Pulpit Updates

Check back over the next few weeks as we get to know the Newsom family better, learn more about Les and hear about the decision making process that led to his nomination from our Pulpit Nominating Committee.

WEEK 6: Session Q&A

q&a – Whitney Reese & Elders: Doug Sanford, Toby Griggs, Lee Tyner, Ward Toler, Steve Redding & Clay Dabbs

Q1: How long have you known Les?
Clay: I met Les sometime in the early nineties at a youth function at FPC Clarksdale. I got to know him when he moved to RUF-Ole Miss around my senior year.
Doug: 20 years!
Toby: Les was preaching the first time Patti and I visited the church. Maybe 2000 or 2001.
Steve: About 5 yearsWard: Being an RUF Ole Miss “alum” I always kept up with who the RUF Ole Miss campus ministers were even after I graduated so I knew of Les when he came to Oxford. I can’t remember when I met him personally…I suppose it was 8 years ago when we moved to Oxford.
Lee: Since at least 1999, when both of our families moved to Oxford within about six months.

Q2: What are some strengths you think Les is bringing to the session?
Clay: Organization; vision; understanding the culture around us
Steve: Youth and long term vision for a large church.
Lee: New perspective. A lot of experience leading leaders. Les is also a consumer of a lot of what is being said and written in the evangelical world, and he sifts it for things that challenge us and help us.

Q3: What are you most excited about for Curt in his new role?
Doug: As we grow we must stay connected. Curt is uniquely gifted in this respect, not only in sharing the the beauty of growth in transparency but living it as well.
Ward: That Curt gets to keep on doing what he is so excellent at – and that is shepherding the members of Christ Pres and nonmembers in our Oxford community.
Toby: I think the church will have a new sail set. I truly believe that his call and his gifts will merge in his new role. It will not be work to him, only following close with the Lord.

Q4: We discussed this during our last congregational meeting (click here for audio from that meeting), but can you outline again what the transition will look like?
Clay: Curt will transition to his new role after Easter Sunday. For most of the congregation, this means that his primary role as the every Sunday preacher will end after Easter Sunday. He will certainly preach again at CPC, but this Easter Sunday will be his last Sunday as the regular preacher. If called, Les will start on July 1. In the meantime, Ed Hartman will help guide us through the transition period by preaching some (not all Sundays) and advising the Session and staff. Ed is an experienced pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson and has advised numerous sessions throughout the PCA.

Q5: If Curt had a tagline, what would it be?
Lee: That’s a tough one. So many choices. I think it would be a paraphrase of Ephesians 3:20 — “[He] is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” The Curt analogue for that verse is: “We are raising tomatoes when we could be raising Lazarus!”
Ward: The best fertilizer is a gardeners shadow.
Clay: Love Jesus, love people. Other Curt sayings: “if you are eating a bike, you have to start one bolt at a time”, “I have seen a four lane road”, “I’ve already told you more than I know”
Steve: Live like a believer, love the socks off everyone you see!

Q6: Any great practical jokes you can tell us about that you’ve pulled on Curt? Should Les be worried too?
Doug: The greatest joke was when all the little kids at the “welcome back” ice cream social were given t-shirts with Curt’s pic and some reference to his upcoming colonoscopy….Les beware
Ward: Lee Tyner and Johnny Barrett have many … one that comes to mind is the “Colonoscopies-R-Good” t-shirts that they got a number of kids to wear at an ice cream social back to school event as an encouragement for Curt to get the procedure.
Lee: Again, so many choices. Either the “Best Christmas Ever” rap video about Curt that we commissioned by the King Kobraz (remember “Feed Moncrief”?) or the “colonoscopy” series of jokes, all designed to pressure Curt to get a colonoscopy. Turns out he had several polyps, proving that humor saves lives. Les should be very worried.

What does looking like the kingdom mean to you?
Clay: It means being intentional about making CPC look like the Oxford/Lafayette community. This requires intentionality by the entire congregation and forces us to confront blind spots we have had in the past. We want to spread Christ’s love to the entire community.
Lee: That’s a great question. Scripture is clear that the ground is level at the foot of the cross, and that the world’s hierarchy and social structures are a part of the fall that Jesus is unwinding in redemption. So I hope and pray that we can realize some of that redemptive work in Oxford and at Christ Pres.
Doug: We are called to be connected…branches to a vine, bricks in a building, parts of one body with Christ as the head..fallen redeemed sinners leaning on and loving on one another!


Random Questions of the Week:

Who’s the funniest person in Session meetings?
Clay: Ward Toler
Doug: JB would take that prize
Toby: JB
Ward: Johnny Barrett
Steve: Ward
Lee: I would have to say Johnny, but every now and them Toby really comes through.

