Jun 20

Interview with Nathan Sherman, Part 1

2012 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Interview

Earlier this month, we were pleased to announce that Nathan Sherman accepted our offer to serve as DSC’s new Minister to Youth and Families. You can read that original announcement here.

Nathan is quite busy making preparations to move his family of five to Albuquerque in early July, but he was kind to answer a number of questions for what will be a three-part blog interview.

Part 1, below, explores Nathan’s ministry background, training, and hopes for his time at DSC. Part 2 will explore some of the influences that have shaped Nathan’s life. And Part 3 will reveal, among other things, a story of how Nathan terrorized his childhood cat, Coconut.

Before the interview, though, here are two photos of Nathan, Marcie, and their new baby, Micah. One before Micah’s birth and one after. Before the series is out, we’ll have a photo of the whole family together.

First things first. You just had a third little boy, Micah. Congratulations! How’s the family doing? 

We’re doing great, and Micah is such a great baby! We’ve heard from other families that their third baby was easier than the first two, and that has certainly been true for us, as well. Whether he’s just an easy baby, or we know a little better what we’re doing as parents is unclear, but considering we have three boys under 4 years in the house, we don’t have any complaints. We can’t wait for you to meet Owen, Caleb, and Micah!

You have been on staff at Providence Church in Austin for two years now. Tell us a little about this church, your specific role, and how your time at Providence has formed your approach to ministry.

Providence officially launched in November of 2010, and has been slowly growing over the last year-and-a-half. We’re a part of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, and we have definitely felt the need to plant more gospel-centered churches in Austin, as it’s the second fastest- growing metro-area in the country. An average of 85 new residents move to Austin every day, which can sometimes feel daunting. By and large though, the people who are being added to our numbers are coming through the missional relationships of our people. We have more people meeting in our Gospel Communities (Community Groups) meeting throughout the city than we have coming to our Sunday service, which means our people are inviting their friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. into their homes to talk about God and his gospel. In a largely a-religious city like Austin, we are so excited for the way this is unfolding—people coming to faith in Jesus Christ through the lives of the Church rather than merely an attractional Sunday service.

My official title at Providence has been Staff Missionary, and I have been largely acting as intern/pastoral assistant, while also trying to establish and cultivate a missional momentum within our church toward the city.  Being a so-called gospel-centered church means that we talk about how the gospel should shape, inform, and transform everything we do—as individuals and as a church. This has completely changed the way I think about and daily believe the gospel. That is, that the gospel is not merely the entry point of the Christian life, but it is the entirety of the Christian life. In turn, that changes how I think about the church, my vocation, my family, my neighbors, and youth ministry. I can’t wait to begin to flesh out many of these things with the DSC youth and their families!

How did you first find out about DSC? 

In April, Ryan Kelly was at the Together for the Gospel conference in Louisville, Kentucky and providentially sat next to Aaron Colyer, who was my roommate from my freshman year at the University of Texas and is now the Student Pastor at a church in Dallas. They began talking about youth ministry in general, and Ryan mentioned that DSC was beginning their search for a Youth Minister to replace Greg. Aaron said, “I think I have your guy.”

I talked to Tim Bradley on the phone the next week, and then Marcie and I flew to Albuquerque shortly after that. It has been a pretty quick process, but we’ve had a unique sense of God’s providence and guiding throughout it all.

You are coming to DSC as a Minister to Youth and Families. During your interview weekend, there was a real sense of unity among the elders and you on the importance of the church’s ministry to youth and to families. How did you arrive at this approach to youth ministry?

I was in a youth ministry in the 90s, which meant, like many other youth ministries in America at the time, that the youth ministry was completely quarantined from the rest of the church, and there was very little parent involvement both in the youth ministry and in the discipleship of their children. I think I always thought this wasn’t really ideal, but just kind of the way it was.

In seminary, the discontent I had with youth ministry—but could never put a finger on—was exposed. That is, that the family—and not the church—should be the primary place of discipleship for children and youth. The church should come alongside parents in the work of discipleship that parents are already doing, equipping them to better disciplers, and acting as a complementary—but never substitutionary—voice of the gospel.

While we only have a few teenagers at Providence (we have 40-50 elementary aged kids and younger), we are seeing how this goal of family discipleship is being practically played out. Long ago, a pastor said that each family should function like a little church: worship, education, discipleship, and mission together, as families. This is a lofty and often intimidating ideal, but based on my reading of Deuteronomy 6 and how God generally operates through families—both biblically and experientially—it is my understanding that this model of family-equipping youth ministry is the most effective model for the discipleship, not only our children, but for our parents as well.

What are you most looking forward to about serving DSC’s youth?

I can’t wait to grow in the gospel. I can’t wait to learn about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and where we fit into the great narrative of the history of God’s redemption. I can’t wait to play games and watch movies. I can’t wait be on mission in Albuquerque. I can’t wait to take trips and go to breakfast with students and eat lunch in school cafeterias. I can’t wait to dance, play, and have fun.

I can’t wait to meet with dads and moms and talk about parenting, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I can’t wait for families to continue to grow together in their belief in the gospel. I can’t wait to fight against sin and see the Kingdom of Heaven making itself more known in our lives, in Albuquerque, and on earth. I can’t wait to see people come to faith in Christ and to be baptized!

Before your time at Providence, you completed a Master’s of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. What role did seminary play in your preparation for your new role at DSC?

Southern provides a rich and robust theological education, all the while doing very well at keeping this education practical, applicable, and pastoral. For instance, in one class, rather than turning in a large research paper, I had to write ten sermons. These sermons demonstrated my comprehension of the material, but then forced me to deal with the text personally, and on top of that, now I have ten sermons in my back pocket ready to use.

I came to understand that preaching is much harder and much more important than I thought. I came to understand that I didn’t understand the Bible nearly as well as I thought. I didn’t understand God, myself, or the Cross nearly as well as I thought. I didn’t care about the lost and missions as much as I thought. I didn’t understand the function or the purpose of the Church as much as I thought.

And as mentioned above, Southern really shaped my understanding of what the family is and how family ministry should function.

Check back later for Part 2 of this thee-part interview with Nathan.