Spending time among elderly and sick people can be confusing or frightening for any child. For young Josh Brown, however, Sunday visits to a Shively nursing home provided lessons in Christlike compassion that helped prepare him for his present service as connections pastor at Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus.
Now 35, Brown remembers attending worship services at Shively Christian Church, where his father was a deacon, and then driving to their next important stop.
“We would go to Summerfield Nursing Home, where my dad would preach and take communion to the residents. I remember watching him show me what a servant looks like,” Brown said. “My dad couldn’t have been a better model for me to follow; and my mother had her Bible open every night, studying the Word.”
Brown was baptized when he was about 13 years old. Not long after that, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She remained faith-filled through it all and fought hard, but eventually died when her son was 17.
“That devastated our family. Between that and other various life events, my faith was rocked, and I eventually turned away from God,” Brown said. “All of a sudden, this faith that had been cultivated over many years no longer existed. I went down a path chasing things I shouldn’t.”
It wasn’t until he married his wife, Krista, in 2011 and the couple began expecting the birth of their first child, that Brown became open to Jesus again.
“When Henry was born in 2013, there were complications. We were told that he wasn’t going to live through the night,” Brown said. “I said the first prayer I had prayed in many years. God healed Henry, and that started me down a path of chasing after Him again.”
For a while, Brown also chased a business career, beginning with studying law for a time at the University of Louisville. He “jumped around” for a bit and landed at a software development company, through which he eventually became a software engineer.
“I thought I would be programming for the rest of my life and saw no future outside of that,” he said. “I kept taking bigger roles and more responsibility, and just assumed that would be my path forever.”
After Brown began working at the software company, his boss, Todd Rasche, a Southeast member, started intentionally sharing the Bible with him.
“This was right after my son was born, and I was open to listening again,” Brown said. “Eventually, my boss invited me to one of the 3/3rds discipleship groups, and I caught the vision of the disciple-making movement.”
After leading the group several times, Brown was asked to take it over. The 3/3rds groups eventually multiplied to more than 100 groups here and abroad, with well over 500 participants attending weekly, and more than 180 baptisms in 2019 alone.
Through discipline and Biblical community, 3/3rds groups operate with this vision: “To make disciples that make disciples that make disciples, and thus see God raise up a disciple-making movement that will bless this city, this state and this nation to the ends of the earth.”
Brown and the other 3/3rds leadership give all the glory and credit to God, and consider themselves blessed to witness the lives He has changed. Brown’s work with 3/3rds led to a position at Southeast.
“Brad Ricca (Southeast’s former director of ministries) approached me about potentially working for the church,” Brown said. “It took a lot of prayer and planning, but God kept it on my heart and paved the way for me to follow. I eventually accepted an offer to be the pastor over groups at the Blankenbaker Campus, making disciples full-time.”
With a workload that varies dramatically from day to day, Brown keeps focused on the goal of making Southeast, a big church by any standard, feel smaller by helping people engage and get connected through groups.
“The vast majority of my time is spent with leaders, coaching them on ways to disciple the people God has entrusted them with,” he explained. “I’m over weekend and home groups, so my day normally is spent in meetings with the leaders of those groups, attempting to help them engage and lead their groups better. I also lead 3/3rds discipleship groups that have the primary purpose of getting people engaged and on the playing field, instead of sitting in the stands.”
Brown’s biggest challenge is trying to mobilize people who have been “churched” most of their lives but haven’t done much with what they’ve learned.
“There’s nothing better than seeing people who think they have been following Jesus have their light flip on, then actively participate in the Gospel and become fully engaged in the church,” he said. “I love 2 Timothy 1:7 because it reminds me of what I need to do every day: ‘For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline.’”
When the Brown family isn’t at Southeast, they’re out somewhere in nature—perhaps hiking or swimming in Nolin Lake, a favorite destination of sons Henry, now 6, and William, 4.
Returning to activities at Southeast, however, is always Browns’ greatest delight—enthusiasm he strives to share with those around him.
“I hope my efforts are helping people realize that church is not a building you come to on the weekends, but it’s the people who call Jesus Lord,” he said. “I want people to experience Southeast in a way that makes them know that they are so valued and are so important, they feel empowered to get in the game and start sharing Jesus.”