Interview with NAYC Speakers: Tom Ellis
Yes! You heard it. North American Youth Congress is not that far away. And NAYC 17 is chock full of anointed speakers and musicians who will be ministering in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis in just a few short months. We’d like you to get to know them before they preach to you and lead you in worship.
Our next interview comes from former Ohio youth president and current pastor of The Calvary Church of Cincinnati, Ohio. So, students, It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Pastor Tom Ellis.
InsideOut: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three items would you want to have with you and why?
Tom Ellis: 1. Fishing pole and tackle—recreation and food
2. Big knife—seems like the most versatile tool.
3. Flint—so I can build fires for food and heat.
IO: Please tell us your favorite joke.
TE: Knock, knock.
IO: What is the funniest moment you have had while preaching?
TE: It was at Louisiana Youth Camp, and I opened my sermon about “Getting in the Game” with an illustration using a wiffle ball game. I had Pastor Paul Price help me with the illustration by hitting a wiffle ball. I was pitching to him from the floor, and he was on the platform hitting into the crowd. The first two times he hit the ball, he didn’t hit it very well, and the Louisiana youth committee started jeering him. So he called for me to pitch the ball again. When I did, he swung as hard as he could and hit a line drive into the front row of the crowd. The ball hit a girl in the neck on the front row. She grabbed her throat and starting choking. Thankfully she was OK, but they did have to take her out of the service. It was funny afterwards; not so much in the moment.
IO: Besides the Bible, what is your favorite book?
TE: Visioneering by Andy Stanley
IO: How do you prepare to preach to thousands at North American Youth Congress?
TE: Prayer, fasting, and preparation are obvious but absolutely vital for me. The other element is visualization. I visualize several things. I am visualizing my sermon. I am creating pictures of each element of my message in my head. I am visualizing the crowd. While I know there will be amazing pastors and preachers in the crowd, my focus is on the youth in the crowd. So I am trying to stay focused in my prayers, fasting, and preparation on youth. I visualize our youth group and their stories to help me know the audience. I am also visualizing the stage and surroundings. I am trying to prepare for elements to the sermon that can be attention grabbing and meaningful. Ultimately I am visualizing myself as a vessel of God. Nothing special, just a vessel used to minister and bless the amazing youth of North America.
IO: Briefly share your testimony, especially from your life as a teen.
TE: As a teenager I attended the church my dad and mom started. It was a fairly small church. While we did not have much of a youth group or great facilities, it provided me an opportunity to try different areas of ministry. I started helping with the music when I was around ten. I played the xylophone, drums, saxophone, piano, bass, and organ in our church. I also ran our sound and, at that time, our “tape ministry” department. These experiences provided a great opportunity for me to be involved and to learn ministry values that help me even as a pastor today.
IO: When and where did God call you to preach, and how did you answer you His call?
TE: As a twelve year old at an Ohio children’s camp, I felt God invite me to surrender my life for His use in ministry. I made a commitment when I went up to the altar that I would do anything and go anywhere for Him. While I certainly wasn’t perfect and felt like throwing in the towel many times during my teenage years, I found that I held onto that encounter with God at the hot summer camp when I was twelve. That experience propelled me to make a decision coming out of high school to pursue ministry and attend Indiana Bible College.
IO: What advice do you have for someone feeling a call to ministry? What should their next steps be?
TE: First, if you feel a call to ministry, you should pursue it with everything you have. Don’t try to insert your creativity into the process. Follow God and let Him tell you where you will go and what you will do. Prayer and fasting are the keys to knowing the will of God. Our family motto is “the will of God at any cost.”
Secondly, get involved. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Find something you can do. Look for things at your church that need help and volunteer.
IO: How can the students take the North American Youth Congress fire to their homes and home churches and keep it burning?
TE: Be willing to sell out. Develop the habit of connecting with God every day.
Tom Ellis served as Ohio youth president from 2005 until 2013. He is a child of one God named Jesus, husband of one beautiful wife, father of three beautiful daughters, and pastor to The Calvary Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Tom Ellis is scheduled to speak Thursday, July 27, 2017 during the 11:30 a.m. general session.