My Journey as an exegete
Pastor, mission leader, Christian educator, author, student of culture and more are a few of many facets of my life. But if you were to ask me what one thing defines me, I just might tell you that I am an exegete. I exegete scripture, culture and human lives. What’s an exegete, and why would that matter to you?
A series of people I encountered and events that unfolded while I was at the university led me to commit my life to become a student and follower of Jesus Christ. Though raised in church, I never really understood or paid much attention to the Bible. Suddenly, I was discovering amazing truth I never knew existed, and my life was taking a major turn. I soon found myself serving as a youth pastor in a church near the university where I would meet my wife Cheryl.
Fascinated by learning to unlock biblical truth in its proper context, I became a serious student of scripture. Soon, life took another turn as our young family moved to Central America for over a decade where I would serve as pastor in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Raising our two daughters during a time of unrest and horrific civil war brought obvious challenges, but I soon learned to be as proficient exegeting scripture in Spanish as in English and gained a wide reputation as an efficient communicator of biblical truth. Later, I would go on to earn a Ph.D. in expository preaching, the ability to exegete (unpack) scripture and communicate it in a contemporary and relevant manner.
Embedded in Central American society as locals, we raised our girls in a totally bilingual context. As life unfolded, I have experienced over 70 countries, studied several languages and learned to navigate the complexity and nuance of different cultures. I lay no claim to being an expert in any one particular culture, but I do believe it is possible to learn how to be culturally sensitive and to navigate the complexity of cultures. The same skill set that made me a good exegete of scripture made me a good exegete of culture – the ability to take apart the complex and make it understandable. Returning as lead pastor of Graceway, I led it to become one of America's most culturally diverse churches.
Turning Graceway over to younger leadership, I want to devote the remainder of my life to equipping other leaders for maximum and missional impact in a culturally complex world. During the leadership transition and the formation of my nonprofit Missional Impact, a friend facilitated a Paterson LifePlan for me to gain clarity about my future path. This process proved so transformational that I soon decided to become certified as a Paterson LifePlan facilitator myself, seeing this as a powerful tool to help other leaders gain similar clarity. The necessary skill set? Precisely the same – taking the complexity of human life and helping others to unpack it and discover how it all fits together.
Jeff and his wife Cheryl have two married daughters and four grandchildren, as well as several informally “adopted” other “daughters” from various places and backgrounds. Jeff has a Ph.D. in expository preaching from Trinity Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books in Spanish and English and continues to be in demand as an international conference speaker and educator. He has served on the board of several mission organizations and is currently board chair of Christar US. He is also on the board of Christar International. Christar is an organization dedicated to cultivate Christ-honoring transformation in communities where He is yet to be worshiped. He serves as Teaching Pastor at Graceway in Kansas City, Missouri and has his own nonprofit organization, Missional Impact, through which he continues to be active in equipping leaders around the world for maximum impact in a culturally complex world.