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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Conversation with Debleaire Snell

John Bradshaw - Conversation with Debleaire Snell


John Bradshaw - Conversation with Debleaire Snell
TOPICS: Conversations

He is a minister of the gospel, a published author, and the leader of a Christian media ministry. His name is Pastor Debleaire Snell. I'm John Bradshaw, and this is our conversation.


John Bradshaw: Pastor Debleaire Snell, thank you for joining me today.

Debleaire Snell: Hey, I'm glad to be here. It's good to connect, and glad to be here in College Delta.

John Bradshaw: And connect again. We go back a few years. We were pastors in the same town, just a little up the road from each other. And it's funny how God works things out. So today you are the new Speaker and Director of Breath of Life, a media ministry. Let's talk about Breath of Life a little, then we'll backtrack, and then we'll forward track. So Breath of Life. Tell me about that.

Debleaire Snell: Yeah, so Breath of Life is one of the legacy media ministries here in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. It has a tremendous tradition. It was the vision concept of Elder Walter Ortiz in the mid '70s. And so the first official speaker was the legendary evangelist, Charles Brooks. So he led the ministry for a number of years. He was then succeeded by Elder Walter Pearson, who led the ministry for over, I think almost 15 or 20 years. And then for the last 12 years, Dr. Carlton Bird has functioned as the Speaker and Director of Breath of Life. And here, back in August, they asked me to take over that responsibility, as he transitioned into church administration.

John Bradshaw: Fantastic. Well, God knows what he is doing. Let's back up. You're a minister of the gospel. How did that happen? Talk about your background, where you are from. Were you raised in church? What was that all about?

Debleaire Snell: Yeah, so it's interesting. I grew up in Tallahassee, Florida. That's kind of where I was born and raised. But I tell people growing up, I was part of the CME church. Meaning we went to church on Christmas, Mother's Day, and Easter. That was our religious experience. And it's interesting because I grew up there in the South, a part of a number of different cycles that the gospel was able to shatter when it entered into my life. And so what I mean, when I say that, I was in a single parent home at the time. My mom and myself, we kind of lived back and forth with my grandmother. And so our house was a very blended house. So my other aunts, and their kids, my first cousins, we lived in and out of the same space. And so my mom is a single mom. She would go out on the weekends, and I would spend a lot of time with my grandmother and my cousins. And there, she met my stepfather out one weekend. Now I say stepfather, but we don't use that term because he essentially raised me, especially from being 12, and going forward. Now, the amazing thing about how God works is they kind of meet out kind of living the life, so to speak. Now while they were coming together in North Florida and Tallahassee, my dad's mom was coming to the end of her work season in South Florida, which was in Fort Pierce, Florida. So what happened is she lived next door to an Adventist lady named Helen. Helen would begin talking to my grandmother, who was a devout Baptist about the teachings of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, talked to her about the Sabbath and the second coming. And they've shared with me how they would have these really intense conversations, because Grandmom was really devout in what she believed. But man, the truth of God's word is just overwhelming and powerful for anybody that's earnestly seeking. So essentially what happens is, she joins the Seventh Day Adventist Church in South Florida. When she retired, she moved to North Florida in Tallahassee to be near the kids who had, many of them had migrated toward that area at that time. So when she comes, she's got the message of the third angel hot on her tongue. And it's amazing how kind of things providentially worked. The world was beginning to lose its sweetness for my parents around the same time when she came. So she came and she was really adamant of about kind of really bringing her family into the church, seeing them develop roots in Christ. And so I remember one Saturday morning. I was sitting there watching cartoons, eating my cereal. And it was great because, cereal just takes better on Saturday morning. And so they said, we're going to church. And I remember kind of being a little bit of a smart aleck, and saying nope, you got the wrong day. You go to church on Sundays. And they said no, we're going today. And so we got into kind of a sporadic habit of attending. So we would go maybe every other month, kind of shifted to maybe once a month, maybe every other week. And then we got into a rhythm of attending church on Sabbath. And so I remember the elders coming by the house, and they would study the Bible with my parents. And I remember, at the time, they would study the Bible with me as well. And they were very patient, because I would ask questions that kind of showed them that I didn't really grow up around the Bible. So you ask these odd questions about God. And that would kind of throw them off. But we would have a great time with it. But the long and short of it is, I remember my mom and my dad, they eventually got married, as they were settling into the church. Then we wind up getting baptized together, my mom, my dad, there was a first cousin of mine and an uncle. We all got baptized into the Marinatha Seventh Day Adventist Church there in Tallahassee, together. And one of the beautiful things about it, John, was I was able to see Bible conversion up close and personal. So that even when people talk about the phoniness of religion at times, that doesn't resonate with me. Because it was a very authentic thing that I was able to witness and experience personally.

And what did you witness? What did you see?

Yeah, so I mean, just it was a radical life shift. So my parents' young marriage and relationship, that was kind of volatile. As Christ filled up their lives, I began to see it normalize and become a lot more fruitful. The language in the home radically shifted. Where there was the presence of alcohol, or cigarettes, or maybe marijuana, those things begin to disappear. The frustration, the anger frustration lines my dad would have. His countenance changed as his life was filled up with the presence of the Holy Spirit.

You saw real Holy Spirit transformation.

