Welcome to my web site. My name is Keith Jagger. I serve as the Lead and Teaching Pastor at Grassroots Church in Thunder Bay, ON.
I believe that men and women, of any background, who have devoted themselves to a lifelong pursuit of the Lord Jesus, to a disciplined tending of faith, hope, and love, and to a patient kind of learning will be far down the pathway of loving God and being transformed into the image of Christ. They will be formed as leading citizens of the Kingdom of God. We cannot begin to think about finding our way forward through post-modernity without discipleship, prayer, and spiritual formation. I believe we should devote time and energy in abundance to shaping leaders who are actively pursuing Christ and tending to their hearts.
I gear all of my pastoral work, teaching ministries, mentoring programs, and speaking and writing in this direction.
About Me: The Short of It
Pastor, New Testament Scholar, Community Developer
As long as I can remember, I have been drawn to Jesus of Nazareth. The pathways of study, prayer, and devotion to Jesus led me to the University of St Andrews in Scotland where I researched and wrote a dissertation as a doctoral student of N.T. Wright on the topic of Jesus’s baptism. I graduated with a PhD in Early Christian Studies in 2016.
I have also been following a pastoral calling for 20 years, which has steered me through a few different church assignments, seminary, and into the prayer traditions of Christian spirituality. From 2005-2011, I studied at Asbury Seminary and worked in the student services department of Community Life with international students and multicultural ministries, most recently as Asbury’s Director for Global Community Development. During that time I pastored students and studied spiritual formation with The Epiphany Association in Pittsburgh, PA. I focused my studies there on forming social presence and the spiritual formation of young men. I completed Epiphany’s three-year certificate in 2011.
Our faith community on mission here in Northern Ontario emphasizes unity and holiness, the formation of faith, hope, and love, Jesus’ authority, and anticipating new creation. We are neither conservative nor liberal, progressive nor traditional. We stand resolutely against racism and aspire to keep a rigorous personal ethic. We take social evils seriously and submit ourselves the authority of scripture. We are fighting for the awakening of human reverence and justice and want to share Jesus with the world. We emphasize God’s love, seek a rich life of prayer and want to stay on mission. We are working out modern distortions of Christianity in a post-Christian culture as a local church.
About Me: The Long of It (for those interested)
Thomas Merton, the famous 20th-Century Trappist Monk, struggled for years with needing more solitude. I like Merton. He had this undeniable draw to the life of a lonely monk, finding God among trees and streams in a quiet, well-tended cottage. I escape in my mind regularly to the peaceful hills of some idealized cabin on a ranch somewhere, a scene painted through with shades of burnt orange. And yet, for Merton, as his ministry of writing blossomed, God allowed him to gain influence in the public life of his day. All in one day Merton could be found in manual labour at the Abbey of Gethsemane near Bardstown, KY and hours later he would be writing a letter, condemning the horrors of modern war. I aspire to live my life in this kind of dance between hands-on service and powerful Christian communication.
Later in his life Merton found some peace inside this pull between public and rustic. Reflecting on the Virgin Mary’s gift of contemplation, how Jesus’s mother would treasure up for herself all that she had seen and heard, Merton writes of Mary:
“She comes bringing solitude and society, life and death, war and peace, that peace may come out of war and that my solitude may place me somewhere in the history of my society. It is clear to me that solitude is my vocation, not as a flight from the world but as my place in the world.”
Merton discovered that solitude has nothing to do with isolation and everything to do with a sense of his world being right, sensibly engaged for justice in God’s Kingdom, and at peace in whatever his situation. “For me,” writes Merton,
“To find solitude is only to separate myself from all the forces that destroy me and destroy history, in order to be united with the Life and Peace that build the City of God in history and rescue the children of God from hell. Christ is to be born. He is the hermit who is the center of history.”
We all need to find our way into this peace, which can only really be generated, I believe, in the wellspring of Christ and in his Spirit-led, 2000 year old community of disciples. I especially aspire to help build for God’s Kingdom out of a poise born from prayer.
