This episode’s guest is Nate Dewberry, who was appointed director at The Redeemed in 2022, bringing extensive experience as a student, associate, and administrative pastor, as well as several semesters of seminary training. A native of Lineville, Alabama, Nate earned a degree in horticulture at Auburn University and worked for seven years in the Auburn area as a landscape designer. He moved to Columbus, Georgia when his wife, an army veteran, was transferred to Fort Benning; he worked for several months at Global Teen Challenge, a network of faith-based organizations providing addiction rehabilitation services. Nathan is the father of a son and two daughters, and he, too, is open about his life struggles, including a difficult divorce; he looks forward to using what he learned from those experiences to help men in crisis.
Good evening and welcome to this special edition of The Redeemed Man podcast. My name is Paul Amos, founder of The Redeemed, and we’re here today to introduce you to a very special guest. Nate Dewberry is the newest member of our team. He’s joined as director of The Redeemed, and we want to thank him for coming on board and welcome him to the show.
Nate: Paul, it’s so good to join you and so exciting to be a part of The Redeemed. It’s been a fun few weeks learning so much about the past of what has happened, but then looking to the future of what’s ahead, and I could not be more excited to be a part of the ministry, but then also being able to share this time communicating and talking with you through the podcast.
Paul: Well, this is exciting, it’s fun to do this one off and a chance to really get to know each other. Before we get into knowing you and your background, which is important and something we’ve heard from our audience, I do want to go ahead and ask you our favorite opening question: What does redemption mean to you?
Nate: For me, it means that I win. That may sound really crazy, but at the end of the day redemption means that Christ has taken my sin record and giving me his perfect record. And the junk in my life and the things that I’ve stumbled through, He is working those for good. It blows me away that I get to win in that way in my life, and to see other people take that step and understand that they can walk free and they can overcome their past, and that no matter what they’re going through that, there is a victory on the other side of it, and for me, that’s what redemption means.
Paul: I love with football season coming around the corner that you’re talking about winning, the reality is in college football today, one win and you’re out… And this is the opposite. We’re talking about something where all the losses in the world can be overcome by a single win in God’s redemption for us.
Nate: So true, so true. It’s amazing that He offers that to us. We get to receive that. When you think about all the things that you’ve done, and how many things that you have done that have fallen so short of what you feel like God wants, and yet He loves you and He pursues you. And that is mind-blowing.
Paul: Well, while I could read off your resume, why don’t you spend a moment just telling us a little bit about your background, and then just so you know, for shadowing, we’re going to talk a little bit, if you don’t mind, about your testimony in your background in that category with God and how He’s led you after that. So just tell us a little bit about yourself and what’s important to our audience.
Nate: Yes, so I grew up in Alabama, very small town. Was involved in and church growing up, my parents were faithful in attendance, and at an early age when I was 15, I accepted Christ at a youth event. My sister and I both heard the Gospel presented, and in that moment, we responded, and after that, I began to grow in my relationship with Lord. I had a pastor that really invested a lot of time in me and really felt like God was calling me to full-time ministry. And so at 16 I began preaching some and traveling to different local churches when pastors were out, I would fill in for them. Remember, lots of Sunday mornings on back roads in Alabama, headed to a small country church to fill in for a pastor, and yet in that season, God was refining me and helping me grow.
Went to Auburn and got my degree in landscape horticulture, and after that, I decided to go to seminary. So I was headed out to seminary at Fort Worth, and there in that season, I met someone and we got married while I was at Seminary. After our marriage, I really felt like God was calling us to step away from seminary, so we moved back to Alabama, and started working in the landscape industry, honestly, for a while.
After that, an opportunity opened up for me to move to Birmingham to serve as a student pastor. That’s when I began serving in the local church on staff, after doing it while was in college, briefly, then this season stepping into it with a job in Birmingham and then ended up serving at a church in North Alabama and then in Kentucky. During that season, it was a great time for me to grow and mature and to serve and I learned a lot, but honestly, there were some things in my background that I think if I were honest, I was hiding and not letting people completely into it, and I honestly didn’t know how to walk out some of the struggles that I had in my life.