What’s your favorite Shepherding group meal?
Clay: Breakfast for supper
Doug: SG meal….the Miconi Italian feast…we had a couple of memorable ones!
Toby: I’m telling you, Lillian Childress makes all kinds of desserts that just melt in your mouth.
Ward: Breakfast for supper
Steve: KFC
Lee: Breakfast for supper

What Olympic Event would you pay money to see Curt do? 
Clay: 100m sprint (he was very fast as a younger man)
Doug: Pairs figure skating would certainly be interesting….
Toby: I suspect if you back up 30 years, young CP3 had game. I think probably decathlon.
Ward: Curling because it looks like something he could do once he had some practice and because I could see him obsessively studying the rules and strategies of the game.
Steve: 100 dash!!!
Lee: It’s in the Summer Olympics, but rhythmic gymnastics

Pulpit Updates

Check back over the next few weeks as we get to know the Newsom family better, learn more about Les and hear about the decision making process that led to his nomination from our Pulpit Nominating Committee.

WEEK 5: Pulpit Nominating Committee Q&A

q&a – Whitney Reese & PNC: Lee Tyner, Terri Sanford, Jill Bell, Gray Flora, George Keenan, Wayne Irby, Meg Barefoot, Lisa Ewell, Muwon Kroeger and Clay Dabbs

Q1: What is the first thing you did as a team to get started with the pulpit nominating process?
Lee: Three main things: We got to know each other (one person shared his or her testimony each week), we studied scripture about the qualifications for an elder and Paul’s counsel to Timothy about how to be an effective minister of the Gospel, and we did a lot of work aimed at understanding what we need at this point in the life of our church in light of our changing size, our current staff, including Curt’s strengths, and the work we have done over the last few years about church vision.
Terri: We studied scripture to see what it had to say about godly leaders and prayed for wisdom and unity. We did this probably for the first month. We put together a form with five buckets without looking at any candidate names.
Wayne: There was a strong temptation to jump in and start talking about possible candidates. Instead, for the first few weeks, we took the time to get to know each other through our Christian testimony and the story of how each family landed at Christ Pres. During this time, we also studied several chunks of scripture relating to qualifications of a church leader. I remember wondering if we were ever going to talk names, but we took the time to identify what we were looking for in a pastor: a godly preacher leader. And how to take that big picture and measure it in an organized and effective way.
Lisa: We started by looking at Scripture passages to see what the biblical, non-negotiable qualities of a pastor are.

Q2: Name one thing you learned about Les that you didn’t already know.
Gray: How much he had read and studied organizational health.
Jill: Les has a large amount of experience with racial reconciliation and working with different races and socioeconomic classes.
Lisa: I knew Les as the RUF minister at Ole Miss (so I knew what a gifted preacher he was), and I knew he had changed jobs to be the area coordinator. I never really considered what he did in that role. It was interesting to hear how much counseling and shepherding he has done for the RUF ministers, their families and the RUF interns. His role as area coordinator also required a great deal of staff organization and leadership. From the beginning the pulpit committee had summarized what we were looking for as a godly preacher leader, and it was surprising to me how much Les’ prior jobs have prepared him to fill what we are looking for in the pastor position at CPC.
George: How well organized he was.
Clay: I’ve known Les for a long time. He officiated my wedding. But I did not realize how much time he spent ministering with a diverse group of people. I had a tendency to think of RUF as looking like the students that come to Christ Pres but in reality, it is probably the most diverse ministry in the PCA.

Q3: How did you evaluate candidates? Did you have a list of qualities you were looking for? 

Lee: Based upon our study of scripture, CPC’s vision, and input from the session, we developed an evaluation tool or grid before we considered or discussed any candidates. We also spent a lot of time discussing preaching and what constitutes good preaching. We wanted to ensure that we were not evaluating preaching based upon subjective preferences. So we also developed a preaching evaluation tool or form that we used when we listened to sermons.
Lisa: We evaluated candidates by developing a grid with 5 ‘buckets’: personal piety; confessional; preaching the whole counsel of God; vision, leadership and organizational health; and lastly their ‘fit’ into our culture here in Oxford, Mississippi, as a unique body of believers desiring to look like the Kingdom.
Clay: We had “buckets.” If there is one term that I will remember from this process, it is “buckets.” We created a grid with five “buckets” and more specific qualities under each bucket. We also created a sermon evaluation form that helped us translate a sermon into a numerical score and allowed us to compare different preachers and attempt to evaluate preaching based on objective criteria. The summary of the grid is this: Godly Preacher Leader.

