Professors Are People Too: Lance Bacon

Professor Lance Bacon serves as a local area pastor, adjunct professor, and a volunteer with Campus Ministries. After a successful career first in the military then in journalism, Bacon felt called to the Hampton Roads area, where he began his PhD at Regent University in Christian Theology. He began his career when he graduated high school and boot camp both at seventeen. He said, “I was a youngster but I was ready to see the world and get out and do it.”

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

Pastor Bacon speaking at UnChapel [Mark Lawrence, November 22, 2019]

Professor Bacon: “I was born in East Tennessee, [but] I was raised in Northern Illinois. I spend most of my time, whether my parents knew it or not, in Chicago. I knew at a young age that I was called, but I experienced some things in church and I was too young and didn’t have the mentorship to tell me otherwise, so I assimilated [what people had done] with God. It was not done to me but done to a family member and I said, ‘Well if that’s God I want nothing to do with this.’ So, I basically turned my back on everything for a period of you could call it ‘backsliding ‘or however people term it. I abandoned that calling and made a willful choice out of ignorance in response to people. That ended up being a very formative lesson to me in ministry, to be mindful of that, to help disciple people, and help them understand that we are to conduct ourselves like Christ and that speaks far more than any words we could say. People are watching, but also not to be surprised when the world acts like the world. That doesn’t change who God is and what His promise is to us. That’s been the quintessential example to me of all things working together for good. So that is a hallmark of our ministry of discipleship: to build relational Christianity that is centered on God.”

Bacon spent eight years in the Marine Corps and when he got out he began working in journalism, primarily as a military reporter, due to his understanding of and appreciation for the military. He managed a successful paper in North Carolina, which was nominated twice by their parent company for a Pulitzer Prize. Also in North Carolina, he was a city editor and military editor, before moving to D.C. to be the managing editor at the Airforce Times branch of Gannett’s Military Times.

Before you were a pastor and professor, you had a different career. What was that like and how did you end up in the roles you are serving in now?

Professor Bacon: “So I was managing editor of Airforce Times for five years, [then] stepped away to finish up grad work, went back but had entered the PhD program, so I told them I was not willing to be an editor in DC. I wanted to live down here; I felt God had called me down here, so I became a bureau chief down here and covered all military operations in that way. That’s the gist of it. When I started as an adjunct professor here, it was evident the shift was happening in my life. I don’t think it was a change, I think that everything I did in the realm of journalism enabled me to have critical thinking, taught me to write, [and] helped me to analyze in ways that have greatly helped in pastoral ministry, especially as I minister to a lot of military people and a diverse group of students as a professor. And to do academic work in research, because the type of journalism I did required a lot of research. So it was all kind of feeding into that in a very practical level, that I then tied in with academics. It was evident that God was setting me up for then for the pastoral/professor role that I’m in now. So, it was a progression, a stepping stone, I don’t really see it as a change. I see it as a next step and that brought me here.”

Professor Bacon explained how he used to not be very interested in art until his oldest daughter asked him to take her to the art museum in the Smithsonian. Walking through the sculptures and other works in the front, he was initially unimpressed until he came to the paintings. “They really spoke to me,” he said and from then on he has collected art that impacts him, such as Daniel Wall and Csaba Markus. He and his wife are even taking art classes as a date night coming up.

What is a piece of art that interested to you recently?

