top of page


Relating well with others,
regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, or social status



One of my personal and professional core values is loving relationships. See my Core Values and Vision Statement.


Pursuing and building meaningful and loving relationships is an eternal investment of one's time, talents, energies, and resources because it fulfills what Jesus taught when he exhorted his disciples to "lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven" (Matt 6:20 ESV). Other than our own selves, kingdom relationships are the only tangible thing that we can take with us from this earth when Jesus comes again. Relationships take effort and time, as they are built on the backs of (1) shared experiences and (2) mutual self-disclosure grounded in trust that result in socio-emotional bonding. The below evidence seek to demonstrate my effort to have such with the churches that I pastor.

One of my experiences that have helped me become more competent in building the core qualities of Relationship and Leadership was the Coaches Training Program that I did through the Georgia-Cumberland Conference's with Cypress River from 2012 to 2013. Below is a group picture of my cohort.

Cypress River Coaches Training Program Certificate

A. Participates Actively in Church Life

Presence ministry is vital for the creation of opportunities for shared experiences with others. I believe that it is important for the pastor-teacher to live his/her life alongside the members of the church. For this reason, I strive to be as present as possible in the life of my churches, giving rise to shared experiences with them. I and my family contribute to and enjoy fellowship meals nearly every Sabbath, participate and lead out in church social activities (such as Valentine's banquets, Christmas parties, Fall festivals, game nights, etc.), teach and lead midweek prayer meetings (in English and Spanish), and attend or lead most Sabbath afternoon workshops, evening vespers programs, and other special events and programs put on by my churches.

The Table and the Hispanic members of the Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church have WhatsApp chat groups that they utilize to keep connected throughout the week, especially between weekends. I downloaded the WhatsApp on my phone and actively participate in these groups.

I also involve myself in key life events that families in my church have, such as having a baby or adopting a child(ren) through baby/child dedications, health challenges through home and hospital visitations, marriages through pre-marital/marital counseling and weddings (see subsection F), purchasing a new house through home blessings, and loss and bereavement through funerals and memorial services.

Funeral of J. Raphael Sylvester Henry (Hiram Seventh-day Adventist Church)

Memorial Service of Karen Faulkner Fergusen (Lakeview Seventh-day Adventist Church)

"Thank You" Card from Lynn Collins Family (Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church)

Memorial Service of J. Michael Cook (Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church

Funeral of James (Jim) Madison Scott (Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church)

Funeral of Mary Frank (Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church)

B. Skilled in Conflict Resolution

Conflicts are inevitable when a group of sinners, such as the church, gathers together. For this reason, it is paramount for the pastor-teacher to be able to work through church conflicts in a skilled way that help to create a way forward to reconciliation and resolution. When I am confronted with the need to address a church conflict, I always turn to trusted persons for help—often other pastors, my ministry mentor, and/or my ministerial director. One of the main tools I use is a resource I received from PREPARE/ENRICH. While it is intended use is for conflict resolution in marriage and family contexts, it is also advantageous in wider relational contexts. I have discovered through experience the value of its ten steps for conflict resolution, six sets for seeking forgiveness, and six steps for granting forgiveness in my own family and in the church.

Conflict Resolution Worksheet (PREPARE/ENRICH)

I have also used the acronym "DEAR MAN" in situations that necessitate confrontation.​

Describe the problem in a non-judgmental way (i.e., objective facts v. subjective emotions).
Express feelings regarding the issue and its impact (e.g., “I am feeling …”).
Assert by asking clearly (i.e., concretely and specifically) for what one needs/wants or like to see done.
Reward—identify what is in it for the other person and share the benefit with him/her.
Mindful—stay focused on the goal(s); don’t allow the conversion to get off track with tangents and other distractions.
Appear Confident even when one doesn't feel like doing so by maintaining eye contact and being aware of one's own body language and facial expressions.
Negotiate a compromised solution, involving the other person in the problem-solving process (e.g., “what do you think might work?”).

