PASTOR DAVID DENDY
Mountain View Presbyterian Church
A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted
“Laugh Often and Fear Not” is Pastor David Dendy’s mantra. Hailing from Southern California and growing up in Orange County, Pastor David graduated from Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, and has a Master of Divinity from Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia.
He has been leading worship and preaching for over 30 years as an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church. Pastor David is currently the Senior Pastor at Mountain View Presbyterian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a successful fundraiser, motivational speaker, published author, spiritual coach, and standup comedian. As an effective educator, counselor, and communicator of God’s Word, Pastor David is well-known for his kindness, humor, and passion for teaching the Bible. “I love Jesus,” said Dendy. “I think following Jesus and the challenge and joy found therein is life’s most rewarding experience. It far surpasses anything else I have ever done in my life!” He uses his humor to inspire, teach, and encourage people in their relationship with the Lord.
He loves the outdoors and has several hobbies. He is an avid tennis player, runs, golfs, cycles, writes, loves to laugh, and loves to make other people laugh, which brings me to his “side hustle.” In 2020, Pastor David had the thrill of a lifetime. He had an opportunity to perform a standup comedy routine at the world-famous Carolines on Broadway in New York City’s Times Square. This was a huge bucket list moment, one that he will never forget, but at the end of the day, his passion is being a pastor, preaching and teaching the word of God.
Pastor David enjoys family time with his beautiful wife, Julie, and they are the proud parents of two children, Faith and Joshua, who are only five months apart in age — a feat in and of itself.
NSAEN: What is a day in the life of a Pastor?
Pastor David: The Church is open Monday through Friday and Sunday worship in the mornings at 8:30 and 10:30. Our traditional worship is at 8:30. When we say traditional, it means we have a choir and an organ as our main instrument, and our contemporary worship is a similar worship service, but we have a band with singers, drums, a piano, and guitars. We have a large staff — an administrative assistant, Ministry coordinator, tech assistant, accountant, Director of Family Ministries (Youth and Children), Worship Leader, Choir Director, Director of Men’s Ministries & Mission Strategist, and more volunteers behind the scenes.
The Church is open during the day for people who want to come in and sit and/or pray.
We also have Bible Studies during the week. We have several outside groups that use the facilities to meet, like Gambler’s Anonymous, Alcoholic Anonymous, The Compassionate Friends, and youth groups that meet on Sunday afternoon, so there is a lot going on at Mountain View Presbyterian Church.
NSAEN: When did contemporary services start in churches across the USA; it seemed like all of a sudden, so many of the churches were offering worship with bands, and what was the reasoning behind this?
Pastor David: It started in the ’80s, and I believe it resulted from the contemporary lives that we live. For example, how often do you listen to an organ — at church and baseball games. The thing that the churches wrestled with forever is, ‘how do we stay relevant?’ If you walk into a church and we’re still chanting Gregorian chants in Latin, that will not go over well. Today we have contemporary music Christian stations, and what you listen to on the radio during the week you now get to hear on Sunday morning, that’s great.
NSAEN: Was your Dad a pastor; did you follow in his footsteps?
Pastor David: My grandfather was a pastor; The Reverend Dr. Marshall C. Dendy, Sr. He was a pastor in the deep South; many churches in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. My Dad sort of rebelled against this and went into Retail.
NSAEN: Did you always want to be a pastor; when did you decide to become a pastor?
Pastor David: I grew up in the life of a church; this was all I knew growing up; Church is where I hung out, especially on Sundays. Sunday was Church day. I went to Davidson College, and I was a Religion Major because I just loved the subject. Then my Senior year rolls around, and businesses start coming on campus to interview and hire people. And I was going to a great little country church with a young pastor, and he asked me if I might be interested in going into the Ministry. I found that curious because, at that time, I had never even thought about that. I thought I was going to be an attorney. But then I took Constitutional Law in college and changed my mind.
NSAEN: What did your parents think about you becoming a pastor?
Pastor David: They weren’t sure that was the right path because they felt I couldn’t make much money, but that was not the point for me. But that senior year got me thinking; I grew up in the life of the Church, I love the Church, I love the Scriptures, I love the Lord; I’m going to take a look at this. I applied to the Master of Divinity degree program in Richmond, Virginia, got in, and then I started that summer after I graduated from college in 1985.
NSAEN: When did you become ordained as a pastor?
