I'm grateful to Scotty for this interview.
You recently concluded your ministry at the church you founded some 26 years ago. What did you learn throughout this transition?
I am one of the richest people you will ever meet for the privilege of having planted and pastored Christ Community Church. During the transition, I learned a lot about rejoicing and letting go. We had an absolutely amazing transition team that loved me and our congregation well through the whole process. They gave all of us the chance to remember and marinate in God’s faithfulness to CCC through for all of our 26 years. We laughed, cried, celebrated and got excited about what God has planned next for all of us.
Actually for a guy who never thought he would be, or necessarily even wanted to be a pastor, God has demonstrated his wonderful sense of humor by using a weak, broken man like me. I actually just finished 33 years of pastoral ministry in the Nashville area, counting my time at 1st Pres., Nashville, Christ Pres., Nashville and my 26 years at CCC. That’s a third of a century of learning how much I need the gospel and discovering how much greater the gospel is than my need.
Jack Miller had a marked influence on your life. What are some of the ways you've been shaped by him?
Jack’s influence on my life was (is) immeasurable. I first met him as my advisor at Westminster Theological Seminary in 1975, and for the next 21 years he became my professor, spiritual father, mentor and gospel Yoda. His life of humility and boldness, joy and laughter, love for grace and commitment to prayer are ever before me. I never knew a freer man, a more welcoming soul, a more caring evangelist or a more playful saint than Jack. Selfishly for me, I hate the fact God took him to heaven when he was just 64 and I was just beginning to move into one of the more difficult seasons of my life as a pastor and man. But Jack married my heart to Jesus, more than to his own.
I've really appreciated your published prayers on the Heavenward blog, and in Everyday Prayers. Are you still continuing to write new prayers?
I backed into writing Everyday Prayers, another one of those sneaky providences of God. Yes, I continue to rise early, mediate through a Scripture and then write a gospel-centered prayer, for me and a wide range of folk. Sometimes I re-write old prayers, with a fresh focus and voice; sometimes I am driven in a whole new direction—born out of longings, crises and simple joys. But writing my prayers helps keep me focused and it slows down my racing ADD brain.
What's next for you and your ministry?
My wife, Darlene, and I are excited about this next season of ministry together. She has two degrees from Covenant Seminary, one being in counseling. The word “retirement” simply isn’t in my vocabulary. Refocus, renew and refueling seem to be the order of the day. We want to make shorter term commitments in this next season of ministry—opportunities that will enable us to come alongside of younger leaders or churches needing a gospel breakthrough.
I am an adjunct faculty member at several seminaries and enjoy teaching short term intensive classes on spiritual formation, worship, gospel-centered ministry and grace-shaped relationships. Darlene and I will continue leading couple’s retreats, and offer care for weary (burned out) men and women in vocational ministry. I can also see myself serving as an interim pastor in the future, as well as investing in overseas gospel ministry—perhaps caring for missionaries in the field. I will also continue writing and speaking at conferences and retreats. So… I will not be bored!
What encouragement would you give to pastors in the trenches?
As Jack Miller taught me, live as close to Jesus as you can. Constantly preach the gospel to yourself. Walk closely with a “gospel posse”. Risk or rust for the rest of your life. Love one spouse well the rest of your life. Never be surprised to discover how broken the bride of Jesus is; how immature and selfish you can be; or how much God loves you in Jesus. Ache for heaven and serve in this moment.