I’m Ministry Resident Scottie Hill, and I’ll be preaching at CSPC Sunday. Here’s how I’m living deeply.
If you’d asked me two years ago, I did not think that JoBeth and I would still be in Knoxville and at Cedar Springs today. But God has called us here, and time and time again he has shown us that his plans are different, and better, than our plans. That’s the story I want to share with you. I came to CSPC right after I graduated from UT-Chattanooga in 2016 (#gomocs!). JoBeth and I were dating at the time, and I knew I wanted to marry her – so I knew I needed to move to Knoxville. I was open to any job that would bring me to Knoxville, but I also knew that I’d always been drawn to ministry. I saw a post, on Facebook of all places, about a two-year student ministry internship for people interested in vocational ministry at a Presbyterian church in Knoxville. I didn’t really know anything about Cedar Springs, but it was a chance to do student ministry and live in the same town as JoBeth, so I went for it. I still remember that I was so determined to get the job I drove up for a Sunday morning service to personally turn in my application to Mark Steimer (JoBeth and I literally showed up to the sanctuary and asked people if they knew where we could find Mark – which might have been a little over the top). Though I went into the internship somewhat blind, I quickly saw how good and gracious God had been in bringing me here. It was in the student ministry internship that I felt confirmed in my love for students and my call to ministry. It was such a gift to be able to walk through those middle school years with a group of guys, and I learned the joy and honor it is when a teenager lets you into their life, is willing to share their struggles and doubts, or ask questions about the faith. I also realized that for lots of people, the idea of choosing to spend time with middle or high school students is terrifying. The fact that I enjoyed it and saw God at work in it was something I knew I should pay attention to it.
When my two years as an intern started to come to a close, I knew I wanted to continue doing youth ministry. JoBeth and I had gotten married during the internship, and we were eager to see where God would lead us next. We assumed it’d mean moving out of Knoxville, and were excited by the adventure of it. But one day while doing some spring cleaning in the Watershed, I joked to Mark that since it was my last year I was just going to ‘leave this for someone else to deal with next year.’ Mark said that he had actually been hoping that I would still be at CSPC next year. It just so happened that they were looking to hire an Assoc. High School Director, and Mark asked me to interview for the job. It felt like a big change of direction. We were excited about exploring somewhere new, but now we had the chance to dig in deeper at the church we had grown to love. I interviewed at a couple of other churches, but to our surprise, we ultimately felt God clearly leading us to stay at CSPC. When I started the internship, I helped lead a small group of 7th grade guys. Those guys were moving into high school right when I would be starting that job, so I loved the idea of being able to stay with them through their graduation. To be able to walk through the high school years with them while continuing to grow in my love for ministry and the local church was an absolutely incredible experience. There were highs and lows of course, but I’m so grateful for the time I had with that group, my co-leaders Peter and Brandon, and the student ministry staff. As we approached their senior year, JoBeth and I once again found ourselves wondering where God might lead us next. We were leaning towards moving up to Boston so that I could attend Gordon-Conwell for seminary. When I met with Andrew Keasling in early 2021 to tell him what we were thinking and letting him know this would most likely be my last year in this job, Andrew told me about the Ministry Residency they were looking to start at CSPC. It was an opportunity to stay in Knoxville, pursue an M. Div at Reformed Theological Seminary, and get trained in pastoral ministry while serving on staff.
Once again we found the plans that God had looking much different than we had expected. The Ministry Residency at CSPC sounded like an amazing opportunity, so we were thrilled about that. But at the same time, we had, once again, been looking forward to the adventure of going somewhere new. We had dreamed about the possibility of being able to move away for seminary and then one day in the future get to come back to Knoxville, but the idea of staying here for seminary was a big surprise. So as excited as we were about the opportunity, there was also a sense of giving up something we had been excited for – moving and exploring someplace new. As we prayed and talked through the decision, we came up with a wild idea that would let us scratch our travel itch while still getting to do the residency and ultimately stay at CSPC, a church we now called home. So instead of starting the Residency as soon as I finished the high school ministry job, we added in a six-month gap between the two. So for the entire second half of 2022, JoBeth and I had the chance to travel out West and live out of our Toyota Sequoia. It was the trip of a lifetime, and we got to cram so much adventure into that six-month period. We got to drive all the way up to Alaska and back, and saw a lot of incredible things around the country. It was a sweet time for our marriage – our schedules before the trip had been hectic and rarely lined up, so this amount of consistent, quality time was a gift. One thing that surprised us both was that no matter where we were, we found ourselves still looking forward to being home in Knoxville – with people that we love, at a church that we love, in a city that we love. It was almost a surprising feeling. It was such a shift from our longings to move somewhere new, and it is something I am confident that God has been working in both of our hearts. We were sad to see the trip come to an end, but felt so grateful to be excited for the coming years of life in Knoxville.
Coming back to Cedar Springs and serving in this new role has been such an encouragement. Spending the time that I did in youth ministry, I had seen CSPC from a certain perspective (mostly from the front porch of the Watershed, to be exact). Now I’ll spend the next two years rotating through a different ministry each month. So far I’ve been with Mike for Young Adults, Summers for Marriage Ministry, Jeremy and Tobey with Sports Ministry, Landon with Men’s Ministry, Abby with Connections, and now Kris, Jackie and Beth in Nursery ministry. The more time that I spend with each of these ministries and the staff and volunteers who lead them, the more encouraged I have been. It is so evident that God is at work. As I sit in on different meetings and see things from a different angle, it has given me a wider view of what God is doing. What I’ve always experienced in the Watershed, or on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary, is echoed throughout the hallways and classrooms and ballfield and all throughout this church. In this new role I have a front row view to see that every day, in big ways and small, the Gospel is going forth not just on the campus of Cedar Springs but throughout the city of Knoxville and around the world. Also, the chance to do seminary in this way is such a blessing. I’m keenly aware of the fact that it is an unusual opportunity to be given the time and resources to pursue an M. Div while engaged in the church and gaining hands-on experience. It’s all the more humbling to know the kingdom focus that CSPC has with the residency – with the goal of training up and sending out. I hope that I’ll be able to serve and be useful to the ministries I’m with each month – but I am confident that I have been given way more by CSPC than I’ll ever be able to return.
So that’s our story of how God has called us, and surprisingly to us, kept us here at CSPC throughout the years. JoBeth and I are both just incredibly grateful that for over six years not only has this been the church where I have grown in my love for ministry, learned so much about ministry, and felt confirmed in my call to it – it is also the church that we have called home.