People choose to turn to God or not

"As clergy, we get too caught up in doctrine, dogma and drama."

Southeast Community Presbyterian Church

210 Euclid Avenue, Lincoln Park

Southeast Community Presbyterian Church

Pastor: Deb Mitchell

Age: 58

Born: Fort Wayne, IN

Formation: Perdue University, West Lafayette, IN; Mount St. Mary’s, Los Angeles, Bethel Seminary, San Diego

Years Ordained: 4

San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?

Pastor Deb Mitchell: All of my sermons are about Jesus – but regardless of what I’m preaching about Jesus’s work, his dying on the cross and resurrection – everything comes back to the abundant grace of God.

SDR: What is your main concern as member of the clergy?

Deb Mitchell

Deb Mitchell

PM: As clergy, we get too caught up in doctrine, dogma and drama – and go off message on this wonderful God who wants to welcome us home. Because we get distracted sometimes we aren’t doing the job the best way we can do it, and fulfilling our calling the best way we can do it. And then the people in the church get caught up in the dogma and the drama, and forget to do church, which is to love God and love others. If we focus on those two things more the declining church membership would turn around. And people would be more in tune with who God created us to be.

SDR: Why did you become a minister?

PM: I was called to be a pastor when I was 18 but there weren’t any women Methodist pastors that I knew at that time in Ft. Wayne or in the state. I was discouraged from it by my clergy, because women aren’t pastors. So I went into business, and it was a terrific career. I was the national director for high speed internet for AT&T. I was wearing beautiful shoes and clothes you can’t believe. At my place of business, I ended up doing a lot of preaching…People would seek me out and when I turned 50, I said to God, what am I going to do with the rest of my life. He said, “I told you I want you to be a pastor.” So I pursued it with the Presbyterian Church. I had no problem giving my career up, though, because I have a wonderful husband who supported me, and every step I took, someone would pop up to help me along the way. Landing at this church was wonderful and lovely and exciting. We are a small urban church but I think we can do wonderful things here.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PM: I go home – I just go home. It’s my feeling that God has been doing this wonderful work since the beginning to reconcile his creation with him. I have this wonderful image from the parable of the Prodigal Son. The old man on the front porch is scanning the horizon for his son and then running down the road when he sees him. But the son has to turn back home for the father to welcome him. I think it’s up to each person and God whether they come home, but from the Presbyterian standpoint, people choose to turn to God or not. It’s not that I don’t believe in hell but I do believe that God has a way. It’s not for me to know how he judges or where people go; it is for me to make disciples and bring people home with me.

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