“Bill Hybels coined a phrase years ago that is true of me: The rate at which I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me."
How has the criticism affected you?
I just went through an incredible battle with depression. I mean it was dark. Very dark. There were a lot of circumstances leading to that, but one of the factors was I wasn’t quite prepared for the pushback, anger and resentment I would get from the Christian community. People will get offended—it’s inevitable. The question we had to ask was: Would we rather offend religious people or lost people? When Jesus healed on the Sabbath, he offended the religious people at the same time he healed a lost person. I will take that trade eight days a week.
Do you think any of the criticism is justified?
I will be the first to tell you I am not perfect and that I have done things wrong and said some very stupid things. But I think the most important thing to understand about me is, I have never forgotten where I was when Jesus saved me, or what he has done for me. My goal in life is for as many people as possible to meet Jesus through whatever means he gives us to take the gospel to the world. If we wind up making some people mad doing that, I’m OK with that
How bad was your depression?
Well, after some counseling I learned that the circumstances of my depression went all the way back to my mother passing away and then the issues with my dad. After going through that, I tried to control things to not go back to where I was. When the church had 100 or 200 or 300 people, I could operate with a control mentality. When it got to 7,000, I was out of control, and I knew it. I couldn’t adjust. When you operate at Mach 10 with your hair on fire for an extended period of time, sooner or later your body, soul and spirit will crash on you. Bill Hybels coined a phrase years ago that is true of me: The rate at which I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me.
What did you do to heal?
The first step to getting out of depression is actually admitting you are depressed and you need help. That was real weird, because people wouldn’t talk about it for years—it was like the taboo topic in the church. The second step was getting counseling. One counseling session ain’t gonna fix you. When you’ve spent 38 years of your life screwing your life up, you are not going to fix it with a counseling session and a pill. I went through three extensive weeks of counseling with an awesome counselor, who specifically works with pastors and church leaders.
How would you say you are doing now?
I think I’m the healthiest I have ever been, the most passionate I had ever been, and the most excited I have ever been about the church—not just NewSpring, but the church as a whole. But, oh my gosh, I’ve still got issues.
What do you want people to know after coming to a service at NewSpring?
I think when people enter a church, they can leave saying one or two things. Number one is that my pastor is really smart or, number two, I understand what my pastor is saying. People will never surrender their life to a God they don’t understand or know. The church has to stop trying to be theologically and intellectually superior to the people who are walking in our doors. We need to just say, ‘This is who Jesus is, this is what he did, and this is why you can trust him.’”
NewSpring Church Anderson, S.C.
Affiliation: Southern Baptist
Growth in 2012: +7,072 (44%)