Michael Chancellor is a private practice counselor working with veterans and survivors of trauma. Previously, he served four churches in Texas for 33 years, then ran a Mental Health Department of Alan B. Polunsky Maximum Security prison which houses death row offenders.
1. What story, verse or passage from your faith tradition’s sacred texts has significantly influenced / shaped your life?
Numbers 13:16-30. The text is about the exploration of Canaan and the bad report the spies brought back. Basically, there are “giants” there, and “we are so small against them.”
This passage came alive to me as a first-year student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, having just graduated from Howard Payne College (now a university). I went from a college of about 1,200 students to an institution of over 4,000, crowded into the campus at that time. It was overwhelming. So many gifted students and those who thought they were gifted.
I found this passage and used it in crafting a message entitled, “Giants in Our Promise,” for my preaching lab. Basically, I shared my anxiety and the largeness of the task I was called to and learned from Caleb to trust God in the face of overwhelming challenges.
The students in the preaching class where I delivered that message remarked again and again how helpful it was to them, as they struggled with all that was ahead for them and their families.
2. Who are three people (other than your family) who have shaped your life and worldview? And why?
In my call to ministry, my parents were supportive and that was not always the case for men and women who were trying to be obedient. Along the way, I met at least three folks whose life, teaching and mentorship would shape so much of who I became.
James Shields was my professor of theology at Howard Payne, and I moved from student to friend over the course of the rest of his life. He left Howard Payne, and we reconnected when I moved to Abilene, Texas, to pastor at the Crescent Heights Baptist Church. Dr. Shields was teaching at Hardin-Simmons University at that time. He helped me find a home we could afford. Our friendship continued until his death in June of 2020.
Nat Tracy, professor of philosophy and chair of the Department of Religion at Howard Payne, offered some thoughtful answers to the questions of my heart. I was too curious as a student at my home church and learned to ask “Why?” Dr. Tracy was not a friend but a robust professor who set my heart and mind free to explore.
I would have to say the last influence was a man I only heard a few times but found such great resources in his books: Dallas Willard and particularly his books, The Divine Conspiracy, Renovation of the Heart, The Spirit of the Disciplines, The Great Omission and Hearing God.
The most powerful moment for me was in a presentation Dr. Willard made where he set out for us a “working” definition of discipleship. He said, “I am learning to live/lead my life like Jesus would live/lead my life if he were me.” I was blown away with the profundity and the simplicity.
3. List three of your “desert island” books, movies or TV shows.
It would be books and, frankly, I would cheat. I would take my Kindle which is loaded with about 150 books — and I am assuming I would not actually be cast away on a desert island.
I would take The Complete Works of Agatha Christie (if there was such a thing), and finally, I would take Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert.
4. What is one of the most critical issues people are facing today?
In the United States, I would say moving forward the national foundations our founding generation left for the nation. Within that would be a serious racial reckoning that purges the toxic racism endemic in our society. Within that would be a reckoning with violence and especially gun violence in this nation.
Included in that would be lifting up of opportunity for all, which would require closing the income gap for Americans, breaking down barriers for affordable health care for all, and seriously addressing the global warming issues that the world is facing.
5. What are a few of your hobbies?
I would say there are four prominent ones: raising roses, hibiscuses and bougainvilleas; reading and researching, which feeds my joy of writing, and photography.
6. If you could freeze your life into an already-lived 10 seconds, what would they be?
Sitting around a table with my sons Tim and Joseph, and my wife Anna, celebrating Joseph’s 13th birthday on a mission trip to Campos, Brazil. That trip changed us all and propelled both boys to do Journeyman work following their graduation. Tim went to China, and Joseph went to Thailand and then spent a year in China.
7. Our tagline at Good Faith Media is, “There’s more to tell.” What’s your “more to tell”?
When I stood before the students in my seminary preaching lab to talk about giants and promises, I could never have foreseen 33 years of pastoral ministry, six years of managing a mental health department in the maximum security men’s prison that housed death row offenders, and then 20 years as a therapist in private practice, working with incredible veterans who returned home to struggle, and traveling to 23 nations in doing missions and member care for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Reflection and resources at the intersection of faith and culture through an inclusive Christian lens.