Pastor David: August 28, 1988. You go to Seminary; it’s a three-year master’s program. I graduated with a Master of Divinity. In the Presbyterian Church, they put a high value on education, so to become a pastor, you have to have a 4-year degree, you have to get a master’s degree at a recognized, approved Seminary, which is where I went to, and then you have to receive a call to a Church.
NASEN: How do you get your own Church?
Pastor David: My first call was a Church in Augusta, Georgia – Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church – a Church with about 1,000 members. They were looking for an Associate Pastor. The Presbyterian Church (USA) denominational headquarters are in Louisville, Kentucky, so they put out this mass mailing (now it’s all on websites) of which churches have available positions, and I applied. I interviewed — you interview just like anyone would for a job — and I got the job, and then there was an installation service where I got installed as a Pastor.
NSAEN: You’ve been a Presbyterian all your life; there are many different religions; what does that mean to be a Presbyterian?
Pastor David: We would call these denominations; it’s the Christian Religion, and it has taken different forms; different nuances. You have the Roman Catholic Church, which was the original Church right from the get-go. Then in the 1500s, Martin Luther – the priest and scholar who initiated the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century — came along and said, “I’ve got some questions.” He wrote The Ninety-Five Theses on the Power of Indulgences. Legend has it that on October 31, 1517, he nailed a piece of paper to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, containing the 95 revolutionary opinions that would begin the Protestant Reformation. In his theses, Luther condemned the excesses and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, especially the papal practice of asking for payment—called “indulgences”—for the forgiveness of sins. The Catholic Church put him on trial and demanded that he must recant, but Luther refused and said, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” He then started his own brand of Church – Protestant, and if you put the accent on the second syllable, you have “proTESTant;” he was protesting against what was happening in the Catholic Church at that time. It comes down to several variations and ideations; they are much different today than they were back in the 1500s. The way I look at it is that people who are religious believe in God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and it’s how we govern ourselves. In the Catholic Religion, you have the Pope, Bishops, Cardinals, and Priests, and there is probably someone who assigns who goes to which Church. In the Presbyterian Church, we don’t have that hierarchy.
NSAEN: Who do you answer to?
Pastor David: We have a governing body in the local Church called The Session; it’s a group of elders; they are members of the Church who get elected by the Church to serve a 3-year term.
NSAEN: Being a comedian, do you make your sermons funny; do you make jokes or add humor to your sermons?
Pastor David: I try, well, I don’t know if I try; they just are sometimes. It’s a very serious subject matter, but then you throw in a line that breaks the tension or makes it more interesting.
NSAEN: What is your demographic? Is it across the board, or is there a specific age group?
Pastor David: When I first got here, the average age was around 78.
NSAEN: So among your many talents, you’re also a published author. Why did you write the book “Seeing God at Work Every Day – The Forty-Day Challenge”?
Pastor David: Every year, I like to challenge myself to do something new. In December of 2012, while sitting at a Christmas Eve service in Dubuque, Iowa (I was a Vice President of a University then), I heard God saying, “I want you to write a blog every day in the year 2013 of where you see me at work.” I had never written a blog before, but on January 1, 2013, I started writing a blog each day. And I did it every day through December 31. Somewhere in the middle of all that writing, a few people said, “You ought to turn this into a book.” Up to that point, the thought had never occurred to me. So in 2014, I started coming up with a plan to turn the blog into a book. I attended a writing workshop in January 2014 and pitched my idea, and someone offered, “Make it into a 40-day challenge. People love stuff like that,” and that is what I did. I took 40 of the 365 blogs and turned them into a book! Many people have a hard time believing God is actually involved, interested, and interacts with humanity. The blogs and my book show how active God is at work in our everyday lives through everyday people.
NSAEN: How did they take to a young Pastor?
Pastor David: they were very excited because they recognized that we would die out here if we didn’t start bringing in younger people. I hadn’t been with this Church more than a month when a lady came in and said, “I don’t know why you accepted this call!” I asked why and she said, “You want to grow this Church, and you want younger people to attend; they’re never going to come!” Well, I saw that as a challenge and it made me more determined. About 13 months later, we hired a full-time Family Ministry Director, so we started getting kids in, bringing in families with young kids, so now we have a fairly vibrant congregation. We also started contemporary worship right after I got here, so that helped as well.
NSAEN: What is the difference between a Pastor and a Minister?
Pastor David: Letters and vowels. Basically, there is no difference, but a Minister is a person who performs religious functions such as teaching. A pastor is the religious head of a single church. At this Church, I find it fascinating; everyone calls me ‘Pastor David,’ even the staff. I told them I’m David, but they still call me Pastor David. A Church I served at in Oregon, they would call me David; no one called me Pastor or Pastor David.
