Dan Lynch: Enjoying his turnaround - Coeur d'Alene Press: Lifestyles

Dan Lynch: Enjoying his turnaround

Police chaplain, retired pastor had hard knocks early on

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Posted: Sunday, March 24, 2013 12:00 am

It was at a detox center where Dan Lynch's life began to change.

As a former police officer in San Francisco, the Post Falls resident turned to alcohol to deal with the trials of his job.

"My captain sent me to detox and, while I was there, I said, 'I don't believe in God, but if there is one, I asked that my life be taken because it had gotten out of control,'" Lynch said. "That night I slept 8 hours for the first time in 10 years and I had no dreams. I have never had the desire to drink since and I left the center 10 days early."

Lynch is a former staff member at Real Life Ministries, a nondenominational church in Post Falls that has about 7,000 attendees each weekend. He still teaches Bible classes at the church and has served as a chaplain for the Post Falls Police Department for several years.

Lynch, 75, has planted six churches and started chaplain programs in Post Falls and Spokane.

As Easter approaches - Lynch prefers to call it Resurrection Sunday - Lynch is thankful for the second chances he's been given and a softening of his heart. He's been to the Holy Land 11 times - something he can't get enough of as a history buff.

That's a far cry from growing up in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood in San Francisco where fighting with other ethnic groups was the norm.

"We fought on our way to school and on the way home because you had to go through neighborhoods," Lynch said. "I was always in trouble, but I wasn't necessarily a bad guy. Sometimes I wasn't faster than the cop chasing me, but a lot of the time I was."

Lynch was arrested once in high school for hitting a police officer. Today, he looks on the bright side.

"I love the second half of my life," he said.

What was the first half like?

When I came up here, I was a bit of a racist. I had been around blacks, Orientals and other groups (as a police officer and growing up) and I knew all the dirty words for them. I asked the realtor about the minority up here and, when she said, 'What's a minority?', I looked at my wife and said, 'This is where we're moving?' Being an old cop, I was very outspoken not the most merciful person in the world.

What turned your way of thinking?

A guy down the street was starting a Baptist church in his garage. He was a pest and kept bugging me to come. So I finally went and got excited about it. I enjoyed the fellowship. He had another preacher give a straight salvation message and that scared the tar out of me. I read the entire Bible in a week, so I told the pastor. He said, 'No, there's another half called the Old Testament.' At that point, there was nothing in the world that attracted me like the Bible did. I couldn't put it down.

Are there any specific cases that stand out during your service as a PFPD chaplain?

I knew I had to keep a guy contemplating suicide alive until I got there, so I told him that I wanted a sandwich on rye with provolone because I hadn't eaten. I knew he'd have to go to the store to get it. Most people don't commit suicide if they have a chore to do. He had planned on taking people with him when he went. We ceremoniously threw the gun in the lake and he accepted the Lord. He's a successful businessman and I get calls from him.

How successful do you believe the suicide prevention part of the chaplain program has been?

Last year we received 127 calls of people who were either threatening to commit suicide or had attempted it. Out of all of them, not one went on to complete suicide. That's a statistic that's out of this ballpark.

What's the key to the success?

We get asked that a lot, but we don't know how it works. It just works. We give them a packet with references. We don't take them under our wing forever, but we contact them again and most of them are surprised that someone cares. A person cares and that seems to be enough.

During your trips to the Holy Land, what was your favorite place?

The Mount of Beatitudes in Israel. (The place where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.) It's exactly the way the Bible describes it. When you can touch and see the same descriptions that are in the Bible, it's fascinating.

If you were to boil down the meaning of Easter Sunday for folks, how would you describe it?

It's the cornerstone of Christianity. If Christ hadn't risen from the dead, there wouldn't be Christianity. He paid the ultimate price on the cross for our sins.

What do you think has been the key toward Real Life Ministries growing?

I think people started to realize that we cared for them. Relationship is the key word. People get in the game (at the church). It wouldn't be unusual for a guy who had been in jail to be teaching a home group.

Did you find the growth a surprise, especially when attendance at many churches are declining?

I have a master's degree in church growth and I found out everything Real Life did was 'wrong' (based on the books). It was built on the prairie, away from the population center and away from the freeway. There was an unlikely bunch of people on staff. I had been a pastor in this area for many years and, after I attended the first service, Jim (Putman) told me that he wanted me to come to work for the church, but there was no money to pay me. I told him that it would be the first time I got paid what I'm worth.

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