The Outreach/Training Director of Sandals Church in Riverside, California, Gary Comer received a doctorate from Talbot Theological Seminary. He served briefly in campus ministry, planting and pasturing churches, but his passion is the missional impact of the church.
Gary is the founder of Soul Whisperer Ministries. He is also the author of Soul Whisperer: Why the Church Must Change the Way it Views Evangelism.
He and his wife, Robin, and their sons reside in southern California.
I understand your writing journey was the result of a detour.
Mine is a dark story of redirection. Reader, be forewarned. It might have been nice to sit down over a cup of coffee for sometime before you get to this level of sharing. But this is DD, so here goes. I was a church-planting pastor, having planted two churches over a two-decade span with a fairly steady spiritual walk. But at mid-life, the wheels came off the track! I began to waver spiritually, started experimenting with drinking and from a place of lust I impulsively shoplifted. When it came out, I lost my position and so much more. Though the act itself was an anomaly, the pleasure-seeking pull pictured my life perfectly. As I wrote in the book, “When Christ is not at the center, look what happens. It’s me!”
So where do I go—now? Broken. Confused. Displaced. Shamed. Unwanted. Virtually unhireable. Seeing few options, I confessed to the admissions dept. and went back to school. This is where the story gets interesting. Ironically, the most broken person in the doctorate program is also perhaps the most focused. From pain comes vision. The seed first shook-to-life at a pastor’s conference, where in prayer over my failure, the Lord impressed upon me the word: Evangelism. His message: “Return to your first love!” While the class (cohort) scrambled for their dissertation topics, I was well on my way to getting published. The school stated that they never had someone do that—before graduating.
As I look back at the sequence, it felt like my life was a pinball shot upwards, ricocheting down eventually bouncing into a single slot. God intervened, re-routing to a divinely ordained assignment: the missional development of the church. Suddenly, with a bleeding heart and a writer’s pen, I was positioned to become a voice. What a strange voice. Like the Samaritan woman with her ongoing relational issues, can “prophetic words” really come from such a source? For unexplainable reasons, God chose to reveal some amazing insights through my experiences.
There’s a great truth here. Our God is bigger than it all—even our blow-its! He redeems all things for His glory. My divine detour, like many others, demonstrates this profoundly. In Soul Whisperer, I share how God leveraged my brokenness to lead others into the faith. I know, that sounds crazy counterintuitive, doesn’t it? But it’s what happened. The book describes these stories on how to go deep with people in order to reach them.
Both title and subtitle are significant. “Soul whispering” is the term I use to depict the mission manner of Christ. Jesus is the soul whisperer. Ever notice how He never gives the same presentation twice; but rather speaks personally and powerfully into each soul? Consider His interactions with Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman of John 3 and 4, where Jesus sizes exactly what each person needs to hear. The Samaritan woman’s heart leaps when she hears His offer of “living water.” Contrastingly, Nicodemus’ heart falls—hearing that his religiosity meant nothing—he must be “born again”! Both of these “soul whispers” were potent! She leaves fired up to tell a whole town; he leaves disturbed in the greatest of ways. The book breaks down Jesus’ “influence” skills into doable processes, calling all to emulate His ways.
The subtitle is equally important. Soul Whisperer challenges the way people typically think of evangelism. It espouses a new paradigm, which starts by reading where the person is at—not by making a pre-pitched proclamation. In our post-modern pluralistic time (many points of view), we must learn how to adapt to a person’s starting point so that we can understand the necessary progressions to reach them. And we need a far more relationally invested process that gets to the heart, not just the head. While imbuing Christ-like qualities, the book shows how to influence various people depending upon where they begin. Read it to reach your friends, loved ones, and community. You will become more in-tune with their journeys and see the gospel in its full symphonic beauty. The call of faith sharing will become personally transformative and super exciting!
You’ve released subsequent books this year. Please tell us a little bit about those.
Wipf and Stock published the first four of my Missional Engagement Series. These smaller books are evangelistic and discipling vehicles for churches. Like Soul Whisperer, they root to doctorate research, but I honed them over years of practice at Sandals Church in Riverside, CA.
Steps to Faith – Creates a journey to explore the Christian beliefs.
First Steps Discipleship Training — Establishes newer believers in faith, while empowering their mission from the get-go!
Launch Point – Moves small groups into mission.
I’m passionate about helping churches become missionally effective. These books get their people engaging for Christ’s cause.
John Donne once wrote “No man is an island.” It’s one of my favorite quotes, and it’s true, I think, when it comes to our faith life. Who in your childhood or early years (perhaps a parent, grandparent, or Sunday school teacher) significantly impacted your faith? Subsequently, what kind of impact do you hope your ministry will have on others?
I didn’t grow up in the church. My father’s bad childhood experience kept us away. Though I was a big sports guy (played football, basketball and baseball), I didn’t have one coach who got to my spiritual core. When I came to faith at twenty-one, Pastor Matt Hannan (now in WA), mentored me as a leader.
As to my ministry, I hope that my writing, teaching, training will inspire men and women into a deeper missional discipleship with Jesus. In many ways, my passion is discipleship. I want to see people walk and talk as He did. Being called to fulfill what He started, I hope that Christians of all types might see Him more clearly and serve Him more fruitfully.
A few fun questions…
When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?
I love cheeseburgers! Recently, I was in India and got the chance to savor the exotic spicy flavors of Indian cuisine. But when it comes to home; a great burger with the right toppings and s-sauce brings comfort wonders!
This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?
Though lacking musical talent, I am a big music lover. In my college years, I drove around a Ford Fiesta (early smart car), with two 6 X 9 Cricket speaker boxes in my backseat, an “I’m a Rocker” bumper sticker, and my “Tunes to Crank” personally-recorded cassette tapes. If God were to give me a gift of my choosing, it would be singing. Of course, I’m marginally tone deaf, so I write. But I always have felt that the lyrical gift nears the angelic.
If you were a song, what kind of song would you be?
Being a feeler personality, I tend to have a lot of passion. My wife confronts, “You are like a teenage girl!” So we’ve moved away from easy listening and pop into the rock genre. A great song has something to say, and sometimes saying it loudly with a big thump and drive seems right to my soul.
In the story that is your life, are you the tall, dark stranger; the romantic lead; the mythical warrior; the mad scientist; or the child in an adult’s body?
Wow! Who am I here? Two jump out immediately. The Romantic Lead is part of my make up. It ties into the love for my wife. Dates with Robin, and our whole relationship is one of God’s great gifts. But the other is the Mythical Warrior. That character conjures the heroic; many of the fictional stories that I love to read deal with this person. There’s definitely a lot of fight in me. I’m constantly fighting for new ground, to champion something, to take a hill, to achieve a vision. I’ve got another book that I’m fighting for—presently!
I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.
With a last name “Comer,” growing up we purchased a puppy beagle and named him Homer. “Homer Comer” was the best name, and a legendary dog for our family! At my home in CA, with my wife and two boys, Abraham, a pure Springer Spaniel, brings us oodles of joy. He wiggles his butt in sheer happiness over lights and shadows, and swims in our pool more than we do. I have also found him to be a sure friend in dark times. I will cry when he is gone.
Thank you, Gary. It’s a pleasure to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.
Thank you, Kathy, for allowing me to share some of my story. Praise to the God of sovereign purpose, who only knows Plan A!
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For more information about Gary, visit his website.
To purchase Soul Whisperer and other books by Gary, logon to: