As a way of further introduction, I would like to take this opportunity to share about my family, my belief structure, and myself. Bill and Ellie Summers adopted me at the ripe old age of twenty-eight days old. In my early life, we lived in California and later moved to Kentucky and then Tennessee. I am a product of a Christian home and turned my life over to Jesus in 1978.
While attending Union University, in Jackson, Tennessee, I began searching and developing my relationship with God. In this search, I discovered joy, strength, peace, and direction. I was able to stand firm and be fruitful. I began to sense a call from God to ministry as a profession. Because my dad was a pastor, I didn’t want anything to do with the ministry. Through a series of events, God made it very clear what He desired and my attitude began to match what God wanted.
I finished college and entered Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX in August 1992. It was in this setting that I not only received a Master’s degree but also found the love of my life in Dulcie. We started dating in 1993 and married in 1994. During seminary, I worked in non-ministry jobs and was the better for it. First, the work experience “in the real world” provided me with a proper perspective on life and administration. I served as the assistant to a VP of a security company after being promoted from the security control room and managed two restaurants. Learning how to manage personalities and a multiple staff situation gave me experience intrinsic to the needs of church life. Second, I served the local church as a member not staff. God allowed me to be in the choir, the orchestra, lead RA’s, and helped start a new Sunday School class. All of these experiences gave me insight into the everyday world of everyday people because I was that everyday person. I can identify with those working 50-60 hours a week and then serving in the local church. I can identify with those needing to prioritize a schedule to accomplish it all.
Let me tell you little about my family and myself. I like to play golf, build things and like to whip my buddies in Fantasy Football. I enjoy following Oklahoma State University and Perry Maroon athletics. I take time to coach my children’s softball and baseball teams in the community, help them raise show pigs in winter, attend 4H events, and school parties. Being a lifelong learner, I want to continue in my education and earn a Doctorate of Ministry. Dulcie, in her own words, is a “stay at home Mom who never stays at home.” She enjoys sewing, rubber-stamping and scrapbooking. She is passionate about teaching pre-schoolers about the love of Jesus. She loves all things Disney and is a life-long member of the Mickey Mouse Club. Samuel, our son, loves to play Xbox, enjoys classical music and loves to build contraptions out of Lego’s. He loves trains and wants to be an architect when he grows up. Isabella loves to help cook, is a tough softball shortstop and loves her American Girl doll, Cathryn. She likes to sew, do crafts and sing. She plans to be a pediatrician when she grows up, after the presidency of course! Samuel and Isabella are both avid readers, enjoy playing the piano and being involved in the music and drama ministries of our church. Our family likes to travel, watch movies, and play XBOX together.
Thoughts from a Pastor
After 20 years, I am still learning about the grace and glory of God. The Holy Spirit gifted me with preaching and administration. The experiences of my life reveal God’s hand in preparing me for every role to which He has called me. God has provided opportunities to serve a variety of churches, interim Associational Director of Missions, BGCO Executive Team as 1st and 2nd Vice President, and the SBC Tellers Committee. I have served large and small churches located in cities and rural situations. These experiences have shaped my understanding of how the local church functions as well as how the Bible expects the local church to function. I have a working knowledge of nearly every position of ministry needed in the local church through service in those areas. I have an ability to see the “big picture”. This allows me to assist staff and volunteers in seeing where their ministry fits into the larger picture of the overall vision and direction of the church. Through my intimate knowledge of many of these ministries, I have the unique ability of engaging and equipping them for greater service to the church, community, and world. As a pastor, my biblical role is to equip and encourage the people to go further in ministry. These ideas of equipping and encouraging flesh out in four main areas: Speaking, Leadership, Relationships, and Missions.