And so after moving to Kentucky, my wife and I had gone through a difficult season, actually, where we were separated for a time, and then she had moved back to Kentucky, and I thought honestly, we had that behind us, but we were in a busy season and I probably should have stepped away from ministry, but I didn’t. Due to that, our marriage ended up crumbling around us, and I think a lot of that was God’s way of getting my attention I would love to have not gone through that, but I did, and there were a lot of things that God began to work out of me in that season of difficulty.
I ended up moving back to Alabama and got a job in landscape industry, working there. I spent about three years and then met someone that was totally unexpected, we met through a mutual friendship, and I was not thinking that I was going to end up pursuing anybody or even considering getting remarried, but it was amazing what God did and sending Liz into my life.
Liz and I met when she was stationed in Germany, we ended up getting married the following year, and she’s been a phenomenal and amazing step-mom to the kids. I have three kids, a 16-year-old, a 14-year-in a 11-year-old. And she’s just stepped in and done an amazing job loving them and serving alongside me. She works at a church here in town, and I’m so thankful for her, I’m thankful for her background and thankful for the team that we are together. That’s part of my story of redemption winning because it looked like everything was over, and yet God has done so much in restoring my life and giving me so much more than I ever thought possible, honestly.
Paul: Well, thank you for sharing all that background, that’s a lot all in one sound bite, and so let’s try and break a few things down if you don’t mind, because I know our audience would love to know a little more. For a lot of our audience, the idea of preaching at 16 years old is just far from where they were, and certainly far from where I was, I was 18 hiding from God, not 16 preaching in a small church. What was it like to have that type of pressure and that type of opportunity in front of you at such a young age?
Nate: It was honestly very humbling for me to know that I have an opportunity to communicate the gospel and share the truth of God’s word. I knew that there were extreme limitations to my knowledge, but I knew what God had done in my life, and I knew that he had changed me. I knew that I was a person of worry and got it, taken that worry and given me peace. And from that, I began to be able to share that story. And honestly, I loved learning, so I love studying scriptures and getting into God’s word. I love seeing people’s lives changed, to be able speak and share God’s word and see people respond to that was an amazing experience for me.
But like you said, there were pressures. Looking back, I wish I had had some mentors in my life who knew how to take me under their wing and care for me. The pastor who had done that early on in my ministry, ended up moving to another church and was later actually killed in a tragic car accident, and so he was no longer in my life. Honestly, I think there are very few people that you look like to take me under their wing, and I didn’t know what it looked like to honestly look for that. And so there were things in my life that I probably did not handle correctly, there were some bad habits that developed you to lack of mentorship.
Paul: But you hit on something that I think is important for other people, but honestly, important in my own life. While I’ve been always comfortable through my business opportunities in my work life, speaking to people and talking about what I do, talking about faith and talking about Christianity is something that I’ve always been hesitant because I always assume there are people in the room who are so much more capable than I. You said that you have limitations in your knowledge, but that you were at the same time comforted by God to move forward. How can you speak to our audience about the fact that they can move forward and talk to other people about Christ without necessarily knowing everything there is to know about God and everything there is to know about the Bible?
Nate: Yeah, there’s nothing more powerful than your testimony in your story of transformation. When you recognize the gospel and understand that Jesus came and died on the cross for you, and He gave you His perfect record and took your sin record, and that now you can live in the power of the Holy Spirit. When you understand that and can share that, that is something that nobody really can argue with. Yes, they can say, that my experience is different, or I haven’t seen that in my life, but you’re able to show transformation in your life. If you see that transformation in someone’s life, it’s hard to argue with a changed life.