The best way I know how to demonstrate this skill is to share a story of a major social conflict that I discovered within my first month of pastoring the Hiram Seventh-day Adventist Church. I soon noticed relational tension between three different women in the church by hurtful comments and negative facial expressions that they exchanged. I approached one of them privately with the head elder, asking about the cause of their conflict. She told me that, the other two women were trying to steal away her romantic interest, which so happened to be one of the unmarried deacons of the church. She stated that she had seen both of them "flirting" with him on and off.

Soon after I arranged an intervention meeting with the three women and the head elder to discuss openly the issues between the women. At the beginning of the meeting following an opening prayer, there was a lot of issuing of accusations back and forth that I had to referee. After the elder and I worked to establish a more peaceable atmosphere, we opened the conversation for them to share their various perspectives of the situation one at a time. After the first round of sharing and a few motivational interviewing questions, a light bulb turned on in my mind concerning what the issue was. None of the women were trying to ruin the others' romantic interests. The real problem was that the deacon had secretly been dating all three women at the same time and lying about it! When I suggested this as the probable cause of their tension, the light bulb came on in their minds as well. Their countenances changed, and they began apologizing to one another for accusing one another of ill will. They soon shared empathy for one another, as each one of them was experiencing the exact same situation. We discussed some possible ways forward in dealing with this deacon's misbehavior. The meeting concluded with united prayer after we settled upon a jointly formed plan. Each of the women independently approached the deacon over the following week to end their romantic relationships with him on account of his unfaithfulness.

In the next week, I arranged a meeting with the deacon at his place of work (he managed a halfway house for a nonprofit organization). We prayed together and I gently raised the matter with him and how his poor choices had created hardship for our church. With a shame-ridden downturned face, he confessed what he had done and expressed an attitude of both repentance and restitution. He committed to making apologies to the three women for his misbehavior and the tension it had created among them. We prayed together. Before leaving, I tactfully dialogued with him about how his misbehavior had broken the sacred trust of leadership in our church, which in many situations would be grounds for removal from church office. However, his voluntary repentance led me to want to give him a second chance if he committed to repairing that breach by walking according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh anymore. He promised to do so.

However, the next week I received a frantic phone call on the church's phone from the owner of the halfway house that the deacon managed. She yelled at and threatened me that she was going to call the police on the church take us to court for allowing a perverse and predatory man to serve as a leader in our church. I responded with a steady, soothing voice that helped to settle her down. I asked for her to share with me to what she was referring. More calmly then, she informed me that she was doing a normal check-up on the operations of one of her halfway houses. To her dismay, she discovered the deacon in the office with one of the residents in the act of sexual intercourse. After hearing this appalling story, I apologized for her traumatic experience. I assured her that I would reach out to the deacon and handle the situation ecclesiastically. I encouraged her to file an incident report with the local police department and follow their advice from that point on how to handle the situation in the legal system. She thanked me for my kindness in the midst of her anger. I ended the call peaceably, telling her to reach out to me again if I can help her any further.

I immediately reached out to my regional ministerial director; he recommended meeting with the deacon to lead him redemptively to confession and repentance. He also stated that I should encourage the deacon to resign from his church office. Following this wise counsel, I tried to make contact with the deacon but he evaded my phone calls and visitation attempts for the next couple of weeks. I finally caught him home one day and asked to speak with him about the situation that occurred at the halfway house. He denied that the whole incident happened and gave me an alibi that was convoluted and contradictory to the information I had gathered from follow-up calls with the halfway house owner. I could tell in his eyes and face that he was not being honest with me. I plead with him that he would have a repentant attitude, but he continued insisting that there was no need because he had done nothing wrong. I labored with him, attempting to redeem him from his error. Nevertheless, realizing that the ideal way forward was not going to be possible due to his resistance, I concluded the visit by praying with him and asking him to submit to the church board a resignation from the office of deacon. He declined to do this. I gave him some time to change his mind but that was the last day I or the church ever saw or heard from the deacon again. He completely disappeared off the radar, and we could not make contact with him, though we made several attempts.