NSAEN: Shifting gears a bit; why comedy?
Pastor David: I love to laugh, and I love to make other people laugh, but not at the expense of somebody. I love viewing things differently and finding humor in things. Laughter is healing, and you just feel better when you’re laughing. It builds up your immune system; it decreases stress hormones and triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. It builds community and brings with it a sense of vulnerability and trust. You’ve probably heard that saying, “The shortest distance between two people is laughter.” If we can laugh about something together, it will naturally draw us together.
NSAEN: I imagine you were the class clown and did you get in trouble for it?
Pastor David: “Was I the class clown,” sometimes, and yes, I did get in trouble for it.
NSAEN: Where do you perform? Around town or at social events for family and friends?
Pastor David: I grew up watching Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. Here’s a guy at the start of the show, gets up and does a 7-10 minute monologue that makes people laugh. I always thought that had to be one of the hardest things in the world to do. I would watch other late-night shows where the host would do their routine, and I have always been fascinated with standup comedy.
NSAEN: I have a two-part question. Do you get nervous about performing a comedy routine in front of an audience and your congregation when you give a sermon?
Pastor David: Carolines was the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done, but I love doing it because I like challenging myself. In August 2019, four people came out of Church and told me that I should be a standup comedian because they said the sermon was funny. It got me thinking, could I do that? But I didn’t know how I was going to do it. Then about a month later, I made what I thought were some humorous posts on social media, and this guy named Matt Kazam liked it. I had no idea who he was but later found out that he did standup comedy routines in Vegas, and he lives in Vegas. So I reached out to him, and he told me he has this course where he takes a group of people, and they spend about three months putting together a team. To graduate, you have to perform at Carolines Comedy Club in New York City. I was so nervous about it, but it was just something I had to do. As far as getting nervous before speaking in Church, it is an excited nervousness — a notion of, I can’t wait to get up and speak.
NSAEN: While you’re performing your routine, how do you handle it if the audience doesn’t laugh??
Pastor David: Standup comedy is not about a group of people in the audience, arms folded, staring at you, and daring you to make them laugh. They are at a comedy club; they went to the club to laugh and be entertained, so they cheer for you; they want you to succeed. I was on stage for 16 minutes — and that’s a long time — it was about 10 pages worth of material. But before I got up there, I was off in the wings waiting, and I asked myself how was I going to hold the microphone; my hands were shaking so bad. But I forged ahead. I lost count on how many times I rehearsed my routine. I had some friends from New Jersey, Washington, DC, and NYC, and seeing them in the audience put me at ease. I just looked at the audience as friends and family; they wanted me to succeed, and they were laughing — it was great! This was indeed one of the most incredible nights of my life; it was just off the charts — a bucket list moment for sure!
NSAEN: Did you write the material yourself, or did you have help?
Pastor David: Matt Kazam and the group; we all help each other. You look at a premise that’s kind of funny, but then you keep digging until you make it funnier. You can find humor in almost everything, even death, believe it or not. Laughter is a coping mechanism.
NSAEN: Do you keep a journal of funny material for future gigs?
Pastor David: I have some things I write down, it’s all premises, and Matt and I still get together. Another thing I learned is that comedy is so much better as a team.
NSAEN: How did you memorize 16 minutes’ worth of material?
Pastor David: Lots and lots of practice.
NSAEN: How do you deal with hecklers?
Pastor David: Fortunately, I haven’t run into one yet, but the difficulty for a heckler is that I have the microphone, they don’t, and because standup comedians, in general, are quick thinkers, I can out-quick-wit them faster than they can. It’s hard enough getting up there, so if you don’t think I’m funny, please be quiet, leave, or get up here and try to be funny. Most people want you to be funny because why do you go to a comedy club? Because you want to laugh. There’s a particular style of comedy that tends to invite hecklers. For example, if my comedy routine is about life, personal stuff, and things people can relate to, that typically does not encourage a heckler, but if my routine is making fun of audience members, I’m basically inviting someone to make fun of me. There’s another great quote by Charlie Chaplin: “My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh. But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.” That’s not humor; that’s just mean!
