Nearly four decades in ministry

The Rev. Brian Truog, right, speaks with Sharon Sundquist, left, and his wife, Shirley, during a gathering Friday at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church.

Moving to Tennessee was never in the plans for the Rev. Brian Truog, 63, but God had other ideas.

“In our church system, churches can take any name off the roster of pastors and give them what we call and ask them to be their pastor and then the pastor decides, ‘Do I want to go there or do I want to stay where I am?’” Truog said. “I’ve had several of those throughout my 37 years and my wife and I just spend a lot of time praying when those happen, and it’s always turned out that we’ve agreed on our answer when we’ve prayed about it. Two times we’ve said ‘yes,’ and all the other times we’ve said ‘no.’”

His most recent “yes” resulted in his move to Tellico Village, where he set roots and has been senior pastor at Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church for the past nine years. Truog previously pastored Hope Lutheran Church in Aurora, Ill., for four years and Cross Lutheran Church in Yorkville, Ill., for 24 years.

“It’s a very, very different ministry than what I had in the past, just in the community being mostly seniors,” Truog said. “My previous experiences were in communities with a lot of young families. For 24 years in one church before I came here it had a big school, like 300 kids in a school and so forth, so it’s very different but I’ve enjoyed it, the unique challenges because of the community.”

But he jokingly admitted he likes the weather better than Illinois.

Truog was raised in a religious household with his father a pastor. Growing up, Truog said he would never become a pastor. He hoped to be a teacher when he initially went to St. Louis Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Mo.

“When my wife and I got married I told her I would never be a pastor, so she says she married me under false pretenses,” Truog said with a laugh. “I actually went to the seminary, which is the school where you train to be a pastor, thinking I would be a teacher, not a pastor, and after about a year at the seminary I just came home one day and told my wife, ‘I think God wants me to be pastor,’ and that’s kind of where it went from there.”

Truog’s initial avoidance of ministry was a result of the struggles he watched his father face.

“I kind of felt, ‘Why would my dad put himself through all that?’, and it just didn’t make sense that he would want to do that,” he said. “I guess I didn’t have the servant attitude back then that you need to be a pastor. ... I feel very blessed to have been able to be a pastor and to serve in all three of these churches. They’ve all been a blessing in different ways.”

The Rev. Mark Rhoads, Christ Our Savior associate pastor, has seen firsthand Truog’s impact on the congregation. Rhoads has known Truog all nine years.

He described his ministry partner as “solid” and “very supporting.”

“I would say his biggest contribution has been leading a change in our structure,” Rhoads said. “We were a board committee organization and ministry happened through boards, your standard church boards. He led us through a process where we changed our bylaws and went to a more flattened organizational structure that focuses on ministry teams.”

Although Truog been a pastor for nearly four decades, he hopes to keep working at least three more years.

“As my dad lived out and so forth, pastors never really retire, they just kind of shift,” he said. “They keep working as pastors but maybe not full time.”

When the time comes, his goal is for church members to remember Christ.

“That’s what I find most gratifying is when I get cards or letters from people that say, ‘You touched my life with Christ. Christ made a difference in my life,’” he said. “I’m not looking for me to make a difference, I’m looking for Christ to make a difference.”