From abandoned to adopted, from forgotten to forgiven, from lost to loved the man that I chose to interview for my article is someone that I truly admire. It was an honor to sit down and hear his amazing story. The man that I chose to interview is Josh Brewer 36, from Nashville, Tennessee. Brewer is a husband and father of four. He has been a worship pastor at Pinelake Madison for four years. And is number 4 of 6 children. I met Brewer at Pinelake Madison when I would visit occasionally. After having a talk with him, I auditioned for him and became a part of the worship team. The reason I chose to interview him is because he has an awesome to story share, and I felt that he was the perfect person to share some encouraging words to those who may be struggling in life with school, work or on the personal/spiritual side.
KA-Where did you grow up?
JB- So I was born in Texas and I grew up one in six kids. We grew up in a very broken home, lots of abuse, lots of poverty. We moved around to about a dozen different states, from Texas to Oklahoma, New Mexico, California, the West Coast and up to Washington and a couple of states in between. In spite of the brokenness, things were relatively good until I was about 8 years old and my dad went to prison and my mom went on drugs and basically at that point us six kids went into foster care. For the next eight years we were in and out of foster care. And when we weren’t in foster care, we were in homeless shelters, motels, hotels, the street, you name it, and just continued down the path of brokenness. As a teenager, I was arrested for grand larceny and surrounded by drugs, alcohol and poverty. When I was about 16, I found out I had an uncle who lived in Nashville Tennessee, and we had never met the guy before but he found out that we were in foster care, so he flew us four younger kids over to Nashville and adopted us. He went to church, so we had to go to church and that started the process of life change.
KA- What was your life like in high school
JB- When I moved to Nashville, up to that point, I had moved around to seven different schools. In Nashville, once I was adopted, I realized that the people I was hanging out with were going down a path that I did not want to go down. I was surrounded by drug addicts and thugs. That is the trajectory that I was on in my life. I quickly decided that I had to change the people whom I was hanging around with. I will never forget the first message that I heard in youth group, the pastor was preaching on friends, and the story that he shared was from 1 Corinthians 15:33 which says “bad company corrupts good character.” The message that he preached was show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. I realized that if I continued to hang out with these particular people who continued to influence me then that is who I would become. I had to cut out a lot of people, and there was a season of loneliness where I didn’t have people to walk alongside and do life with, but after that season I started to let people in that would be a positive influence. Who you hang around with will influence the decisions that you make and ultimately I just had to come to the conclusion that people are like bank accounts and there are people who make deposits and there are people who make withdrawals. Unfortunately for far too long I was surrounded by people who made withdrawals and eventually and I was emotionally and relationally bankrupt, so I had to surround myself with people who make deposits.
KA- In your teenage years and childhood years, what are some things you regret doing or not doing?
JB- You know I think for me, the environment that I grew up in and the cards that I kind of got dealt, obviously I regret being a product of my environment, some of the decisions that I made that could have led me down a very bad path. But beyond that, what I probably would say that I regret the most is allowing my external circumstances to define who I am internally and direct who I would become. I think part of that is allowing fear and insecurities or caring about what other people think, or comparing myself to somebody else who may at a different place in life, being caught up in that, more than the decisions I did make, I would say regretting the decisions that I didn’t make because of those reasons.
KA- With everything that was going in your life in your childhood and teenage years, what did you think your life would be like when you got older?
JB- You know for me the aspirations that I had, quickly moved from dreaming to just surviving, so I never really had the opportunity to think what I could be when I grow up. It was never really what could it be like in five years, or 10 years, or 15 years, for me it was always what am I going to do to get through next week, how am I going to get the next meal on the table. Even going through teenage years, all throughout high school I had to provide for myself. So, in terms of dreams and aspirations, who I would become and what things would be like it was one of those things that I had to just take day by day. For me I know the things that I had gone through, if I had to do it all over again, it has made me who I am today. In the back of my mind was the fear of repeating the cycle that I had modeled for me, and there was not the ability to imagine, dream or create what I would be like. The greatest thing I tried to focus on was not becoming who my dad was. Not becoming the examples, I had seen before me. So, I think with that it stunted a lot of imagination. I think of my kids now, asking them what do you want to be when you grow up? It was none of those questions growing up. It was just trying to get by and trying to make it.
KA-When did you become a Christian?