Holy spirit change. I mean, and it was radical. There are pictures of my mom, and we laugh about it, where she's just decked out in jewelry, and in different things, and how she embraced the principles of modesty, as we settled in into the truth of God's word. And so as we matriculated into church, Dad began serving as a Deacon in Training. He eventually became a Head Deacon. And he became an Ordained Elder in the church. And my mom, same thing, Deaconess, Community Service Leader. And it's amazing because this lady named Helen, whom I've never met, she was able to lead my grandmother into the faith. She led many of her children and grandchildren. I wound up becoming a Pastor, by the grace of God. Before Jesus comes, I wanna lead thousands to the kingdom of God. And it's amazing how a number of those stars, in many ways, will be accredited to the crown of a lady named Helen, who did not sit on the truth of the gospel, but was liberal with sharing it with those who were in our sphere of influence.

Yeah, fantastic. So somewhere along the line, you got this idea in you that you were gonna be a minister of the gospel. Where did, where did that? How did that burden originate within you?

Yeah, so it was definitely a progression. So when we get into the church, just like young people. Our church, they really made real investments in the young people.

Oh, they did?

So I was a Junior Deacon, a Junior Usher, sometimes against my will, active in AYS. So we did skits and plays. And so I remember there would be times where I'll be 14, 15, and there would be people that said I think you're gonna be a pastor. And when you're kind of 15, you don't really know what to do with that. 'Cause you're new to church world and life, and you're still trying to figure it out. And there were times where, and I didn't really take it seriously till, I think, my parents said we see something rare. And I'm like, what do you see? You can't process that as a teenager. But the long and short of it is, I was kind of set there in Tallahassee to go to one of the local universities, Florida State University. That's where my mom worked her entire career. That's kind of where I worked in the Summer times, growing up, so I was like that's where I was gonna head. Gonna gonna study English there at Florida State University. That that's what I was gonna do. So the long and short of it, there was a good friend of mine, he's also a pastor. And that wasn't his plan, by the way, Brian Jacobs. He came home from Boarding Academy at Forest Lake Academy. He said listen, man. I just went to Oakwood for college days. He's like, man, we gotta go. We can be roommates. We can get outta the house. And so I'm thinking about different things. So we go up to Huntsville to visit Oakwood for their alumni weekend. And I can't really explain it. I didn't have the spiritual faculties at the time to kind of realize what was happening. But there was just this sense of Providence. I just felt strangely drawn to the area, to the university. And being a product of public school, seeing young people who were speaking, and singing, and doing skits for Christ in that volume, that was like, that was so foreign and so strange. It was like another world. And I was, I had a sense that this is where I belong. And it's amazing how you kind of line things up. So even as I talk about my parents, how they developed their relationship, and how they grew in church. But when they bought their first home, it's where they lived until they recently relocated to Huntsville to be near our family. They bought their first home, John, at 2905 Oakwood Drive. And when we kind of began to put things together, we said, this must be something providential to it. And so I wind up going to Oakwood. And that's where, just as a Freshman, I began to really consider it, pray for it earnestly, kind of independent of kind of my church, and upbringing, and those influences. And it was there, probably toward the middle part of my first year, where I just kind of came to that place of full surrender, where I said, okay God. Wherever, whenever, whatever you tell me to do, I'm willing to do it. And it's amazing how, when I just kind of said, okay, I'm willing, the peace of God just settled upon on me in a very rare and distinct fashion. It was like the weight of 10,000 planets was lifted, by just saying yes, and saying I'm willing. And it became really, really clear, probably my first year there at Oakwood.

What was your entry into ministry like? Culture shock, shock, easy, I mean, natural? I mean, after Oakwood. What happened after Oakwood? But let's get to where you enter into pastoral ministry.

Yeah, so. So after I finished Oakwood, I went to Andrews. And I spent my two and a half years there at the seminary, had a tremendous experience. And so one of the things that helped prepare me, one was being active in our church growing up. So they didn't sit us on the sideline. They allowed us to get involved. And so, we attended church business meetings. And I don't know if that was a good thing or not.

Yeah, you're right.

So I didn't have any, what's the term? I didn't have any misgivings. I didn't see it as this glorious thing. I understood, just from watching some of the experiences growing up, that there is a, there's rigor to it. And it's not everybody loves you. There's difficulty to leadership, because I saw it just in our local church. And then I had a chance to kind of work as a Pastoral Intern in the Praise Fellowship Seventh Day Adventist Church in South Bend while I was there at Andrews. And so that's where I was able to kind of get my feet wet with some things. But my first church in 2002, I was assigned to a two church district in Columbus and West Point, Mississippi. And so the one thing that was new, was really small rural church.

Right, sure. Yeah, that's a different world.

And so it's a different world. Because you come outta Andrews, so you come outta seminary and you're a bottle rocket. You're like, yo, we're gonna turn this city upside down for Jesus. You're rolling out in the spirit of the apostles. We're gonna do it, and we're gonna see this church fill up. We're gonna do this and that. And see the thing about kind of small town life is just, it's a little more laid back. There's not that urgency. So kind of my energy, didn't match the energy of the town, or the church culture at that time. So a big part of it is, even though I had great members, hardworking, who loved the Lord, who are willing to support. I think probably the biggest adjustment was expectations. Whereas, kind of what I thought would happen, maybe in four or five months, those are things that took four years to see come to pass. And so I think it was great in the sense of, you kind of come to an understanding that this is work. There's a grind to it. In small church pastor in context, you do everything. So there are gonna be times where you're gonna be answering phones. You're gonna be cleaning churches. I remember, me and about four teenagers called the Ladale boys. We painted and remodeled our fellowship hall. So, I mean, it's just, it's where. And the good thing about it is that, it really stretches the boundaries of your creativity. Because you know how they say poverty is the mother of invention. But the same thing is that when you have, when you don't have a whole lot of resources, ministry wise, it really forces you to learn how to be creative, and to do things without a large budget. So I remember our evangelistic allotment from the conference would be $500 for evangelism.

