I got a chance to meet Tim many months ago thanks to a good friend of mine who was already close friends with him. I went to see him speak at Potters House and was instantly amazed by the man in front of the microphone.
For those of you who don't know Pastor Tim Ross, you've been missing out. This is one of the best speakers you will ever hear and, not only that, but he's also one of the best guys you'll ever meet.
For those of you who don't know Pastor Tim Ross, you've been missing out. This is one of the best speakers you will ever hear and, not only that, but he's also one of the best guys you'll ever meet.
From then on, I've been a huge fan and a big admirer of Tim Ross the speaker. But I wanted to know the man behind the microphone and, to my surprise, the two people aren't all that different.
So, on a breezy and somewhat chilly Thursday night in Dallas, TX. I drove to Potters House in South Dallas and I sat down with the man behind "Brickhouse," the man that has spoken all over the world, the man who has learned from the great T.D. Jakes and the man that announced that he was leaving the church at the end of 2010.
We talked about the church itself, what legacy he leaves behind, his future, and of course I couldn't let him leave without talking a little bit about my home church and a place he calls his "second home." Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas.
We covered all of that and many other things over the one hour I spent with him on the record. The two hours off the record was even more incredible and even more eye opening.
Without further ado, here is my interview with the great Tim Ross.
Todd Kaufmann (TK): We started a conversation, prior to the interview, about "Brickhouse." For people that don't know, how did it come about and how did you get involved?
Tim Ross (TR): Brickhouse was birthed really out of the passion of my pastor, T.D. Jakes. When he looked over his church, he realized that the young adult ministry was the most underserved community in our entire church.
Historically, we had never had a college ministry or anything of that significance. We had children's ministry, we had youth ministry. He said our young adult population, 18-30, is not being touched, we need someone to touch them. I was an evangelist at the time and I was on the road traveling with Josh McDowell and a few other organizations and I got a call seeing if I would be interested in the position.
TK: Leaving Brickhouse, there's going to be emotion involved, it's bittersweet. But when you look back at your time there and at Potters House in general how do you sum up your time here?
TR: Fulfilling. I came here a broken vessel. It's quite appropriate that the Lord would lead me to the Potters House, a place where vessels get put back and restored and get put back on display. I came here, I was 21-years old, loved the Lord but addicted to pornography, and still struggling with the issues from my molestation at a young age. It took 13 and a half years to get the cracks filled in.
As a member at Potters House, I feel fulfilled in that. As a pastor serving for four years as the pastor of our young adult ministry I'm walking away and I feel great about what we've been able to accomplish.
TK: Can you talk about where Potters House is going and what their vision for the future is?
TR: My pastor is in this legacy phase of his life. He's done with destiny and it's on to legacy and now he wants to replicate what the Lord has been able to do in him and the people he's mentored and groomed. We already have Potters House locations in Forth Worth (Texas), Denver (Colorado), North Dallas (Texas), the main location in South Dallas and he still has cities lined up. So his legacy phase is in full effect. He wants to see what has happened here in South Dallas happen all over the country.
TK: Is there a ceiling for this church or is there no limit to how much they can grow?
TR: I think we're able to operate under an open heaven so I don't know if I've ever seen a ceiling. People can come here grow up and grow out. Some of them grow out and grow in to the vision while others grow up and grow out to go do the vision that God's placed within us so I don't see a ceiling here.
TK: As a pastor at Potters House, I'm surprised at how open you've been about your past and what you've been through. Other people in your same position wouldn't be as public or be as open. Is there any regret at all about talking about all of that and why are you so open about that?
TR: Absolutely no regret. I grew up in a very communicative home. We were able, in my parent's home, to be open as we wanted to be without feeling like we were going to be punished for what we said. So honesty, openness, and transparency (H.O.T.) has always been something that's been part of my life.
