Sojourn Pastor Interview Series: My Talk With J-Town’s Lisle Drury

Daniel Montgomery interviews Lisle DruryOne of my greatest joys is that I get to lock arms with the lead pastors at each of our campuses around the Louisville area. I’ve interviewed Midtown Pastor Chad Lewis, as well as Sojourn New Albany’s Michael Fleming.  Today, I’m honored to be joined by Lisle Drury, pastor of our J-Town campus.

Pastor Daniel: Before coming to Sojourn, you worked for over a decade in youth ministry. Given that Sojourn has so many young adults, how did that experience prepare you? In what ways was it similar, and how was it different?

Pastor Lisle: First of all ministering to students and families for almost 20 years was a great joy. I love seeing our student ministry develop and grow at J-Town. Here are a few ways my time with students prepared me.

First, it reminded over and over that spiritual growth is developmental just like our physical growth. Patience is needed with students because they will go through ups and downs in their walk with Christ just like adults. None of us, as Paul Tripp says, are “grace graduates, and when you keep this in mind it helps you in both ministering to all ages of people and parenting your own children.

Second, it taught me how to lead through volunteers. I learned to mobilize and equip a team of men and women to do the work of ministry and it was a joy to see men and women serve and lead out of their passion.

Last, it has taught me how not to take myself seriously. You have to learn to laugh at yourself if you are going to be in student ministry for almost 20 years.

What is similar? I believe both students and adults are eager to learn and know what the Bible teaches. Contrary to public opinion, I don’t think they just want to be entertained, they want someone to teach them the Bible and be willing to tackle difficult truth.

Differences? There is a life and excitement that is present with most younger students, like middle schoolers, that is refreshing . . . but unfortunately life has a way of knocking that out of you.

Pastor Daniel: The other pastors and I are always overwhelmed with what a man of character you are. What has been the most character-forming and testing thing in your life?

Pastor Lisle: I believe one way God uses to form character in us is the blessing of children. My greatest desire is that my children would say that the man they see every week on stage is the same one they see in the living room.

By far the most character forming event in my life was the death of our daughter in 2004 when she was five months old. Kaye was in and out of the hospital during those five months and eventually died of pneumonia. God has used this to break us, shape us and teach us about Him. This event is something you move on from but don’t ever get over. I believe God is still continually shaping our family through this extremely painful loss.

Pastor Daniel: You look like someone in his mid 20s. I won’t say how old you really are, but it’s definitely not mid 20s. What is your secret fountain of youth?

Pastor Lisle: I take dips, at least monthly, in the “fountain of youth” (aka “baptistry”) at our J-Town Campus. You should try it. It will do wonders . . . not that you look old.

Honestly, I don’t know but my wife hates it.

Pastor Daniel: Sojourn J-Town has kind of a UK Blue reputation. Is that your secret requirement for membership? Has UK provided scholarships for your kids in exchange for favoritism?

Pastor Lisle: Not a secret requirement but I do feel it is an important question to ask during our member interviews. For some reason that request keeps getting shot down. So we just have a separate seating section for those who are not UK fans. And if you are a Duke fan, which we do have at least one at our campus, . . . . well, there is grace.

Don’t have scholarships yet but would be willing to have my people talk to their people and get something worked out.

Pastor Daniel: Your campus has more than doubled in size the last 18 months. What’s your vision for the future, not only in terms of “bigger” but also “better”?

Pastor Lisle: I am very humbled and excited about the growth that we have seen at our campus. What a great opportunity we have to be a part of something that we believe God is in. The difficulty with this type of growth is that you always feel like you are playing catch up, but by God’s grace He has provided men and women who are wearing “multiple hats” and serving our church sacrificially. I am so thankful for these men and women.

As I think about what God has for us and our vision, here is one aspect I long to see get “better.” We live in an area, and I would argue this is present in many places, where we are over-churched and under-gospeled. So therefore, I want to continue to grow in my understanding of the work of Christ and its implications in all areas of my own life, and then out of this teach and lead our people.

I think most people understand the gospel as two doors – an entrance in and an exit out — and do not see it’s implications for all of life. I am concerned that a Christianity that is just about “principlizing life” (i.e. How to be a better parent, How to have a better marriage, How to be successful at work and in your finances) – can produce “sedated Christians” who are just numb. Not that we don’t deal with some of these issues but not at the expense of what is of first importance – the gospel. So I desire to help us to better understand all that God has done for us through Christ.

Secondly as the gospel gets in us, it simultaneously goes out both local and global. So I want us to “better” love our neighbors who do not know this good news yet in J-Town and the world through our words and our lives. I want to be a part of building a people who are attractive, not because they look like they have it all together, with their nice families, well behaved children, their nice homes, but because they are honest with their failures, struggles with sin and difficulties in life. This is so people are not impressed with us but impressed with our GREAT SAVIOR!

As we say around here often, the pressure is off, there is one who has been perfect on our behalf so that we can stop performing. So these are couple of areas that are heavy on my heart and desires that I pray God will fulfill at J-Town.


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