For the year.

For the year, right. And we would be like, okay. We gonna take it, and we're gonna run with it. And so I think that was one of the tremendous takeaways, was okay, if you can do something with limited financial resources, once God allows you to steward a little bit more, you've kind of gotten into a rhythm of kind of really stretching yourself.

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Now, somewhere along the way you acquired some additional family members. Today you have three beautiful children, a husband of one wife. Tell me how you and Gianna met. What's the story? Tell me what you can tell me now.

Yeah, yeah yeah so, of course, everybody. I have a version and she has a version.

Okay, somewhere in there's the truth.

Somewhere in there's the truth. But we first met, so my Senior year at Oakwood, it was her Freshman year. So she actually worked in the Religion Department. And so that's where we kind of had a, developed a friendly kind of acquaintance. That's how we became acquainted with each other. And so we would kind of see each other in passing. And I always thought she was very, very attractive. But I was a Senior, she was a Freshman. And our worlds were kind of heading in different directions. So I go to Andrews. And providentially, God arranged it to where after her second year at Oakwood, she was doing a major in Journalism, Communications, Photography. And Oakwood didn't have a complete program. So she transferred...

She transferred to Andrews.

So yeah. So by that time.

Look at that, huh.

So she's a Junior, Senior now and I'm in grad school. And so we had already had this really good friendship. And, so kind of how it worked was, when we were first, when she first came, I was connected with when someone else. She was at the same time. So we had this friendly relationship where I was, we referred to each other, I was her campus big brother. She was my campus little sister. So whenever she needed a ride to the store, I had a car at the time. We would go and we'd spend time, and we would hang out. And we had this really, really great friendship. But kind of as God kind of ordained, the people I was connected to, that began to dissolve. Same thing with her end. And it just cleared the path. And it was amazing because I only had probably about three months left before I was about to exit the seminary. And so all of those other things were kind of removed, and it was just kind of like a path was finally cleared. And we connected in a very, very powerful way for about two and a half months before I left Andrews. So the entirety of our relationship was long distance. I was pastoring in Mississippi. She was finishing up her undergrad. And so we dated long distance for another year and a half. And then I proposed shortly after she graduated. And we were married eight months after that.

There you go. Now, over the course of your marriage, your wife has developed into a very talented photographer. What has? Just tell me, as you've seen it. You must be very proud of her, her abilities, her achievements. And you you've sort of seen that whole thing grow. What's it been like, watching that develop, and your wife's talent clearly developing, her business growing? That's gotta be a lot of fun to be up close and watch that.

It is. And I think part of it is just kind of showing that everybody has to be loyal to process. Meaning she didn't just kind of step out, and just start this photography business and studio. She started out working at the the local newspaper in Columbus, Mississippi as a photo journalist. I remember her working in Sears Portrait Studio, there in Mississippi. Same thing when we moved to Kentucky. She would with the local paper, and do some different things based on assignment here and there. But it it's amazing because everything had a purpose, whether it was kind of understanding people, whether it was getting familiar with deadlines, whether it was getting familiar with photo editing, or whether kind of how to operate and how to function in a studio. God has amazing ways of training and preparing us. So she had to go through that process. But God kind of set it up to where when we arrived in Huntsville, we were able to have an 11 year tenure at our current church. So she was able to develop, again, a part of the process, a strong clientele for our first few years there. And it created enough of interest, and enough of a base for her to launch her studio, Gianna Snell Photography. And it's amazing. Many of her photos have gone viral several times over. Matter of fact, some of her work was actually displayed on the Steve Harvey Show, maybe about three or four years ago. So it's been a process. And she certainly, for lack of a better term, paid her dues. But she was faithful in each assignment. And when you're faithful in a few things, God allows you to oversee more responsibility. And that's where she is.

Yeah, amen amen. Well, that's been your wife's story. It's very evidently the story of your track in ministry. We'll talk about that more in just a moment. Here's Pastor Debleaire Snell, the new Speaker and Director of Breath of Life. I'm John Bradshaw. More of our conversation in just a moment, brought to you by It Is Written.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to Conversations, brought to you by It Is Written. My very special guest Debleaire Snell. He is the Speaker Director of Breath of Life, a ministry which for many years has been impacting the world through ministry and evangelism. I wanna ask you, what is it that excites you? We'll talk about Breath of Life and the possibilities, and your global ministry in just a moment. But what is it that fires you up about ministry? What are the things that? You've done a lot of pastoral ministry, very successful pastoral ministry, very effective. What is it that gets you up in the morning, and say yeah, it's a ministry day today?

