Sunday, November 4, 2012

People You Should Know: Seth King

by Ben Howard

Starting today, I'm going to have a new feature every week. Every Sunday, I'm going to post an interview with someone I think you should know. It may be that they're involved in some interesting work, or it may be because I find them to be extremely talented, or maybe that just have that certain something. These are the people I think you should know and I believe they will be part of shaping the world to come.

The first person you should know is Seth King. Seth and I met as counselors at summer camp about 5 years ago where we became quick friends and ended up taking an impromptu trip to Cedar Point. This week, I talked to Seth about his work volunteering with Streets Ministries in inner-city Memphis and how it has affected him and his view of the world.

What is Streets Ministries?

Streets was founded 25 years ago with a van, a basketball, and a prayer. Our founder, Ken Bennett, felt that a presence was needed in the heart of the inner-city. Twenty-five years later, Streets is a multiple location non-profit impacting hundreds of kids each day.

Streets has three areas of focus: empowerment, engagement, and evangelism. Everything Streets does falls into at least one of those categories.

My primary role has been education. We have a "Learning Lab" that contains 14 computers and a printer for student use. I help oversee that, as well as tutoring, homework, and even a little ACT prep too.

What influenced you to work/volunteer with that kind of organization?

I spent two summers in Memphis during undergrad, and saw that this is a city with need. I moved here on a whim, spent some time teaching, and then started looking for work that would help me to engage the city of Memphis. I didn't want to settle for a steady income and a life in the suburbs. If I'm going to live in Memphis, I want to engage every part of the city, both good and bad.

I knew that education was a passion of mine, and Streets allowed me to do that. I related well to teenagers. It seemed like an obvious choice.

I had actually been volunteering there for 3 or 4 months when they hired me.

You said you wanted to engage in every part of the city, both good and bad, how has that affected you since you've started living there? What lessons have you learned?

I've learned that Memphis has problems that I've not seen in other places. The racial/class segregation is a tense situation. Memphis is very much still fighting battles that most people assume no longer exist. On the flip side, it has incredible personality. Each part of Memphis is unique. It's a fun place to live, but it does have problems. As a Christ follower, I have to believe that Jesus would confront those problems, not flee from them.

How do you feel Christians should confront these problems?


Our confrontation must begin in prayer. If not, we risk alienating others. The issues of Memphis (and the world) are rarely an Group vs Group issue, although they are frequently perceived as such. In that paradigm, we're forced to choose sides, thus alienating others. I'm always looking for a third way, a way to reconcile.

We must also exercise patience. I know that the seeds I plant may not sprout for years. I may never even see the fruits of it. Long-term change is difficult. Christ followers must stay faithful. Bringing heaven near is vital, but also vital is the way in which it comes. If we push others away while proclaiming the Kingdom, we may be doing it wrong. We should be welcoming others to the Kingdom.

That's a beautiful perspective, but at the same time it must be challenging. How do you keep from becoming cynical when you don't see immediate change?

My wife calls me on it.

I've definitely struggled with that. There are many days that I feel like I'm fighting yesterday's battles, and that can definitely be discouraging. When I've left it unchecked, it's turned into despair, even asking the question "Why doesn't God do something?" But, inevitably, it's in those moments, that a piece of heaven breaks through, if only for a moment, and reminds me of what is being accomplished. Some of my hardest days at Streets have been remedied by a student holding the door for me as I leave the building. Even when all seems lost, I see constant reminders of the good that is being planted and cultivated.

Community is also critical. When I'm not staying deeply connected to a community of faith, I can easily become discouraged. Community reminds me that this struggle is not just me. This struggle is the community of Christ followers impacting the city around us.

One last question, what dreams do you have for your work/ministry? What major goal do you want to achieve?

I'm just pursuing the heart of God. Whatever happens, happens. I want to see the Kingdom come in Memphis and the rest of the world. I have a lot of smaller dreams, but I try to never lose sight of the bigger picture. My goal is to follow my passions and to impact the world for the purposes of God.

Seth and his wife Jenna live in Memphis, Tennessee where Seth teaches Bible at Harding Academy in addition to his volunteer work at Streets Ministries. Seth is also a runner and plans to run his first marathon next spring. He also says he can solve a Rubik's Cube in one minute. You can follow Seth on Twitter @sethmilesking. He also blogs at

If you'd like to recommend someone for People You Should Know, please contact Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or by email at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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