When it came down to my testimony and the stuff that I share, what really gave me the green light to do it was when I started reading the Bible straight through for myself. Not just listening to what the pastor said and being stuck on what he's reading. When I really started reading it for myself, I realized that God was very open about everybody and their business.
If He wanted to present us with a sterile Bible and a sterile gospel, than we wouldn't know Abraham was a liar, we wouldn't know Jacob was a deceiver, we wouldn't know David was an adulterer and a murderer, we wouldn't know Elijah the Prophet was suicidal, we wouldn't know Sampson had an issue with Delilah, we wouldn't know Jesus struggled with doing the will of His Father.
Once I saw the transparency that our Bible had, it gave me the green light to become another chapter, a written epistle to be added as an addendum to the book which has already been left for us.
TK: Personally, why are you so open with your past? For people that are seeing you or hearing you for the first time, they're a little shocked by some of the things you say.
TR: I've seen the freedom it brings to other people and altar calls don't lie. I will admit, I didn't plan to be the transparent guy. I've joked with a friend of mine, Preston Morrison (young adult pastor at Gateway Church-Southlake, TX), I didn't look at niches in ministry and say "hmm, what is somebody not doing that I could brand myself as," that wasn't the case.
I would share my testimony and then I would see the response, I would get the secret emails afterwards, I would hear from other pastors from around the country offline that would say "I struggled with pornography as well" or "I got molested and never told anybody." I've talked to preacher's kids who have grown up in church who have dealt with the same kind of issues.
There's a guy I talked to by the name of Chad Allen who told me "you give people the gift of going second." I had never heard that in my life. I said, "explain that." He told me, "you're very open and honest about your business and the things you've gone through. When you do that, it gives people the gift of going second, they don't feel like they have to put their stuff out there first."
By doing so my testimony allows people to say, "oh, you too? Heck if God's going to use this guy I guess I'm alright as well." So it's really freed me to keep doing it.
TK: Everyone that knows you knows you've done the "I Am Second" ad. When did that come up, did they approach you, and how long was that in the works?
TR: It's interesting, I had a young lady here by the name of Victoria Childress who's one of our young adults (a.k.a "Bricks") and she wound up working for E3, the company that powers "I Am Second." She shared her testimony, a brutal testimony, and they wanted to do an interview with her. So she did, she sat on the historical couch at "I Am Second" and did her testimony. When she was done she told them "if you think I have a testimony, you should hear my pastor's."
David Humphries, the Executive Director for "I Am Second," called me up and wanted to meet with me. We met in February of 2010, on a snow day that shut down everything. There was 52 inches of snow that day in Washington D.C. but we still met at a Starbucks, we sit down to talk, and he asked me to share my testimony with him. After I dumped it on him, he says "well, let me schedule a time for you to sit on the couch." There's usually a casting process that goes into this but he bypassed all that.
TK: A lot of people have seen testimony's on "I Am Second" from people they know like Josh Hamilton and Jason Witten just to name a few. Is there one that stands out to you?
TR: Nate Larkin. He was the gentlemen, if I have this story right, goes to New York on a christian missions trip to see all the sin that's going on there. They point out "there's a porn shop over here and this is the stuff that goes on." That thing instantly hit him, grips him, and sends him into a downward spiral for the next 10-15 years.
He wound up getting into a lot of promiscuous activity with prostitutes and stuff like that and almost lost his marriage. To see him come out of that the same way God called me out of my own struggle, it literally gripped me.
Here's the thing I found out afterwards. I had watched his testimony before I went in to meet with "I Am Second," and I found out that he and I were the only ones that went through our testimony without any retakes or edits. We sat down on the couch, we gave our testimony and that was it, they took it as is.
TK: How long did process take for you from the time the cameras roll to the end?
TR: From start to finish I think I was there for maybe two hours. They take some still photos of you first and then they make you sign a waver and let you know they're going to put billboards up strategically around the city.