One of the most satisfying things about the Carolines experience was when I got up and said, ‘I’m David Dendy from Las Vegas,’ and everyone screams yay and claps. Then I say, ‘and I’m a pastor.’ I could hear a few people, “What did he say?” Others looked confused, and then the room went silent. No one could believe it, and I think they were preparing themselves for me not to be funny. So I said, ‘Don’t clap all at once.’ My friend from DC who was in the audience had two other guys sitting next to him. They crossed their arms, looked at each other, and rolled their eyes. But once I started my routine, my friend told me they laughed the entire time. I guess they were initially put off that I was a pastor, had convinced themselves that I wouldn’t be funny, or figured I’d be talking about religion, but then a minute later, they’re cracking up.
The best thing that came out of this experience — there were six comedians in our group who got on stage that night, and we’ve spent time together, once a week on a Zoom call talking — and probably the greatest compliment I have ever received — there are three people in that group who I met in person for the first time at Carolines – one came up to me and said, “You’re the first pastor we have ever met, and if I am ever in Las Vegas, I will come to see you at your Church. I thought that was so cool. There’s so much division in our country. If we could just spend time together, talk, and take a genuine interest in each other, spend time laughing together, the world would be a much better place.
NSAEN: What do your kids think about dad being a pastor/standup comedian?
Pastor David: They love it! We laugh a lot! Before I went to Carolines, I did my comedy routine for the family; my son was hysterical, but my wife and daughter not so much.
NSAEN: So obviously, your most memorable moment as a comedian was when you performed at Carolines, but what has been your most memorable moment as a pastor?
Pastor David: I had started a new church in Houston back in 1996, and it was opening day—The First Sunday as a new Church. We were hoping to have a couple of hundred people. Since we had done a lot of advertising, I thought we might get more, so I decided to set up for 500 people just in case. We had a stage set up, and I was sitting behind the curtain waiting for worship to begin, and a friend of mine told me we needed more chairs. It didn’t register; I couldn’t imagine why we needed more chairs. I pulled back the curtain, stepped on the stage, and there were 1,000 people. I couldn’t believe it; people were standing seven rows deep. All those people came to see the birth of a new church. It was the most awe-inspiring moment. That is a memory that will stay with me forever!
Other memories that stick are being with people in their last hours. I’m a master at funerals. In 2019, from January 1 to August 31, that’s 32 weeks; I had 33 funerals — over one a week — that was tough, especially the suicides. But it is perhaps one of the greatest privileges to be with people in what most people would see as the worst time of their lives — someone passing away or someone getting ready to pass away.
NSAEN: Do you get people from your congregation and/or just off the street walking in looking to talk to a pastor about life stuff, a problem they are trying to deal with, etc.?
Pastor David: Most of the folks who come to the Church to talk to me about “life” are members of the Church, family members of church members, or a friend of someone in the Church who recommended they talk with me.
NSAEN: Do you sometimes feel like a therapist of sorts, or does that go hand-in-hand with being a “man of the cloth?”
Pastor David: Talking with people, walking with people through their struggles, “issues,” troubles, hang-ups, addictions, pain, and insecurities is all part and parcel of being a Pastor. I find this area of church life to be one of the most fulfilling. Walk with people arm-in-arm, and when they stumble, we are there to keep them upright. When they go off the rails, we are there to gently nudge and guide them back on to the path that leads to “Life!” Sometimes there is a lot to say, and sometimes there’s not much to say other than, “I am going to hang out with you in silence.” We call that the ‘Ministry of presence!’
NSAEN: Who was your mentor?
Pastor David: My first “call” out of Seminary was the Associate Pastor of the Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia. The Senior Pastor was the Reverend Dr. G. Daniel McCall. Everyone called him Dan. As a seasoned veteran in Ministry, he showed me the ropes that taught me how to be patient, listen, be diplomatic, serve, serve, and serve some more. He showed me a great work ethic where Ministry is a seven-day-a-week job. He was an unintentional mentor. I was a rather self-assured, cocky 25-year old coming out of Seminary thinking I would change the world. It wasn’t until I took on my own Church, after spending seven years in Augusta, that I realized how well I had been mentored and taught by Dan how to be a compassionate, effective Pastor. Thank you, Dan McCall! Dan passed away this past spring. I called him about two weeks before he passed, and his first question was, “How are you doing, David?” Serving until the end! May I live out his lesson!
NSAEN: What is the best advice you have ever given someone?
Pastor David: Laugh often and Fear not, and trust in Jesus with all your heart, and your life will never be the same in this world and the next!
NSAEN: The “Laugh Often, Fear Not” motto, did you create that, and what is the meaning behind it, especially the ‘fear not’ part?
