Pat, what an honor to interview you as my pastor and friend. God has used you in so many ways in my life personally and in the life of my family. Rodney serves with you on staff as an Associate Pastor and both of my daughters (and my son-in-laws) were under your leadership. Thank you for the personal impact you have made.
1. In recent days, God has led you to this message of “The Sending Church.” Tell us a little about the story of God’s calling and where our church is today.
10 years ago, asking if we were mission’s minded would’ve been like asking somebody from Tennessee if they like sweet tea… crazy question. We gave a lot of money to missions, we prayed for missionaries on their birthday and we had mission classes for our boys and girls. We were as mission minded as you could be.
In 2004, I felt a clear direction from God to call our church to a time of fasting and prayer. So, we fasted for three days and gathered together at night for worship and prayer. It was during this Sacred Gathering that God spoke to us loud & clear, confirming that we were very missions minded, but not in a good way. He revealed that we were mission minded because mission was on our mind, but that was about it. He didn’t create us to simply think about mission but to do missions.
We didn’t receive our mandate for missions during that gathering; our mandate for missions is written on every page of scripture. But, it was during that gathering that God ignited a fire in our souls for His heart for the nations, His heart for the church to be a Sending Church.
2. Leading a major church with a global impact requires so much from you as a leader. What are the keys to your success?
To be honest, this is a difficult question, but an important question. I believe how we define success will determine what we go hard after. If we think success is attracting a lot of people to church, then we’ll spend our money and our time trying to make our weekend gatherings as entertaining as they can be. If success is in numbers, then what we say will be governed by making people happy. So, this is an important question because we need to wrestle with the definition of success.
For us, success has a one word definition; faithfulness. You’re successful if you’re faithful. Being a Sending Church is very difficult. It means our focus is raising people up and sending them out rather than building a large crowd. It means sending our best leaders away. It means reallocating budget. At ever turn, there’s a battle to turn inward and be about us. So, the key to success is faithfully pursuing the essence of what God called the church to be.
3. How do you lead a church and have a healthy family? What do you do to keep your marriage healthy?
I wish I could give a formula for every pastor to follow, but I screw this one up often. God created marriage before He created the church. So, marriage should take priority over the church. But, we all know this is a battle that we find ourselves losing more times than not.
That being said, there are some commitment I’ve made to make sure my wife knows she’s more important to me than the church. First, I’m usually home most nights of the week. I don’t schedule a lot of meetings are appointments after hours. If it’s that important, we can meet during office hours. If I compromise on this, I could spend every night in meetings and appointments. I also take off on Friday and spend the entire day with Amy.
Some pastors work 60 hours every week. There are definitely seasons of the year when I work a lot of hours. Sometimes, stuff happens that requires we work long days. I’m probably not going to make any friends here, but if a pastor works 60 hours every week, he’s either arrogant or not a good leader.
He’s arrogant if he believes working harder will build the church. Jesus clearly said He builds the church, not us. If you continually work long hours each week, they you could be trusting your performance or efforts more than God.
4. You and Amy have adopted three children. Tell us a little about how this came about.
Several years ago, Amy told me felt we needed to pray about adopting a little girl from China. We had two biological boys and I was completely satisfied. So, when Amy asked me to pray about adopting, I didn’t even hesitate. I immediately said NO! Not interested. She didn’t nag me about it, she just went over my head & asked God to change my heart.
We were on a mission trip in an Indian village so remote, we were 5 minutes past the great commission. While in that village, there was a little girl about 2 years old who was attached to Amy. She kept holding her hand & sitting on her lap. As I was looking at that little girl so captured by Amy’s love and attention, The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart about adopting a little girl from China.
I didn’t tell Amy immediately. I prayed about it for several months. I wanted to make sure it was really the leading of the Holy Spirit and not an emotional decision. I said, “Lord, Amy wants to adopt a little girl from China. She put me through seminary and has served me loyally & faithfully. So, if I need to do this to serve her, I will.” God quickly told me that was noble, but it wasn’t the reason He wanted us to adopt.
I then thought it was about an orphan girl who didn’t have a mom or dad to tuck her in at night or tell her they love her. God said, “I want you to care for orphans, but that’s not the reason I want you to adopt.”
Finally, through months of prayer, God told me, “Pat, I want you to adopt a little girl from China because I want your church to see an visible illustration of my heart to adopt people from every nation into my family. I want your church to reflect the multi-cultural aspect of my kingdom. “
I was blown away. I couldn’t do anything by weep. I was trying to make it about Amy or an orphan when all the time, like everything else, it was about heart of God. So, now we have a Chinese daughter, a Chinese son and an Ethiopian daughter.
5. As a leader, how do you find time to be a father?
One of the most important things I have to continually remind myself is that my primary calling is to pastor my family before my church. Every dad who loves Jesus should be committed to pastoring his family.
I don’t believe in quality time, I believe in quantity time. You never know when quality time will happen. So, if you spend a lot of time with your kids, you will have quality time with your kids.
So, as I said earlier, I’m home most nights of the week. I eat dinner with my family at least 5 nights every week, unless I’m out of town. Most Saturdays, I spend all day with my kids. We take our family on a couple of vacations each year because we want to build memories. It cost money, but we don’t see it as an expense; we see it as an investment.
6. What books are you reading now?
Some of the books I’m reading or have in my queue are: Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by RC Sproul, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology by Michael Horton, Affirming the Apostles Creed by JI Packer, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church by Michael Lawernce, A Call to Resurgence by Mark Driscoll, Ahead of the Curve by Daniel Fusco
6. You are influencing many churches and many leaders. If you had one thing to say to a young pastor, what would it be?
Wow! That’s a tough question. There’s so much to say. I think I’d tell any pastor to worry more about pleasing God than pleasing people. Care more about people loving God than loving you.
I say this because I truly believe the pressure in Western churches is to be more concerned about building large churches than making disciples. Our mandate from Jesus was never to build the church; it was to make disciples. Just because a church is big doesn’t necessarily mean its healthy. Just because a church is growing doesn’t necessarily mean its making disciples. If we sell out to our mandate, everything else will fall in line.