What I love about their presentation, I grew up in a very traditional Pentecostal charismatic church. We used to have what was called "testimony service" which was where people stood up and thanked the Lord for x, y and z. I really feel like "I Am Second" campaign and movement is the 21st century testimony service. I sat down and I gave my testimony as if I was in that small Pentecostal church. And then it just literally goes around the world.
TK: How quick was the response from your "I Am Second" billboard and what was your own response to it?
TR: Several of my friends almost wrecked their cars, literally, trying to look at the billboard. I had several "Bricks" trying to drive by and take pictures of it, which I think is more dangerous than trying to gaze at it. So I have these blurred pictures I'm tagged in [on Facebook] of my billboard with this 60 mile per hour slur in the frame.
The first time I saw it, it was just weird. I already have a big head, naturally not pridefully, and it was magnanimous on this billboard and I'm like, "my head is huge! They could have shrunk it and made the words bolder, I don't know (said with a laugh)." The first time I passed it, I didn't want to pass it again and I didn't. I took an alternate route so I wouldn't have to see it. It was just weird to me.
TK: There are certain people, not necessarily at Potters House, that look at you like a star. You're on the "I Am Second," you're on television and they look at you like a celebrity. How do you respond to that?
TR: I know me and God knows me. I can't see myself as that and I'm quick to remind people if they ever get in that frame of mind in their perception of me to remind them that I'm not really any of that. I appreciate you're looking at the same person, in person, that you see on the billboard but that's just about it.
I don't feel entitled, I feel incredibly humbled and honored with what God has entrusted me with. But I think part of my responsibility is to be as normal as possible.
TK: I'm sure you're recognized outside of Potters House. Is there ever a time you wish you could go about a normal day and not have that kind of celebrity?
TR: There's a lot in me. What a lot of people don't know about me is I'm a recluse. The gift that He's given me to teach and preach, and I do I love people, so there's this weird dichotomy that works within my framework. I'm an extrovert and an introvert all at the same time. When I'm on I'm on, but when I'm off I want to be completely off.
One of the things you give up and you sacrifice when you say "yes" to His will as a pastor, and that's what my heart generally is, from the moment I back out of my garage or I walk to the mailbox, I'm a pastor. When I walk back into my house, I'm Tim. I'm a husband and I'm a father.
What I sacrifice to be who God has called me to be is my privacy. I used to make complaints about it because I was young in doing what I was doing and I felt like I was entitled to punch in and punch out. I realized that this is a full time job, it's like a police officer getting off duty. You're still on.
TK: What's the difference between Tim Ross the husband and father and Tim Ross the pastor?
TR: Not much (laughing). My life is already an open book. What I am in public is pretty much what I am in private. It's just that when I'm in private, I have the opportunity to be intimate in the way that I can't be in public with my wife and with my kids. My vulnerabilities, the stuff I'm really scared of, the stuff that really bothers me, the things that frustrate me and make me mad, piss me off, I get to have those moments with my family uncensored without having to put it through a filter that will be deliverable to the masses.
TK: Let's rewind several years, back to your days in Los Angeles. How do you look back at that time of your life?
TR: I look back at it and I have mixed feelings. I really feel like I wouldn't have the perspective today if it wasn't for the experiences I had growing up in California. From my mother working for the Los Angeles Police Department for 30 years, my father working for the US Postal Service for 33 years, to my older brother selling drugs and being a founding member of a crypt gang in LA.
Seeing drug deals go down from your typical crack head to the doctor or dentist driving the Volvo and wearing suspenders to the whole rap game. I thought I was going to be a rapper when I was a kid, I had been rapping since I was nine years old.
Being exposed to that life I had been getting into clubs for free since I was 14, throwing parties by the time I was 16 and having all of what the world says is influence, notoriety, and social status. Then giving my life to Christ on January 14, 1996 and within 48 hours no one would pick up the phone and talk to me. Out of respect for the decision I made but I was lonely because I didn't have anybody.
My friends were my parents, my Bible and my Playstation 2.