Debleaire Snell: Well, so I think one of the things that kind of drives me. And when people talk about evangelism, and ministry, I think a lot of times we see start that conversation with gifts or skillset. But I think in many ways, evangelism is experiential in this way. 'Cause I think what drives you is this. When you can say, on a heart level, that Jesus is the best thing that's ever happened to you. And like, again, I talked about some of the different cycles that kind of held our lives captive. I am an emancipated believer because of Jesus Christ. He has radically changed my world. The life of my children will be radically different because of the presence of Jesus in my life. And so there is this inner, there is this innate passion to see others have this experience in Christ that I have had. I know that urban communities are filled with young men, young women who were probably headed down the same path, or part of the same cycles that I was a part of. And so my work, kind of what drives me, is the idea of allowing, or being a part of sharing this Jesus that has radically shaped my life, my worldview with others that need to know that there is a more excellent way. And it's amazing, because so many of the things that we lament about the culture. And I'm not anti mental health. I believe in social work, I believe in education. But there is nothing that radically changes the way a person thinks, that radically impacts the heart like being in a saved living relationship with Jesus Christ. And so the drive is very much personal. I function out of the overflow of an experience that is still being lived out in real time. So that's what drives me. I tell people all the time, my alarm clock doesn't wake me up. My assignment wakes me up. There is somebody that through some vehicle, whether it's media, whether it's community impact things, whether it's an evangelistic revival, there is somebody that needs the experience that I'm living out day to day.

John Bradshaw: Now, you are a preacher. People who know you, know that you preach. Your ministry is characterized by powerful preaching. Talk to me about not just preaching, but also the role of, and the power of the word of God. Talk to me about what preaching means to you first.

Debleaire Snell: Yeah, so I think preaching is. I just think it's the primary vehicle through which the gospel is shared. I think it's really taking the word of God, and just really putting it in a context. So they're just, the primary principle that drives my preaching is simplicity. One of the things that we noticed from Jesus Christ, is that he taught using parables. So that if you listen to me, one of the things that we're gonna be intentional about is just kind of using, whether it's illustrations, or stories, or just kind of personal experience, so that the gospel doesn't remain too ethereal. We don't want it to be high minded. I think the gospel works in real time. I think it is our present help. And so we love to try to put it in an experiential context, so that it's not just theological. People realize that it impacts the life. And so my goal is not for you to come away from a message saying wow, that was deep. My goal is for you to come away and say wow, that was clear. It's not to say wow, he's impressive. But to say okay, I understand it. And to see that the gospel of Jesus Christ, that it is attainable for all people. So, I don't want you to see myself as this kind of transcendent person that I has it all together. Because at the end of the day we're all functioning out of our human brokenness, faultiness, frailties. And God's strength is perfected in our weakness. And so those are some of the things that kind of drive kind of my sermonic approach, and the way we look to communicate with people.

John Bradshaw: I'm fine talking about the chiastic structure of The Book of Revelation. Sure, it's fascinating. But I don't know a single person whose soul has been redeemed, whose life has been transformed by an academic presentation. You may scratch someone's academic itch. But what I believe people need is a word that works, and works in them, and that somehow connects them with the power of God. You seemed to have figure that philosophy out.

Debleaire Snell: Yeah, and I think, 'cause we all, in the process of serving, study, and development, you go through an academic process. But the goal is not necessarily to create an academic presentation. So of course, we want it to touch all levels of humanity. Of course, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually. But we want it to cross all three gamuts, because it's only when all three gamuts converge, do people make decisions. We don't just make decisions intellectually, but we make them emotionally, and spiritually. And I think when all three components of a man or a woman are reached, I think that's what moves people to the point where they wanna transition from death to life, from being unchurched to church, or from moving from darkness to light.

Might have been one of the very first times I heard you preach, was during a revival series as you're holding early in your ministry. So all the way, I mean from day one, you've been about evangelism and the ministry of the word. What is it that excites to you about evangelism? You can define evangelism however you want. But what fires you up about it?

So I think evangelism, I don't think it just, I don't think it has one format. I don't think it has a single definition. I just think it's the experience of kind of telling those who are not persuaded, or who have not made up their minds about Jesus Christ, about this Jesus who saves, and letting them know that this same Jesus is in fact coming again. And so I think evangelism has a number of different portals. I think you and I function in a world where it happens through a device, or through a television. Many times it's in person in a church, or assembly hall of some sort. There are people who do door to door evangelism. And so I think it's, I think we're all just kind of different branches from the same tree. But I think the objective is essentially the same. But I think, though, for me. In the church world there are meetings on top of meetings, and boards, and committees, and budgets, and all that stuff. But those are necessary. I don't even say the term evil. They're not necessary evils, but they are things that need to be done. They are means to a particular end. So that in the course of a week where you sit in meetings, and do different things, and you're organizing worship services and media. All that stuff is so that in some way, shape, or form, whether it's through a camera, or whether I stand at the front aisle of a church, and I give the gospel invitation. And John, there is something about when I see a man, a woman, a child, an aged person, marching down the aisle with the conviction of God heavy on their hearts, perhaps tears in their eyes, and they say yes to Jesus. And you know that Heaven is rejoicing. Somebody's name is being written in The Book of Life. No matter what I've gone through in that week, no matter what opposition, challenge, frustrations you face, that makes it all completely worth it. And then being able, especially in a pastoral context, to walk with them, seeing them get settled in the truth of God's word, seeing them go through the process of sanctification, where they're overcoming, and having victories. And they're having to make decisions about this, that, and a third, and seeing them get settled in Christ. Honestly, it makes everything that I may not love doing worth it because those things are a means. They create the infrastructure for me to make that invitation, whether it's in person, or whether it's through a camera. And really that's what it's all about. That's what revives me. That's what energizes me. That's what makes me say whatever was hard, or whatever was unpleasant. I'll do it 10 times over just to be a part of that experience with somebody's life.