Q4: Many of us have heard Les teach Sunday School. How were his sermons you heard different?
Muwon: Les is more Word saturated and more serious when he preaches a sermon.
Gray: They are definitely more earnest and formal, but maintain his knack for engaging an audience.
Jill: His sermons were much more formal and orderly than his Sunday School lessons.
Wayne: In listening to Les preach, I was most impressed by his dedication to scripture. For winter session Sunday School, Les has always tackled a topic. A topical Sunday School is very different from preaching through a book of the Bible. As a committee, we listened to several of Les’ sermons and agreed that he is a gifted preacher. Les’ preaching became a measuring stick of sorts for us.
Meg: I love his Sunday School teaching but love hearing him preach from a passage of scripture. He teaches the passage in a way that I have a clear understanding of the text, puts it in the redemptive context and brings encouragement and great application.

Q5: Name something you learned about another Pulpit Committee member that you didn’t already know.
George: Muwon is a very smart lady.
Lee: I enjoyed getting to know everyone better. I love hearing other people’s stories of God’s faithfulness and redemption.
Terri: That Muwon came to the States when she was 8. Right? Still not sure I learned it.
Gray: Lee Tyner had never seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Muwon: Gray Flora would rather be a stay-home dad then work outside the home. He absolutely loves being a dad!
Clay: Muwon Kroeger designed nuclear power plants in California.

Q6: Was Les the first candidate you contacted? When did he officially become a “candidate”?
Lisa: Les was recommended to us by many people in our congregation and from others who know our church well, but when we asked him early in the process, he did not want to be a candidate. For about five months we continued our search without considering him as a candidate. He officially became a candidate in November (interviewed early December). In God’s perfect timing, He had been working in Les to prepare him for something new and unexpected, and also it was at a time when the pulpit committee was prepared to fully and fairly evaluate him.
Lee: Although Les was nominated by several people, he declined to be a candidate early on. Before we ever began considering Les, we reviewed, at some level, about fifty candidates. About half of those candidates were nominated by members or friends of the church or by denominational leaders who know CPC. The other half were candidates who responded to our posting the position. Of those fifty, we reached out to at least seven before the committee began serious discussions with Les.
Terri: Les was not the first candidate that we contacted. We contacted at least six before we ever talked to Les and let them know that we were looking at them. They were very interested.

What gave you the most grey hairs during this process? What did you enjoy the most?
Jill: Finding the time to listen to sermons was a challenge with three small children and a job. What I enjoyed most was being with other CPC members and seeing how many Godly men are out there in PCA ministering.
Lee: I enjoyed the process. But our prayer was that we would go about it in a way that encouraged our church, encouraged other churches, and encouraged ministers of the Gospel who were potential candidates. That is still my prayer.
Wayne: The grey hair was the prep work. I was just ready to jump in and listen to sermons. Looking back, I think if we moved too quickly, I would have been overwhelmed. Developing sermon evaluation forms is not fun, but it is a valuable tool when you need to listen to 15-20 sermons. The value of the process is not only the listening to a sermon, but communicating measurable qualities back to the committee. The most enjoyable part of the process is watching the committee come together. Not everyone got to the same place at the same time, but we all got there!
Gray: I am pretty bald so I cannot say that the process had any effect on me follicly. I think the weight of the importance of what we are doing was very taxing. Getting to know all the other members and thinking about CPC’s bright future.
Lisa: The process seemed to move at a snail’s pace at times. I most enjoyed listening to so many good sermons from many different preachers!! It was very encouraging to know God’s Word is being preached faithfully and powerfully at many churches.

Q8: What are you most excited about going forward?
Gray: Too much to quantify.
Muwon: I’m excited about how God is going to continue to guide and lead CPC with the leadership of Pastors Curt and Les! They bring gifts that complement each other so well.
Lee: I am excited to see how God will use CPC in the coming days. Oxford needs a home for those who have found hope in Christ and a place where that hope is offered to all. I believe the Spirit is at work.
Terri: I am most excited about the wonderful team that Curt Presley and Les Newsom will make to reach Oxford and the world with the gospel and encouraging all of us to press on.
George: How God will make this an easy transition for the church.
Meg: Everything! Lots of changes but excited to see what God is going to do at Christ Pres.

Random Questions of the Week:

Knowing you listened to a lot of sermons online, name the weirdest place you listened to a sermon during this process.
Meg: Hmm, pretty much anytime I was alone! In the bed, car, treadmill, work – you name it!!
Gray: Grocery store.
Lee: On the Interstate in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina while traveling to see my parents in Beech Mountain, North Carolina.
Terri: I would listen to sermons with earphones soaking in the bathtub.
Wayne: The best was on the porch swing. You can’t beat a porch in the fall.

