Interview: Greg Locke Talks Changing His Ministry Strategy, Approaching It with Humility

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Greg Locke is the founder and lead pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. Over the years, Locke has stirred controversy, making headlines for his book burnings, controversial views on OCD and Autism, and his adamant political views.

Recently, however, Locke told his congregation that he is deleting all of his sensationalized interviews, sermons and posts from his Facebook page. The decision, he said, came when he was struck by the need to “reach people for Jesus with humble hearts.”

Locke recently spoke to Christian Headlines about his journey to making this decision.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Christian Headlines: Pastor Greg Locke, how are you doing? Let’s dive right in. Why did you decide to write your new book Cast It Out

Greg Locke: I’m doing well, my friend.

Well, you know it’s not my first book. It is my first one with a major publisher because we started Global Vision Press some years ago, and we did our first three or four books. What I enjoy about it is I don’t have to sit down in all the details and the extras. I speak into my phone a lot, and then my team helps me transcribe all of that, and then we go back and forth, and we massage it. I like the massaging part of the book because I relearn things that I said and things that I’m teaching. It allows me and forces me to kind of slow down and really get the meat out of what I’ve been saying. I enjoyed that process of writing and working on Cast It Out.

CH: How did you come up with the book’s title?

Locke: The movie (Come Out in Jesus Name, starring Locke) was such a groundswell of revival. I always knew once we got fully baptized into deliverance ministry that, I wanted to put out a book, kind of a practical guide saying, “Here’s our journey, here’s the ministry of Jesus and this is a theological concept that doesn’t have to be scary and spooky and hokey.”

I knew the book was coming, and so I thought, you know what? I want a title that doesn’t necessarily have to say something about demons and evil spirits. But everybody immediately knows that’s what it’s about when they see it. We are called to make sure we walk in freedom, and then we use the authority that we’ve been given by the Lord to set other people free.

CH: How do you balance being known as a controversial leader?

Locke: If people have not watched the movie, they’re not going to have a perspective that I’ve changed. We were very controversial for the last several years, but God used politics and controversy to grow a massive size platform. So, I don’t bemoan that or demonize that, but we’ve transitioned from that.

However, I’m still not going to bow down to the culture. I tell people, “When I became a man, I put away childish things.” Right? It’s not that I still don’t have those very demonstrative opinions, but God did not build a massive platform so we could stay in controversial politics. He used that to give us the platform to put us in deliverance ministry so we could set people free. So, when people watch the movie, they get a different perspective.

If they go back a couple of months in the archives of our videos at church, they’ll see me preach a message on the heart of Jesus. The heart of Jesus is, “I am meek and humble of heart.” So, I tell people I don’t apologize for the very forceful things that I said my position was. But through the years, sometimes, my disposition maybe was not right. I could have crafted the way that I said things. It’s not that I’m going to go on some big, you know, apology bus tour, but there are some things that I said, perhaps, in ways that I could have crafted better. So, I think that’s why there’s such a polarizing stance on me. You either love me, or you hate me. So, what’s happening is when people are watching the movie, they’re like, wow, this guy has really experienced a massive move of the Holy Spirit.

CH: What did that move of the Holy Spirit look like? Can you unpack that for our audience a little more?

Locke: Once we got involved in deliverance ministry, it was a game changer. I had preached for 30 years without the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I mean, I preached with power; I preached with pizazz. I said little cute things and all that kind of stuff. But once deliverance came, and I received a full baptism of the Holy Spirit, God really tempered me in a lot of areas and slowed my thinking down and slowed my mouth down. Because sometimes the first thing you want to say is normally the last thing you ought to say. Even as a pastor, we must be careful in the way that we form and outline our words. So, God’s really graced me with a lot more humility than I used to have. I just don’t want people to think of that humility as me compromising. I’m not going to compromise to meet the culture. Right. We’re going to call out demons, and we’re going to stand for righteousness and holiness. But at the end of the day, that’s the long way around the barn to say; that’s why I think I’m such a polarizing figure. Now people don’t know how to take me because there’s been such a transition.

CH: Where did the sense of transition and humility come from?