So for me, that’s where I step forward in a changed life, I was not the person I was and I knew I wasn’t the person I was. So that gave me great confidence. And I know that when you communicate with somebody, there’s always going to be shortcomings and knowledge, even today as I’ve studied The Scriptures and learn so much, I fall short and understanding completely everything that’s there in scripture. But I do know what Jesus has done for me, and I can share that. And when I look at the Gospel, I see that everybody was on the journey, even the disciples, they didn’t even understand what Jesus is doing until He’s gone, and so that gives me great comfort that even when I don’t understand, God can use my weaknesses and my flaws, to make much of himself. Honestly, it’s not about me, it’s not about my knowledge, it’s not about my strength, and I think that’s obvious when you look at the disciples, that they were super humbled by what Jesus has done in their life, and they really just offered their life and said, Here I am, use me. And because they did that, God really did use them.
Paul: I love what you’re saying about the disciples so true, we find there, throughout the Gospels that they really did not know what God was trying to say to them and what Jesus was communicating. He was so far ahead of them, and yet they wrote these incredible stories about their lack of knowledge and what it meant to finally have an epiphany come upon them. Let’s just for a moment, ask the question, was anybody else in your seminary class with a horticulture background?
Nate: No, there was nobody that I knew in class, most everybody had gone to a Christian school or Christian College and had an undergrad in religion. For me, I knew I was going to be taking some of those classes and master’s level, and so I didn’t want my undergrad, and I also wanted something to fall back on, I knew that if God called me to bi-vocational ministry where I was preaching some at a church and serving and needed a job, I wanted to have something that I could do. And honestly, I’m super thankful that I grew up with a grandmother who loved gardening and that developed in me a love for the outdoors, and I love to see a garden grow, and so through that I developed a love for horticulture and had some activities in high school and even in seminary was able to use that as my job, I worked with Landscape Services on campus, which was very helpful and helping get through seminary, or at least the time that I was there.
Paul: What a great story. Thanks for sharing that, that it’s amazing how God can lead us down a path even when we don’t expect it, and I’d imagine for a lot of people listening who’d say, who am I to ever get to that path based on the choices that I’ve made. I mean, my own background comes from a very strict business background, focused on economics in college and did law school and business school, but at the same time, nothing close to what we’re talking about here with our faith, and so it’s inspiring to realize the past that God can take us down.
Nate: God, he’s always is charting a course, it’s way better than what we could chart out ourself, and sometimes we think that he doesn’t know what He’s doing and we do, but it’s amazing. When you go on the other side, you’re like, Oh, God really knew what he was doing.
Paul: Well, you talked a little bit about the tough period of your life, the dark period where you had things you went through, the difficulties in your marriage, difficulties in your journey, and maybe for a minute you can just talk about what it’s like for a man to go through and then recover from a period of time that may not be that when they’re at their best.
Nate: Yeah, so for me, one of the things I just want to speak to first and foremost is I want to honor the kids, their mom and that relationship, and speak well of her, so at the end of the day, it’s not about anything that she did, it’s about me, because I can only control me. And at the end of the day, there were things in my life that just were not what they need to be. Also with that, there’s a lot that I don’t feel like I can fully share just because of kids and everything that’s involved. There are people in my life that I speak to that know every detail of my journey, but I can share some of our story, and part of that and sharing is, for me, when I was probably around 12 saw pornography for the first time. And honestly, probably had that experience where I dabbled with it a little bit through high school years and really didn’t have a major struggle until college where again, due to lack of understanding of the pressures and stress allowed that sin to grow in the darkness. There were people that I shared with, but at the same time, I think I didn’t know what it meant to walk in freedom and to have the Holy Spirit fill me.
So when I was under stress, I would turn to pornography and looking at that, and then when I got married, things were great, honestly. I was growing, was serving in the church, loved it, but there came a lot of stress with that. There were times where I didn’t know how to handle frustrations that I had with anger and situations where I would get super upset and I know how to handle things with my wife. Due to that stress and strain in the home, there was a tension, and I don’t believe that my ex-wife and I knew how to handle that well. We did have counselors along the way at times, but I don’t think we ever really learned how to handle the stress that we were walking through, especially me.
