Leslie Hollon: A heart, head and hand ministry
As seen in the November 10th Baptist Standard. You can see the original article at: https://bit.ly/2fDkwns
Leslie Hollon: A heart, head and hand ministry
Leslie Hollon is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, where he has served since February 2009. From deep in the heart of one Texan, he shares his background and thoughts on ministry. To suggest a Baptist General Convention of Texas-affiliated minister to be featured in this column, or to apply to be featured, click here.
- Where else have you served in ministry, and what were your positions there?
Senior pastor of St. Matthews Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. (15 years); Wornall Road Baptist Church in Kansas City, Mo. (nine years); and Finchville Baptist Church in Finchville, Ky. (seven years).
College minister at First Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., where I was ordained.
College intern at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco, where I was licensed.
Youth preacher at First Baptist Church in Boerne during high school years.
Along the way, I’ve done short-term mission work in Oregon and New Jersey; preached and taught in Africa, Europe, Asia and South and North America.
Through the years, I’ve actively served as an adjunct professor in various seminaries and universities, such as Truett, Logsdon, Southern, Midwestern and Central; and universities, such as William Jewell, Campbellsville, Blue Mountain, Southwest Baptist, Georgetown and Kenya Baptist.
- Where did you grow up?
Boerne, Texas, where we had a home place for 50 years. I love the Hill Country. San Antonio was the first city I loved. Now I get to live and serve in the land of my first love. Grateful!
- How did you come to faith in Christ?
At age 11—sixth grade—I went through a long process that led me prayerfully to accept Christ on a Sunday afternoon at home. That night during worship, I went forward to share my decision with my family and First Baptist Church in Boerne.
- Where were you educated, and what degrees did you receive?
Boerne High School: diploma
Baylor University: bachelor of arts in history, philosophy and religion
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary: master of divinity, master of theology and doctor of philosophy degrees, with some Ph.D. studies at Vanderbilt University.
- Why do you feel called into ministry?
My call is a heart, head and hand experience. God profoundly touched my heart at age 15 to preach. He confronted me with a call for pastoral ministry while I was at Baylor and Southern, where I could begin to get my head around what it meant. Daily, he steadies my hands and enables me to do my call.
- What is your favorite aspect of ministry? Why?
My pastoral ministry works from the four areas of worship and preaching, pastoral care, missions and evangelism, and administration. Fortunately, I like all four, but preaching and teaching are my favorites.
- What one aspect of congregational life gives you the greatest joy?
Sharing the gospel and praying with people.
- What one aspect of congregational life would you like to change?
Whenever and wherever “sin” shows up.
- How has your ministry or your perspective on ministry changed?
In my 30s, I didn’t know if I could keep doing this—working with human conflict, unbridled expectations with limited resources, working 70-80 hours a week. Then I came to the end of myself, and God took me into the deeper spiritual life. My being a workaholic—with a sense that it all depended on me—wasn’t healthy for my family, the church or me.
- How do you expect congregational life to change in the next 10 to 20 years?
Online presence and ministry will continue to expand exponentially. How to be “a community” and get along with each other will be progressively difficult.
- If you could launch any new ministry—individually, through your congregation or through another organization—what would it be? Why?
We’ve launched a community center as one of our three campuses. It is a nontraditional, relationally based church campus that complements the experimentation on our traditional campus, and our campus that uses a faith-based approach to help women recover from chemical addictions. We are continuing to learn how to work this three-campus synergy. And along the way, we are having fun. This spawns various new ministries.
- What qualities do you look for in a congregation?
Bold humility in the persevering passion of faith, hope, and love. This means a church who has the passion to grow, love and serve.
- Name the three most significant challenges and/or influences facing your congregation.
They are …
Pressures of a scared world trying to set the anxiety thermostat of our children, youth and adults.
Working to be a five-generation church family with 16 personality types.
Progressively expanding the leadership base of our young adults.
- What do you wish more laypeople knew about ministry or, specifically, your ministry?
Typically on Saturday night, I have labor pains for what has been prayed for and prepared to happen on Sunday morning. And on Sunday afternoon, I painfully review what did or did not happen that morning.
- What are the key issues facing Baptists—denominationally and/or congregationally?