My regional ministerial director suggested I take the matter to the elders and discuss the option of church discipline because of the deacon's unrepentance. After discussing the situation with the elders, they all prayerfully agreed to recommend for the church board to consider an ecclesial disciplinary action. The church board, then, recommended to the church in business meeting the removal of that deacon from office and membership (i.e., disfellowship) due to his unrepentant spirit manifested in his resistance and disappearance and the reproach brought upon the church in the community as a result of his sin. With sadness, the church unanimously took that action. While this decision was a heavy and hard one for us to make, we felt convicted that we all had done the right thing. I hope that the deacon found his way back to Jesus.

Although I was disappointed with this conflict resolution because the deacon refused the grace and redemption offered him, I was happy that the relationships of the three women that he had hurt were fully restored. We could then refocus the church's attention on pursuing its mission ... well, until another major conflict developed, sidelining the church's ministry once again. But, that is a story for another time.

C. Utilizes Cultural Intelligence

My time in pastoral ministry has emersed me in the worlds of a variety of cultures. During my pastorate in the region of Georgia west of Atlanta, I led the Hiram Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was composed of members who were predominately first- or second-generation immigrants, coming from various Caribbean islands (about 80%). Concurrently, I served as the associate pastor for children, youth, and young adults at the Lakeview Seventh-day Adventist Church, which was multi-cultural, consisting of members who were Philipino/a, eastern European, Russian, African, Caribbean, Hispanic, Black American, and Anglo-American. Currently, I pastor the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church, a predominantly Anglo-American church with a few representatives of other cultural groups, along with the Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is made up of three cultural groups that speak three different languages—(American) English, Spanish, and Korean.
















One of the ways that I have adjusted my pastoral ministry so that I can reach all the cultural groups in the Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church was to work to regain fluency to read, write, speak, and understand the Spanish language. In 2008–2009, I spent a year abroad in Argentina, studying Spanish as part of the Adventist Colleges Abroad (ACA) program. I returned fully fluent in Spanish. Unfortunately, with the passing years of non-use, I largely lost that ability. However, with study, practice, and spending time with my Spanish-speaking members, I have recouped much of what I lost. I still do not consider myself fully fluent, but I continue pressing toward that goal. Since coming to pastor this church, I have done weddings, baby dedications, baptisms, sermons, and even committee meetings in Spanish. I have planned and held whole worship services in Spanish, and even sang special music in Spanish. Every Wednesday night, I lead and teach the prayer meeting for the Hispanic group in Spanish on ZOOM.

D. Listens Empathetically and Communicates Effectively

When interacting interpersonal with my church members, I do my best to give them my complete attention and practice what has been called active or reflective listening. To easily remember how to practice this skill, I use a helpful acronym.

A good listener listens with his/her EAR.

Expression—utilize body language, facial expression, and short interjections (e.g., "uh huh," "yeah," "wow," etc.) to help the speaker know one is really listening and engaging with what is being spoken.

Attention—keep attention on the speaker and don't allow the mind to wander to other things (e.g., don't formulate a response in one's mind while the speaker is talking).

Response—respond in a way that reflects an understanding of what was spoken (e.g., paraphrasing, asking clarifying questions, etc.), validates the speaker's feelings and perspectives, and addresses the content of the speaker's message.

To communicate well interpersonal with my church members, I try to avoid creating roadblocks to communication (e.g., evaluating, advising, etc.), use "I" statements, and practice other helpful skills recommended in Robert Bolton's valuable and practical book, People Skills: How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others, and Resolve Conflicts (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1979). 

As noted in the Management (subsection H) section of this portfolio, I use a variety of technologies to communicate effectively and efficiently with my churches, such as ...


I use printed announcements in the weekly Sabbath worship bulletins to communicate important information to my churches who read them.


The churches' websites are also helpful resources for communicating with members, but mostly with members of the churches' respective communities.

Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church Website

Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church Website


To view an archive of recent e-letters and announcements that I regularly send to my churches, click here. I use a web-based platform called MailChimp to create these types of communication. To communicate electronically with my church leaders day-to-day, I send standard e-mails through my conference e-mail account,


I utilize a web-based platform called CallingPost to send phone and text messages to my congregations quickly and efficiently, especially those who do not use communication technologies, such as e-mail, social media, and text messaging.

