Interview with Pastor and Spiritual Director, Steve Summerell

Steve & Carol

Dave: So what’s new at Live Oak Vineyard?

Steve: We are literally a church in transition, moving to the next city over.  We are waiting for our new facility to be completed (it has been an 18 month journey so far).  The move was dictated by demographic changes in the city and financial realities in the church.

Dave: You co-pastor. That almost never works. How is it that you and Floyd have beat the odds?

Steve: There are a few factors that have worked in our favor: 1) Floyd and I have known each other for over 35 years, 2) when we merged the churches we were both in our mid 50’s and neither of us “needs” to be in charge.  The co-pastor experience has been good for both of us.  It is nice to not have to carry the burden alone.

Dave: In addition to pastoring a church you are what they call a Spiritual Director. That sounds, well…really spiritual. What is a spiritual director and what do they do?

Steve: A spiritual director is one who enters into an ongoing relationship with another and journeys with that person in a safe, confidential, and non-judgmental way.  A director mainly listens to the other as they share concerning their journey with God, and in that process helps the person to identify and discern the movements of God in their life, with the intent that they can then respond to those movements.  In contrast to what the word “director” might imply, a spiritual director does not tell others what to do.  Thomas Merton describes the relationship well,

… the director is not to be regarded as a magical machine for solving cases and declaring the holy will of God beyond all hope of appeal, but a trusted friend who, in an atmosphere of sympathetic understanding, helps and strengthens us in our groping efforts to correspond with the grace of the Holy Spirit, who alone is the true Director in the fullest sense of the word.

Dave: How did you develop a passion for this?

Steve: It really was not something that I was looking for.  I was invited to be trained as a director by someone who saw in me the qualities of a director.  I entered into the training not knowing if I would ever be a director, but the more I moved into it I found that it really was something that was “in me” but had not been uncovered.  Having been a director for the past 6 years I find that it really is a holy thing to be entrusted with sitting with someone as they unpack the journey of their soul to you… it is a great privilege and very humbling.

Dave: You travel all over the place ministering to pastors and missionaries. If you could wave a magic wand and change a couple things about pastors what would you change?

Steve: First, that they would carry out their ministry from the foundation of being deeply loved by the Trinity.  That the “doctrine / theology” of God’s love would be their deep personal experience, and their ministry would emerge from that reality.  Second, that they would understand how detrimental the busyness of ministry is to their spiritual lives, and they would be vigilant to establish regular times of retreat, silence and solitude into their schedules.

Dave: So let’s say a pastor comes up to you and says, “Steve, I’m interested in my own personal spiritual formation but I don’t know where to start.” In a nutshell, give me the top three things you would advise.

Steve: Every leader is unique and their situations and histories are all different, but here are a few things that have been helpful to a broad range of leaders… Starting their day engaging scripture through the practice of Lectio Divina… ending their day by practicing the prayer of Examen… establish a regular routine where they are spending time in silence and solitude, not trying to accomplish anything or achieve anything, just taking time to be present before God… to pray, to listen, to rest, to ponder, and to reflect.

Dave: Thanks Steve.