Speaking has always come naturally to me. Preaching and teaching develops through the continual influence of the Holy Spirit in my life. His influence comes through education, preparation, prayer, study, and church and community relationships. Preaching and teaching the Bible is a deep passion of mine. I thoroughly enjoy taking a passage of Scripture and communicating the truth of the passage to an audience. I will typically preach through a passage or book in a series format in order to explore the scriptural content and context to its fullest. “One-time”, or “Occasional”, sermons are periodically necessary to speak to certain joys, pains, or issues. I prefer to preach through a biblical text rather than a topic. I approach themes, titles, and visual lessons creatively, but it will always support the central idea of the text. I am bound to preaching only the text and not psychology or personal opinion. While these have a certain place in application, the heart of the message must be drawn from the text. I am passionate about the message of God delivered to us in the Bible. While Scripture contains innumerable topics and doctrines that can be covered, the most important is the message of God reconciling Man to Himself through Jesus Christ. From Genesis 3 and on, we see the main idea that God desires to restore the broken relationship Man had with Him. It is critical that when we dive into a particular text we remember how that text fits into the context of the book, Israel, and God’s overarching message of reconciliation. The stories of the Old Testament are not mere character studies or moral analogies. I come to a text with as little preconceived ideas as possible and let the text drive the message preparation. Through prayer, study, and reference materials, I try to prepare a message that is true to the text and allows the discovered truth to be applied to our lives today filtered through the lens of Jesus and His great love for us.
As a teacher, my hope is that people would both love and live the Word! Through teaching, discussions, and blogging, I want to help each generation learn the truths of Scripture and begin applying those truths to everyday living though a delivery format that speaks to them. Too often, people live life and love the Bible but not together. I seek to close that gap, whether it is love, marriage, finances, or lifestyles, between where they are and where Scripture directs them to be. Teaching takes creativity and intimacy with your audience. Knowing your audience is critical if people are to develop and thrive spiritually. Teaching takes place anywhere. I find myself in discussions at church, at Wal-mart, the grocery store and ball fields. Whenever a teachable moment presents itself, it is critical that we capitalize on those moments. Biblical teaching is critical for the church to spiritually thrive. Administrative teaching is required if the church would multiply itself. While the pastor may be the lead teacher, he is not the only teacher. My training and experiences have developed my abilities to train people in evangelism, classroom teaching, committee/team leadership, and values and vision casting. I try to be a motivator, promoter, and gatherer of people to accomplish the tasks to which God has called the church.
Leadership is a second role the pastor must fulfill. No matter the size of the local church, leadership style is important for the health of the church. I try to be a visionary leader who desires to see many participate in the decisions and even more people involved in the ministry. My concept of leading people is two-fold, consisting of discovery and implementation. Discovering people’s passion, interests, and abilities allows them to be assimilated into ministry and implemented into service. Understanding people’s weaknesses also helps to put groups together that complement each other so that ministry can be more productive. I believe in teamwork and desire to see more and more people involved in ministry. More than once, I have led churches to an increase in the membership serving on committees, teams, and ministries.
I understand that as a pastor I have great accountability before God. I also recognize that I am not primarily called to be the youth, music, education, or any other minister. If God has provided the church with staff in those areas then I will encourage and equip them to do their job as productively as possible. Over the years, I have mentored several staff members. I seek the best for every person who serves on staff with me at church. Regular reading and discussion is something I highly encourage so that we continually develop. My ministry to the staff allows them to recharge and refresh so that they can continue to pour themselves into their ministries every day. Maximizing productivity and passion sometimes involves ministry assignment adjustments. As the church changes, so do the needs of ministry. We must always be looking to capitalize on our staff by helping them, and the church, reach their full potential. I encourage weekly ministerial staff meetings for prayer, devotional, evaluation, vision, and calendaring. During these gatherings, we can empower, encourage and equip one another. I will also strive to help every member thrive spiritually and serve in greater ways. Through surveys, meetings and other listening opportunities that ensure multi-generational involvement, I would be able to hear from the people. Together we can begin to discover and articulate the needs of the church and the community. As a body, we would develop strategies and ministries that best address these needs and continue to drive our evangelistic and missional efforts.
Of course, not everyone will always be in agreement on staff or in team and committee work. Our humanity will show at some point. During times of conflict, we must seek to find a point of win-win compromise. It is important to realize what the source of conflict actually is. Biblically, we are told to go straight to the source of conflict rather than walk around it. What is the root issue? What is the cause? Is the conflict doctrinal or preferential? Is the conflict regarding moral or ethical issues or different points of view? Conflict provides tension in a room that can produce a wide array of results, good and bad. Conflict is necessary, not negative, in order to achieve the highest quality solutions. Certainly, there are those moments when conflict can turn ugly but that is not required. If I am in conflict with someone, I begin with prayer. I seek to discover if the problem is just a personal one that I need to get over, or if it is worth mentioning. I take caution because Satan wants us to divide over pitiful things. God’s desire is redemption and reconciliation. These should flow from each of us no matter the position or the problem. Scripture teaches that we should seek unity, be forgiving, and love one another. In those moments of disagreement may it be done with grace and love, befitting a follower of Christ.