Yeah, you're talking about the goal being seeing somebody come to faith in Christ. Now, I wanna say this constructively. But it's not always the case that our churches, or our church members, maybe even ministers of the gospel, but I hope that's the rare exception. It's not always the case that folks are looking to that as the goal of ministry. How can we help people appreciate what ministry really adds up to? How do you share that vision with others? The reason we're on this Earth, is to see that person come to faith in Christ.

So I think that part of it is, so I think institutions, churches, all groups experience, I guess, what one writer calls mission drift. Meaning almost kind of a boat that is unanchored on a lake. Just over time, it just slowly begins to drift. The drift isn't sudden, it's not this great wave that moves it from point A to point B. But just by not being anchored, it just slowly drifts. And after a while, it's much further than the shore than it intended to be. And I think churches, sometimes small groups, conferences, experience this. Because I think somewhere along the line church became. At one point when Christ gave birth to it, or even when we look at the early Adventist movement. There was a very singular sense of what is important. There were some very singular values that revolved around evangelism, the preaching of the gospel, preparing our people for the coming of the Lord. But I think that we've experienced mission drift to where church has become a lot more insulated. It tends to be a little bit more about kind of our favorite music, and our favorite food, and kind of how we want to be fed. As opposed to functioning as conduits of the gospel, we've kind of become collectors of the gospel. And so I think that there's just gotta be a radical shift of priority that I think starts with pastors. I think it begins with church leadership, where kind of as that the one book says, we've gotta start with why. We always start with what we're gonna do. But I think if we understand why we are here, I think that determines the what. And I think that the priority, it doesn't just need to be revealed in our preaching. But I think it ought to show up in how our church budgets are constructed.

Oh, amen to that.

I think it shows up in, so in one of the things you'll find out what a church values. You know what a church values by what it celebrates, and by what it grieves. So that if you were to kind of sit around the dinner table and listen to what we celebrate. Are we celebrating when people are won to faith in Jesus Christ? Or are we only celebrating institutional things? Meaning a mortgage is burned, or we had a great concert, or we had a great event. Or are the things that we grieve. Do we only grieve when there is change that disrupts our preference? Or do we really grieve the fact that maybe our church hasn't won anyone to faith the entire year? Do we lament that? Do we lament the fact that perhaps our church is, specifically here in North America, is reaching a place where its growth is beginning to plateau, and in many ways it's already plateaued. Do we grieve those things? Do we celebrate? There's joy in Heaven when one sinner repents. Do we rejoice over the things that Christ rejoices over? And do we grieve the things that grieve our Lord and Savior? God came and died an awful, bloody sinner's death to redeem mankind. In other words, it's almost kind of like what we have here. And I'm not trying to go down the wrong path. But it's amazing that we have more vaccine for COVID than we have people who are willing to receive it. And it's amazing, because Jesus has made provision for all mankind to be saved. There's enough vaccine for this sin virus.

That's right.

But we don't have enough people willing to either distribute it, and in some ways we have people that have rejected it, and then turned their eyes away from it. Now, again, I'm not being pro or anti vaccine...

I understand. You're making a point here. You're making a point here.

But the point is, there is enough. But in some instances we just don't have enough distribution centers, or churches that are functioning as distribution centers for the gospel. We're collecting vaccine, instead of distributing it.

That's right. How do we motivate people? What's the? I guess if you could boil it down, and get that magic bullet, you'd sell the best selling book ever. Maybe we've covered it. Speaking of books, you're an author, you've written several books. Tell me about one or two of these books. It's gonna help me understand where your heart is, where your burdens are.

Yeah, so I think as we came through 2019, 2020, we had a number of major tensions everybody was dealing with from the pandemic. Here in, of course, North America, we dealt with some really extreme racial tensions. We went through a very exhausting political season that just kind of really divided the country. And God really called me, just caused my heart to ripen to a place where just everything was negative. And man just had this sense of doom. And God really pointed me to kind of the eternal promises that he's made to those who love him. So in 2021, earlier last year, we released a book called "Almost Home". And it's a contemporary guide for Heaven bound believers. And what it was really designed to do was to just kind of function as a literary portal away from all of the angst, all of the unrest, toward the eternal promises that are made to those who love God, and are longing for his appearing. So man, we deal with the motif of the second coming. We talk about the glories of Heaven. We talk about some of the promises that are made to the redeemed, to be free from a life of grief and lamentation. We talk about the fact that we'll live in a world where there's no more harm, no more where humanity is constantly rivaling humanity. But we can function as one brotherhood. And then we kind of talk about the work that is to be done for the body of Christ, so that the gospel can go to the four corners of the world. So that in fact, the end may come. And so, it was something that was really designed to uplift, to really draw our attention to the eternal. Because I think the immediate was really overwhelming the faith of many, even in the body of Christ, because we we're functioning according to what we could see, as opposed to what was written. And really to kind of say hey, listen. The things that we're saying that are causing us to get discouraged, and worn out, and weary. These things are the predicted and prophesied proofs. These are the evidences that our redemption is drawing nigh. So it was something that we just really wanted to create. It reads in a very devotional way, to be soul food for the people of God. But also, in a season where there was just so much loss. I mean in 2020 and in 2021, in my pastoral context, we buried, unfortunately, so many people. And there was so much grief, and so much pain in the land. And a big part of kind of what was driving me was just kind of empathizing with the hurt of others, was just kind of to provide something that just kind of helped them to maneuver through this prolonged season of grief, to help them know that there's hope beyond the grave, because Jesus has the keys of Hell, death, and the grave.