What is the most disgusting food you have ever eaten?
Clay: When I was a kid, I picked up a green olive at a wedding reception and thought it was a juicy, green grape. I took a big bite and I haven’t eaten olives since. I have no intention of ever eating olives.
Muwon: When I was living in Korea as a young person I ate a lot of Korean street food made with silkworm pupae. At the time I thought it was absolutely delicious even as I wondered, “Is this really a bug I’m eating?” When I visited Korea as an adult & had an opportunity to eat it again, I just could not bring myself up to it!
Lee: No contest: boiled chitterlings with barbeque sauce.
Terri: Bacon wrapped Liver. YUK
Gray: Something with mayo (by accident).
Meg: I’m not a picky eater and honestly can’t remember! Brett would probably say something I cooked. Lisa: Not disgusting, but I have eaten kangaroo.

What song would you pay money to never hear again?
Terri: Its a small world after all from Disney.
Lee: It’s a tie: McArthur Park. It’s a stupid song. “Someone left a cake out in the rain?” Pinball Wizzard. I like the song OK, but it gets stuck in my head. I don’t need that.
Gray: Anything in the pop country genre.
Clay: Tie: Macarena or Don’t worry, be happy. Just typing the titles gets them both stuck in my head.
Meg: Feliz Navidad
Muwon: Grandma Got Run Over by the Reindeer – I don’t even know it’s proper title. Horrible song.

Pulpit Updates

Check back over the next few weeks as we get to know the Newsom family better, learn more about Les and hear about the decision making process that led to his nomination from our Pulpit Nominating Committee.


q&a – Brian Sorgenfrei, Caroline Newsom & Whitney Reese

Q1: How do you know Les? Where did you meet? How long have you known him?
Brian: Les came walking into my dorm room in August of 1999 to welcome my roommate and I to Ole Miss and invite us to RUF. So I have known Les for almost 20 years. He was my campus minister in college and then my area coordinator. Les has been a steady pastor in my life over the years and has become a very good friend.

Q2: What makes him such a good friend/mentor/confidant/dad?
Caroline: The wisdom he has given to me over the past couple of years in high school and middle school is what makes him such a great father.
Brian: Les is a consistent encouragement in my life. He is loyal and is okay wading into the mess of your life….and he’s pretty fun to be around and always makes you feel wanted and included.

Q3: How has he impacted/influenced your life?
Brian: This is hard to summarize, because Les is by far one of the most influential men in my life. He taught me the gospel and applied it to my life probably more than any other single individual. I can still vividly remember some moments in college sitting in freshman bible study, or in Farley hall on a Wednesday night, and through Les’s teaching seeing my sin AND the grace of Jesus at the same time in a way I had never before seen. That has been a consistent theme and impact Les has had on my life and my family. Both in his actions and words, Les has communicated to me again and again that the Lord is one of tremendous grace. Les’s demeanor, his friendship and his teaching have helped me believe that at the heart of Christianity is Joy.
Les also gave us hope that we could all marry up in the world. I mean…Les married Ginger!

Caroline: Every hardship I have gone through in life, my father has been there. He’s been there to help me when my best friends turn on me and when boys have broken my heart. Even when he is miles away, he will always let me call him. He has always made sure that I know who I am. He has been the father that I wish everyone could have.

Q4: If Les had a tagline, what would it be?
Brian: RUF since 1994. One Trick Pony. We can do this, we’re big pants people.

Caroline: “Be sure that you know who you are”

Q5: Tell us about a memorable or funny memory of you & Les.
Caroline: It’s crazy that I remember this, but when I was two years old my dad and I were driving around in his car and I don’t know what made me do it, but while we were at a stop light I opened the car door and tried to get out – he was so scared for me. The lady in the car behind us yelled at us!

Q6: What sort of conversation topics get Les excited whenever y’all talk?
Brian: Philosophy of Ministry – whatever he is “into” at that moment in his life (good book, movie, photography, tv show), a hilarious story, opportunities for ministry. He also gets very excited when he is talking about Oxford/Ole Miss and why people should love it.

Caroline: He gets very excited when we talk about new music or any good music.

Q7: How do you think Les will thrive in the Lead Pastor role at CPC?
Caroline: I believe that he has always been a wonderful leader to our family, so I am very excited to see how he thrives at being a leader in the church.

Brian: Les will thrive as he has done as campus minister and area coordinator.  He will teach the Bible clearly and Christocentrically with application to the heart.  I think Les will thrive in casting vision, and motivating Christ Pres with the gospel to love well. I think Les will lead with humility, help us see our blind spots, and lead with repentance so that people will continue to believe that Jesus and His people are a place where it’s ok to not be ok.

I also think Les will be a gigantic supporter of RUF Ole Miss 🙂


Random Questions of the Week:

Can you hula hoop?
Brian: Not well at all, short people have an advantage

Caroline: Yes

What is the weirdest thing you have seen Les eat?
Caroline: Alligator

Brian: Les has become quite the foodie actually. He will try just about anything.

How long was the last phone call you & Les had?
Brian: I’m guessing 10 minutes…more of a face to face or texting relationship…

Caroline: A couple of minutes – he was just checking to see how one of my tests had gone