Friday Five – Tom Nelson

A few years ago, Steve Harvey, my uncle, handed me a manuscript for a book written by his pastor, Tom Nelson ofChrist Community Church of Olathe, Kansas. The book is titled, Ekklessia. Uncle Steve serves on the board of CCC and is passionate about what God is doing in and through the church in the Kansas City area.

I immediately began to read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it. At the time, I was prepping for a series on the key doctrines of the church and so Ekklesia was a perfect textbook for a message on the purpose of the church. I have often referred back to it, as I have found it perhaps a most through work on ecclesiology.

Today, I have the privilege of chatting with Pastor Tom Nelson. Besides serving as Senior Pastor at Christ Community Church in Olathe, Kansas, he is a Council member with The Gospel Coalition.

1)      How did you first feel the call to the pastorate?

Shortly after my conversion to Christ when I was eight years old I had an prompting at soul level that the pastorate was to be my vocational calling. This early prompting gained greater clarity in the years that followed.

2)      There is a lot of angst in our generation with regard to the church. Seems a new book is coming every week about the inefficiency of the church as a witness in this age. But you love the church. What gives you hope?

Though it does seem that the local church is the target of a great deal of criticism in our time, I do not find much of it theologically rigorous or practically very helpful. My hope for the church is not tethered to the current perceptions of the critics, nor the latest prognostications of its cultural irrelevance or trajectory of extinction. Rather what gives me a buoyancy at soul level is that Christ Himself is orchestrating history’s direction and consummation all the while meticulously preparing his beautiful bride with the garments of faithfulness and not cultural success.

3)      Do you think that some of the anti-church lament is part of the American ethic of individualism?

No doubt our cultural penchant toward a kind of rugged hyper individualism plays a role in how the church is often seen through a negative lens, but I also think negative views of the church are due to other contributing factors such as pluralism, consumerism, and anti-institutionalism. As I interact within our present cultural context I see not only an increasing desire for individual expression and individual choice, I also sense a growing visceral hunger for relational intimacy, meaningful community and causal involvement in our broken world. My best hunch is that some of our  more agonizing lament flows out of this experiential tension and existential dissonance. The church then becomes an easy and natural target of our angst.

4)      There seems to be a resurgence of gospel-centric, Biblical preaching. Are you excited about this trend?

The resurgence of the primacy of the Gospel and the growing importance of expository preaching is what makes me most encouraged about the future of our Evangelical tradition. Interacting with and serving with several of our next generational church leaders, I am very encouraged at their commitment to both the Gospel and to exposition as a central component of local church ministry. This puts a big bounce in my step.

5)      If you could give one piece of advice to a young pastor, what would it be?

Firmly tether your life and ministry to an intimate apprenticeship with Jesus and set your vocational compass setting on the true North of faithful service and not ministry success.

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