JB- I became a Christian at the age of 17. So, after moving to Nashville when I was 16 and being adopted by my uncle, he went to church, so we had to go to church, and went there for about a year or so. I had a lot of walls up, a lot of bearers. Obviously had developed a lot of defense mechanisms and had a lot of trust issues. So for me even after attending church for a year, I was 16, and really just came to the realization that there was a God who loved me, a heavenly father that cared for me in a way that I had never had a father’s love. So that was the thing that really opened my heart and when I got saved was just experiencing that love for the first time.
KA- Being a born-again Christian what were the challenges of that, things that you had to get used to or felt that were difficult at the time?
JB- I think for me, the first challenge of even becoming a Christian was seeing the hypocrisy of the people that were leading at FCA and all of these Christian events as they were at the same parties that I was at on a Friday night. And so for me there was a difficulty just right out the gate, just having trust issues, because I was like why would I jump in and be involved with whatever it means to be a Christian, if you are no different than who I am. I had to get through that and I think God worked even in spite of that and softened my heart to ultimately the Christ of Christianity, After getting saved, the greatest difficulty that I had was understanding my call to move not from bad to good, to do better, but from death to life. The greatest things that I had to face against were not moving towards okay, I have to earn Gods affection, earn his attention, earn his acceptance and approval. I am going to do these things and live right because I am accepted because I am approved, and not try to strive for those things. So that was an internal battle that I had to face, and externally just figuring out my purpose, how does this practically manifest in my life, the battle between feeling called spiritually, and feeling really ill equipped and bridging the gap. You know feeling that I come from this environment, and not feeling good enough. I was still wrestling with the flesh, whether then surrendering to the spirit.
KA- Where did you meet your wife?
JB- I met her at Sonic, she was a car hop.
KA- So who was your wife then, compared to who she is now?
JB- When I first met her, she was perfect on the outside but broken on the inside. I had the opportunity to share the gospel with her and lead her to Jesus and then she started coming to church. Then after that we started dating and the rest was history, but the growth where she has gone from, from just the completely hopeless, broken, helpless, to the nurturer that she is, the mom that she is, the wife that she is, just night and day.
KA-With both of you two coming from broken places and coming together, was it difficult getting used how things were changing and trying to get use to each other?
JB- I think the difficulty was not so much as coming from broken places, because we were both broken. The difference was how we responded to the brokenness. So I was the type of person based on my brokenness where I would lash out and be confrontational, and want to talk about things and work through it, while she was the type of person that when she had conflict she ran and hid. So that was the confrontation of learning to be a listener and a supporter and an encourager and not being combative and for her was learning to not run and hide but stay and have the conversation.
KA- Now as a father, and you having the childhood that you had, how has that changed your idea of being a parent and being the best father that you can be?
JB- So that was the greatest fear that I had, how can I be a father when I never had a good example of what It means to be a father? And so the theme throughout my life, has been facing inadequacy or deficiency or insecurity, saying how do I get through to the other side when I don’t feel qualified to do that, Having four kids now, there’s a revelation with each kid I have now, number one from a father to a child, the love that I have for them has just grown with each kid, but as my love for them has grown, my understanding for God’s love for me has grown as well.
KA- How did you become a worship pastor for a living?
JB- So when I got saved, I felt the lord speak to me, saying that the vision for your life is ministering to people in words and music. At that time, I was 17 and I had never played music before. Even all throughout school, I had never talked to anybody, I stayed to myself. I was very introverted and insecure. And so, for me to feel that in my heart that the vision of my life was to minister to people through words and music it did not make sense. So, I felt that God put it in my heart and just continued to work. I did business management for several years and eventually started playing keyboard and got involved with the youth band and I started to serve but my goal was to never work at a church. I believe in the church and I loved the church, but I did not want to be a part of it. I did not want to get caught in the system of religion; I was very fearful of that. But as I continued to grow into that, I had an opportunity years ago, where I was serving the church and working in business management, and my senior pastor said, long story short basically a lot of things happen and he said, “Hey we need a worship pastor.” I was already leading worship at the time, but I never contemplated working at a church. I remembered the call that I felt in my heart when I got saved and the vision of my life. I thought, hey I could do that at a greater capacity if I was in this role, and so I did that and that was over a decade ago and that’s what got me to doing it in this capacity.
KA- What lessons has your work life taught you?
JB- People are broken, inside and outside of the church. Their brokenness does not care about position or title, we all need the grace of God and true ministry in pursuing a relationship with Christ, ministry is beyond the walls of Christ. Ultimately the programs and the processes, everything we do in church does not matter if we forget the people that we are called to love. So, the life lesson is that people come before anything else. It is all about people and ultimately, the lesson is you do not get to choose who you pastor, Jesus did not pick and choose.
