From TV Producer to Church Planter

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Not every church planter has the same background or story. Some come right out of seminary, some are seasoned pastors, while others spend time in the corporate or private sector before receiving the call to leave it all behind for the Kingdom. The following is from an interview I recently participated in about my journey. Until 2012, I was involved in television and video production for 10 years before making a career change to Pastoral ministry. Special thank you to my friend Thomas Elle for allowing me to publish his interview with me to share here.

  1. What are the Emmy awards for?

I have two Chicago/Midwest Emmy Awards, with four nominations total over my brief career in television broadcasting. I won my first Emmy Award in 2007 for a Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign as producer and editor for WCIU-TV. The second was in 2009 as writer and producer for a series of on-air promotions for the same TV station. It’s incredible they award Emmy’s to guys like me who write and produce 30-second promos for on-air broadcast!

  1. What have you learned about producing for television that helps you in your career today?

Where do I begin?!? First, I learned a lot about working with others. Broadcasting, film, and video is a team-based career field. There are no loan-rangers out there, and those that try to do it all on their own crash and burn. I had to learn to work with others in a fast-paced, high-stakes, environment especially when time and money isn’t on your side. You learn quickly to cover each other’s backs, look out of the other person, and not to sweat the small stuff. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening that often in the church today, but I try to bring this value with me in everything I do.

Secondly, I’m an idealist at heart. When I got into television, I just wanted to make great programs and inspire the audience. I was naive to think that someone would hire me just so I could do something I loved and had passion for. The reality is, money makes the world go around. I can be passionate about my job, but I had to learn how to do it that brought financial value to the organization as a whole. That was a difficult transition to make, but I have since learned how to see a person’s talent for a particular task or area of expertise, and coach them to consider how it brings value to the organization that would make it profitable. I wish I could say that I have mastered this, but I’m still a work in progress.

  1. How has media impacted the way that you view the world around you?

Compelling storytelling is the foundational element to every production. Humanity has been telling stories from the beginning of time. Story is how we relate our humanity across generations, learn valuable lessons, are inspired to create, and capture the imagination of others. Storytelling is both a creative and technical process. Regardless of the medium (visual, audio, written, experiential), the world is shaped by the stories we tell. As such, I’m forced to ask myself: what kind of stories do I want to be telling for the rest of my life? Those that bring redemption, or those that pacify my existence?

  1. Has there ever been a time where you thought about going back into the field of media production?

Yes. Often actually. I love the career field. I don’t think I’m the best, nor do I feel like I was at the top of my game when I walked away from it in a full-time capacity. I still have much to learn and possibly a lot to offer the industry, but I know the Lord has me right where He wants. He has affirmed it over and over again.

  1. As a pastor, where did you see your experience in production useful?

Aside from the occasional video projects that I may have worked on for the church, I found my experience manifesting in an unexpected area – my presentation in the pulpit. I spent my entire career behind the camera, leading, directing and manipulating the picture to bring about a desired result. However, as I found myself out in front and on stage (pulpit), I discovered a level of comfort and ability to connect with audiences that I didn’t realize I had. Not discounting the Spirit’s gracious work and calling, I think all of those years of working with on-camera talent, giving direction, learning from them, and watching endless hours of recorded footage had subtle effect on me. Turns out I was learning the whole time on how to carry myself before a watching audience!

  1. What are the media courses you are currently teaching at Moody Bible Institute and how have you linked them to your personal experiences?

The first class is Fundamentals of Video. This is an introductory course to video production where students get practical hands-on experience in all areas of video production. The second course is Media Practicum: Video, a student-led course where students collaboratively work on a joint project. In both courses, I challenge students to share stories through the medium of film and video that are personally meaningful and connect back to the gospel. This is an exciting place to be teaching where we can bridge the redemptive Biblical narrative with a students’ personal walk and calling to ministry. We’re training global ministry leaders who are learning to effectively communicate the gospel.

  1. You’re leading a new church plant, Restoration Church. What is your main mission and where do you plan on breaking ground?

Restoration Church seeks to restore lives, our communities, and the world with the transformational power of the gospel. We’re going to get our hands dirty. We’re going to go where no one else wants to go. We’re going to be invested in our community and throughout the world. Restoration Church will be located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago in Lake Zurich, IL, and our core team is already meeting and praying together. We have dreams of planting additional churches across Chicago with a like-minded mission and calling for the Kingdom.

  1. What advice would you give someone who feels they haven’t found their purpose in life?

First, lean into Christ. Go into your proverbial closet. Shut the door. Remove the distractions. Then pour your heart out to God. Be honest. Be vulnerable. Be angry if you are angry. Be broken if you’re sad, disappointed, or depressed. God can take it. He can handle it. He’s so big and filled with so much love and grace. Once you’ve laid it all out and bare before Him, sit still. Be quiet and listen. He may not reveal it in the moment. But He will in due-time.

Secondly, get up and get to work. If the Lord gave you a word, a sign, an inspiration, or a dream – test it! Ask others that know you. Put yourself in positions that give you an introductory experience. I remember when the Lord first said, “plant a church”. I thought He was crazy! Heck, I thought I was crazy! Around the same time I was offered a part-time position in a church to be a youth pastor. I first said, “no way!” After a time of prayer, I stepped up, took the position, and put the call to the test. Turns out the Lord was preparing me. He used me in the role. He grew me and slowly affirmed a call to church plant over the course of the next 6 years.

If the Lord hasn’t given you that sign or inspiration – get up and get back to work! Keep your eyes open. Be listening to promptings from the Lord. Perhaps those around you have been speaking into your life or affirming your present calling. Maybe you are exactly where God needs you to be for the future.

Lastly, life is never over. For those redeemed by Christ, your life today is preparation for the next. Who knows what your future vocation or purpose will be in the new earth when Christ returns, but it’s sure to reflect something of what you are doing today. Embrace it and remember this is a journey of faith. The Lord is sovereignly at work in your life. Your only true purpose is to love God and glorify Him with your life. You can do that almost anywhere.