Pastor Jake Taggart (former three-time state champion Jaybird under Coach Pete Adkins) is now the education director at Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City. His first book, “Theology from the Spring: Reflections of the Creator Cast in Nature,” was released this past June. We wanted to get to know him, his inspiration, and his process for writing his first book.
When did you attend JCHS, and what year was the state champion football season?
I graduated from JCHS in the class of 1995. We won the state football championship my freshman, junior, and senior years. My senior class has the distinction of being the last group to play for Coach Adkins, who retired after my senior season. Whether we pushed him over the edge, or he knew he couldn’t top that last group, remains up for debate. Both seem like viable explanations for his retirement, but probably more the former than latter (haha!).
What’s your educational background?
After playing my freshman football season at UCM, I transferred back to Lincoln University where I received a BS in Accounting. I had a great educational experience at Lincoln, and was grateful for the collegial instruction in their College of Business. They prepared me well for the CPA Exam, a designation I achieved within months of graduation.
I also earned a Masters of Theological Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, VA.
What brought you to ministry work?
If you would have told me in high school or college that I would one day work in ministry, I would have laughed you out of the room. I’ve come across my fair share of people who knew me years ago and are shocked to hear what I’m doing now. And that actually is a response that I appreciate because: A) it is a fair and honest reaction that I completely understand and B) testifies to nothing other than the power of our Creator to change a human heart and affections as the effectual cause of it. So short story, God called me out of the business world and into ministry.
Longer version, I was happily employed in the local banking scene. I enjoyed my job, and worked with a great group of people whom I respected and appreciated greatly – still do – at Mid America Bank. While I could see myself living out my working life at the bank and retiring happily and comfortably, I came under the conviction that I simply wasn’t made for this kind of work. Upon realizing this conviction, I couldn’t shake this “ought” nor have any peace about being a good steward of the life given me until I was obedient in submitting to what I was called to do: give up a cozy office in the business world and wade into the messy world of ministry. And that is not to imply that my time in the business world was moot – I thoroughly believe that in God’s providence, He equipped me with gifts and experience in the business world that can be deployed for the benefit of His church.
What inspired you to write a book?
A couple elements actually converged to form the impetus for this book. First, I’ve grown up actively immersed in the awe of our Missouri streams. Since my childhood, they’ve provided a sort of organic sanctuary for me through different phases of life – a natural tonic of sorts that I’ve always wanted to chronicle in a literary sense. Second, while in seminary, we were studying the very nebulous doctrine of the Holy Trinity. We were tasked with developing some [limited] analogies to explain the Trinity. I evaluated a number of potential analogies – all of which contained some glaring inadequacies, with the exception of one that really seemed to make sense and avoid a great number of theological shortcomings: an analogy using a freshwater spring. Given fresh water springs in Missouri have always resonated with me, I clung to this analogy and always felt it should be elaborated more fully as a teaching tool for the Trinity. From that point, I resolved to build on this idea and write a book anchored in the motif of a freshwater spring as the best means of teaching the doctrine of the Trinity in an understandable way. Finally, I would never have developed my love of fly fishing and the vistas of fresh water springs if not for my dad, who taught me to fish as a child while taking me to these natural wonders within our great state. I’ve always wanted to give my dad a tribute for instilling this love within me, while also sharing certain theological truths to him that are naturally embedded within those things we’ve enjoyed so much over the years. But in 2014, he was diagnosed with lymphoma, and his future was uncertain. So the clock was ticking, so to speak, to push this project through the finish line and place the finished book into his hands, which I was blessed to do. (And he has been blessed with cancer that is in remission.)
Tell me about your writing process:
I am a “doctrine guy” who believes that certain absolute truths should guide the flow and shape of what I write. So I’ll take an over-arching topic, the natural theology present in a fly fishing expedition, for example, and distill what theological truths can be found in this and other similar natural vignettes. So I will map out what specific teachings can be drawn out and highlighted within given chapters and then re-arrange the topics in a sort of gradation that builds on top of the prior one so that the final chapter conveys the most full-orbed presentation of divine truth as seen in the beauty of nature. I will spend at least a month or two for each chapter, researching and reading everything I can find relevant to the topic before I put the “pen to the paper” for that chapter’s respective rough draft. To prevent each chapter from being too esoteric or academic, I begin each chapter with an actual fly fishing story (that took place in fly fishing waters in Missouri, Colorado, or Arkansas), which serves as an object lesson to steer the reader into the greater truth to be developed from nature and from the story. Thus, each chapter is a portrait of not just shadows of divine truth in nature, but also examines things from both a transcendent and close-up, immanent perspective from places close to us that many will recognize through actual stories.
Do you plan to write another book?
Yes. Actually, I have a skeleton structure of a second book mapped out with distinct chapters I plan to cover. While I am going in an entirely different direction with the next one, I plan to utilize the same writing methodology of using stories and object lessons/metaphors to develop various truths that build toward the whole.
What would you like Jefferson City (and beyond) to know about this book?
I would like Jefferson City and Mid-Missouri to know and see holistically how the ideals and values unique to Jefferson City and the larger Mid-MO area are reflected throughout a book whose settings take place outside of Mid-Missouri. Fundamentally, we are a river town, comprised of “river people.” People of the water, originally situated here much in part due to the proximity and necessity of the water that gave this town life. This book demonstrates that not only is Jefferson City a sort of archetype of civilizations across the world rooted and sustained by water, but even philosophically, this book shows the trajectory of how Jefferson City and Mid-Missouri’s ideals trek along the ideals and truths found in nature.
I realize this sounds like a bit too romantic a notion, but if you’ve lived here long enough, I think you’d concede that the values and ideals of Jefferson City and Mid-Missouri are very distinct. We are “the Show-Me State.” We don’t follow every every whim and conform to the latest fad floating down the river to us. We tend to hold to more absolute and lasting ideals without languishing on how we are perceived by the “more metropolitan” cultures. There are cultural mores here that value passing truths downstream to later generations: our collective successes, failures, and wisdom to our children. Very primal things, really. That is one reason why Jefferson City and Mid-Missouri are a great place to raise your children. Moreover, as our hometown is the hub of government and gateway to the ordering of civic laws, it in many ways also serves as the gateway to the unrivaled beauty of natural laws that can be observed in the unmatched beauty of the Ozarks. As residents of Mid-Missouri abiding in a world that is increasingly losing itself in the synthetic world of technology, too many of us take for granted the privilege of being situated near an ecological jackpot where we can take in the pure, natural vistas found in our parks, hills, and streams and re-discover the people we were made to be and life were were made to live. It’s all right at our fingertips if we would just put our phones down to take in the primal truths reflected in the spring waters before us.