KA- What are some other jobs that you had?
JB- My first job was Arbys. I worked at Arbys and became the best fry flipper in the south. And then I said at a young age that I was going to work with excellence and be the best at whatever I did, so I did that, and I worked myself up through five promotions and I was ready to. And then I moved from Arbys to a retail store and became a manager there, so I was doing that. I then had the opportunity to travel on the road and do music, I did that fulltime for a number of years. I had the opportunity to travel to 46 or so different states, Canada and South Korea and Hawaii. I did that for a season until we had our first kid and then came off the road and did church ministry.
KA- As a singer/musician is this something that you would have wanted to take out on the road, doing this as a professional singer, rather than what you are doing now?
JB- Well, for a season that is what I did. I traveled and played with a couple of different Christian artists, that was the plan. Prior to coming to work at a church and when my wife and I got pregnant with our first kid, I said that I wanted to be home and be the dad that I had never had So I came off the road, and all of my friends continued to do that but for me it wasn’t about singing and playing as much as it was about ushering and pastoring people. My desire was to minister to people. So, I would not change my path, my goal was to love people and use the tool that I had which was music.
KA- Do you have any regrets in your career?
JB- No, the only regrets that I have are the steps that maybe I didn’t pursue because of fear, that there were often times where there were opportunities that presented themselves and that would have advanced my career or my call.
KA- So what brought you to Pinelake?
JB- So I was on staff at church north of Nashville, and I was there for 10 years and Pinelake randomly reached out on LinkedIn and said that they were a church in Mississippi affiliated with Baptists and were looking for a worship pastor. And here we are.
KA- What is your typical workday like?
JB- Nothing is “typical” in ministry. There are office hours, but ministry does not stop when you leave the office. From the planning to preparation, from engaging with people to executing the plan. The phone calls at 9 p.m., the unexpected events like funerals and hospital visits, the tension of leading the church, while trying to lead my family, and not forgetting to lead myself.
KA-What are some of the challenges that you face as a worship pastor, and what are some of the things that you are still from your past trying to keep with you?
JB- I think for me, the challenge is to number 1 not lose sight of the reason why I got into ministry in the first place, the call that I have is not a call because I was qualified or equipped, and not losing the heart of that, falling into the place where I am doing all the right things. But the motive or the driving factor is not right. I believe you can do all the right things and still be wrong, so I think fighting to not get caught up, in a routine or in a sudden driven executing a good Sunday service will not pastor and leading people effectively.
KA- Do you have any special moments that you have experienced career wise?
JB- I have had the opportunity to travel all around the nation doing ministry in about 45 different states, from Alaska to Hawaii, and several countries, including places like Canada, South Korea and Amsterdam
KA- What do you feel are the main ingredients of your success or success in general?
JB- Humility and gratitude are the secret ingredients to be successful in any industry or organization.
KA- Do you have advice for those who are trying to choose a career path?
JB- I would say, pursue a career that brings you a sense of joy and happiness. Do not pursue something just because of finances. Do what you love to do, money will come. Some of the most miserable people are the people who pursued careers for financial reasons. And they have a lot of money, but they are lacking happiness. And although I do not think a career brings true happiness, just do what you love to do, and the money will come.
KA- Advice for students who want to be successful in whatever career path they take. What do you think a student should have to be successful? As far as personality wise?
JB- I would say focus more on building your character than your career. Talents, abilities, gifts and personalities may open doors, but character will keep those doors open and establish your career long term. Develop attributes like humility, gratitude, servitude, kindness, selflessness, etc.
KA-Why, to you, is education important?
JB-The old saying “Knowledge is power,” I think education empowers us, I think education gives us a knowledge and understanding. I think for me we should always be developing, – we should always be growing, – we should always be learning. Just like I would say this, either physically or even emotionally, spiritually, that you never accidently grow, so the pursuit of education is the pursuit of knowledge and understanding a learning. Choosing to not be stagnant but choosing to grow.
Mentors and advice
KA- Did you have any mentors and how did they challenge you to become who you are today?
