I'm excited for you all to hear from one of the greatest men I know, my Dad! He's an incredible leader, husband, dad, pastor, musician, and the list could go on. He had a very successful career in the moving industry and is now pursuing a second career in ministry. He's currently serving as Associate Pastor at Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Houston, TX. It's been fun to share our experiences with each other and now I'm excited for him to share with you. Here are my 3 questions with Greg Smith:
Having spent the majority of your adult life in the marketplace, how do you feel like that experience helped prepare you for ministry and what can other ministry leaders learn from marketplace leaders?
I believe we are all called to ministry from the time we come to realize for ourselves that Christ desires a relationship with us and we respond to that offer of salvation. I began my ministry in the marketplace where I interacted with believers and non-believers. It was here that I honed my communication skills for not only speaking/proclaiming the Good News. I also learned to "listen" to a hurting people who were/are separated from the knowledge/realization God's grace, love and forgiveness. I am reminded in this context of the Apostle Paul addressing the people in Athens at the Areopagus (Mars Hill) when he said "Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious, for as I was walking along I saw your many altars. And one of them had this inscription on it -- 'To an Unknown God.' You have been worshiping him without knowing who he is, and now I wish to tell you about him." (Acts 17:22-23 NLT). The other lesson I learned while in the marketplace is how easy it is to compartmentalize our lives as to our jobs, family, church, and our personal faith. I found that a career is based on "running the race" a means to an end (retirement, wealth, comfortable lifestyle). A vocation is something we all realize or should realize and implies something we are specifically called to do. I lived the first fifty years in my life pursuing a career and the subsequent years fulfilling my calling which had actually begun years earlier.
As you just finished up your coursework at SMU/Perkins School of Theology, how do you feel that experience has prepared you for ministry?
The interesting thing was that early on in my academic endeavors as I began pursuing my Masters of Divinity degree I discovered the difference between a seminary and a School of Theology. I had a professor who had his doctorate from Notre Dame School of Theology. He explained that Notre Dame also has a seminary where the train individuals to be priests. However, the School of Theology there at Notre Dame trains individuals to be theologians. How to know God in a spiritual sense, religious sense, personal sense, and academic sense. The requirement is not to write a thesis on specific biblical truth , but rather write a Credo that states specifically how you understand God and how you encounter God. The interesting thing to me is how many people (including seminarians) only encounter God in a limited sense ie. academically or intellectually. The one thing I would say about my experience at an advanced age is how little "push back" the average student presents to the professors while honing their understanding of God. Maybe because of my age, many of my professors appreciated the challenges presented in their teaching approach and my adopting a hermeneutic of suspicion when it comes to exegetical undertaking concerning the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The Methodist denomination is filled with a rich history dating back to John Wesley, what about the denomination's history and present direction gets you excited?
Two things stand out as important, yet often times misunderstood in my life as a Methodist. The first is supremacy of Holy Scripture when it comes to understanding the will of God in our lives. In our Methodist doctrine we additionally consider Experience, Traditions, and Reason as important. However, Scripture is the foundation for all our beliefs as followers of Jesus Christ. John Wesley was known as "The man of one book." The other misnomer is the idea of Social Justice. In many cases this term has come to mean simply Civil Rights and/or Human Rights. These are also important. However, I believe that the Methodist approach to Social Justice begins with Micah 6:8. "What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (NRSV). I see this as the ultimate mission of the church.
I get excited about the church regardless of denominational affiliation that can get behind this idea of "doing justice" for those in need physically and spiritually in our community and our world. We then develop a love for kindness which is also the greatest commandment taught by Christ to those who would follow him. Then finally as we walk humbly with God we realize that we are blessed to be a blessing. By the power of the Holy Spirit, for the Glory of God, and for His Kingdom. Forever & Ever. Amen.
Here are some other posts in this series: