About me

I have always been introspective, an analyzer, really. It feels like a curse, but also tends to be my greatest gift. Since I have spent so much time in my own head, I find I have the ability to help other people understand themselves, why they do what they do, and how to change. 

If you want to know more, here is a bit of my story. 

I grew up going to church, youth group and summer camps, all of which I loved and had a powerful impact on my life. Being a skinny, insecure  kid,  I was hungry to be accepted and also to be "cool." Church is where I found acceptance, and the 'in" group is where I sought a more worldly identity. I was president of our youth group and there every Sunday, but might also be found drinking with other friends on Friday night. 

I left the drinking behind when I went to Milligan College and majored in Bible. It was an exciting adventure, but I also found myself struggling with deeper questions: Does God really exist? How can Christians be sure  they're right and everyone else is wrong? If all this talk about abundant life is really true, then why do I feel empty so often? I would go from highs when I thought all things were possible to lows where all things seemed hopeless. 

My junior year, I joined a Christmas-break mission trip to Haiti. To see such poverty, degradation and starvation was sobering. Yet on this same trip, I met Debbie Leedom who had arrived that semester as a 23 year old widow with two children. Her husband had died a slow, torturous death from brain cancer the previous summer, yet she was full of life and energy. The Haitian orphans flocked to her. I was enthralled and we married eight months later and I found myself a husband, a father and a senior in college. 

I quickly felt overwhelmed. I didn't know how to open my life to another person, how to truly love, how to carry so much responsibility. My childhood faith had collapsed. I felt trapped and depressed. And another child was on the way. At graduation, I was awarded the Outstanding Senior honor as voted by the faculty, but didn't know what I believed or what to do with my life. 

So I went to seminary!

At Union Seminary in Richmond, VA, professors emphasized God choice over human decision and effort, which felt like a relief from the sense that faith was all up  to me. I better grasped grace, but still found myself oppressed and intellectually confused. I had to perform a twelve month internship as part of my program and a college friend, Greg Allen, happened to be working at a church in Louisville, KY, which he claimed was awesome. He talked the leadership into allowing me to interview and I felt like I was walking out of a dim room into glorious sunshine. The preaching was insightful and powerful; the people were alive and excited; the congregation was large and rapidly growing. Being part of Southeast Christian Church was like jumping on a Christian thrill ride. 

I was hired full time at the end of my internship and thought I had entered Heaven. I began as assistant to the senior minister, Bob Russell, a wonderful, dynamic leader. I later served in new members, discipleship, teaching and leadership roles. A daughter was born to go with the three boys. But all this time the same doubts and periods of despair plagued me. After 10 years on staff, and the congregation grew to 10,000 in attendance, I realized I needed help. 

Two events changed me. First, an Emmaus Walk pried open the closed door to my inner self. But I didn't have the tools to deal with what I found there. Then an eight day experience called Healing for the Nations gave me the means to begin to deal with the struggles inside. I discovered that I had a lot of junk in my "basement" of which I hadn't been aware. Slowly I began cleaning out false beliefs, deep insecurities and lifelong fears. It is slow, on and off work. But from those experiences, we developed a retreat at Southeast called The Faces of Christ. Over two thousand people have now attended this three-day intensive weekend. 

Then, in December 1997 our second oldest son didn't show up for work after school. A late evening phone call requested we come to University Hospital. Chris had been killed in a car crash. Out of that "event" a long process of introspection ensued. I left my role as a staff administrator for a "lower level" role in spiritual life. Basement issues regarding the meaning of "success" were clarified. Yet, a lot of confusion clouded my inner mind. 
Life's troubles have continued. Debbie's young nephew died unexpectedly and her dad was killed when his tractor turned over on him at his Christian retreat center. Other distressing family difficulties have come and gone with our grown kids and now our three grandchildren. But there have also been incredible experiences and indescribable joys.

In the fall of 2008 I left the staff of Southeast after 23 years. Since then I have found myself re-asking all the original questions about the existence of God, the meaning of life, the possibility of knowing anything for sure, outside of the pressure in ministry to "have to" come to certain conclusions. Now I find myself less able to say, "This is how it all works" and more comfortable admitting, "I really don't know, but this is what I find helping me." 

In December of 2016 my marriage of 34 years to Debbie was officially dissolved. We had faced many ups and downs together, and I find myself proud that we had so well for so long despite so many stressors and tragedies. 

So now I try to help others navigate this perplexing, difficult, challenges of life. I believe I have an ability to walk beside others in their deepest struggles with compassion, discernment and friendship.  

Ross Brodfuehrer
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