You're working on another book right now. Tell me about that.

Oh yeah. I'm really excited about this. So we're gonna be releasing this in March of this year, 2022. It's called "Getting Unrealistic".

Getting unrealistic.

Getting unrealistic. And it talks about how radical faith releases you from the power of life's limitations. And what it's really designed to do, it's designed to really challenge the body of Christ to look faith in the context of the scriptures. So one of the things that happens, I'm sure you've seen this. Whenever you're in a setting some times in church, where we're really having, developing a vision board, or a bold prayer list, or we're really beginning to think big. There's always some spreadsheet slave that's saying hey guys, this is good. But we gotta be realistic...

Realistic.

And a part of my pushback is saying hey guys, can you be a realist and a person of faith at the same time? Like, are those tensions equally yoked? Because at the end of the day, even if I profess belief in God, I can't be a realist, and profess belief in God profess belief in a God that I've never seen, or been able detect through empirical means. So me believing in God, by nature makes me unrealistic. So one of the things that we talk about is, you can't marry faith and pragmatism. And so one of the things that we do talk about is, and we talk about why some people are intimidated by faith. Because sometimes we put faith in terms that seem irresponsible. So we say hey, you just step out there in faith. But that's not really how faith operates. What we talk about, because even as a man, I live according to schedules, and budgets. I'm driven by structure, that's how my life functions. But there are times where God is calling me. And the visions he's putting in my heart, or the path he's instructing me to take absolutely collides with my budget, my spreadsheet, my schedule, or my personal comfort. And I have to make a decision. Am I, at that point, when those things collide, am I gonna allow my life to be driven by the reality? Or am I going to function in faith? Because those two consistently collide, so that some of the things and the stories that we espouse in the scripture, it wasn't very realistic.

Oh yeah. I'm thinking. I'm thinking of Moses going to that Red Sea. We're gonna open up the Red Sea. Moses could easily have turned to God and said, now let's be realistic.

Let's be realistic. Or when Peter says Lord, if it's you, bid me to come to you on the water.

On the water.

That makes no sense. But he responded to the words of Christ. It was the invitation that allowed him to bypass, or override what was real, or what was deemed real or possible at the time. Because Jesus makes these amazing promises. He says, listen. All things are possible to them that believe. Ephesians 3:20 says now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think, according to the power that is at work within us. And so a part of the premise of the book, is that we are living well below God's design for his people. Ellen White talks about how higher than the highest human thought can conceive. That's God's ideal for his children. And so it's a call away from just limited thinking. I talk about how we've been hypnotized by the normal, how we don't even make room for the supernatural. And so in it we talk about kind of encouraging the body of Christ to pray unrealistic prayers, and to really begin to pray bold prayers. Ellen White talks about how, man, God loves when we make the highest demand upon him.

That's right. I always think of the story in the Bible. The prophet, he strikes the ground. He strikes it three times. And the prophet was angry. Indicating the displeasure of God. Because the king didn't ask for enough.

That's right. And so that's really what it is. And so that's we, it's a callback. So when you read it, it's scripture heavy. I mean, it's scripture heavy. Because even one of the things that we talk about in the book, we talk about how faith is not risky. And we treat faith like it's this, like it's a gamble. Well, faith is not risky. It just draws certainty from the scriptures. And if you really believe in the scriptures, wherever God is calling you to operate in faith, if you're operating according to promises he's made in the scripture, that's a risk averse behavior. Because God cannot lie. He is not like the son of man. He doesn't change his mind. The Bible says in him there is no variation, or shadow of turning. So faith is not risky. I'm not rolling the dice. I'm not a flipping a coin. When I'm operating according to the promises of the word, I'm just drawing certainty from the word, not my circumstance, not what can be measured, but infallible promises of the word of God.

Fantastic. The book is called "Unrealistic". The author is a gentleman I'm speaking to, Pastor Debleaire Snell. And you ought to grab yourself a copy as quickly as you can. We will be back with more. We're gonna talk about Breath of Life specifically, right ahead. This is Conversations, brought to you by It Is Written.

John Bradshaw: Welcome back to Conversations, brought to you by It Is Written. My guest is the Speaker and Director of Breath of Life, a media ministry. His name is Pastor Debleaire Snell. Let's talk about Breath of Life, specifically. As you enter into this new role, this new phase of ministry, what excites you about Breath of Life? What do you see are the possibilities, and Breath of Life's special contribution in the Christian landscape?

