Beth said. “It’s restaurant servers and cooks in the kitchen, homeless men and women he meets, those at the post office and the bank.”
One Christmas Southeast member David Yoho stood behind Dave in a long line at the post office.
“Dave was holding a stack of envelopes,” Yoho said. “I assumed he was mailing them. But when it was his turn, Dave gave an envelope to every postal worker. They knew him by name, but he also knew them by name.”
Dave is a connoisseur of people when it comes to choosing a restaurant for dinner. The Stones go where Dave wants to check in with a server, restaurant owner or cook. He keeps names and their needs in his phone, along with updates. He prays for them by name and cares about their worries and fears. If they accept his invitation to come to church, he meets them in the atrium.
Amid packed schedules, Dave and Beth host a Bible study at their home.
Jon’a and Taurean Joiner became part of that study soon after coming to Southeast. At the time, Dave had no idea that Taurean had been diagnosed with stage-four cancer.
“They welcomed us into their lives like family,” Jon’a said. “They prayed for us, sent texts and showed up at the hospital. It’s difficult to put into words the impact Dave and Beth had on our lives during that time and after Taurean died.”
Many believe Dave is leaving too soon. He says the timing is just right.
“I wouldn’t have lasted this long in ministry without Kyle Idleman,” he said. “Kyle is an incredible preacher. He teaches the Bible extremely well. He is a man of integrity. He is more generous than you will ever know. He loves Jesus, his wife, his kids and his church. We’re going to be so blessed to have him at the helm.”
Dave does not like the word “retirement.” It does not describe “next.” He will continue to teach, preach and lead.
“I hope my legacy will be that people who know me or have heard me preach would truly sense that I have spent time with Jesus and that I love all people,” he said.