Locke: You know, I tell people, boldness without brokenness will make you a bully. So, I think sometimes I came off as belligerent, not meaning to, and here’s what I tell people. I’m just going to be very, very candid. Meanness got more amens than meekness did. So, you can fall into that vein, if you will, where you’re just preaching. You’re known for being courageous. You’re known for being the lion of the movement, and you’re the leading tip of the spear. You know, bless God, we didn’t close our church during COVID, and I don’t bemoan that. I’m glad I didn’t close our church, and I never will close our church. But at the end of the day, it gave me an abrasiveness. I think that abrasiveness is why a lot of people came to our church because they were looking for something. Because, you know, Trump was that way and the whole QAnon nonsense, and everybody was looking for answers.

And here was this redneck renegade pastor that didn’t give two flips of a wooden nickel what you thought about him. CNN and I were just in a constant fight. So, I was just like, “I’m going to go for it. I could say it doesn’t mean that I should have said it. Right?”

So, here’s what happened, I went through personal deliverance after we had been in deliverance ministry for a couple of months. There was just something about when that religious spirit came off me. It just really gave me a baptism of humility and a baptism of tears. I cry all the time when I preach now, and it’s so out of character. And I asked the Lord when it first started, I was like, “I’m done with this God, are you kidding me?”

I’m supposed to be bold and courageous, and I’m crying at the drop of a hat like a little kid. And I said, “Lord, please take away these tears.” And the Holy Spirit, as clear as I’m talking to you right now, said, if I take away your tears, I’ll drop your ministry. This is your new ministry. And so, God just gave me this whole idea of humility.

CH: What did Jesus teach you through this process?

Locke: I began to study the ministry of Jesus. Was he brave? Yes. Was he courageous? Yes. Made a whip and drove grown men out of a temple. You better be brave and have some biceps if you’re going to drive grown men out of a church service. So, it’s not that Jesus wasn’t those things, but I began to look at the “I am” statements of Jesus.

I am the way, the truth, the life. I’m the good shepherd. I’m the door. You know, I am all these things. I am the vine. None of those things that Jesus said he was, we can be. I will never be the good shepherd. I will never be the true vine. I’ll never be the way, the truth, or the life. He is those things. There’s only one time Jesus ever said I am that I can emulate. He never said I am love. I am grace. I am mercy. I am forgiveness. I am generosity. He is all those things. But Jesus only gave one character reference in his entire ministry. He said, “I am meek and lowly of heart.”

He didn’t say: I am bold. I am courageous. I am forceful. No, that’s not what he was. Those things. But, he said, I am meek and lowly, and of all the I am statements, that’s the only one that I can emulate. God convicted me to the core. I got up, and I told our whole church, and I said, you know what? It’s a sad reality to some degree because, again, I don’t want to have to backpedal because God did use crazy controversy and very outlandish statements to build a great size platform. But I said, look, I think it’s sad to some degree that if you were to ask a thousand people to give one character reference of Pastor Greg Locke, 99 percent of them would tell you boldness and courage. Right? But I don’t want to go down and leave a legacy of being the boldest pastor in America. I want to leave the legacy Jesus left.

CH: Where do you go from here?

Locke: People need to understand that Facebook stardom, celebrity Christianity, everybody wants to be internet famous until it happens. And then when it happens, it’s not so cool anymore. Cause they know everything about your life, and everything that glitters is not gold. Right? And so, I had to get to a place where I said, you know what, Lord, this is your platform. I don’t care if I’m known as the most bold, courageous, in-your-face pastor ever again. I want to be known as somebody that loves Jesus deeply, who walks with the Holy Spirit and absolutely spends the rest of his life serving people right where they’re at.

CH: What about the tent that your church uses?

Locke: Now the tent we have, it’s almost like a warehouse. So outside, because of the sound ordinance issues, which there’s not a sound ordinance, we’re just trying to be good neighbors. We’ve built walls all the way around it. So when you drive up, it looks like a very beautiful building, but when you come inside, it’s a tent. We don’t have any debt. And to build what we would need would be like $10 to $15 million to have a building that big. I mean our tent seats 3000 people comfortably.

We don’t believe in going into debt. I’m not going to the bank. You know, the borrower is a servant to the lender. So, we’re going to stay in a tent, debt free and give most of our money away. So, the land we use now is for parking and office space and things like that. But as far as the tent’s concerned, we’re going to stay in that tent till Jesus comes.


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Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Danielle Del Valle/Stringer

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