So then when I moved to Kentucky, there was a season of difficulty where we were separated, and then she moved back to Kentucky, and I thought, Oh, we’re good. We’re on the other side of this. And during that season, I honestly felt like I was probably in better shape spiritually than in any other season, and yet in that season, I connected with somebody through Facebook, ended up having a connection, it was inappropriate, and my wife had found out about that, she said I’m done, she had already had such a difficult time in her marriage, and for her, she was out.
For me that wasn’t an option. I didn’t see divorce ever as something that I was willing to walk through no matter what happened. But it ended up that we were divorced, and in that season, I was able to talk to some men in my life and share everything that was going on to bring all the dark out, bring all the baggage and unload it and share it with some other people and have some men love me for who I really was to be able to put on no shame and feel that love that we all long for. We all long to be our true self, and yet I was really not who I really was, but I had the opportunity to share that with some in and they loved me for I was. And it was an amazing season, and I wish I could say in that period of difficulty in where I saw that happened that that was the end, but it wasn’t…
I ended up moving away. My ex-wife wanted to move back to Alabama, so I moved, and honestly it was detrimental for me because I moved away from those relationships. I think I realize more than ever how important relationships are, and because I stepped away from those men who were impacting my life, who was I was open and honest with, those things that I thought I had put aside began to rise up in my life because I wasn’t being real and open and honest with other people, and was in a tremendous season of darkness until I met my current wife. God used her, and God did an amazing thing out of a season where I was so confused. I honestly was using everything I possibly could to cope with the pain of divorce, and realizing that feeling like there was a scarlet letter over my life that I could never overcome that my ministry was gone, my life was over, and yet God began to restore even when I was in the middle of the darkness.
Paul: I know from my own experience, I can appreciate the fact that having other men in your life, I was a critical component to your recovery and your success. Talk for a few minutes about that, and then how that leads into not only the idea and concept of small groups, but about what you’re trying to begin to do here at The Redeemed by putting together for men in crisis and men in general, a place that they can come and be in community with other men.
Nate: So I have a wonderful father, but my dad grew up with a father in a generation where often you didn’t communicate how much you love your kids. You didn’t really communicate and tell them how proud you were. I knew my dad was proud of me, but at the same time, I had not heard that. I had not heard his love expressed for me. Due to that longing for love, honestly, I was broken in some ways because God has all of us designed to have that affection and approval from our father.
So I was honestly looking for that approval, and it wasn’t until I got to know some Christian men that I understood that we can have a brotherhood and a relationship where you can be truly honest and feel accepted. As I began to do that and began to share with other men the struggles in my life and begin to hear their struggles and knew that I wasn’t alone, it began to change and transform how I lived. I began to give me a new sense of purpose, it began to allow me to walk in freedom like never before, being able to be truly honest and transparent and feel accepted and loved and not feel like I had to measure up or perform a certain way. It was freeing.
So my heart and because of the relationships I’ve had, I want to connect to other men in relationship because I know that at the end of the day, one of the hardest things for men is to build relationship with other guys, we’re busy, we have a lot going on, we’re trying to provide for our families, care for our kids, and have a successful career, and oftentimes the things that we put aside are the relationships. I think oftentimes out of fear, will quickly jump out on the golf course and play a round of golf with a bunch of guys, but we often don’t let them know how much we’re hurting or what the great joys are in our life because we’re afraid. We have wins from our fathers or a relationship in our life, and we just never experienced what it’s like to truly be able to be transparent and honest, but I’ve seen guys who have done that and the community they have the ability to be a part of a tribe of guys who are walking in the same direction toward Christ is so extremely powerful.
Men who can be vulnerable and honest with other men have a power and an authority because of what Christ has done like no other group of men I’ve seen. I’m so thankful that we were helping create that community at The Redeemed with our first online small group, that we’re launching just in a few weeks, and we’re going to have more groups to come because our heartbeat is to get men connected with other men.
