Dr. Chris Adams is the recipient of the 2023 T-Award in the ministry category. This annual award goes to an alumnus/alumna who has exhibited a life of devotion to service and ministering to others.
What are you passionate about?
I'm passionate about seeing the church be all that it can be, and a big piece of that is the health of leaders and the organizational health of the church. Often, people don't realize the extent to which pastors are isolated and hurting, particularly through and after a global pandemic. I grew up around lots of pastors and I saw a lot of amazing things, a lot of joy, a lot of philosophies of ministry, but also a lot of common pain and I want to help people find healing. Some of that passion comes from growing up in a Nazarene church in Nashville. It was a time of vitality in that church's life and it was deeply formative for me. Those convictions deepened when I went to Trevecca. It increased the passion I had to help the church live out of a place of health so that it can be effective in participating with God in the world.
What led you to Trevecca as an undergrad?
My grandfather was a Nazarene pastor and my dad was in music ministry all my life, and I went to TNT many times and really enjoyed it. I got to be a senior in high school and was thinking about different colleges, wrestling with a sense of calling on my life. I ended up at a Nazarene camp and the camp speaker was [Trevecca professor] Dr. Tim Green. The worship leader was [Trevecca professor] Dr. Sam Green, and it was an amazing week. My older brother was already going there, and that was also a big reason I went. I was a religious studies major and a music minor.
How did you discern your calling?
After graduation, I was in full-time music ministry. People would come up to me after a worship service and share their stories, saying, ‘I have cancer’ or ‘I just got divorced.’ I was 22 years old and I had no idea what to say, but I felt a longing to journey with people through those hardships. I completed multiple master’s degrees at Fuller Theological Seminary and ended up on the pastoral staff at a Nazarene church in Pasadena during and after seminary. Then I ended up going back to Fuller and doing a Ph.D. in clinical psychology to study with faculty who had become specialists in working with pastors as psychologists. I later served at Azusa Pacific University as a campus pastor and ministry center director, and along the way I was increasingly involved in researching clergy wellbeing, the prevention of burnout among pastors and caring for pastors’ marriages and families. That blended my sense of pastoral call, research and clinical work.
What do you do now and what do you enjoy about it?
The Rosemead Graduate School of Psychology at Biola University is one of the biggest integration programs in the country, integrating biblical studies, theology and psychology, and I serve as the executive director of the Mental Health and the Church Initiative. I’ve been there for a year and it's been fantastic. I find great joy in sharing things that I've discovered in my own scholarship or that have been taught by somebody else. It's a great joy to think I can be part of somebody's holistic formation and be a part of their trajectory as God unfolds their vocation and their journey.
What does it feel like to win this award?
It feels incredible. It's precious to me because Trevecca means so much to me. I love Trevecca with all my heart and the ways that God met me there continue to matter to this day. It's an anointed place, and to have a sense that I've made my alma mater proud in some way means so much. It also allows me to acknowledge a lot of years of hard work and sacrifice. I think about the many pastors that are out there faithfully serving in small- to medium-sized churches that don’t get any sort of recognition. They're incredibly faithful, gifted people who are doing the Lord's work. I want to share this with all the pastors who have deeply impacted me.