TK: You get the opportunity to work under a pastor that's known world wide. What kind of influence has he had on you and when you leave Potters House, what do you take away?
TR: I take away a lot. His influence has been tremendous because I've learned more about the things he has suffered more than I've learned of his successes. He has taught me how to deal with pain, adversity, trials, tests and I've never seen anyone walk through a storm like Thomas Dexter Jakes Sr. I've never seen anybody swim in the water and not get bitten by snakes like Thomas Dexter Jakes Sr.
He could have the pressure of the whole world on his back and he has this ability to get up in the pulpit, block all of it out, and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ without ever bleeding his personal emotion into it. I've learned more about that than his successes.
TK: Do people see T.D. Jakes differently than he should be looked at?
TR: Absolutely. Nine times out of 10, absolutely. When you get to a person of his status, the only thing you become is Wikipedia sound bites and clips of whoever doesn't like him. That's the first thing you'll Google. What you'll get after the first three or four of the ministry you're gonna get what he is, what he isn't, what they've heard, what they think, he preaches a prosperity gospel, he doesn't believe in the trinity, the list goes on and on.
There's a lot of people who are missing out on an incredible ministry because of what they've heard.
TK: My wife and I are both members of Gateway Church and you know I'm not going to let you leave here without talking a little bit about them. You mentioned Preston Morrison, the young adult pastor there. What have you learned from him and, if you can speak to this, what has he learned from you.
TR: We've been friends for two years, going on three. We met in January of 2008, I went to their Tuesday night young adult service and people kept telling us that we needed to meet. After one of the nights I was there we had breakfast the following morning. Since then, we've had breakfast every week without fail for almost three years.
I've become a better man because of Preston Morrison. I've become a better husband because of Preston Morrison. I've become a better father because of Preston Morrison. There are things that were locked up in me that God gave Preston the key to release in me and I feel the same way about him.
I'm not sure what Preston would say he's learned from me so I don't want to put words in his mouth. We're twin brothers, we're the same person in different bodies. I don't see any difference between us and that's why, from the moment we met, God knit our hearts and we've been walking together ever since.
TK: You told me Gateway Church is your "second home." Tell me a little bit about Gateway and what keeps you coming back?
TR: Before I got exposed to Gateway Church, God had been doing all these things in my heart about how I believe ministry should be done and the blue print of what that looks like and we began doing that at Brick.
Brick is this young adult ministry, this fellowship, that I was able to take everything the Holy Spirit had been speaking to me about ministry and implement these things. The first time I went to Gateway, it was pretty much everything God had been speaking to me about. From giving sacrificially to making the gospel plain and loving people. These are all things I'm a part of.
The first time I was exposed to the ministry of Gateway Church I was smitten by it and I fell in love with Pastor Robert Morris and the [Gateway] family just started embracing me. I started coming frequently to 'Seven' (Gateway's young adult ministry) and that turned into men's retreats which turned into conferences. (laughing) I guess you guys do love me the way I love you. It's just been a family affair and I don't feel like a guest or a stranger, it just feels like family.
TK: You talk about Pastor Robert Morris. Is there something you see in him that you see in Pastor Jakes.
TR: They're both committed to what God has called them to do. They're both givers. Pastor Robert Morris and his giving heart is legendary, there's a book on it. Bishop [Jakes] is the same way.
They don't let the success change how they operate, especially Pastor Morris. If you walk past him in a grocery store you'd never know he was the senior pastor at Gateway Church. He's that unassuming. That's one thing that made me gravitate to him as well because I'm the same way.
I've always been the kind of guy that I never want you to see me coming. I want you to be like, "oh that's the guy you've been talking about" as opposed to "oh that guy must be somebody." I don't like being that guy.
TK: I would call you a "prolific speaker" is that fair?
TR: You would call me that, and I appreciate it.
TK: But when you hear me say that, is that a fair statement to make?