Paul: That’s so exciting on many levels and thank you for sharing about that. I’m obviously a huge proponent of what you’re doing in terms of small groups, and it wouldn’t be without Nate that we have this opportunity. We’ve got a special future here with the group that’s starting this fall, and then hopefully for what will blossom into a much larger set of groups in the months and years to come.
You know Nate, I think about small groups, and I think about the fact that it’s wonderful to hear that men go beyond the surface. Women in general are willing to go deep as a stereotype, and men are much more wanting to stay on the surface. You mentioned playing golf and you mentioned kind of the fun parts, I think of watching football together, you can sit there for three hours and have a conversation the whole time and never have said anything of substance, but we all yearn for substance. The question is, how do we get from zero to substance? And so for a lot of men, especially men who have a tumultuous background, they don’t necessarily want to come out and share it. So talk for a minute about trust about what it means to have trust in a small group and how you go about establishing that.
Nate: So I think trust starts out at the beginning in a small group, honestly, whoever is leading the group has got to share that it is a safe place, and everybody’s got to give a verbal commitment to provide that safe place. I believe it’s super important to create that atmosphere to make sure everybody’s on the same page, understanding how important that is, and then I think the leader has to set the tone for vulnerability. I think the leader has to be able to share his or her story, and in doing that, they set the tone of what the group feels comfortable. That’s scary, because you can share something and not feel like it’s reciprocated from other people, but if you’re faithful and you continue to do that, you will see people move towards you and not everybody is comfortable and not everybody is ready to share, and you’ve got to be okay with having some people even reject your honesty and be okay with that. At the end of the day, your identity has to be rooted in Christ. I think that’s so important to have a leader who understands who they are in Christ, in order to be able to do that, because if you don’t, when somebody dislikes you or does it a pre of you, then you can retreat and began to feel unworthy and feel that shame. But if you know who you are and you’ve been honest with other people and they’ve accepted you, and that empowers you to continue to do that.
At the end of day we all have to take the risk, it’s easier to trust somebody and have that trust broken. A lot of people will not trust anybody, and if you do that, you’re not going to have any depth of relationship, there’s not going to be changing transformation in your life, because you’re going to get cold. And honestly, you’re not going to have any healthy relationships. Relationships are all built on trust, and so we’ve got to start out by trusting, and if someone breaks that trust, then we do everything we can to restore that. It doesn’t mean that we have to be open with that person again, but we’ve got to forgive them and move on and continue to share our story with other people.
Paul: Yeah, I think that trust and confidentiality is so critical, all of the points that you just make are relevant and real, and at the same time, as we start building small groups, we hope that we can create that confidentiality and trust so that men are comfortable. I’ve always been one to the point you made, who started with trust and then hopefully found that people did not break that, and so I’ve been, I guess, willing to jump out there and tell my story ahead of other people. And what I’ve found is that if you’re the ice breaker, or you’re a leader as an ice breaker in helping people understand their story and their testimony to what you said earlier, that it really opens up the floor for everybody else to begin to follow in those footsteps. I think that it’s critical that someone set the tone, and that’s what we hope for out of our group leaders, and I know what you’ll be doing as we launch our first online group in the coming week.
Nate: And it you’ve got to take your time. I don’t think your first session of any small group is a time where everybody spill their guts because you have to build some relationship. I’m going to talk to somebody and share with somebody who I’m comfortable with, who I’ve developed some relationship with. Especially in our culture today, I think it’s super important that we give things time and that we truly build some relational footing before we begin to just lay everything out there. Then even when you do share, you got to have wisdom to know who to share with. You need to pray and say, God who is it, do you want me to share with this entire group, do you want me to share with a couple of these men? Because I think sometimes we will develop a connection with certain people in a group, and that may be a good safe start to tell just one person or two people who you’re like, Oh, I really trust them, I feel like we could really jive together and they could understand where I’m at and I can understand where they are, that may be your first step, it may not be sharing with the entire group.