Translating our foundational Baptist characteristics—authority of Scripture, religious liberty, personal faith in Christ, priesthood of all believers, local-church autonomy, and missions and evangelism—for 21st century ministry, and to do this without fighting among ourselves.
Also people, frequently without even knowing it, hunger for the best of our Baptist heritage, but they don’t want to be limited by it. For instance, they want Spirit-filled worship and compassionate social-justice ministries. How to create a unity where we are willing to sacrifice for the greater Baptist cause is difficult now, and it is going to get more difficult.
- What would you change about the Baptist denomination—state, nation or local?
Temper our fierce individuality with a heart desire to form ourselves into passionate kingdom communities of trust and love.
The structure of our Baptist churches and institutions are undergoing radical change because the challenges are radical. We need renewed experiences in God’s fullness, the Trinity, so that we will allow the Spirit to reshape our structures.
- Who were/are your mentors, and how did/do they influence you?
I’ve been shaped by friendship communities—my family, Boerne-San
Antonio, Baylor, Southern Seminary, valiant lay leaders in the churches I’ve served as
pastor, and gospel servants I’ve met around the world.
Among them are …
Vicki, my high school sweetheart, wife and lifelong ministry partner
George McWilliams, childhood pastor
James Vardaman, Baylor, the passion to prepare and teach without notes
Bill Leonard, forming beloved communities
Wayne Oates, a Christ-centered and biblically based pastoral theology
Buckner Fanning and Clyde Fant, preaching
Jesse Fletcher, mentor, how to think globally while serving locally
Howard Butt, what to do when you come to the “end of yourself”
And many others.
- What did you learn on the job you wish you learned in seminary?
I served as a full-time, live-on-the-field pastor while being a full-time seminary student, except for my first year at Southern. Consequently, I was constantly doing action and reflection. My pastorate kept my studies “real,” and my studies guided me with the knowledge in the why of how to do ministry. I always felt it was my responsibility to translate theory into practice. Seminary served me well. It taught me the discipline of how to keep on learning. My church taught me how to fill in the gaps. That’s all I could hope for.
- What has been the impact of ministry on your wife and children?
Vicki, my wife, has her own call to ministry which “discovered her” during my first year in ministry. So, we found ourselves being in the first generation of what is called a “clergy couple.” It continues to be a great ministry adventure.
Our three children are now healthy and strong adults. Two of them and their families now live in San Antonio and are members of Trinity. Our third child is soaring in San Francisco. Our family theology was and is priesthood of the believer, so they each formed their own healthy faith while we worked at our family style of faith. They understand the best and worst of church.
- Name some of your favorite books (other than the Bible) or authors, and explain why.
Hurlburt’s Bible Stories. I can still hear my mother’s voice as she read the stories
to my brothers, sister and me.
Billy Graham’s and William Barclay’s writings as I stepped into my youth revival
Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard, whose bold writings challenged me to “think through” my faith as I “felt” my faith.
Wayne Oates as I worked to form my pastoral theology.
Bill Leonard, whose writings in church history shaped me as a church historian.
Martin Luther King’s writings in the “beloved community.”
Richard Foster’s writings in the spiritual life, as he was used by God to form the
The one most influential book, among thousands, is Preaching for Today, by Clyde Fant. He gave me methodology and structure for the style of preaching that was and is most natural for me, preaching by memory from an oral rough draft.
I am grateful for the many women and men who wrote books that have
befriended me, challenged me and shaped me.
- What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?
Wow. Choosing one among the 31,101 verses in the Bible is an epic personal challenge. But I’ll highlight the verse that in college grabbed me by the collar and hasn’t let go—Matthew 5:48in the Amplified Version. Because in this promise Jesus challenged us to keep growing into “complete maturity in godliness of mind and character until we reach the full height of our virtue and integrity.” Which is ongoing …
- Who is your favorite Bible character, other than Jesus? Why?
David is my first name. Leslie is a family name. So when my parents needed to give me a first name—so they could leave the maternity ward—they chose the shepherd-king David. He was filled with strength and weakness, good and bad, like me. So when I study, preach, teach and write about David, I am in some ways telling my own story.
- Name something about you that would surprise your church.
I have a tattoo on my left calf, as do my sons, of our big family oak tree from
- If you could get one “do over” in ministry, what would it be, and why?
I would have made some different staff decisions. And focused more on developing my preaching and writing during my early years. That is three. There are more.