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  • Writer's pictureMark Legg

The Knight from Nacogdoches

NOTE: Why did I publish this article about Dad now rather than, say, on Father's Day? Because we just published the book we wrote together (see the end)

Chris Legg, lead pastor, leans on his stool and asks the South Spring Baptist Church congregation, “Will you please stand if you have been diagnosed, medicated, or gotten counseling for anxiety, depression, ADD, phobia, PTSD, or OCD?”

A third stand.

He takes a sip from his mug, which displays Spain’s Running with the Bulls and the caption, “Just because something is tradition doesn’t mean it isn’t stupid.”

“Or if you’ve sought out counseling for relationship issues—family, teens, parenting, marriage?”

More rise. 

“Or if you take sleeping medication, stress medication, or pain medication?”

Most of the room now stands.

“Now, look around. I’d say about eighty or ninety percent of y’all are standing. Everyone still sitting is probably lying, right?” He laughs along with the crowd, about four hundred per service. “My guess is we’d get the rest of you if I added anyone who uses caffeine or sugar intake.”

Chris launches into the sermon series “The Struggle is Real,” preaching from frighteningly scant notes on his iPad, gesturing to impact points but never wagging his finger (metaphorically or literally). Sunday to Sunday, he builds sermons with casual ease, like a charismatic professor, exegeting with depth until the moment of insight explodes into view. 

This masterful teacher possesses an MA in Christian teaching and counseling from Southwestern University.

On Thursdays, he sees nine or so clients at his practice. He’s booked for months in advance. He meets with his office manager to check on the three dozen or more therapists under him in his network of centers.

These two worlds, church and therapy, intersect for him at the word alethia–Greek for truth and the name of his private practice.

What can we learn from a man called to be an LPC and lead pastor? 

I learned countless things from him as his son. The fact that I did not grow to resent such a man should perk up your ears. Child after child of successful pastors or therapists feel the painful bite of hypocrisy, the lingering wound of indignation. And, lest I forget, he worked as the chaplain at a large Christian camp for some years. So I’m a pastor’s kid, a camp kid, and a therapist’s kid. 

And I remain his devoted friend and advocate.

My father, the skeptical romantic

Before we learn from his insights, indulge me as I linger on my father’s idiosyncrasies. 

Christopher Michael Legg, like all humans, is complex and paradoxical, but he is especially so. From a family of wicked intelligent rednecks out of Nacogdoches, Texas (his mom has an MA and his dad a Ph.D.), he went barefoot for a year while at University “because it was comfortable.” A Baptist pastor, he hosts a once-a-month Texas Hold ‘em poker tournament with a small buy-in where he serendipitously puffs light cigars. Many of his guests enjoy whiskey or beer while they smoke and gamble on their preacher’s back porch. Unmatched in his clarity and depth of exposition of complex topics, he enjoys flashy app games and comic books. He inspires honor, faith, responsibility, and friendship, molding speeches for young men reminiscent of Braveheart. Yet, despite this almost quixotic way of being, he holds an astonishingly low view of human nature (especially if those humans make up the US government). While he admires the code of chivalry and apprenticeship, he knows the only true knighthood involves subservience to the one King, Christ. He possesses a tender and professional awareness of emotions while simultaneously admiring weaponry, from ancient armaments to modern ARs. He hangs up swords around the house and can (and does) lecture at length on the strategic advantage of the medieval English longbow. 

His muted red hair, now speckled white, and imposing presence do not prevent him from an abundance of humility. He sings freely and deeply, leftover from his theater days of old, yet his rational mind cuts ideas down like a claymore through butter. 

He’s a hopeless romantic and a sharp skeptic. Better yet, a hopeful skeptic and a rational romantic. 

A paradoxical man indeed. 

Perhaps for many, the mere fact of his pastorship and license to counsel is contradictory enough, but he never sees them that way; at most, they can be in tension. To him, psychology and theology are two sides of truth’s coin. As he often says, “All truth is God’s truth.”

Growing up with such a singular father impacted me. What have I learned from my dad (so far)? To paraphrase John’s words about another great teacher, “Were everything to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books required.” 

Instead of focusing on my Dad’s teaching, I’d like to examine how he lived. There are a few particularly unique, powerful lessons blossoming from his deep grasp of theology and psychology and the way he lived by the wisdom.