TR: I told Bishop this two or three years ago, I said "dad, how would you rate me as a speaker" and he said "why do you ask?" I told him I want you to tell me if I should keep doing this or not because I'm not in this to be good, I'm in this to be great. I don't want to be mediocre. Who gets into anything and goes, "I just want to do my best" with that kind of deflated, passive, mediocre attitude? I want to do this and I want to do this well.
I don't have a college degree, I haven't been to seminary, I don't have a doctorate of divinity, I don't have a masters of divinity, God gave me a gift. For me to steward that gift correctly I have to stay on my face, I have to pray, I have to fast, well my life is a fast now and I eat that book (the Bible).
I do everything I can whether it's the movies I watch, the books I read from Grisham to Matthew Henry's commentary just for imagery. These are things I do because I always look at new words in the dictionary. Words are my paint brush to color stuff. I feel like people's minds are a blank canvas upon which I paint pictures for them to walk out the rest of their lives with.
I don't want people at the end of one of my messages to walk away with more notes on their tablets than they have in their heart. The only way I know how to do that is to create pictures in their head. So, yes, I aspire to be that and I don't believe I'm there yet but I do want to be a prolific speaker.
TK: If you haven't achieved greatness, personally I think you passed 'greatness' a long time ago, where is that line that you're wanting to pass?
TR: I don't know. I don't want to know where that line is. If I know where the line is I'll pass it and I'll get satisfied. There's a passage in the book of Proverbs (Proverbs 16:26) that says "it is good for workers to have an appetite, an empty stomach drives them more."
I really believe that most people stop at 'good' is because they get full, they get satisfied. I never feel like that. I NEVER feel like that. Saturday's message at the last retreat, I went away going "I could have done that so much better if I had just painted that." Then I start remembering later that I should have painted it like that but I stopped short and I gypped myself. I go through that.
I don't get preacher's remorse because I believe I'm giving my best when I'm out there. But I stay hungry, I don't want to get full.
TK: What happens to Tim Ross now? Where are you going and where do you want to go?
TR: I don't know what's next for Tim Ross the pastor. I do know that we're going to plant a church one day but we don't know where. The scripture that my wife and I are walking out by faith is Genesis 1, 2 and 3 but right now it's just verse one, "get thee out of thy country and thy Father's house to a place that I will show you." So Tim Ross goes back on the road as an evangelist. My first six months is already booked, praise God, because I need to eat (sarcastically). We're starting to get more people that are interested in having us come and minister to them.
In the first six months, I will have been in Australia for a total of a month and a half. The evangelist is the work that I have to do right now. I imagine in about a year and a half to two years, hopefully the Lord would have crystallized what city and state he wants us to be in and we just want to plant a church in a community. We want to committed to a community, we want to grow, bless people in that community and then try to be a blessing in the community that surrounds it.
TK: You mention all the traveling that you do and preaching at different places around the world. Is there one place that sticks out in your mind?
TR: Costa Rica. When I was there, I fell in love with Latin America. I'm currently learning spanish because I don't want to preach with a translator.
Being that I was born and raised in California, there was a huge hispanic influence. You need only turn on the television to find out what was going on with immigration, the persecution they were going through and the stuff that was going on at the border with the drugs.
I really have a heart for the hispanic people and the only barrier between them and I is the language. I strongly sense the Holy Spirit told me when I came back from Costa Rica, "if you would sew the time it would take to learn their language, I will give you Latin America."
So that's what I'm doing. I'm literally learning a new language and I'm practicing on anyone that will let me talk to them and practice my spanish on them.
TK: Tomorrow will be your very last appearance at Brickhouse. You told me before the interview that you were going to go through a Kleenex box, you weren't going to hold back your emotions. In just 24 hours from now, you'll face them for the final time. Can you put into words what that's going to be like?