A Bit of My Past
Similar to Merton, I want the simple of life of a homestead in bloom. My memories are dominated with wooded adventures on the bluffs overlooking the Upper Mississippi River Valley. I spent summers and winters bush crafting and collecting merit badges. I also have a deep sense of God from Saturday afternoons lost in the woods and Sunday mornings kneeling and standing and sitting and kneeling in the Roman Mass, in that perpetual sacrifice of acrobatic devotion. It was good.
However, after a few chance encounters and a draw to the charismatic ways of American evangelicalism, I stumbled into the fellowship of American and European Protestants. That’s how I became a scholar. I studied world religions at a Lutheran university with a focus on the beginnings of Christianity, completed a degree in New Testament at Asbury Seminary, and have finished a PhD in Christian Origins at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Along the way I joined the United Methodist Church, studied Wesleyan Theology, and wrote a dissertation on Luke’s version of Jesus’s baptism scene. My thesis explored Luke’s stress of God’s presence on earth—a dove descending in bodily form—within the research frameworks of my supervisor, N.T. Wright.
At every step of the way, during these last 20 years, God kept me focused in local ministry in one form or another—sometimes a volunteer, other times a short-term missionary, sometimes an administrator-movement-maker within a North American seminary community, other times a writer of church curriculum, sometimes a student of the art of spiritual direction, other times a leader of small groupings of men and women speaking about the formation of faith, hope, and love. Along the way my highlights have included:
- Shepherding a local church through some terrible tragedies, watching our community’s children grow into young adults, and being prayerfully present with people who are struggling with their faith.
- Organizing an inter-cultural student movement against human trafficking and producing Asbury’s yearly Dr. King Celebrations.
- Walking along side of young seminarians struggling through various issues, and getting to meet hundreds of seminarians from around the world who are pursuing their calling to ministry.
- Teaching a small group of elementary teachers, coal miners, and other workaday Christians the foundations of faith, hope, and love during a three-year bible study in our local church in Kentucky.
- Volunteering for our weekly Wed night Kids Club in Kentucky and watching a small community of impoverished kids grow together with our affluent church kids.
- Getting to see what God is doing on the world stage with three different humanitarian groups in Azerbaijan, India, Sri Lanka, and Haiti.
- Having the opportunity to learn from some of God’s scholars at their best of times and seeing close up how scholarship and faith nourish each other.
Today, I live on different hills now than the ones overseeing the Mississippi, and yet am drawn still to some of my old questions that have matured some:
- How can we help form leading citizens of God’s Kingdom?
- How does faith, hope, and love grow and atrophy, and how did the first Christians understand these ideas and virtues?
- What made Jesus so inspiring?
- What gave early Christianity such traction in the Roman world of the first few centuries after Jesus?
- How did early-Christian worldviews interact, spark, and align with other worldviews in the first few centuries after Jesus?
- How do the insights of the Western prayer tradition nourish our love for Jesus?
- How can we stay devoted to Jesus and on HIS mission in our post-Christian Western world?
My enduring interests, approach to ministry, and research questions all sort of hover around these questions.
Summing it Up
With a lean towards our prayer traditions, I am helping people deal with the constant drift of forgetting Jesus’s mind and our struggle of stalling out with our spiritual practices. I believe that when we really know Jesus’s mind and stay fit in prayer and spiritual practices, we will be far along that road of becoming leading citizens for God’s Kingdom and be poised to help anticipate God’s will here on earth as it is in heaven.
Welcome to the site. I hope the resources here help you, and if you’re ever in Northern Ontario, I’d love to meet fellow sojourners on the path to Jesus and the life of the heart.
My Contact Information
Best way to connect is to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me a little about yourself. I’d love to hear from you.
p.s. here’s my fav family pic to date:
Eve, Autumn, Claire, Keith, and Ethan