Adam Clausen is the senior leader at Life Center Madison. This email conversation with Henry Sanders, CEO of Selfless Ambition, launches our new weekly series of questions and answers with church leaders in the Madison area.
What does Jesus mean for you?
Jesus is the exact and only image of God. Despite all ancient or modern perceptions and depictions of what a mystical deity has been, this controversial first century Rabbi and Prophet clarified and personified what the common and oppressed people would want in a benevolent and just King or deity. He lived an imitable life but His death and purported resurrection invite deeper reflection and response.
For me, with Jesus’ followers abandoning and denying association at His trial and crucifixion, but post-resurrection, they preach boldly a new Way to know God and heal the brokenness in our hearts and relationships so all of mankind becomes fully alive and connected, and this all to the point of their own martyrdom, demands our own reflection and response still to this day.
What is the church body doing well and what could we improve on?
Locally, people who identify with Jesus are starting to lay aside differences to come together and work together. We are starting to have difficult conversations with each other and those in our community about the pain points in our churches, city, and nation. There’s obviously a lot of healing and understanding yet to take place, but having conversations is the starting point.
Globally, the Church is still a remarkable convening and mobilizing power for good and charity in the world. Misrepresentations are plentiful but there are far more quiet yet powerful good works and influence than the noisy bad apples that mainstream media uses to capture headlines.
What scripture really defines where you are today in life and why?
1 Corinthians 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” best articulates my story thus far. No one from my childhood would have predicted I’d be doing what I’m doing because of how shy I was. But my own spiritual experiences and clearer understanding of the past and present reality of Jesus have inspired and empowered me to live out my faith and internal transformation with conviction.
Bishop TD Jakes is one of your mentors. What are two things he has taught you that really have impacted your life?
Bishop Jakes is unlike any other leader and pastor I’ve heard or been around. It’s one of my greatest honors gleaning from His wisdom.
The first piece of advice that most influenced how I have lived was him asking “Are you called to your denomination or the nations?” His point was that we often stay confined to the circles where we find comfort, but our influence and maturity will be minimized unless we embrace the discomfort of perspectives, conversations, and culture that are unfamiliar.
The second piece was when I asked him how he was able to manage all of the responsibilities and relationships he stewards at such high levels. He said, “Everyone will lose. Just make sure it’s not the same person all of the time.” There will be times you’ll need to choose your family over your job, and times your job demands over your family; your wife over your kids, and your kids over your wife. We just have to make sure the same people aren’t always losing.Listening to Bishop is like drinking from a fire hose. Love him!
You were adopted at a very young age. How did being adopted shape your perspective of family?
I was adopted at 6 months old from South Korea. I was blessed to have the world’s best parents (no hyperbole) so I never struggled with some of the deep feelings of abandonment or disconnect that others in similar situations experienced. But it wasn’t until I had the opportunity to return to Korea in 2013 and visit my orphanage that I began to reflect upon the implications of possibly meeting my biological parents. I wondered, “What do I call these people if I meet them? They’re technically my mom and dad, but they’re not who I have called ‘mom and dad’ for the past 30+ years.”
So I realized it’s not so much about who my “real” mother and father are, but more about who “fathered and mothered” me. That realization stirred gratitude for both my biological parents for loving me enough to give me a chance at a better life than they were incapable of providing at the time, and an even deeper gratitude for my adoptive parents for giving me what God desires to give everyone – the unique, powerful, intimate love of a mom and dad.
That unwavering, unconditional love that my parents gave me empowered me to overcome the plethora of identity and social issues I faced growing up. So it didn’t matter how I viewed myself in the various stages of my development; how THEY viewed me – simply their son – accompanied by unwavering commitment and support, gave me the courage to persevere and keep growing into whoever I was to become because I had the promise of never being in a fight alone.I could go on about other virtues and ethics that I learned from their simple but profound example, but this would turn into a book. How I do life, family, work, and more has all been shaped by them.
Name your favorite football team and why?
I’ll first dote on my Wisconsin Badgers. I’m a proud alum who follows the program intently. Coach Alvarez actually coached and taught at my high school in Iowa back in the ’70s, so the identity and approach as a football program that he instilled at UW is something I can easily relate to and identify with, and I love how Coach Chryst has maintained that foundation yet added his own ingenuity.
For the NFL, I’m a child of the ’80s, so being from Iowa with no pro team of any kind, I jumped on the San Francisco 49ers bandwagon with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott. But given our current state, I’ll just say I miss those days. And at least our past success inspired the beloved Green Bay quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, to his success. You’re welcome.