Social Media

Social media has become an important modern means of communication, and many of my members regularly check their various social media profiles. So, I primarily use our church Facebook pages to communicate with those who prefer that form of communication.

Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church Facebook Page

Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church Facebook Page

The Table and the Hispanic members of the Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church have WhatsApp chat groups that they utilize to keep connected throughout the week, especially between weekends. I downloaded the WhatsApp on my phone and actively participate in these groups.

E. Effective in Spiritual Care and Mental Health Screening

During my time studying at Southern Adventist University, I completed a Minor in Psychology that required eighteen credit hours of classes in psychology, different kinds (e.g., individual, pre-marital/marital, family, group, etc.) and modalities (cognitive-behavioral, educational, family systems, psychodynamic, Rogerian, etc.) of counseling.

To become better equipped to offer care to individuals struggling with suicidal ideation and/or planning, I did some continuing education credits (CEUs) in March of 2013 with the Suicide Prevention Resource Center on the subject of "Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk: Core Competencies for Mental Health Professionals." I learned how to assess suicide risk and create a suicide prevention safety plan with individuals who come to me indicating that they are having suicidal thoughts.

CEUs Certificate


Additionally, I have used the following document for finding counseling and mental health resources in the area of Knoxville, Tennessee, to which I can refer people after I have been the "first responder" for them.

Knoxville Counseling and Mental Health Resource Guide


While the Seventh-day Adventist Church has had a strong emphasis on health and wellbeing, its members have often been skeptical of psychology and the need for giving attention to mental health concerns. There are many who have optimal physical health but are crippled by unrecognized mental health disorders. Others, who are are of their challenges find it difficult to locate affordable and accessible treatment options. This is why I advocate a holistic approach to health that includes spirit, body, and mind. One example of this advocacy for mental health is the community health fair that we organized on the campus of the Hiram Seventh-day Adventist Church. In addition to having booths that addressed dietary concerns, physical exercise and fitness, etc., we had a booth dedicated to promoting good spiritual and mental health. My wife conducted anxiety and depression screenings and stress tests and referred those who ranked high on their screeners to treatment resources in the community. I met with fair-goers for prayer and offered them Bible study lessons and pastoral counseling.

F. Competent in Family Dynamics

To better equip me for doing pre-marital and marital counseling, I have become certified as a PREPARE/ENRICH facilitator.

Certified PREPARE/ENRICH Facilitator Certificate

My wife and I held a several-session Relationship Enrichment Seminar for the community and church at the Hiram Seventh-day Adventist Church. We presented relationship research and addressed issues, such as dating and courtship, common marital problems and solutions, gender differences, conflict resolution, sexuality, etc.

Relationship Enrichment Seminar Flyers 1

Relationship Enrichment Seminar Flyers 2


I spoke on men's issues for a Men's Ministries Program and presented on healthy marriage dynamics for a Family Ministries Program at the Lakeview Seventh-day Adventist Church.

"Being a Godly Man" Flyer & Bulletin

Family Life Day Flyer


I have done pre-marital, marital, and family counseling throughout my pastoral ministry and have helped couples get married, stay together instead of divorce, and work through challenging family dynamics. As of December 2021/January 2022, I am counseling with a married couple that is on the brink of divorce.

Wedding of Myrna Dabel and Sterling Scales

Wedding Program

"Thank You" Card from Sterling & Myrna

Wedding of Nara Bautista and Olvin Sierra                                                     Wedding of Kari Hester and Tyler Irvine

Wedding Invitation

G. Loves and Forgives People Unconditionally

One of my personal and professional core values is reckless grace. See Core Values.

Loving people are easy to love; however, not everyone in the church behaves in a loving way and those that do so do not always behave that way. This means that relationships in the church require a great deal of grace, mercy, longsuffering, patience, and forgiveness.