Debleaire Snell: Yeah, so I think we're in a time now where media ministry is more critical than probably at any other juncture. And I think that because of the pandemic, where churches are not meeting, or even the way people go to work is a little bit different. They're not congregating in a common space. So I think people find themselves, now more than ever before, not just before a television screen, but before some type of device, a phone, an iPad, and are on social media. And so basically kind of my framework, and how I'm looking at this, is I'm seeing kind of Breath of Life as just a contemporary epistle. So an epistle, that was the innovation for its age. It was how you allowed the gospel to be omnipresent, so that when Paul or Peter wrote, they wrote from one place, but they were able to send it out all over the world. And we're seeing essentially media, is just functioning like a gospel epistle, a contemporary epistle that makes the gospel omnipresent, where it's able to travel into platforms and venues, especially through the use of the internet. Of course, television has been there for a little bit. But through social media, I think it creates an avenue to be able to connect with people that it normally would not be able to get an audience with. And so I think that there are times where, depending on, social media certainly has evil components to it. but I think social media fundamentally, like media, it's not immoral, I think it's amoral. I think it takes on the quality or characteristics of whatever it's being used for. So I think there are tremendous opportunities to give the gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of the third angel, a unique audience that it hasn't been able to have. 'Cause I think we've run into different barriers, even with house to house and door to door work. People who do that, they they know that a lot of neighborhoods that are gated and closed off, and they have no solicitations. And so there are certain limitations there. But where a door was closed, maybe in one venue, God has simply opened up another venue, or another way for us to be able to communicate his message with those who need it.

John Bradshaw: Do you feel you're gonna have a special emphasis in your role as the role as leader of Breath of Life? I think it's unrealistic to say well, what it's been, it's always gonna be. How we've done things, we're always gonna do things. That's not smart or healthy. What can people expect from you, from your ministry? How are you gonna frame things, and present things?

Debleaire Snell: Sure, yeah. But I think one of the things that we'll be looking at doing is kind of like with kind of, whenever you're inheriting a leadership platform, what you do is you build and you enlarge. Or you build and you enhance. And I think that's one of our objectives. So we wanna continue in that strong tradition of evangelism with Breath of Life. Of course, I have a pastoral context. I'll be functioning as a Senior Pastor of the Oakwood University Church there in Huntsville. But we'll be doing Breath of Life campaigns in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the island of Bermuda. We'll be conducting a meeting there in Huntsville. And we'll be doing a number of kind of reaping meetings, or evangelistic trainings all over, throughout the course of the year. But one of the things that we wanna do, is as many people connect with Breath of Life, we wanna make sure that Breath of Life is also making some major deposits, and feeding our churches spiritually, evangelistically, but also through equipping and training. So one of the things that we're looking to do this year, is we're looking to launch the Breath of Life media school. Where the pandemic has kind of really shown that a lot of our smaller churches have struggled to produce meaningful God possible content during this season. So we wanna really begin to kind of create a media school where we can connect with media leaders, and pastors from small or rural towns, and be able to help reproduce some of the competencies and things we produce in Breath of Life, and help them to be able to develop that in their context, so that the gospel is not handcuffed just because, maybe a lack of budget or maybe a lack of helps. But we want to craft a syllabus that helps that person in a small church, or in a rural area, to be able to produce gospel content that is gonna impact their neighborhood and their society. The other thing that we're gonna be looking at doing, is also developing a Breath of Life school of evangelism, where we wanna be able to pour into pastors, lay evangelists, Bible workers, and to help the things that we are able to do at Breath of Life, again, be able to spread, so that those things can happen all over. And so one of the things that we want to do, is we wanna kind of reproduce ourselves, and make major deposits into the churches. So we wanna create a sense that as they are supporting, through viewership or whatever means, I want there to be a sense that we are drawing as much from Breath of Life as we are contributing and supporting the Breath of Life ministry. So those are some things that we have on the horizon. And then there're gonna be some unique things that we're gonna be doing to try to make sure that we kind of age backwards a little bit. We have a long standing group of supporters that are probably, 50 and above. And so we're gonna be making some direct appeals to our young adult community, broadening that base from Huntsville, and expanding from there, so that we can look to grow it younger. And we hope to really be able to produce some content that doesn't just look like, well I wanna say traditional, standing behind a pulpit. But really using some of our creativity to kind of package some things a little bit differently, and be able to connect with a broader and more diverse audience.

I think these are very exciting times for Breath of Life. I think you have every reason to look into the future. I think we all do, 'cause we wanna see Breath of Life thrive, continue to thrive. I think we have every reason look at the future and say, these are good days. And I think they are. You could make the mistake of looking around and saying oh, these are challenging days in which people are restricted, and there's all kind of unrest. All right, sure you could focus on that. But don't you believe these are great days for the gospel?

Oh certainly, yeah. So I think even all of these, the tensions, like even some of the unrests, the COVID 19, the different things that we see, I think all of those things to a certain extent, they are ripening the hearts of people. I think that, especially as we're coming out of the pandemic, or as we're maneuvering in the pandemic, I think there are a lot of people that are wanting to know, what do these things mean? As we just came through the one year anniversary of the riot at the capital. I think people are looking at these things, and whether it's COVID 19, the unrest, the political strife. People are hungering. They're asking different questions, that I think that we are in a unique position to be able to provide man a prophetic understanding, to line these realities up with the scriptures, and be able to kind of point people with hope, not fear, toward a predetermined end where Jesus Christ reigns, along with those who have decided to receive his grace, and to walk in that narrow path that he's laid out just for them.

