I started Docent to provide pastors with excellent customized research. I saw a number of my pastor friends pressed under the weight of multiple responsibilities, and they simply needed assistance with their message preparation.
Beyond my own circle of friends, I read and heard stories of pastors across the country wrestling with similar expectations. In a couple of stories, I read about pastors who had worn themselves out trying to produce compelling content for their messages each week. Still others had severe marriage woes, another had a breakdown. And then news reports several years apart detailed two pastors who had been removed from their jobs for plagiarizing the sermons of a prominent preacher.
What I saw in my pastor friends’ lives and in these stories was enormous pressure to produce excellent content that would connect with the lost and nourish the found…every week. Pastors didn’t seem to have enough time in the week to execute this high-wire act, attend to their other responsibilities, and still place the Lord and family first in their priorities.
My story intersected this widespread need…perfectly. Though reared in a mainline Protestant family and church in Houston, I showed up at Dartmouth College as a hostile skeptic of Christianity. I came to faith at the end of my freshman year, but the years of nominal belief and hostile skepticism to biblical Christianity gave me an eye and an ear for how non-Christians think and feel about the Christian faith.
Upon graduation I worked in campus ministry at Harvard for three years. Then I came home to Houston to work at Second Baptist, which prepared me for the unique experience of serving pastors of large churches.
Realizing the need for theological education, I went to RTS-Orlando for an MDiv, and then I finished a PhD in sociology at UVa, focusing on religion and culture. I co-authored Common Grounds: Conversations About Things That Matter Most to model conversations between Christ-followers and non-believers. Through Docent I am able to bring the fruits of years of rigorous training in theological and cultural studies to bear on the research needs of pastors.
Sometimes people ask me why I do this. My answer: “It’s the phone calls and emails--sometimes emotional emails--from pastors thanking me for what Docent has enabled them to do.” What is that exactly? They tell me that Docent helps them keep their sanity, have more time with their families, have better resources and information at their fingertips, and have an ally in creatively bearing some of the pressure.