I think people who are not true to themselves are always worried and always putting up a front to everyone, but at the same time, you have to be careful with what you share because our stories are full of brokenness and full of other people’s journeys as well, and we’ve got to be aware of what to share, when to share. But at the same time, that shouldn’t keep you from taking that step, like you said, and getting out there and being vulnerable, because at the end of the day, if you’ve never been transparent before somebody, your heart’s only going to get harder, you’re only going to get more entrenched in whatever negative patterns are in your life. You’ve got to let somebody in, and then when you do that, you know you’re not alone.
Paul: Yeah, you mentioned that false front, that facade, that as one of my spiritual mentors used to call it the Paul suit, the suit that everybody puts on, and was really living two different lives, one on the outside and one on the inside, but the one on the inside was exhausted because it was always trying to keep up that facade to everybody else, and there’s something about taking off that suit or something about opening up and getting real with people that after you get over the trepidation you have of doing that, and you ultimately feel a sense of relief and calm and rest, because you no longer have to be spinning two different worlds at one time.
Paul: Alright, Nate, we’re coming to the part of the show where we want to get to know you just a little bit better, so I’m going to throw a few quick questions at you and just see if we can give to those. So a little rapid fire here:
Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: Probably, Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
Q: What’s on your bedside table? What are you reading these days?
A: So I have a book on prayer that I’m currently reading, and then another one on change in an organization and trying to navigate that change in the organization. I cannot bear the name of either one of them, but I am enjoying those reads.
Q: So you mentioned you have a beautiful wife and three kids, what’s your favorite activity to do as a family?
A: We love to travel each year we’ll have a big vacation. This past year, we were able to go out to the Grand Canyon, and the year before that Glacier National Park. And for me, there’s nothing more exciting than to get out in nature with my family and explore. To see the kids see things that they’ve never seen before, things that I wasn’t able to see when I was a kid, and that’s one of our favorite activities as an entire family.
Q: Favorite place you’ve ever traveled?
A: Well, Vietnam. I was on a mission trip and culturally, I had never been in an Asian culture, and that was so much fun to be in that nation. The history of us being there and conflict, and yet a country that has rebounded and has grown and just a beautiful people. Beautiful place. I loved every bit of it.
Q: As a horticulturalist, what’s your favorite flower or plant?
A: As a horticulture, that’s hard because I like a lot of different shrubs, trees, etc. Probably orchid just because of intricacies and the beauty. One of the most amazing blooms ever, and they’re such diversity in orchids as well.
Paul: Anything else you’d like to add for our audience? Anything else you’d like to say before we bring our incredible session to a close?
Nate: I just want to tell you, thank you. Thank you for bringing me on board, it’s been so exciting to see what’s happened and where we’re going. And then also, it’s really part of my story of redemption to be back in an opportunity and serving in ministry. I’ve had the opportunity to serve in a local place here for a few months, but stepping on board The Redeemed has been refreshing for me. It’s been exciting, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for us.
Paul: Well, I have to admit, you have taught me a lot just in the first few months here. Not only do have I realized that I function better with a partner than trying to be a sole entrepreneur, but I can tell you that the exciting things you’re bringing to the table, whether it be small groups, whether it be devotionals, whether it be just the sense of excitement about moving forward with activities. For our audience, I think that they’re going to find we’re doing a lot extra with our social media, we’re doing a lot on our website, I would encourage everyone to go out and follow us, to continue to be a part of our newsletter and to be watching our podcast.
For those who are interested, small groups are a place to begin to get to know men, just like we’ve talked about today, and I’m excited about those. But Nate it’s an honor to have you on board, it’s an honor to have you as part of the team, and I just appreciate your partnership.
So I want to thank Nate for his time today, thank him for what he’s doing to dedicate to this ministry and what we’re going to begin to do as a team, and I want to thank you, our audience for spending time out of your busy schedule to listen to us today, I look forward to seeing you next month, as we begin to launch one of our new and exciting podcasts.
Good night and God bless.