So how do you thread that needle? Someone gonna come to you and say, I see problem A in society. You can address that problem politically, or economically, or this or that. That's not all wrong. But we have been called to lift up Christ. So how do we go about threading that needle? Not ignoring current realities, but not getting bogged down in them either, and pointing people to the ultimate solution. How do we find that balance?

Yeah, so I mean I think we have a responsibility, as we see a culture in decline, to function as light and as salt. So I think that wherever there's tension, wherever there's pain, and wherever there is unrest, I think the church of God ought to be present, that we ought to be active. I think we ought to be vocal. Our voice should be heard. Because I think one of the things I've seen is that people are looking for direction. They're looking for leadership. And I think one of the things that I'm seeing, especially in the pastoral context, I'm seeing people getting swept away with all types of kind of niche groups that have maybe religious overtones or connection. But they're not Bible rooted. It's simply because in sectors where there is pain, they are present, and we are not. So I think that as we are present in those spaces, showing compassion, showing love, being light and being salt, I think it gives you an innate, and organic audience with people that are asking these questions. And because there is a rapport, and there is a trust, and there is a connectivity, I think it creates a scenario where you're not so much trying to balance, or thread a needle. We have a rapport, we're connected. And so you're able to really communicate with great conviction about what it is that the Bible is saying about today, and the days that lie ahead of us. And I think, in addition to that, I think we put everything in the context of hope. I think even when we talk about, whether it's prophecy or the last days, man, these are not sad, gloomy messages.

That's right.

I mean it is the message of a soon coming savior, who is going to triumph over evil. And all of the enemies of the cross, the beast, the false prophet, they're going to be, they're gonna experience tumult. The dragon is going to lose. And all of those that are Adam's curse are going to be liberated permanently when Jesus Christ comes again. And so I just think if we put it in the context of hope, and not just conspiracy or different things, I think we will see a tremendous response, the response that Jesus prophesied would happen before he came, as the gospel floods the world.

We got just a few minutes. What one last question can I leave this man with? Speak to me about a Bible story that speaks to you, and a story that you might share with somebody to speak to their heart.

Yeah, so I think, man. Man, that's a loaded question. I'm just trying to narrow it down.

Yeah, and it's so broad. It's not entirely fair.

Well, I mean, I think there are a lot of different stories I'm kind of rolling through my head. So I think one in particular, for me, is the story of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter. He's a ruler of the synagogue. And I think one of the reasons it connects with me, is because it actually is interwoven with the story of the woman with the issue of blood. So Jairus comes to Jesus. Jesus says, I'll come to your house. And then Jesus is interrupted, because this woman touches the hem of his garment. And then all of a sudden the crowd amasses, and then the movement stops. And then he has to tell this woman to come forward. And then the Bible says how she comes forward, and she essentially tells her whole story. And all the while, Jairus is waiting. His daughter is at the point of death. And then there's somebody that comes and says, listen. Hey, your daughter's dead. Don't even trouble the teacher anymore. And it's amazing, because his daughter dies while he was waiting on Jesus to come. And yet Jesus tells Jairus, listen, don't be afraid. Just believe. And it's amazing because Jairus is in a position of watching someone else being healed, while his daughter essentially parishes. But I think that Jesus has Jairus in that watching position for a reason. He sees this woman being healed. That wasn't designed to injure his faith. Watching this woman being blessed should have actually bolstered his faith. It should have kind of awakened him, or reinforced this reality that there is a Christ who is able to do all things. And it's amazing, because there are times where I think some of us may be in a watching position. We're seeing this person be blessed. We're seeing this happen for that person. But the watching period, shouldn't injure your faith. It oughta actually multiply your faith, to encourage you to know that the one thing about our God, is that he doesn't run out. If he is able to take care of the needs of that person, he is more than able to supply each and every need that you have. And of course, Jesus comes and does an even greater miracle, in that he revives her from the dead. And it just kind of lets us know that even though the friends of Jairus were saying it's too late. Don't bother the master anymore. It just shows us one thing, especially for somebody who's dealing with any kind of spiritual, or medical, or emotional, or relational challenge. It's not over until God says it's over. He ultimately has the final say. And so that's one of those stories that really connects with me, kind of just lets us know that while we're in the wait, we can still have faith. And even when it seems like things are completely defeated or deflated, it's not over till God says it's over.

Powerful, love it. Hey, I appreciate you taking your time and being here. Great to catch up with you.

Yes, sir. Good to see you, my friend.

Excited to know that God is leading you, and is leading Breath of Life. And I think collectively we look forward to more great things at Breath of Life under your leadership. You got some wonderful plans. These are exciting days. We can expect to see God shake up Huntsville, shake up this country, and shake up the world through the ministry of Breath of Life. And I mean that in a positive way, shake them for Jesus, and introduce people to the risen savior. Debleaire Snell, thank you. This has been a blessing.

Thank you so much for having me.

Outstanding. And thank you for joining us. These are great days. I wanna encourage you to look for Pastor Snell's books. And grab them and read them. You will be blessed by them. And keep an eye on the ministry of Breath of Life. Watch up close, and see what God is doing through that very, very exciting ministry. He is Pastor Debleaire Snell. I'm John Bradshaw. This has been our conversation.
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