Professor Bacon: “This particular individual Anatole Krasnyansky. I never thought I would like watercolors and stuff; he does this series of paintings that is almost like court jesters but there’s this amalgamation of people and they’re wearing various masks. The whole point of the paintings is that we all wear so many masks and we change our masks depending on to whom we speak. So I’m in professor mask; then I’m pastor mask; then I’m in parent mask; then I’m in friend mask and I’m a different person to all of these people when his whole conveyance is really we should have no mask we should be the same person just in different roles. Out roles may change but we have no mask, we are who we are. That’s kind of the motto I live by. For a long time in my life, I was wearing different masks trying to make different people happy, but largely through the ministry of my wife I got set free on Galatians 1:10, “If I seek to please men I cannot be a servant of Christ.”  I came to understand that God loves me for who I am. I didn’t love me for who I was, but God delivered me from that and I realized who I am in Christ. So now people will often hear me, whether it’s in the pulpit or in the classroom, I will say, “I’m being transparent with you.” That is my way of saying I’m not wearing masks, I will tell you what I believe and why I believe it, but I’m open to hear what you believe and let’s talk, or I have no problem telling you my testimony and it might be one that causes people to go, “Uh I wouldn’t tell people that,” but it formed who I am and gives glory to God because I’ve been delivered from that. So I’ve given a consorted effort to remove masks and help others to do so, so we can live in different roles but be the same person consistently throughout. When you ask about art, I love [Krasnyansky’s] art because it reminds me, much like when I read Scripture, remember who God is and remember who you are in God… [and] don’t be picking up those masks, you be you, let God be God and let the pieces fall where they may.”

What do you identify as the greatest problem in society and how would you encourage the current generation to approach the solution?

Professor Bacon: “Most Christians don’t understand that non-Christians, and even many within Christianity, [have] this [post-truth] ideology is so diametrically opposed to what we understand as truth, that we’re not even [speaking] the same language with people. We end up in shooting matches. So, the first thing we need to understand [is] how the world sees the world so that we can engage. But then, it’s not enough to simply know how the world sees the world if we don’t rightly define truth and understand God. There as a Pew [Research Center] forum and national survey [that was conducted] within the past five years on religious life in the United States. In Bible knowledge, atheists scored higher than Christians. That’s an alarming statistic… we are a Biblically illiterate church and that is the biggest problem, because ‘you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’ Many people are quick to amplify Christ as truth, but they don’t know the truth of Christ. Because of that, you end up getting pew theology, watered-down Christianity. You have many people whose experience doesn’t match their expectation and they blame God for it… I’ve experienced this. So, the grand issue is one of truth; to understand their truth so we can rightly approach it and show them that their ‘truth’ inevitability leads to either no answers or wrong answers, as you go through the progression, whether its philosophically, ethically, morally, theologically or whatever, it ends bankrupt. They don’t see that when they engage with it initially. We have to know that truth then we need to offer the alternative and we need to know it and know it better because we don’t.”

How do you feel about celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving?

Pastor Bacon: “Oh boy, I’m so glad [you asked]. You should ask my wife that tonight. My wife is not a Christmas junkie at all. She is a phenomenal worship leader a phenomenal minister, she just does not get into the season; she doesn’t have that Christmas spirit. I am ridiculous, I would take down every painting and decoration in the house and replace it with Christmas ones if I could. I would have Santa Clauses from every nation and make models. I would have Christmas music playing continually. I love the sounds. I love the sights. I love the family gatherings. My love language is gift-giving. My wife freaked out my first year pastoring- I bought everyone in the church a gift. One Christmas our kids, when they were all in single-digit ages, they literally said “Can we just stop and play with what we have? Can we stop opening presents?” I get ridiculous. With that said, I say all of that to say this, I am eagerly anticipating Christmas… long pause… but it starts when Thanksgiving dinner ceases. At our house, on Thanksgiving, you eat, you watch football, you put up the Christmas tree, and get ready for Black Friday, and the Christmas tree comes down on New Year’s Day. That’s the tradition. My kids are forced to watch at a minimum how the Grinch Stole Christmas with Jim Carey, a Christmas Carol with George C. Scott and I strongly recommend Charlie Brown Christmas. They are forced to watch them with me. But as much as I’m ready for Christmas to roll, it does not start until after Thanksgiving. And let’s spend Thanksgiving as a time to give thanks in anticipation of the one for whom we are most thankful. I try to couch it in that way, but it is tough because I am ready to put up the Christmas tree.”

Thank you, Professor Bacon, for speaking with the Daily Runner and for serving our campus and community so well.