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This past spring we launched a search for a new role on our team, the Director of Discipleship and Theological Development, and shared the vision for this role in a blog, “A New Pastoral Role and A Vision for Deep Discipleship and Pastor Training.”

This past Sunday our elders were pleased to announce Jim Knauss as our man for this role. Jim has been a member at Heritage for a few years and interned with us a year ago now. He’s been teaching electives, showing hospitality, and discipling among our flock. In so many ways, he’s been doing the job in miniature.

Let’s get to know Jim. I’ve asked him a few questions here to help you get better acquainted with him, his family, and his story. The interview that follows builds on a previous blog that you should read first: “Meet Our Fall Intern: Jim Knauss.”


Jim, you were an intern with us back in 2022. At that time, we interviewed you on this blog to learn about your family, your salvation story, how you got to Heritage, and your vocational aspirations. We’ll get to the story of the last year. But let’s begin with this question: why is Hannah kicking you out of the office at home?

Hannah wants me out so that my books have a place to go besides the entrance of our home! Every time I go to a conference with the church or start a new seminary course, the first question she normally asks is, “How many books did you bring home?” It is slightly concerning how eager both my wife and children are to get me out of the house to make use of their new space….

In all seriousness, we look forward to a 4-minute commute to the church and being able to see each other a lot more than we do now.

We posted this job for the Director of Discipleship and Theological Development last spring. You spent thirteen years in Active Duty in the Airforce. Two years ago, you retired from the military and transitioned to be a pilot with FedEx. What’s the story behind your interest in this role and decision not only to change vocations but to give your life for the foreseeable future to the saints at Heritage?

The Lord’s road for me to pursue this role has been unconventional to say the least. I had been following the Lord for some time and was maturing in my faith in my young adult life. In my church at my first duty station in Wichita Falls, TX, the pastor noticed that I had a gift to teach others. He plugged me into the college ministry and that’s where Hannah and I found great community and joy serving Christ’s church. Each time we moved, we plugged into the college and young adult ministries teaching and leading. When I started designing curriculum for our college ministry in Valdosta, GA, I knew my knowledge level was lacking. I decided to pursue seminary utilizing the education benefits the Air Force provided at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Eight years of one class per semester, and I finished with my M.Div. last May.

In that time, Abe Stratton (whose shoes I will never be able to fill) acted as my Ministry Supervisor during my last semester. During this Applied Ministry course at Southern, the professor usually likes to see you preaching, teaching, and leading. However, we had just moved here, and Hannah and I weren’t even members yet! Abe invested in me and created a program where I would write elective curriculum and teach alongside him to fulfill my ministry hours. During this time, I found a passion for serving the church that was new and invigorating. I began to look forward to my meetings with him as we talked over my work. With the Lord’s grace, I now had the training and experience, but didn’t know how the Lord was going to use the tools he had given me.

Then Trent approached me about our church’s pastoral internship. Just when I thought I was done for a bit reading books and writing papers, the next 12 weeks found me reading a book a week and writing 600 words on each one. Thinking this would be too much, too soon after seminary, I instead realized the joy I had working with Abe was directly transferred to working with Trent. We had great discussions, and I was able to interact with the elders in a “behind-the-scenes” way. After watching our leaders operate, I knew I wanted to serve Christ’s church in that way. I began searching out ways to become involved in more opportunities. I volunteered to teach every elective cycle, lead a shepherding group with my sweet wife, and completed the preaching cohort with Trent along with some other brothers. The Lord had aligned so many steps, but there still wasn’t a clear focus on what vocational ministry would look like for me. I looked into joining the Air Force Reserve Chaplaincy Corps, but several issues arose in that process. I knew the Lord wasn’t leading me to just any vocational ministry job; he was leading me to the right vocational ministry job. He was leading me somewhere that my gifts, his provision, and his preparation all aligned.

When the church posted the description for this position, it was everything I had always wanted to do in ministry. It described expanding and structuring our elective ministry; a ministry that I had worked so hard on with Abe and one I’ve had the privilege to serve in so joyfully at our church. It involved teaching, mentoring, and discipling. It described pouring into young men looking to follow the same path I’m following now. I am a product of the church’s discipleship ministry and this job would afford me the opportunity to expand that legacy. Namely, the job gave some brother the opportunity to lead. Looking back on the process, I am so thankful for the people God has placed into my life and the opportunities he’s afforded me. I certainly don’t deserve them. I pray God would use me in this job to serve the saints at Heritage with the purpose of bringing him glory.

This role is focused on two areas. First, the church’s discipling ministries through teaching with a focus on electives. Second, building on and building out our elders’ dreams for pastor training. What excites you about both of those areas of responsibility?

Before getting into the specifics of what you’ve asked, the excitement around this job for me carries with it the aspect of leading again. As a military officer, I received extensive leadership training and was able to employ my specific leadership style in a wide variety of contexts. I’ve had the opportunity to lead dozens of civilian, officer, and enlisted personnel throughout my career. The last few years have been great in settling our family down and providing a wonderful community. For me, however, it has been devoid of an ability to lead. I look forward to submitting to the godly leadership of those who have been in vocational ministry as I navigate leading in this new context.