A third role of a pastor is relationships. I believe a pastor ought to love the people. It is far too easy for pastors to become nothing more than an administrator. Shepherds love their sheep and I love the people God gives me. I am an outgoing and enthusiastic person. I enjoy being in crowds and growing in the grace and knowledge of each other. My wife and I have an ability to draw a broad range of people to the church because we simply love people. Regardless of age, background or status, God desires that all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Upwards to 90% of those salvation decisions will come from a relationship and not a church service. People attend church because of a relationship. People turn their lives over to God because of someone who loved them and shared the gospel. Relationships are important both in and out of the church. I have many peers who either love the church or love the newcomers. I love them all! I know that sounds odd, but I do! I will befriend and defend those in the church body. I will seek to develop relationships outside of the church body as well. We use our children’s involvements in sports, school and 4-H as launch pads to new relationships. We utilize our personal hobbies and interests as ways to establish new relationships. Whether it is golf, scrapbooking, coffee, movies, or basketball at the YMCA, we develop new relationships with the purpose of loving them toward Jesus.
We have maintained friendships from every place of service as well as having friends from seminary and college days. We are not looking for the church to fulfill all of our emotional needs but we come to help fulfill those needs for others. God has been so gracious and kind to us over the years so we give back relationally and socially, as we can. I am a person with varied interests and background, so I enjoy different types of folks. I can relate to people having similar interests as well as those with different interests. My wife and I love fellowshipping over a burger after church or a cup of coffee some afternoon. I have enjoyed working with all ages in the church from getting high-fives from preschoolers, to hearing about the latest boyfriend/girlfriend drama from the youth, to “oohing” and “aahing” about the latest photos of the grand-babies with our senior adults. I have enjoyed planning trips to Branson for our Senior Adults each autumn. I have been camp pastor at our state children’s mission camp three different times. Being a believer in VBS and childhood evangelism, I have served as our associational VBS director for 5 years. I have led churches and associations to do better for our babies in pre-school and children’s work. Our family has a great time eating, laughing, and building multi-generational friendships with each group.
A pastor is a speaker, leader, friend, and missionary. Missions and evangelism is at the heart of what I do because it is the heart of God. I believe in the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon Offering, Annie Armstrong Offering, missions education, mission trips and personal evangelism. Over the years, I have led churches to give more, pray more, tell more and go more than ever before. This message of reconciliation is for the whole world not just those who are in the shadow of the steeple. I lead the charge when it comes to CP giving, by challenging the church to do more. I have personally traveled on and led mission trips throughout the US, Mexico, Europe and Africa seeking to show and tell people the love of God through Jesus Christ. I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not afraid to go. I am committed to give. I will lead the church to see missions and evangelism as a way of life locally, nationally, and globally. Each year I try to lead the church to evangelize and baptize all that God provides. I seek to move each church member to a higher level of personal commitment. It is not acceptable to pray if you can also give. It is not acceptable to pray and give if you could also go. In addition, one should always strive to share the gospel.
Our task is vital; we must reach the masses with the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are billions of people living in darkness while we have been blessed with the Light of the World. I feel strongly that missions education is essential component to fulfilling the great commission. I feel that there is no better way to accomplish this in the next generation than through Royal Ambassadors and Girls in Action. I do my part by working with my church’s children’s missions education program each week. Thousands of people groups have never even heard of Jesus. We must reach across the street. We must reach across the nation. We must reach the world! I would like to lead the church to adopt an unreached people group and work with partnerships as presented by the State Convention. I have done, and am doing, this locally, nationally, and internationally.
With all of that said, I am a husband and father first. According to Scripture, God instituted marriage and family first. I believe that a pastor functions best when his marriage and family are healthy. There are tremendous amounts of distraction for a pastor’s family. We are constantly working at keeping the schedule simple. I try not to spend all day and all night doing church work. If I know late nights or long days are ahead, I will try to strike a balance by scheduling time off at another time. I struggle with being a workaholic. However, because of the love I have for my wife and family I will not sacrifice them or their future simply to get ahead in the “game”. I am a family man who desires to faithfully love and live out my convictions of God, Family, and Church.