Pastor David: When people would tell me they are afraid of something, I would say, “Fear not.”
NSAEN: Is it a campaign of sorts or a motto you wanted to be associated with your Church?
Pastor David: Yes. I offer Benediction at the end of my service:
Be of good courage.
Hold fast that which is good.
Render to no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the fainthearted.
Support the weak.
Love and serve the Lord with gladness and with joy
Honor all people
Laugh often and Fear not!
Go forth knowing the unconditional love of God,
the amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ
and the fellowship, the communion, and the power of the Holy Spirit
Is with you now and forever
And everyone said…
I would say, “Honor all people, and fear not.” And then I thought, we need to laugh too! So that’s how this motto originated, and it just took off. We have it printed on plastic tumblers and bracelets; I think we’ve given away 4,000 bracelets. “Fear not” is mentioned 86 times in the Bible, enough to show that many people live in fear. Look what we saw from the Pandemic; everything is so fear-based; people fear they might get Covid, fear they might get Covid and die, or fear they might give it to someone and on and on. The other day, someone called the Church to say they were afraid they would die because so many people refuse to wear masks. Some people are afraid of failure, afraid of humiliation, or afraid of being humiliated if they fail. No one likes being humiliated. These are real fears, and there are hundreds of them. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”
NSAEN: In terms of pursuing standup, what about something like “America’s Got Talent”; as a pastor, would you be allowed to compete?
Pastor David: Oh, sure.
NSAEN: During Covid, you did the Facebook Worship; was that every day?
Pastor David: When Covid hit, I started a community prayer group online on Facebook since the churches were closed. I felt this was something that my congregation needed, and 900 people signed up for it. I have about 30 people in the morning and 25 in the evening. While we were closed, I offered prayer twice each day, Monday through Thursday, at 6:00 AM and 5:00 PM, and Friday at 6:00 AM, but since it’s been so successful, even though the churches have opened back up, we still hold the online services. We have had 808 gatherings to date.
NSAEN: I’ve never believed that when we die, that it’s the end. Do they say they see things or see people from the other side?
Pastor David: Yes, they do, and that’s one of the hallmarks of the Christian faith: Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” It truly is one of the great privileges. Not only are you with the family when a loved one dies, but then to have a memorial service and a funeral to celebrate that life and offer hope in the most dire of circumstances — it’s an honor and a privilege. You have to have compassion for the family; whether you knew their loved one or not, otherwise, there is no reason to be there.
NSAEN: Why do you do what you do and why is what you do so important to you?
Pastor David: That’s a great question. I believe it is a calling to serve God. I’ve done a few things outside of the Ministry, yet it always comes back to this.
NSAEN: So you don’t want to be a full-time comedian?
Pastor David: No. I love it, and I have fun with it, but being a pastor is my passion.
NSAEN: What does your family think about your standup gig? Are they supportive, and do they let you practice in front of them?
Pastor David: They are very supportive, but I practice by myself. I’ll throw stuff out at people, and if they laugh, then I know I’m onto something. Did you know the number one attraction between couples is a sense of humor! It can get you through the toughest of times, and besides, who doesn’t like to laugh. Life is better when you’re laughing.
NSAEN: So let’s get to the personal stuff. How did you meet your wife?
Pastor David: A friend of mine invited me to go on a rock-climbing trip. I was living in Houston, but I was not a pastor at the time. He said the young adult group at the Church was planning a camping trip and encouraged me to come. I told him that I don’t do tents. He was from San Antonio, so the whole group was going to San Antonio and spending the night at his house and then go up into the hill country for rock climbing, spend the night, and then come back — leave the group there — and go to Enchanted Rock. That sounded fine. So we get into the parking lot at the Church, and this girl walks up and says, “I’m in debt, I just bought a house today.” I asked my friend who she was, and he said he thought her name was Julie. I said, ‘She’s in debt; it’s always nice to find chicks in debt.’ So the group headed to San Antonio, we did some rock climbing, and we started a conversation — we had a real dialogue; it wasn’t me just asking questions. Then it was dinner time, and we cooked dinner. One of the guys from the group said he had an extra sleeping bag and an extra tent if anybody wanted it. I looked at my friend and told him we were spending the night — in a tent!! Two and a half years later, we got married.
Thank you, Pastor David; it was a pleasure talking with you about your calling and your comedy. I greatly appreciate you sharing your amazing story with NSAEN! Thank you!