The Rev. Deron Spoo doesn’t preach within the lines.
Deron Spoo became lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Tulsa 16 years ago, at age 29. He and his wife, Paula, have three children: Kira, 19; Caleb, 16; and Seth, 14.
What changed after that? We really started stepping up the Caring Center Ministry. We do food, clothing and emergency assistance for people who have hit hard times. We help a ton of people every year.
It’s too easy for a church to become inwardly focused. We must be intentional about staying focused on the community outside the church walls.
You’ve got a reputation for being non-traditional. Has that ever caused controversy? I’m a very open and honest person, and probably the biggest pushback is whenever we’ve talked about sex. Especially pornography. In the early days, whenever I would bring that up, there would be pushback. But that’s a topic that we have to deal with.
Why do you think people are uncomfortable when things get too real? I think we separate our church life from every other part of our life: “That’s over here in a compartment on Sunday morning, and it doesn’t affect the rest of my life.” A couple of years ago, we did a teaching series called, “The Gospel According to the Beatles.” We would take some of their songs and attach them to a Biblical theme. There were people who were a little upset at first that we were playing Beatles music in church. But here’s my contention: If Beatles music is inappropriate, you shouldn’t be playing it anywhere. If it is appropriate, we can use it anywhere, even in church.
What happens when people break down the barriers between their “Sunday selves” and the rest of their lives? We call that integrity, don’t we? Just being the same person all the time. I believe that’s who God calls us to be. I also think that’s a lot simpler way to live.
Baptists do not traditionally observe Lent. Why do you encourage your congregation to do so? On Easter we prefer to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, but we have neglected the sacrifice. We’re asking our church members to sacrifice one thing from their daily lives. Every time they want that, they’ll think of the sacrifice of Christ. They’re sacrificing this small thing, but it’s a trigger.
How do you avoid “compassion fatigue” and recharge? One of my favorite things to do is to go to Clear Creek Monastery. They live out in the middle of nowhere. It’s beautiful. You can’t get a cell phone signal beyond the parking lot. It’s a good place to be quiet, get some perspective. I call it the last quiet place on the planet. We live in a very noisy world. At first they wondered why a Baptist was coming out to a Benedictine monastery.
It sounds like you’ve never been too concerned with where such lines are drawn. (Laughs) No, I’m not.
Do you go to church?
I don’t. Give me some insight. Why don’t you go to church somewhere? What is it that the church is missing?
I’ve never personally been particularly religious. It’s been a double-edged thing — growing up in Oklahoma, everyone goes to church, so I missed out on a lot of social stuff. I think when churches get really big, it feels like they’re selling a message or a product. It seems like church has gotten so slick these days — it’s like a theatrical production. That’s funny, we talked about that just today; that we don’t want to be too slick. We want to be authentic. How do you do that and not come across like you’re bumbling or you don’t know what you’re doing?
That’s a hard balance to strike. So when you found out you were interviewing a pastor, did that freak you out just a little?
A little bit, maybe. I mean, I’m not religious, but I have a lot of respect for people who devote their lives to it — and a lot of good is done because of it. But actually, I don’t know how many years it has been, but I used to come here (to FBC). When I was maybe 8 or 9. Did you go to the day camp?
My dad played for the services; he’s a musician. So, our family would come along. I’m 23 now, so that would have been 12-14 years ago. So, it was probably during my early years here.
It’s so funny, I’ve probably heard a few of your sermons, when I think about it. Back in the day?
Did you ever do one about psychological barriers, like a million years ago? It was about the four-minute mile. Yes! You remember that?
Yeah, that stuck with me for years. That’s fantastic. There’s a book called “The Perfect Mile” by Neal Bascomb. Roger Bannister, Wes Santee and John Landy — Bannister was in England; Santee was here in Kansas; Landy was in Australia — and all three were trying to break the four-minute mile barrier. Bannister did it first. And as soon as Bannister broke it, everyone started breaking the four-minute mile. It was just a matter of, “Can it be done?” Once someone showed it could be done, then everyone started doing it.
That’s amazing that you remember that.
I don’t know why I latched onto that particular sermon, but I just did. The power of a story, it sticks with you.
And I was a super nerd, so I always loved your sermons because it was always something interesting. That’s why I think Jesus told stories, because they stick with you longer. If I were to give you an idea, you probably wouldn’t remember it tomorrow. But if I told you a story, you’d remember it a dozen years later.