Getting to Know the Elders: Scott Stringfield
Here at First Free we believe God has given the church elders, men who have been chosen by God to know, lead, feed, and protect his flock. Over the next year, we’d like to help you get to know our elders better through an in-depth interview with one of our elders each month. This month we’re talking to Scott Stringfield.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born into a military family in Taiwan while my father was stationed there as the primary US Army military advisor to Chiang Kai-Shek. My parents met during WWII when my father was in the liberating forces of General Patton in Naples, Italy, where my mother was born and raised.
Growing up in the military we moved every year from base to base until late junior high, when we eventually ended up in Kansas. I’m the youngest of four kids with two older brothers who do not profess faith in Christ and an older sister who does profess faith in Christ.
How did you come to know Christ?
I was raised an Italian Catholic, steeped in religion—regular church attendance along with all the liturgy and requirements of the Catholic religion (catechism, first communion, faithful and regular confession, the rosary, and always obeying the teachings of the church). I had no choice but to go to church; but once I went to college, I abandoned that in my independence and pursued academics, partying, sports, and my career path believing those would make me happy. Eventually I found those pursuits empty and unfulfilling. During my third year at K-State, I reconnected with a student who shared the gospel outside of the student union between classes. I was intrigued by his message, but more by his courage to speak about something he truly believed in spite of the cost. I struck up a conversation with him, and we started meeting together regularly, and eventually he shared the gospel with me. I told him in response that I had had enough of religion, to which he replied, "I am not talking about religion, but a relationship with Jesus," and this intrigued me. He encouraged me to read the Book of John and ask myself, “Who does Jesus say that he is?” I had heard gospel passages every week in church but had never really understood them. Jesus was different from what I had understood, and he was calling people to something different. Confused, I decided to go and meet with my priest to ask him about these new ideas I had discovered in the Bible. He told me to stop reading the Bible on my own and rely upon him to interpret spiritual ideas, which did not seem to ring true to me in that he seemed threatened that I would be reading and understanding the truth of the Bible on my own.
Later, with my friend in a burger joint in Manhattan and people all around, he asked me if I wanted to come to Christ. In that crowded, fast food hangout I invited Jesus into my life to save me from my sins. College was a time of significant spiritual growth. I was involved in several parachurch organizations, and they prepared me for the highly secular and challenging environment of medical school where science and reason were all that seemed of value with many whom I met and was taught by.
How did you meet Kerry, your wife?
I was finishing up med school and my sister and her best friend set us up on a blind date. During our first conversation she told me, "I don’t want to marry a doctor," but I guess the Lord had other plans. She was an RN by training and had known many physicians in her work and did not want to be a doctor's wife. She was beautiful and attractive inside and out in character, spiritual depth, and maturity, and our goals in life were similar toward missions.
What brought you to Wichita?
After my residency I was a small-town family doctor for eight years in Lyons, Kansas (population 3,500). When the doors to missions never seemed to open, I discovered an opportunity at the Family Medicine Residency training program in Wichita, and it fit me like a glove in terms of my interests, passions, and trajectory.
This job has given me the opportunity to influence the lives of patients, residents, and medical students about the issues that really matter—eternal destiny and living for Christ. Although Kerry and I never made it to the mission field abroad, we found our satisfaction and life's work among this community and this facet of medical education and influence. That is my passion: using my time, talent, resources, and influence for the things that truly matter.
How did you end up at First Free?
When we came to town, I thought it would be easy to find a church and we ended up at East Free, being a smaller and seemingly more comfortable church, but then migrated to Metro East Baptist Church after a few years. Our kids participated in Awana and we had many acquaintances at First Free, and with our kids feeling most at home with First Free’s youth program with Josh as their youth pastor, we eventually settled down at First Free about ten years ago.
When did you become an elder?
I had been asked by other churches in the past to be an elder, but felt that I wasn’t spiritually mature enough and didn’t feel called. But about three and a half years ago while spending many hours reading, meditating, and praying in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus something was stirring within me, which perhaps was the Lord's call to this work. After discussing with Kerry the work, responsibility, and the timing of this opportunity with where I was spiritually we believed that it was the right time. God had given me peace about that.
What have been some of the joys and challenges of being an elder?
I have been so very impressed by the health of this body during my time as an elder, as well as the outstanding and innovative pastoral leadership that First Free has had over the years. It is such a joy to meet so many believers who truly want to grow in Christ and participate in the Great Commission.
Some of the challenges are knowing the congregation better and also being known better as elders and leaders in the church. The Elder Board has been focused on four primary ideas that govern our role as elders in this church—to lead, feed, protect, and know. Although I believe we do a great job of leading, feeding, and protecting, alas, the knowing part is a much more difficult area for me, and also I think for others in this body. I believe that it is because it requires a transparency and vulnerability that for many of those who are older in Christ, becomes more difficult due to a subtle drift towards insulation among a small group of friends, which eventually results in an isolation from others, and perhaps also a complacency in our relationship with the Lord to engage new people in fellowship and accountability.
How will we know the church better? We want to first set an example for that, for you cannot impart what you do not possess and also model to others. Elders are not made of "super-dust" while the rest of the congregation is made from common dust, and we as elders have the same struggles and sins that everyone faces (1 Cor. 10:13), but also the added responsibility and heaviness of the spiritual condition of the church, the responsibility of the training of the local body, and the awesome challenge of representing the Lord well and honoring him in all that we do in the church and in the world. Sometimes this weight is hard to bear, and so I would encourage the local body to pray for us that God would be glorified in our words, work, example, and leadership as elders.
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