JB- Yes, I had several mentors, one guy in particular was a guy named Jeff Deyo. Ultimately what I realized from not having a stable childhood, when I wanted to figure out how to be a good husband, I had to find a mentor who had been married for decades. When I wanted to figure out how to be a good dad, I had to find someone who was a good dad. When I wanted to figure out how to handle finances, I had to find someone who knew how to handle money. So, in all those things I have grown up reaching out to someone who has been five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years further down the road and learning from their life experiences. But that one guy in particular Jeff Deyo, has been a mentor has a father, husband and worship leader. He is someone who has played a huge role in shaping who I am today.
KA- Do you still stay in contact with him?
JB- Yes, I think that is the whole point of a mentor. There are some people who are mentors in your life for a reason and there are some who are there for a season. I think knowing he difference, hey is this person only here for a season or is there a greater purpose or reason for why they are in my life. And hold on to those who are lifelong mentors.
KA- When was there a time in your life when you felt like giving up?
JB- I think growing up the way that I grew up, I quickly learned to overcome adversity and I have realized that every time I hit a wall through perseverance and endurance that when you get to the other side, ultimately it will make you stronger, so I say with that there were several crossroads with just growing up. All through my childhood there were moments where I just wanted to throw in the towel. But into adulthood, I learned to embrace the adversity and that giving up was never an option for me.
KA- When was the moment that you could make it through your struggles?
JB- When I got to the other side, *laughs* I say that jokingly but sometimes I didn’t know If I was going to make it and it wasn’t until I got to the other side where I was like “Oh my gosh I made, I survived!”
KA- What are some life challenges that you face today, whether it is as a worship pastor or your personal life and how do you work through them?
JB- I have four kids so that’s a challenge within itself and when you are trying to raise kids within this environment and in this culture and climate. Balancing family life, the demands of having a wife and four kids, while also having thousands of people that we are trying to pastor and shepherd and trying to keep the main thing the main thing can be a challenge. I say the challenge is prioritizing what I say yes to and protecting my yes.
KA- What is a quote or a scripture or anything that sticks out to you and has helped you become who you are? Something that might be encouraging or inspirational for you.
JB- There are two scriptures that stand out to me, Romans 8:28 that says “God causes all things to work together for those who loves him and are called according to his purpose, and Genesis 15:20, that says “What the enemy meant for evil, God will turn for good.” So, I will use those as the foundation knowing that everything I have gone through, that there is a greater purpose, that God does turn those things that God does work those things out. That there was a greater purpose for the struggles and conflicts, the hurt and pain. So that is what I am going to hold on to. That God has a purpose, there is purpose in the pain.
KA- For those in college who are struggling in life or even spiritually, what do you have to say to them about not letting failures, mistakes and setbacks define them, and how they can overcome their obstacles?
JB- I think first thing to know is that you are not defined by your failures or your mistakes, or your struggles. That does not define who you are. Nor does the circumstances or the struggles you are facing now determine who you will become, that in spite of the circumstances, in spite of your starting point that regardless of where you are on your journey, that it doesn’t have to determine your finish line. So, I would say, see both sides. There are always two sides to the perspective. Your outlook determines your outcome. So how you see the situations that you find yourself in, the struggles, mistakes you made. Is to move forward. Just like the analogy of a car. Your windshield is a lot bigger than your rearview mirror. Because you are supposed to drive looking forward and so many times we try to move forward while looking in the rearview mirror. And that just causes a wreck. So, I would say, know that you do not have to be a product of your decisions that you made, the struggles you had do not determine who you are.
KA- From knowing where I started to where I am now, how have I developed, noticing the changes that I have made from when you first met me to know?
JB- I think that there is a big difference between the confidence, from when I first met you. There was a lot of insecurity and uncertainty, with a sense of self-worth and self-confidence. So, I believe that since you have chosen humility, you have been open to feedback and being corrected and directed according to. That has opened the opportunity to grow in those particular areas. So I will say that’s the noticeable difference internally, externally you have grown and developed as a vocalist, and because of commitment and investment, you have committed to invest in the ability, talent and ministry opportunities that you have been presented to where you have grown in the technical expertise to each of those. So, in the personal standpoint and professional standpoint I have seen growth.
KA- What stood out most to you the reason you were able to believe that I was capable in helping to lead?
JB- I look at the above traits, starting with character, and move to capacity. Someone who strives to develop their character, has shown a desire to grow, and a willingness to learn, positions themselves to be used.
This ends the interview. I hope this helps those who may be struggling or worried about certain things going on in their life. And I hope this shows you, that no matter what obstacles may come your way, you can, and you will overcome them. Your past does not define who you are. Look to the future and do your best and be proud of who you are and the things you have and will accomplish.