Faith & Leadership Spotlight: Terry Crist

Alongside his wife Judith, Terry Crist fulfills the role of Lead Pastor at City of Grace, overseeing four campuses in Arizona and Nevada. As fifth-generation pastors, they boast a rich legacy of establishing churches and aiding those in need. Terry Crist has traversed more than sixty-five nations, addressing audiences in churches, conferences, and university campuses worldwide. In 2015, the U.S. Congress bestowed upon him the “Angels in Adoption” award, and he currently serves as a member of Arizona’s “Council for Child Safety and Family Empowerment.”

Holding both a Master of Theology degree and a Doctor of Ministry degree, he is also the author of a new book, Loving Samaritans: Radical Kindness in an Us vs. Them World, which is due to be released on January 30th, 2024.

While traveling to Israel and Gaza, Crist was kind enough to answer a few questions about Loving Samaritans, City of Grace, and his thoughts on faith and leadership.



How did your pastoral journey begin?

My pastoral journey, deeply rooted in my earliest memories, began with a simple yet profound desire to serve people and share the good news of Jesus. Even as a child, when asked about my future aspirations, I would boldly declare my plan to become “a preacher and a game warden!” I have no idea where the game warden part came from, but I am the product of five generations of pastors. As I grew, this childhood ambition crystallized into a genuine sense of being “called” to pastoral ministry. This calling wasn’t just a fleeting notion; it propelled me forward, guiding my educational path through college, seminary, and graduate school. There, I delved deep into the realms of communication, church, and culture, earning multiple degrees that would equip me for the journey ahead. This journey, seeded in a young child’s heart, nurtured by family legacy and personal conviction, has blossomed into a lifelong commitment to faith and service.

What would you like readers to learn from your new book?

In my new book, Loving Samaritans, I aspire for readers to grasp a vital, transformative truth: you can learn to love those who are different from you and, in doing so, fulfill the most important command of Jesus. I want to show a better way to navigate our polarized world, a world that too often categorizes people as insiders or outsiders and then decides whether to accept or reject them based on these labels. I advocate for a life modeled after the example of Jesus – a remarkably inclusive life without compromising the exclusivity of the gospel. It’s about embracing His outrageous love, which empowers us to view everyone as worthy of love, kindness, and respect. This book is an invitation to explore and adopt a way of life that transcends societal divisions, encouraging readers to embody the unconditional love and acceptance that Jesus demonstrated.

How do you feel faith and leadership intertwine?

In my view, faith and leadership are inextricably linked, with our faith serving as a cornerstone in shaping our identity and guiding our decision-making. Being a person of faith naturally leads to a style of leadership that can best be described as “servant-leadership.” This concept, popularized by Robert Greenleaf but deeply grounded in the teachings and example of Jesus, emphasizes a holistic approach to leadership. It’s not just about focusing on traditional metrics like company growth, stakeholder profit, or improving corporate efficiencies. Instead, servant leadership extends its concern to employees’ personhood and working conditions, ensuring fair pay and providing appropriate benefits. It’s a leadership style that cares deeply about the well-being and flourishing of work communities in every aspect. This approach reflects a commitment to leading in a way that mirrors our faith – a leadership that is as concerned about the welfare of individuals as it is about the organization’s success.

Where do you see yourself and your church in the next five years?

In the next five years, I envision our church increasingly embodying our ethos of being “in the city, for the city, and of the city.” This means a continued, deepened commitment to serving the communities where we are located. We foresee our church not just as a place of worship, but as vital neighborhood centers that resource community members with essential goods and services, addressing both spiritual and practical needs. This vision includes expanding our footprint by establishing new locations, thereby extending our reach and impact. We aim to be an integral part of the community fabric, actively contributing to the well-being and enrichment of the lives of those around us. Through these endeavors, we hope to manifest the values of our faith in tangible, life-affirming ways, making a meaningful difference in our city and beyond.


www.cityofgrace.com | IG & X: @terrycrist


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