Keith Stillwell received his master of divinity from The Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville in 1988 and his doctor of ministry from the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Virginia, in 2000. He is the Together for Hope regional vice president for Appalachia (hope.cbf.net/appalachia). Previously Keith served for thirty years on church staff as an associate pastor focused on spiritual formation and missions.
How did you come to write a book centered on “Loving God and Neighbor”? What were you hoping to accomplish when you sat down to write Being a Disciple Community?
In my ministry as associate pastor, focused on spiritual formation and missions, I was working on a way of conceptualizing and organizing the major functions of the church. I thought of this idea as a sort of a filing system for ideas, practices, theology of the church—the disciple community. I was looking for a guiding vision for my life and ministry and I wanted that vision to get to the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and what is the nature, purpose, and practices of the disciple community. I felt there was no better place to start than with what is the heart of the Jewish faith and the commands that Jesus lifted up as most important, love of God and neighbor. Luke follows up on a conversation about the command to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself, with two stories that beautifully illustrate love of God and neighbor—the Parable of the Good Samaritan and Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary.
I began working on this after completing my Doctor of Ministry from Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in 2000. My D.Min. project was based on the Good Samaritan and neighborhood ministry. So, this has been a long time in the making. I am grateful that my church, First Baptist Church Frankfort, encouraged me to complete this project to use as a churchwide study and emphasis. And I am grateful that James Stillwell was available and willing at that time to write most of the chapter on Care.
What I was hoping to accomplish in writing this book was to provide a tool to help churches reflect deeply on what it really means to be the church. I hope that it can be a tool that church groups can study together, perhaps as preparation for a more thorough process of discerning God’s mission for their church. My goal was to write not just for ministers, but for the whole church membership. There is not much new in this book, but hopefully it helps make some important ideas accessible to the congregation.