Go West, Relatively Young Man

I remember the first time I heard Geoff Surratt speak. Well, it might not have actually been the first time, but it’s the earliest I can remember. Frankly, I have no idea what his message was about. What stuck with me is that he was funny. Really funny. And when you can make a thirteen year-old boy laugh in church, that is a gift, my friends. He made me laugh and he made me listen. He made me want to hear him speak more. Did I mention that I was thirteen and this was church? I really think that his messages were what first made me interested in finding others who spoke well and made me ask myself, could I do that? Questions teenage boys seldom ask.

The British had Churchill, I had a Surratt. God works with what He’s got, I guess.

And for the next several years, until I left for college I would always open the program every Sunday and wonder whether Geoff was speaking. Not because he was the only guy who was worth listening to–far from it. It was just that I liked listening to Geoff. He said things differently, said them in a way I hadn’t thought of, hadn’t heard of.

I’ve always been proud to attend–and now work at–Seacoast Church. There are a thousand reasons why, and Geoff has always been one of them. I was grateful when he agreed to marry Lara and me, and after we moved to Charlotte, I was grateful that he would stop and take the time to chat with us whenever we would visit.

When we moved back to Charleston and I came on staff at Seacoast, I was thrilled to actually be working with so many of the people who shaped my life growing up, Geoff included. Meeting with him for coffee was always slightly world-altering. It was like God was saying, “Listen, Jack. You need to have your butt kicked. Really badly. It’s actually kind of embarrassing how badly.  But since I’m sort of busy, you know, making sure that the universe doesn’t blink out of existence, I’m going to have to deliver this butt-kicking by proxy, via Geoff.” He said things I needed to hear, and here’s the best thing about Geoff: you never wonder what he’s really thinking. He will tell you, and he’ll make eye contact while doing it.

It is impossible to talk with Geoff for any length of time and come away satisfied with where you are. Case in point: this blog. It is his fault. All his fault. Here I am waffling and putting off writing and posting and Geoff looks at me one day and says, “Do it.” And when he does I can’t shake this feeling that he actually thinks it’s a good idea, and not just a way to make me stop sitting on the sidelines like a sissy.

So yeah, you can pin that Thanksgiving post on Geoff. Totally his fault. Unless you actually liked it, in which case it was all me.

But now he’s leaving and it’s Rick Warren’s fault. Saddleback and California get Geoff, while Seacoast, I guess, gets this blog which is visited by an average of one person a week. (Thanks Mom) Not quite a fair trade.

It’s sad that he’s going, but it’s good. Good for him and good for the whole Church because he is going to do amazing work. I’m excited for him, excited for the people who get to have their lives altered, their butts kicked. So I find that I can’t really be sad, can’t be really upset about it. I don’t want him to go, but it’s ok now. I made Geoff, the guy who taught me how to laugh in church, laugh in a meeting yesterday, so I think I’m set. That’s a pretty good bookend right there.


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