With that, I’ve been thrilled to serve in the electives ministry since showing up here at Heritage. Whether it’s in a cockpit, pulpit, classroom, homeschool room, or elective class, teaching is a passion of mine, and I’m grateful the Lord has prepared and equipped me to do it. However, I’ve witnessed in our own church men who are much better teachers than I! I look forward to learning from them and sharpening my own skills as a teacher.

There is an aspect of this job that is encouraging: our church has an overwhelming abundance of men who can preach and teach God’s Word faithfully, joyfully, and competently. Better yet, I know there are men who can teach who are not fulfilling that role yet. Part of the vision for this role is identifying these men and bringing them through a process to firmly establish them as teachers in our elective hour.

My vision for our church’s Christian education does not contain “fixing things that ain’t broke.” We have a good thing going with electives, and I’ve been privileged to be a part of that ministry. There are some things, however, I believe we can add to make our electives more robust. I have plans to structure our education in a certain way so that there is better continuity and coherence between classes. If that sounds vague, it is! Two reasons for the ambiguity at this point: 1) it is not all fleshed out yet. I wouldn’t dare present something that is “half-cooked” and 2) it would take more words than I’m guessing people would be willing to read to lay out the things some of the elders and myself have batted around thus far. I look forward to learning from other churches that have done this well and working with the elders to sharpen, structure, and broaden our Christian education at Heritage.

I can’t leave my excitement for the job without talking about how we are going to deepen our commitment to pastoral training. As I explained already, I have been the direct beneficiary of several programs at our church in preparing me for this role. My joy will be taking these aspects of our ministry and coalescing them under one effort to identify and train future vocational pastors. Several items will go into this, but something new we may look into is partnering with seminaries to develop a pastoral training curriculum. This will help us learn from many who have gone before us and also might result in our pastoral interns and residents earning seminary credit hours! We have so many faithful brothers serving our church, and I look forward to combining several efforts to train future ministers for the gospel!

Our mission at the church is to spread the unsearchable riches of Christ broader in the world and deeper in the church. It will be an immense joy to contribute in this role to broadly training our congregation through Christian education and specifically training brothers for future pastoral ministry.

This transition involves not only you but your whole family. Bring us into the changes you’re leading your family through and how we can pray for you.

The family changes for this job are mostly good and certainly provide blessings we know the Lord has provided. We will eat more family dinners together and just spend more time as a family. I’ll be free to coach baseball teams and pick the kids up from school. Hannah just may get too used to seeing me more than she ever has before.

There are some things we know will be different.

Hannah and I have talked about the fact that my time and attention may need to be “diverted” on short notice if there is something occurring in the life of one of the saints at our church. This is not necessarily new. As a member of the armed forces, I could be deployed on only 3-days’ notice. This uncertainty, however, is something we haven’t had to worry about in a few years. Our last 3 years in the Air Force I was a non-deployable Test Pilot, and we have been with FedEx for the last 2.5 years. Although this is something we know will happen, we can think of no better way to serve Christ’s church than to serve the people in our local body whom we have laughed with, cried with, confessed our sins to, and have come to love as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

We would love prayers for wisdom and discernment as we take on not just a vocational change, but a different operation in our normal routines. Pray that we enjoy our new time that our family has together. Pray for steadfastness and endurance if things don’t transpire exactly as we planned (which is almost guaranteed to happen…). Finally, please pray that we take the ways the Lord has prepared us and use his gifts to serve the saints in our church to his glory.

I know many of you reading this have been praying for us for a long time now. Thank you so much for your prayers. We look forward to serving in this role for the long-term and pray God will keep us faithful in the way we do so.

Finally, why should we be thankful for the A-10? Is it better or worse than the F-22 (ahem!)? Also, what was your call sign and how did you get it? Anything else that would be of intrigue, please share.

In designing combat aircraft, the jet is designed and then weapons are added to it. The A-10 is the only combat aircraft where a weapon was designed to fly. Landing on the moon was a pretty significant American achievement, but only in the A-10 did we successfully design a 30 MM GAU-8 Gatling Gun to fly! This makes it superior to any aircraft you want to name including, yes, the F-22.

Naming a pilot is a significant event and stays with a pilot not only his whole career, but essentially his whole life. Some of my best friends in the world do not know my actual first name, and I would be hard-pressed to remember theirs. My tactical flying call sign was “Hook”. In the squadron, Hannah and I were “Hook and Hannah.” I got my call sign because I was a designated survivor in a combat search and rescue (CSAR) training mission and was unfortunately given a radio that was not assembled. The radio was known as the “Hook 112” because it had a giant antenna that had a significant curve at the end. In my best efforts, I assembled the radio incorrectly and my friend “hooked” his ride because he couldn’t get a hold of me. When a pilot “hooks” a ride, he fails it and has to do over again (all the planning, coordination, briefing, flying and debriefing). When it was made known I was to blame, the squadron gave me the call sign “Hook.” It was also expedient that my first name is James and upon pinning on Captain, I became “Captain James Hook.”

I enjoy using my Air Force experience to draw up illustrations when I preach and teach. If you’ve been with me in my “Mortification of Sin” elective class, you are in for a treat in week 3. The military was good to our family and God used it to bring us here. We are grateful for our time there and now look forward to serving Christ and his kingdom.