AN INTERVIEW WITH KEITH WIESER BY MADISON RANSFORD
“Our church is very mission centered, but if you don’t have the content that the mission brings to the world, all you are is a salesman. The truth of resurrection is actually being able to say in our darkest moments, and in our hardest places, where we are at the most difficult times in our lives, that Jesus has overcome and gives us hope.” - Keith Wieser
My perspective of the three precious days we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus was enlightened when I talked to pastor and friend to many, Keith Wieser, about how God has changed his life. His story is relatable, multifaceted, and calls us to know the Gospel deeper and dive into the plan that God has crafted for each and every one of us. With his gentle and kindly spoken manner, I got to know Keith’s story and hear about how his passions, roots, and even struggles led him to a life of ultimate fulfillment through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Keith grew up of south of Houston where an interest for the “unknown”... something out of this this world, fostered. Outer space, specifically. Becoming an astronaut for NASA was a fascination of his early on, as he admired the fathers of his friends who worked for the agency. Although floating around space and discovering new planets is a valid and appealing profession, God knew this was not the true “unknown” Keith’s heart was yearning for. As young as third grade, Keith recalls clearly knowing God was going to use this curious foundation for life as a pastor, and a relentless wonder to know Him better.
An awareness is not always a simple solution of realizing our calling and then taking action, though. Sometimes the response is similar to a very obvious awareness that we have a huge homework assignment due, and continually choosing not to do it. Or knowing your tabs are expired, but continuing to ignore that duty. For Keith, knowing his calling to be a pastor resulted in a combination of acknowledgement and denial.
What it really came down to was that Keith didn’t want to accept this push. He didn’t want to pay his tabs, or do his homework. He did enjoy leading people, but felt that becoming a pastor would hinder that enjoyment and submit him to the opinions of others, creating an unattainable sense of leadership. Thus, he ran.
Keith ran from the thought that this could be coming from God because his dad was also a pastor. He thought that this had to have been a subconscious desire to be accepted by him because of what he has seen his whole life. However, as years passed, the reality of Keith’s future continued to reveal itself. He was naturally put into leadership positions, and even tells the story of being 21 years old and taking a personality test (Ciggy Plus) that matches you with a profession… Keith, of course, got “clergy”.
Now, I personally had to look up what a clergy is, so for the clueless such as I - A clergy is the body of all people ordained for religious duties, especially in the Christian Church.
Keith remained unphased. He teased and entertained the idea by doing campus ministry at his college with an “I’ll do ministry, but I certainly won’t be a pastor” mindset. This is a glimpse into the way God unfolded the hardness of his heart, admitting a need for guidance.
However, following this guidance is not so practical without a clear understanding of the Gospel. Although Keith didn’t struggle with typical temptations many 21-year-olds face, he did struggle to make the Gospel central to his life. Affirmation and approval from people were at the forefront of his faith, rather than God himself.
This changed when Keith was invited to a campfire with a few older friends of his, and heard them confessing their sins and expressing a real relationship, rather than a mere behavioral pathway.
Hearing this about Keith reminded me that I also catch myself being a “good Christian” for those around me, rather than for God. It sneaks up on me, the desire to be a “good Christian” and to impress my friends or family, until I realize I am focusing on myself more than God.
This relationship and newfound interpretation of the Gospel altered the way Keith lived his life, beginning with a diagnosis of inoperable scoliosis. This diagnosis stripped him of an established dream of professional golfing, yet Keith was able to find contentment in his relationship with God and the guidance that proved His plan is better.
Keith says he still fights lies that tell him he bears the pressure to make things happen. He battles an “if I don’t, it won’t” mentality, a fear of incompetency, and a feeling of tension when thinking about the future. Yet, because of Keith’s trust in the Gospel, he finds truth and comfort through God’s attentive, helpful nature. He holds on to this truth as he leads Resonate across the United States with a huge vision to transform college campuses.
Walking into Keith’s office, the first thing I notice is a beautiful wooden cutout of America. This artwork prompts an acknowledgement of the capacity of people to reach within just the United States. It grabbed my gaze immediately. But how could Keith, or any leader in a small town, located in the corner of America, reach such a tremendous population? Seems a little out of this world, to me.
Nonetheless, five people gathering in a coffee shop for “Resonate Sessions” turned into five successful church plants, over 650 baptisms, and a vision to plant 21 entire churches by 2021. All of this in just nine years. Nine years of Keith conquering these lies with the truth that God wants to calm the pressure and take care of the seemingly impossible mountains to climb. He wants to guide us, so long as men and women like Keith continue to be obedient and act upon their callings.
For a while, I struggled to even decipher what that meant. I still struggle! My calling? How do I know I’m not manipulating my “calling” for my own wants? What if I’m trading His guidance for my own? Well, first I remember that if it is good, it is God. James 1:7, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” And then, I remember something a friend of mine once told me: if it’s something I feel that I need to do and should do, and I don’t want to do it… it’s probably God.
“College is the last changeable phase in a person’s life,” Keith says. “After that it takes trauma… or a long, extended amount of time. It gets harder to change your life after that [college].”
When asked what drives Keith’s passion for college students, he reminisced on a significant football game, playing the Oregon Ducks, in which the magnitude of the stadium struck him. A stadium full of the most potentially powerful individuals alive - college students. His passion to reach students at such a high capacity is rooted, and comes from the recurring desire to do something out of this world... something brilliant. Something only God could do.