Live according to truth and empathy 

First, empathy and truth walk hand in hand. A counselor primarily seeks to hear and understand, Socratically unpacking their client’s struggles. Instead of simply stating an insight, one leads them to discover the answer for themselves. My father’s gift as a teacher comes from his ability to train people to find water rather than show them the well. While my dad technically “preaches,” at the core, he’s always teaching. And he talks in a way that recognizes the humanity of his audience. He assumes your intelligence, but he speaks accessibly. This skill requires an empathetic knowledge of his clients and listeners, but he uses this skill with everyone, day-to-day, sermon-to-sermon, conference-to-conference.

Speak the Truth empathetically, like my dad, the therapist-pastor. 

Live holistically and integrated 

In life, integration, not separation, is wise. Chris believes in fusion over fission. Holistically root your identity in a complete source; Christ is over the church, family, work, and play. 

This all-important value of integration meant I often went to camp or church with him, but it also meant he brought work home. His primary flaw, readily admitted, is multitasking to a fault. A relevant image is of him using the elliptical machine while watching a movie with his kids while playing an app game: Exercise, time with the kids, entertainment, and leveling up his Clash of Clans base. That’s a win-win-win-win.  

I think the value of integration shines best in his relationships. My father seeks his coworkers and subordinates as friends. He chooses his children as disciples. My sister and I work with him. Chores around his property become opportunities for “rites of passage.” He removes dividing lines everywhere feasible. South Spring Church’s mantra goes, “Every member is a minister” (cf. 1 Peter, Hebrews). And, if every member is a minister, then every minister is a true member. Once, the church had to let go of a facility's staff after a couple of years of changing his jobs to try to find the right fit. He and his family stayed as members (they were members before he was hired). That deserves repeating: A staff member was fired but stayed committed to the church anyway. Why? Because they were never merely staff, human resources to be utilized, they were a part. 

Live holistically, like my dad, the therapist-pastor. 

Live authentically

Many believe they value authenticity but cave to pressure in moments of consequence. Genuine authenticity and courage work in tandem. At a moment of crisis in his previous employer, nearly two decades ago, Chris left on principle in a round of layoffs that he disagreed with so that his salary could go to saving other, less fortunate people’s income. 

On lighter matters, he isn’t bashful about his peculiarities. He often brings a stack of comic books to trade with another adult man on Sunday morning. Ostensibly as a teaching tool, but likely to satiate his passion for weaponry, he bought a replica of ancient Roman armor on the church budget. For years, it stood in the church lobby. 

In addition to adherence to truth and empathy, he punctuates many statements with, “I could be wrong, but . . .” and, “We don’t know for sure, but . . .” His hedges don’t come from timidity but an honest accounting of his certainty or lack thereof. He knows when to say “I don’t know” and maintains, “No one can be 100 percent certain of anything.” If he’s in the early stage of forming an opinion, he’ll make that clear. He is more secure in himself than almost any person I’ve met. 

Live authentically like my dad, the therapist-pastor. 

Live with awareness and control of emotions

Chris teaches that understanding leads to freedom. So, understanding emotions leads to freedom from their more tyrannical tendencies. He isn’t stoical, either in principle or practice; he handles and articulates his feelings. I’ve witnessed him overwhelmed and crying but never rage in an uncontrolled outburst. 

He’s imperfect, sure, but he expresses his frustration, hurt, happiness, and confusion with precision. He understands people and their feelings, which equips him to lead in his counseling practice and the church. While feelings are “neutral,” as he says, they can lead to sin in the flesh. 

So, live by seeking to understand the emotions of yourself and others to be free of their bedlam, like my dad, the therapist-pastor.

The knight from Nacadoches 

Chris Legg is a fantastic father and a loyal friend, a singular man who finds success but never seeks recognition. Of course, he’s much more than his dual roles; he’s a fantastic husband, thinker, and follower of Jesus. Hear it from his son, who saw him at his best and worst at home and church. His life demonstrates how theology and therapy can intertwine in surprising and God-honoring ways.

He’s a knight for God’s will, influencing Tyler, Texas, and beyond with a legacy of therapeutic care and a fierce dedication to Alethia with his family, church, clients, and friends.

Love you Dad,

This article is dedicated to you, of course.

Now, the book!

Dad and I spent the past two years, off and on, working on this book together. I ghost wrote it, but Dad was kind enough to include me as an author.

It's an amazing thing to work with Dad on this. What a unique privilege for a father and son, to not only work in his trade, but complement his gifts (teaching) with mine (writing).

It's called Sex and Marriage: Unlocking and Restoring the Power of Sex through Biblical and Psychological Insight

It's been a passion project and lot of hard work. I encourage you to buy it because Dad's teachings are good and sound.

I pray it has a blessed application into your marriage.


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