What was your dream for ministry when you came to Southeast in 1989?
When I was in Bible college, my dream was to go to a church of around 500 and preach there for three or four decades and try to grow it up to 1,000.
Were you shaking in your boots that first sermon at Southeast?
Yes, but at the same time, once I got started preaching a sermon at Southeast I also felt very much at home.
Did you really ask for a Wednesday night meal for those who needed to gain weight?
I really don’t remember that. I only weighed about 160 pounds when I came.
Did you have any inkling how Southeast would continue to grow?
Well, we had around 4,000 each weekend when I came, and that seemed huge. I knew the church had solid leadership, great preaching, was reaching young people, was willing to take risks and was centered on Jesus. The ingredients were there for continued growth, but I certainly didn’t envision the type of growth we’ve experienced.
Three things you learned from Bob Russell:
>The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
>Don’t neglect your family.
>The Southeast setting always makes the leader seem better than they are.
What were the hardest days in ministry?
The season when I became the senior pastor, and the opposition was more intense than I expected.
Five favorite moments:
>The Capital Campaign to build the Blankenbaker Campus.
>The baptism of each of my three kids.
>The launching of each campus.
>EVERY baptism weekend.
>Epic hide-n-seek games with our family at Southeast each Christmas
Something people would be surprised to know about you?
I still get extremely nervous each time before I preach the first service
What part of your vision—now reality—most encourages you?
Seeing the campuses flourish and people coming to Christ all over the region.
What will you most miss about Southeast?
That’s easy—the people.
A lot say you’re leaving too young. How do you answer them?
I always appreciated that Bob Russell left when he could have stayed longer and still been effective. The greatest way to affect the age of a congregation is through the age of the senior pastor.
Five years ago, I chose 2019 as the time of transition. I knew Kyle would be ready, and I felt that I would be ready for my next challenge. I’ve seen too many leaders who outstay their effectiveness.
This is the healthiest move for the long-term strength of a church—I think our season of growth is going to continue.
What were you thinking when Kyle was hired?
I was thrilled that he wanted to join the team. We worked hard to get him here. The bigger blessing has been that he stayed longer than what he originally intended.
What you won’t miss about working with Kyle:
Hearing people ask me, why don’t you memorize YOUR sermons?
Your dream for Southeast moving forward:
That the church continues to boldly and creatively connect people to Jesus and one another… especially with the next generation.
What do you most look forward to in this next step?
Less stress and more time with my family and pursuing some avenues I used to do (leadership consulting for churches, speaking for companies, doing comedy).
If you could give one sentence of advice to members of Southeast:
When the church is unified, God is glorified.