Pastor’s Corner: John Tanner
Pastor’s Corner: John Tanner
Lead Pastor, Cove Church
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in the Shoals area. My wife Kathy and I have been married for almost 29 years. After graduating from the University of North Alabama and Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, I served churches in Birmingham and Anniston. In 1996, we moved to Huntsville to plant a new church in the then fledgling community of Hampton Cove. We have two daughters, Jordan (24) lives in Birmingham and Lauren (20) is a student at Auburn University. It has been my unique privilege to serve as a Pastor in the same congregation and community now for almost 20 years.
What motivates you to do what you do?
The short answer is that I love seeing life change happen. More specifically, after nearly 30 years of ministry, I still love the process of researching, crafting and delivering messages. I also enjoy the holy privilege of walking with families through some of the highest and lowest moments of their lives. Admittedly, some of the other parts of my job can be frustrating and draining. But the good outweighs the bad. In hindsight I can see that the first 20 years of my ministry were primarily motivated by the desire to build a great church. These days I find myself motivated more by opportunities to leverage the resources of the church to benefit other local and global Kingdom initiatives. I’m learning that I have to be careful not to neglect the health and vitality of our local church, hence undermining its ability to invest in such projects outside our walls.
What is God speaking to you right now?
That’s a great question! My small group just finished a study on “The Power of a Whisper” by Bill Hybels. The subtitle of the book is “Hearing God’s voice and having the guts to do something about it.” A case could be made that this is the very essence of discipleship. There have been times in my life when God seemed silent. Other times His voice has been faint and hard to make out. This is one of those seasons when God seems to be practically shouting instructions in my ear. These promptings have led to some fresh spiritual fruit in our ministry. Thrive, a new gathering for women, a Friday morning men’s gathering, and a recent teaching series on spiritual warfare are a few examples of initiatives that were inspired by promptings from the Holy Spirit. There are some other things He is speaking to me right now that are not quite ready for print. Maybe next time.
What does unity in our city mean to you?
I believe it begins with the Church (the big “C” church). It begins when we see the Kingdom of God is much bigger than our particular stream or our own local church. This is hard for me, because I’m very passionate about my local church. But we have to see that our enemy, or the competition, is not each other. It’s the kingdom of darkness. The rising tide of spiritual awakening will float all boats. History has proven that. We should not be afraid of one another’s success. We should be praying for it.
Unity in our city also must include racial reconciliation. While the last half of the 20th century witnessed great progress, our city is still segregated in many ways. No mandate of the federal government can heal this wound, because it is spiritual in nature. Nationally, tension around racial issues seems to be growing at an alarming rate. God has been convicting me lately that I need to do more to lead the way in this area.
Leonard Sweet said, “Jesus cried twice. Once over a person (Lazarus) and once over a place (Jerusalem). Jesus loved a city enough to cry over it. Jesus loved a zip code enough to cry over it. Do you love your zip code enough to cry over it?”
As pastors, we need to do a better job of teaching our people to love our city.
Prayer for the City:
Father, I pray you will redeem, restore, and prosper Huntsville. I know you love this city. Teach us to love it as you love it. I pray for revival in our churches and spiritual awakening in our communities. I pray this generation will witness drastic reductions in the divorce, crime, abortions, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and anything else that breaks your heart. I pray for racial reconciliation and harmony. I pray we will see many new churches planted and existing churches renewed to full vitality. I pray for your kingdom to come in Huntsville as it is in heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.