One of the ways I try to offer love and forgiveness to people is by assuming goodwill. This helps me to reinterpret hurtful behavior toward me as stemming from some personal habit, hang up, or hurt in their own life rather than an attempt to do me harm. Hurt people hurt people; hurtful behavior often arranges opportunities for me to come alongside them on their journey and help them to find healing or, at the least, to lead them closer to it. Nevertheless, sometimes the sinful "flesh" gets the better of someone and tempts them to do an intentionally hurtful action instead of walking according to the Spirit. After a time for prayer and clear reflection, I approach that person with the conflict resolution skills specified above to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with that person.

H. Hospitable 

The Bible, especially the Old Testament, issues calls for God's people to be hospitable, welcoming, and inviting. When I pastored in the area of Atlanta, Georgia, some time ago, my wife and I frequently invited church members over for food and fellowship. For example, one Sunday morning, I held the regular monthly meeting of the elders at the Hiram Seventh-day Adventist Church at my home and my wife cooked them a pancake breakfast. At a later time, my wife and I held a sundown vespers and guys' sleepover at our house on a Saturday night for the teenage boys of our church and the male youth leaders for extra supervision. This was an awesome time of bonding through appropriate video and board games, party snacks, and movies late into the night.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to be quite as hospitable during my present pastorate in the area of Knoxville, Tennesse, due to a number of factors. First, for the first eight months of this pastorate, I commuted from Cleveland, Tennesse, staying with relatives until our home was finished being built. During that same period, my wife remained in Berrien Springs, Michigan, with our belongings, awaiting the big move. Second, our house was completed, and we closed on it during the last week of February of 2020. Only two weeks later, in mid-March of 2020, the United States government declared us to be in a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and issued legislation for required shutdowns and shelter-in-place mandates. Sadly, because of the continuing nature of the pandemic and to protect my immediate family and church families, we have only been able to share our home with close family members. We look forward to a time in the future when we will be able to open our new home for church socials and other gatherings.

In the meantime, I labor with my churches' building committees and boards to make their respective campuses, facilities, atmosphere, and services more aesthetically pleasing, welcoming, inclusive, and hospitable to guests and their communities. For example, I requested that the church board of the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church form a new decorating committee to work in conjunction with the building committee to beautify, modernize, and update its campus and facility externally and internally. The committee was created and will begin meeting in 2022. Previously, I have taken it upon myself to clean, organize, and decorate the fellowship hall in the basement of the facility to produce a more hospitable environment.


I. Adapts Well to New Situations

While I have an established weekly schedule, pastoral ministry doesn't always fit in pretty, well-defined boxes. Needs arise often that demand, sometimes immediately, changes to my schedule (e.g., someone goes into the hospital, a sudden death of a church member's loved one occurs unexpectedly, etc.). This requires a great deal of flexibility and the ability to "roll with the punches."

An example of my ability to be flexible and adaptable to new situations is the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and the extreme changes to pastoral ministry it demanded. I was required by the situation to keep a close watch on the fast-paced changes to local, state, and federal legislation concerning the pandemic, as well as changing recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so that I could call church board meetings (often with little time for warning) to make decisions on this ever updating information. Within a short timespan of days, I had to increase my then-limited knowledge of video, audio, lighting, and live streaming technologies in order to continue ministering to my churches when their were closed to in-person gatherings and services. I ordered these needed new technologies to assemble a home live streaming studio in my study so that I could meet with my churches virtually for prayer meetings, board and committee meetings, Sabbath School programs, and worship services. Beyond this, I led the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church to carry out a $25,000 project and the Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church to do a $12,000 project of updating long outdated audio-visual technologies in their respective facilities. These upgrades enabled them to keep homebound members connected to the life of the church. The pandemic also demanded that I put in place regular creative communication initiatives to ensure that all of my parishioners were always up to date regarding the situation of their churches and their ministries during these difficult times. Furthermore, the risks of the pandemic forced me to be able to make difficult wise decisions quickly to keep my congregants safe and well.

