This is taken from the recent edition of the EPC News
Pastor to President – Part 2 An interview with Don Sweeting
by Jeff Jeremiah
After twelve years of ministry as the Senior Pastor of Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church, Dr. Don Sweeting has taken a call to become the President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Don was our keynote speaker at our Friday night worship service at General Assembly. In this second of a two-part interview, he offered these thoughts about the next phase of his ministry, as he moves from the local church to seminary.
How has your experience as a pastor prepared you for the presidency of RTS-Orlando.
In three ways. First, pastoring has given me a greater heart for the church and a deeper belief in the church, despite all her flaws. Seminaries are called to serve and bless the church. I think I can guide faculty to be more “aware” of what ministry prep calls for, and what the current cultural pressures and opportunities are like.
Second, I have had the privilege of pastoring small and large churches, new and established churches, as well as Presbyterian and non-denominational churches. This breadth of pastoral experience will help me serve students coming from many different backgrounds.
Third, I have learned the huge importance of mentoring younger pastors and leaders. This is more important than ever because of the brokenness of so many families. Young people crave community and desperately want relationships. They need models and mentors of all kinds to help them prepare for a future of ministry.
What drew you to be president of a seminary? Were you doing seminary-related work during your time as a pastor?
By gifting I am a pastor-teacher. Providentially, there have been two tracks in my life: a pastor track and an academic track. I have served as senior pastor of two churches for about 22 years. During that time I have also finished a PhD, served with John Stott Ministries in helping international students, served as a trustee on the board of Colorado Christian University, and taught church history at Denver Seminary. Not only that, but I grew up watching my dad who was both a pastor and an educator in his roles at Moody Church and Moody Bible Institute.
Why Reformed Theological Seminary?
I came to learn about Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) at the EPC General Assemblies. They always hosted breakfasts. Since I did not come out of an “officially reformed” background, I was curious about what a “reformed” seminary looked like and taught. As they explained their mission, values and ethos, it just resonated with me. I was drawn to their commitment to the Scriptures and the gospel (not all seminaries care about these essential things), their desire to be both reformed and missional, and the winsome way they tried to live this out. I came to believe that RTS is a great place for training future pastors and leaders for the global church of the twenty-first century.
If you had one wish for churches in preparing leaders what would it be?
In this economy, and in this critical hour for the church, it would be that churches intentionally put money aside to sponsor gifted students who are called to be pastors and leaders, so they do not leave seminary with a mountain of debt, and so they maintain close ties with the local church throughout their seminary experience, and feel blessed by the local church.
Why the blog? What led you to do this when your life is already complicated as a busy pastor?
I was encouraged to start blogging by the younger members of our church staff. This is a key means of communication for them. One way they learn about the world is through blogs, tweets, and text messages. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. Also, I like to write. If I had a second life, I might be an op-ed writer. Along with all this, I discovered that you can influence a lot more people through a blog than you can through the traditional church newsletter.
Like many pastors, I used to write a column for our printed church newsletter. In “going green,” our newsletter was replaced by an online letter. Blogging seemed to be a natural yet updated outlet for writing my newsletter column. By blogging, I can put my blog connection on our web site and in our newsletter. But it has far more circulation than my old printed columns.
Here’s the unusual thing. It now reaches the original audience (our church), but it goes way beyond “our circles.” It is read by people at my current church, and at my former church, and at Reformed Theological Seminary. But it is also read by people that I went to high school with, extended family (some who are Christians, some who are not), neo-pagan friends, pastor in Africa, missionaries in Indonesia, and people I’ve never even heard of. Having such a diverse audience causes me to think about “how am I being heard by the outsider” when I write. This has made me think about both what I write and how I write. I am not just writing for church people, even though Christians are a primary audience. Outsiders are listening in. It is not unlike Sunday morning when I preach. All this means that I must write more missionally. It must be intelligible and credible to outsiders while not compromising the message.
Read Don’s blog lately? Don posts weekly on THE CHIEF END OF MAN, which can be found at www.donsweeting.com.
To see part one of this interview, look for blog entry from June 21, 2010.