Nine Lessons I Learned from My Dad

June 18, 2012 — 12 Comments

Among those who I know personally, I don’t know anyone more successful than my dad. Over the course of his life, he’s spoken to over 3 million teens and lead countless people to the Lord. I’ve learned some valuable lessons from watching him. Here are nine.

1. Ministry is sacrifice

I can’t tell you how many Christmas’ were interrupted by hurting people calling my dad to talk. And he always talked with them. I may not have liked it at the time but I learned a valuable lesson. People are worth more than presents.

2. It’s okay to be crazy

My dad has the rare gift of walking up to complete strangers and making them laugh. I learned that if you take the first move, most people aren’t annoyed or offended but rather pleasantly surprised.

3. Recycle your stories with every new audience. They only get better.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard my dad speak. The cool thing about being an evangelist is that no one ever gets tired of hearing the stories you tell. You can use them with each new audience. And they get even better the more times you practice them on an audience

In 9th grade I went to Arizona with him. He was scheduled to speak at three different high schools in Phoenix. Before one assembly he was invited to speak at a luncheon of veteran teachers.  The morning of the event I asked him what he was going to speak on.  He said, “I don’t know.”  Without preparing he walked into that room and within thirty minutes there wasn’t a dry eye among them.  Wow!  While its true he didn’t have a specific outline, he always takes his treasure trove of well tested stories and weaves them into a compelling message – whatever the circumstance.

4. Reach peoples kids and they will never stop repaying you.

This is huge. The most important thing in parents lives are their kids. And sadly most parents just feel like they can’t communicate to their children during the teenage years.   My dad has had the rare ability to effortlessly connect with teenagers. And adults love him for it. It matters to parents that we invest in their kids. And my dad in his ministry has only continued to reap the rewards.

5. You don’t need to be perfect to be successful

Of course I’ve watched my dad from a position that few have. When I was younger people would always come up to me and ask, “what’s it like being Mike Miller’s son?”  I told them it felt a lot like gas.  Just kidding.   The question always caught me by surprise.  I imagine it’s like asking a fish what it feels like to live underwater.  I never knew any other way.  But I knew having him as a dad was special because the question implied that they were someone jealous of my position.  But from my vantage point, I recognize that not everything my dad touches turns to gold.  He’s made mistakes.  But the mistakes have never destroyed him.  “God doesn’t care how many times you fall,” he would tell me, “He cares how many times you get back up.”

6. If you don’t feel good – fake it.

My dad has suffered from debilitating migraines since he was a child. It’s not the best thing to suffer from when you’re scheduled to speak. But speak he does. I’ve watched him over and over again climb out of bed in a darkened room and go to work. No one knows that he’s hurting. No one know’s that he’s in pain. They laugh. They cry. And they ask him to do it all again. When it’s over, he returns home and crawls back into bed.  He’s shown me what it takes to be a leader.

7. Dream big. Take risks. They don’t all pay off, but some do.

My dad’s by nature a dreamer – a visionary. He’s got ideas for everything. Putting those dreams into practice, however, hasn’t always worked out so well.  He created a video called “Stop the Nightmare” to help parents protect there children from the danger of sexual predators.  But the video didn’t sell.  He created a trivia game with a large cash prize. But people didn’t buy the game.  But he also had this crazy idea of talking to teens about suicide and depression.  Who wants to listen to that?  His seminar, “Dare to Live”, however, opened the door for him to speak to three million teens.

8. Don’t sweat your big defeats

My Dad lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a land deal. He’d worked for years creating that nest egg. And in a few short months, it all disappeared. I was struck by how well he handled it. Such a loss would have made me want to curl up into a ball and never try anything again. But he shrugged it off. That’s what taking risks is all about. Sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don’t. You can’t let the failures drag you down because the next one might just pay off.

9. Always give an altar call!

A few years ago my Dad brought his ministry team to Woodland High School. For more than six months he had tried to get in that school. But for several reasons it didn’t go over too well. Finally, on the Saturday of Easter weekend, they setup in the school gymnasium to engage more than three hundred students with the message of Jesus Christ. Being Easter weekend, many churches were reluctant to spend the extra time needed to support the event. But it happened. And at the end my dad gave an invitation to receiveJesus as Lord and savior. Many kids came forward, among them were two freshman, a boy and a girl. Three days later they were killed in accident.

Every time is the right time to share the gospel.  I’m seen him do it at funerals and baby dedications.  Always give an altar call. You never know if its going to be the last chance you get.

Matthew Scott Miller

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