Below is an article that was published in the News-Herald, the local newspaper for Lenoir City and Loudoun, on April 22, 2020, about our efforts to maintain our Sabbath School programs at the Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Sabbath School, An Ongoing Effort"

The following are examples of sermons that I preached from my home study online for virtual worship services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Witnesses of the Good News"—1 Corinthians 15:1–11

"The Indiscriminate Fire"—Acts 2:1–21

"Journey through Ephesians: Her Greatest Desire"—Eph 5:21, 25–33

J. Maintains Relational Boundaries and Confidentiality 

Not unlike other kinds of relationships, it is important to maintain healthy boundaries and uphold high standards of confidentiality to inspire trust.


Relational Boundaries

To safeguard my integrity, live out my code of ethics, and protect my reputation, I NEVER meet with women alone. This is a best practice that I learned from the ministry of evangelist Billy Graham. Whenever I need to meet with, counsel, or visit a woman, I always ensure that there is a third party (e.g., an elder, deacon, deaconess, etc.) present. This way the appearance of evil is avoided. Similarly, I will not be in a room with a church member's child(ren) alone but require a third party's presence.

Physical touch is an important aspect of building relationships with others. However, if this is not handled with good ethical principles, wisdom and discernment, and placement of healthy boundaries, moral lines can easily be crossed. A complicating factor on this particular issue is that what is considered to be appropriate levels of physical touch is highly conditioned by one's cultural context. I strive to be aware of these different cultural perceptions regarding what kinds of physical touch are socio-culturally acceptable and what kinds are not. For example, after preaching at the culturally diverse English-speaking church in Athens, Greece, a gentleman came to speak with me. There we stood in the lobby of the church for about fifteen minutes holding hands while talking. This was uncomfortable for me as an Anglo-American, but I tolerated the uneasy situation to respond to the man with cultural humility. Similarly, when I lived in Argentina, I chose to participate in the cultural expectation of a kiss on the cheek to greet both women and men. It was a very awkward practice for me in the beginning, especially when I walked down the guys' dormitory hallway to the showers and received kisses from the other male students along the way. I eventually adapted. Upon returning to the United States, I almost kissed one of my male friends on the cheek as a greeting out of the new cultural habit that I had developed!

In light of all this, I have drawn what I believe to be healthy boundaries for physical touch within the American cultures where I pastor. I generally use a solid handshake or knuckle-bump for greetings and only embrace those church members, whether men or women, who are comfortable doing so, and, at that, I only give "side hugs." I do not kiss, hold hands, or give full-body or "front hugs" to parishioners. On occasion, I will give a pat on the back, shoulder, or arm—when contextually appropriate—but I do not touch anyone in the church below shoulder level, especially women and children.

Furthermore, while I keep myself quite accessible to my church members, there are times when I do not answer my phone or conduct activities related to my ministry to my churches. For example, except in cases of emergency (e.g., death, life-threatening hospitalization, church break-in, etc.), I do not answer my phone or respond to text messages and e-mails from 09:00 p.m. to 09:00 a.m. daily. Additionally, I make myself unavailable for church ministry matters on my Pastor's Day-off (currently, Mondays), which I try to reserve for self-care, home projects, and hobbies; holidays and vacation time; personal and family worship times; dates with my wife; and scheduled family time.


Whenever a church member trustingly discloses personal information with me about him/herself, his/her family, or another church member, I automatically assume an expectation of confidentiality, unless I'm given expressed permission to share. This includes verbal praise reports or prayer requests. If I would like to disseminate this kind of information, then I always asked for permission first and clarify the limits of that dissemination. The new pew cards that I designed for the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church include a checkbox option to request that the pastor and elders keep the information submitted on the card confidential. I have communicated regularly that prayer praises and petitions written on these cards without that option marked will be shared with the church at midweek prayer meetings and on the prayer lists in my monthly e-letters.

The only situations in which I intentionally break confidentiality are those that involve suspected or confirmed child or elder abuse, in which cases I am legally mandated to report such situations to the proper governmental authorities. I also report situations where I perceive that someone may be in imminent danger (e.g., domestic violence, homicide, suicide, etc.) to the proper authorities to ensure their safety. These few exceptions to my high standards of confidentiality are communicated to my counselees in our first meeting together.

IMG00083-20110925-1346 (3).jpg
bottom of page