An interview with John Ivins
PCC Steering Team member & Worship Leader
“Few things are needed, indeed only one.” -Luke 10:42
Jesus calls each of us to walk alongside Him and join him in the work He’s doing all around us. Figuring out what that looks like in our individual lives requires us to set aside time to spend not just in prayer and study with Jesus, but also in silence. For many people, finding that time to hear from God in this world of trouble and busyness and struggle can quickly feel overwhelming. And then, when we do hear from God, often we have just one big question:
How do we follow Jesus when we’re busy with jobs and kids and schedules and family and everything else we do in a day? How do we set aside all of these important things to make time for the most important thing?
Recently, Chelsey Williams connected with PCC member John Ivins to talk about what following Jesus looks like in his life. John is a part of PCC’s Steering Team, a worship leader, and a frequent mission team member. With that list, you may be thinking that ministry is his career.
He’s a full-time attorney.
Here’s what John had to say about making ministry a priority.
Chelsey Williams: What do you do as far as your professional life?
John Ivins: I am an attorney with a law firm of around 80 lawyers with multiple offices in Virginia. I work at our main office in downtown Richmond, and my practice focuses primarily on handling a variety of legal needs for clients, including business/real estate/healthcare disputes and litigation. In addition, I serve on several non-profit boards including CrossOver Health (a public health clinic that provides healthcare services to people in the Metro Richmond area) and Goodwill of Central and Coastal Virginia. I also consider my role in ministry a significant part of my professional life.
CW: Church and missions are a pretty important part of your life. Tell us about that, and how you have been able to balance your time between church and your career.
JI: Church has always been important, but my involvement in missions was a more gradual process. I have been a musician since high school, and about 20 years ago, I felt God calling me to become a worship leader. I began leading worship at my former church and formed a Christian rock band focused on youth ministry that included several musicians who have also since come to call PCC their church home—Walter Felton and Stuart Bailey. The band travelled all over the region, in some years leading 60-80 events in a year, while each band member sought to balance family life, ministry and regular full-time jobs. I eventually moved to a different church as a worship leader and ultimately became a part of PCC in 2009, where I have been active leading worship.
A few years into the life of the band, we had the chance to lead worship in Thailand, which evolved into opportunities for me to also lead worship in Hong Kong and India. I was interviewed about that trip by the Richmond Times Dispatch which resulted in a front page article entitled, “Lawyer Testifies to a Higher Calling,” that focused on how I balanced law, church and ministry. Months later, I was at a large gathering of Richmond lawyers, and I found myself in numerous conversations not about my law practice, but about those same issues. At that point, I realized two things—that I was where God wanted me, and that I needed to look for ways to grow in that way. And as I became more open to international missions, God has provided many opportunities allowing me to travel for overseas missions over the last 15 years to numerous countries throughout Europe, Asia and Africa.
The “balancing,” however, has been tricky. As this part of my life began to evolve, my two boys (who are now grown musicians living in Nashville) were in middle school, so we were past the really young family days. Although that helped, there were other musicians who had young children and there were still plenty of challenges with family life. I also had a supportive wife, though there were many difficult discussions and sacrifices made. My bandmates had to make lots of their own sacrifices, and I worked hard to be sure that this worked for my law firm. So, for me, it has taken focus, planning, good communication with all who are a part of this, and, most of all, God, to make a way through the complexities of our lives. And the path for getting to this life/balance has been an ever-evolving process as we all have to adapt to the many challenges we encounter in life for which we often cannot plan. So I have had to ask God many times, “is this the right course, how do I make this work?” I feel like God has opened tons of doors and made the path for me—I just had to commit to follow it. And as I have done that, He has shown me the way.
CW: Was there a moment where you realized that you needed to rearrange your life in order to follow Jesus more completely?
JI: There have been many moments, but a key one that presented the life path and way forward for me over the past 20 years all started with the simple idea of following God’s call to use my music skills to try to become a worship leader. Once I took that step, He created ways for me to learn how to do that, then created opportunities for a band, and then provided international missions and greater church ministry opportunities. It did not happen all at once. I think God often gives us one opportunity as opposed to letting us see the whole plan. We follow that; He gives us another; and so on. Certainly, that is how it has worked in my life. At each stage of life, we can all decide to follow or not. God gives us that choice, but do we really want to get to heaven and have God say, “You had a great life; I had a better one picked out”?
I lost my parents to cancer many years ago. They were both early in their retirement. They had worked hard, putting off lots of life, fun and travel until retirement…which never actually came. That reality shaped me to fully understand that none of us know our futures and the long-range tomorrows we plan are not promised. So, I committed to the notion of not waiting, of taking the life and opportunities presented, and trying to pursue them as God directed.
CW: How has that decision impacted you?
JI: I read a quote from Helen Keller recently: “Life is either a daring adventure, or sadly essentially nothing.” I think, for me, I have tried to follow God’s leading along this path and honestly, following this path has provided a life of great adventures—personally and professionally. I have an awesome family, a fulfilling legal career, and I continue to be blessed with many ministry opportunities—communicating about and experiencing the movement of God’s presence in my life and in the lives of many people both here and abroad. Each of us have skills, the ability to use those and follow God, the possibility to, in following God, shape the life we have been given, and the opportunity to impact the people we encounter…all for Him. Everyone’s lives are different, and these opportunities will arise in different ways at different times. I would just encourage people to consider all that could lie ahead if we are open to listening to the plans God may have for us and to stepping out in faith to follow them. After all, these are God’s plans…so they have to be bigger than anything we could ever dream or imagine.
Thank you so much, John! If you’d like to hear more about making space to listen for Jesus and follow where He leads, check out Pastor Bryan Pope’s message, Few Things Are Needed.