TR: I think it's going to be very emotional. Emotional without regret, though. Here's the only way I can explain it, maybe this is a fair analogy and maybe it's not. I feel like if you were in a relationship with the most wonderful person in the world, they love you and you love them, you believe the same things, you always have fun together, you respect each other's boundaries, everything is going good in the relationship and then the Lord says, "you can't be with them for the rest of your life." You're going, "why?"
That's the hardest person to break up with. It's easy to break up with someone that's cheated on you, mistreated you, called you names, lied, whatever the breach would be. But when you have to walk away from a relationship, and there was nothing wrong, but you have a deep sense that they don't belong to you. That's a hard thing to walk away from.
I feel, as it relates to Brickhouse and Potters House, there's nothing wrong with my relationship with the Bricks, there's nothing wrong with my relationship with the Potters House, there's nothing wrong with my relationship with Bishop Jakes. He and I are going to be on the plane to Sydney, Australia together and will have lunch as soon as we get there. But when it's time to go, you just go.
I think it'll be emotional, but I won't regret it because I feel like I've done exactly what I was called to do. We didn't have a young adult ministry when we got here and four years later we have 500 people. Actual people, not evangelistic numbers, we've literally added about 125 souls every year for four years. What more do you say to that?
TK: Take me through your final five minutes on Friday night at Brickhouse. How do you want your last five minutes to go?
TR: I want my last five minutes to be like my first five minutes. The week before we had our first "Brick," we had what we had a "getting to know you" service. My wife and I were there, I spoke for about 20 minutes about what "Brick" was going to be and then I fed roughly 200 people. Actually, I know it was 200 people. What returned the next week was 120 and then we started ministry from there.
I'm going to end like I started. But instead of a "getting to know you" service, it's going to be a "you know me" service. This is what we've done, this is what the Holy Spirit has allowed us to do, you know me now. Four years ago you were getting to know me. Four years later you know me.
Brick will continue, I go to my journey, you guys keep going on yours. The end.
TK: Do you think it's fair to say that people only show up to Brick to hear and see you? If you're hearing the number has been cut in half from what you left or the number is a quarter of what it was, will you respond to that at all and how do you respond?
TR: I won't respond to it. The most dangerous thing you can do as a leader when your assignment is up is turn around and have a comment on something you can no longer control. So I will have absolutely no response.
TK: But is it fair to the person that's taking over for you if the numbers do drop from what you're leaving? Because if the number is a quarter of what you left with, that's not fair to the person taking over right?
TR: You're absolutely right. There's a message the Holy Spirit had me preach two weeks ago entitled "Let Him Go," which was appropriate, it fit.
Here's a powerful thing the Holy Spirit spoke to us as Bricks. In Acts chapter one, Jesus tells his disciples to "stay right here that the Holy Spirit is going to come upon you." Then, on a cloud, he ascends into heaven. The 12 guys that are literally going to transform the whole world are stuck staring at him going away. The New Living Translation says they are literally straining their eyes trying to still look at him. Two angels have to come and tell them to snap out of it. King James version says "why do you stand here gazing?"
They are stuck staring at a man, looking up, instead of standing looking out on the mission He left them to do. I think a lot of times we get stuck on the man instead of the mission. Brickhouse is a young adult ministry and and a community for young adults to come together. That is the mission. That mission continues.
If you get stuck trying to strain your eyes about where I'm going next, you'll miss the mission you're equipped to do the last four years.
TK: What is Pastor Tim Ross' legacy leaving Potters House?
TR: That I pointed to Jesus more than I pointed to myself and that I preached the uncompromising, unadulterated, word of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. That's it.
I want to send a huge..HUGE...thank you to Pastor Tim Ross for taking so much time out of his day to sit down for the interview. It was an absolute honor to speak with him and I know I speak for those that have seen or heard him speak at Brickhouse when I say that I wish him and his family nothing but the best wherever he goes.
I know God is going to lead him to do great things and wherever he goes along the way, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few familiar faces show up just to hear him speak.
If you want to follow the goings on with Pastor Tim Ross, you can follow him on Twitter (@timrossorg).