Pastor Kennedy McGowan

For over 15 years, Kennedy McGowan has served as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church, where he works with a team of 9 elders, elected by the congregation to lead the church.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I grew up a preacher’s kid in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and like many preacher’s kids had little interest in being a pastor myself. But God has a way of working in ways you don’t expect, and during my junior year in college, I reawakened to faith, and more and more felt the call to serve God as a pastor. Still, right out of seminary, I didn’t go directly into ministry, but actually worked for a public relations firm in New York City, representing dance clubs, restaurants, modeling agencies and soap stars. But I realized that as interesting as that was, I had a passion for helping people connect to the amazing news of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ, and I have lived out that passion now for over 25 years in ministry, both here in South Florida and before that in Long Island, New York.

What motivates you in your work here at the church, and what do you like most about what you do?
I get a charge of seeing God work powerfully in the lives of others and being part of their journey of faith as they experience Jesus for the first time or grow more deeply in that relationship. I really enjoy preaching, and helping people see how the Bible speaks directly to the challenges of their daily lives. But I also love the variety of the work that I do. From praying by someone’s bedside in the hospital to leading the church forward in implementing its vision to leading exuberant songs and giving hugs in our Learning Center chapels.  It’s all amazing!

What does your faith mean to you? How does it help you in your daily life?
My relationship with Jesus forms the very foundation of all that I am and all that I do. His grace assures me when I come face to face with my own shortcomings. His faithfulness sustains me on the days when things are particularly hard. His love works in me daily, leading me to become the person that God created me to be. I am more grateful than I could ever put into words for all that Jesus has done and continues to do in my life. He is my hope, my stay, my refuge and my strength.

What are some of the things you like to do?
I enjoy hanging with my son, Patrick, and eating out with my wife, Chantal or savoring one of her new recipes. I love to travel and see new places as well as revisit old ones. I enjoy all sorts of media from the Walking Dead to Curb Your Enthusiasm to the latest Netflix or HBOMax series, and while having a very active son has limited my movie watching, I remain a huge film buff. I am a voracious reader of everything from magazines like the New Yorker and the Atlantic to mysteries to theology to sheesh almost anything. And I enjoy walking with my wife, swimming, and doing a few weights.

How did you first become a follower of Jesus?
When I was a young teenager, I struggled with the conflict between acceptance by my peers, and approval by my parents. That struggle became so overwhelming that I even thought about ending it all. But at a youth conference in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, the Christian speaker, Tony Campolo, helped me realize that in Jesus, I was already approved and accepted, even with all my faults and failings. When I accepted the reality of God’s love and grace, it freed me from the anxieties that had plagued me and put me on the path of a great adventure with God that has been more amazing and incredible than I could ever have dreamed.

Who are your favorite people from the Bible?
I really like David and Paul. David reminds me of how if you just seek after God’s own heart no matter how you screw up or what messes life brings you, God will work in the midst of all those things in ways you could never expect. And in Paul, I see someone whose passion for God and the good news of God’s grace in Jesus, enabled him to overcome tremendous obstacles, and to live a life that has had stunning impact on the world. As someone who loves the adventure of travel, I find it cool, too, how he journeyed all over the known world of his day to share the gospel.

You can reach Kennedy at Kennedym@fpcoh.org and also view his twitter here. If you also want to check his TikTok prayers, you can view them here.

Fast Facts about Kennedy:

  • A preacher’s kid, Kennedy was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he grew up in his father’s church, Central Presbyterian.
  • He worked for a year in New York City in public relations, representing dance clubs, soap opera stars and restaurants
  • He received his bachelor’s degree in History, English, and Bible and Religion from King College in Bristol, Tennessee, and his Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary.
  • He is married to his wife, Chantal, a psychotherapist, for over ten years, and they have one son, Patrick.
  • He likes movies, mysteries, excellent beer, and a nice cup of tea, iced or hot, but never coffee
Who are the spiritual writers who have influenced you?
David Bentley Hart, C.S. Lewis, Pete Grieg, Tim Keller, Anne Lamott, Craig Groeschel, Eugene Peterson, and Kathleen Norris to name a few.
What is your favorite passage of scripture?
Romans 8:28
What was your first job?
Bagging groceries at a grocery store in Chattanooga.
What are your favorite TV shows?
Currently (as it’s always changing 😊) Ozark, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Morning Joe among others
What is your favorite book?
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
What are your favorite characteristics of Christ?
I love the way that Jesus welcomed everyone and met them – right where they were- at the point of their deepest needs, with the love and grace of God.