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Matt Kerr – Live Deeply

I’m CSPC Ministry Resident Matt Kerr, and this is how my family and I are living deeply. 

 This is an exciting, full, scary, and hectic time in our lives, but it’s also more than I could have hoped and prayed for. God is doing something totally new in me and my family- and I really have no idea where it’s going to lead. Before I unpack what He’s doing, a little background: CSPC has been my home for 35 years, since I was in the middle school youth group.  Even after going away to college, at Wake Forest University, it was still my home church and stayed that way when I moved back to Knoxville- which was also when I met my wife, Blair. We were married at CSPC, dove into the Sunday school and small group world, and have raised our children –Ella, Lizzie, Lydia, and Matty- here. (Right now, two are in college -one of whom is getting married- one is in high school, and one is in kindergarten.) What God has us navigating now is the absolute LAST thing I’m naturally wired to do: I’m leaving a great, secure job (a business I’ve worked decades to build) for a cloudy future in ministry. Not that my going into ministry doesn’t make sense. But WHEN I’m doing it, and HOW, are not at all the ways I ever thought I would. I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life. Counseling, medicine; I’ve needed help. At times it’s beaten me down personally, and I haven’t been as present with my family or friends as I wanted to be. However, there’s another side, too- I think the anxiety helped me succeed at my job: opening & leading the Knoxville branch of a large risk management broker. The nature of the work was that you couldn’t relax, couldn’t wait, couldn’t just think things would happen. You had to make things happen, continually. The anxiety actually fueled my business success. So how does an anxious person like me, who always runs to what’s safe, take a leap of faith?

 In December 2021, God broke through. I was on a retreat in Powell, alone in a barn doing some journaling. For the last 20+ years, I’d been feeling a vague pull to full-time ministry and told God, ‘Just show me what I’m supposed to do, and I’ll follow. But let me know how it will play out, so I’m confident this is what I’m supposed to do.’ I needed it laid out in detail and then I’d make the changes. But I never got the green light. Ultimately, over the years, I’d gotten comfortable with the idea that I wouldn’t do anything different until we got our kids through college and life had fewer financial pressures. But that morning God said, ‘No, if you really are serious about this, you need to make a decision that you’re going to do something different first, and then I’m going to guide you.’ I mean, it was an audible voice! I’m always suspicious of these sorts of stories -this experience was unique for me- and it totally freaked me out, to be honest. Thankfully I had a wife who encouraged me to not let that experience fall away, but to dig into it and figure out what I am to do with that experience.

 My business did well and grew over the past 24 years, and I felt a huge sense of responsibility to all those I worked with, both coworkers and clients.  So, leaving it couldn’t be as simple as, ‘Well, I’ve made this decision, I’m ready to jump.’ I talked with Blair, prayed about it, and reflected a little bit, then decided: ‘I need to simply go and tell my company I have decided I’m supposed to move on, and we have to start figuring out a plan here. I don’t know when, and I don’t know what it’s going to be, but we need to figure out a plan for transitioning this office and get some additional leadership in there. It could be a year; it could be five years- I don’t know. But I’ve got to tell the president of my company that I am supposed to do this.’ That thought was so hard because once you tell your employer that, you can’t really go back on it. Thankfully, our president, who I’m close with, knew ministry had been on my heart for a long time. In January 2022, I hit the road for Virginia to discuss it with him in person. I hated to be vague with him, but I really didn’t know what I was going to do, just that God would show me.  

 Clarity started to emerge at lunch one day a couple months later with Andrew Keasling. He suggested maybe CSPC’s new ministry residency program could be a good fit- I could earn my seminary degree plus get practical ministry experience at the church. I wasn’t sure- that seemed like a big leap for where I was in my life at that point.  But the more I started thinking about Andrew’s idea, the more it seemed like God had opened that door because I had moved forward with stopping my career. The timing was too coincidental. Blair agreed that God seemed to be leading me to a CSPC ministry residency. From there, I went and talked to my company again, and then they knew it was really happening. So, for the next year and a half, we put the transition into motion. Then I started as a CSPC ministry resident on January 2nd this year. (The transition’s not totally over- I’m still serving my old company as a consultant for six more months.) It’s crazy to me to that it’s finally happened. This move that doesn’t make any worldly sense – I’m not only going from the boss to the low man on the totem pole, but I also can’t retire or anything like that. We definitely have to live in a way that’s different than what we’ve been used to. That’s probably the element that’s been the hardest and most stretched us as a family. But isn’t that the point?

 Everyone at CSPC has been really welcoming and I’m starting to adjust to a new rhythm of life. In the big picture, I think God’s trying to show me that if I can make a decision to listen to him and follow faithfully to something so central to my life (career, finances, etc.), why can’t I do it with all the other important things in my life?  So, I do think he’s working on me there. I’ve got a long way to go, and so does my family. The anxiety’s still there (I never really thought I would be up front speaking to large groups of people, so to imagine that I’m going to have to preach sometime this year scares me to death), but it’s generally not overwhelming the way I experienced in my business career. I have peace that God will get us through each step. And I’m also excited to see what He’ll ultimately have me doing. I believe I have abilities on the organizational & operational side, as well as teaching. Building individual relationships is also something I really enjoy, and another factor that led to my desire to do vocational ministry. I have a passion for those who know they want to do something more but can’t figure out how to do it. You can get paralyzed and revert back to, ‘Do what you’re supposed to do every day,’ and you sort of lose that drive. I’ve been there. Especially dads and husbands who are trying to figure out, ‘How do you balance trying to make a career, being there for your kids, being there for your wife, and being a leader in the house?’ Because many days I didn’t do a great job with those things. I’ve learned some lessons. And I know what it’s like to come home numb and wiped out at the end of a day. It’s going to be an interesting ride for me and my family, but we are really excited to be starting it!


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