Clay Leonard

The child of a gospel preacher and a homemaker, Clay spent his formative years in Valdosta, Georgia. He acquired three degrees from Freed-Hardeman University, including a Master of Arts in New Testament and a Master of Divinity with an emphasis on the Bible school and curriculum design. 

Clay resides in Paris, Kentucky, with his wife Jessica, and their two sons. He preached his first sermon in 2006. He has served churches in Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Clay has preached for the Paris church of Christ since 2014. In 2018, he founded the Christian Leadership Instructional Camp at Rolling Hills Bible Camp (Mount Sterling, Kentucky). Out of this camp grew the YOUTH LIFE program – a youth ministry serving churches of Christ in Central Kentucky. 

Philosophy of Ministry

The following should not be interpreted as a formal creed or the sum of what Clay believes. Rather, these principles have guided his spiritual formation and hopefully offer insight into the materials provided here. 

"He must increase, but I must decrease" 

Through all areas and activities of ministry, may others see Jesus and not me.

At the center of Christianity is a cross.

This is a little play on the similarity in appearance of the English letter “T” and the Roman cross. But it’s so much more than that. It refers to one of the central teachings of Jesus Christ – one that American Christianity, at least in my experience, tends to overlook: “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23).

While living on a Christian college campus I began hearing and seeing this phrase all over the place: “Do what makes you happy.” I wasn’t surprised to find society at large making happiness its chief goal. I was a bit surprised, and definitely concerned, however, to observe many of my peers – who grew up in Christian homes and attended a private Christian university – buying into this mindset.

Simply put, pursuing happiness (even if it is in the Constitution) is neither biblical nor practical. It seems that the more people chase happiness, the more elusive it becomes. True happiness (perhaps we call that joy) doesn’t come from pleasure, fun, comfort, or complacency.  According to Scripture, joy comes from contentment, and paradoxically, contentment comes from discomfort. That’s one of the key applications of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. 

“I am not saying this out of need, for I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances. I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Phil. 4:11–13

God designed Christianity to be done in community. 

The first portion of the statement honors God’s prerogative to determine what form our faith should take. God planned to send the Son even before He created the earth (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:10; 3:9). Jesus is the head of the church, His body (Eph. 1:22–23). Though some deny this “blueprint hermeneutic,” the Bible affirms that God’s designs always have a purpose (cf. Heb. 8:5).

We further see God standing behind the design of Christianity in passages like Matt. 16:19 and 18:18, where Jesus tells the apostles, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” The text literally says, “shall have been bound in heaven” (see BLB, NASB, LSB, etc.). In other words, the decisive, authoritative decisions made by the apostles in leading the early church reflected what God had already decided in heaven. Truly God designed Christianity. 

The second half of the statement points to an important aspect of Christianity that our Western culture makes it harder to appreciate and practice. Our culture places an emphasis on the individual and finding one’s worth in individuality. Other cultures find value and identity in community. 

Practically speaking, Christianity being done in community means we can’t do it alone. The church is not optional. A Christian separate from or outside of the church is like an amputated body part (cf. 1 Cor. 12). While a Christian may worship God at any time and in any place, the “five acts” of worship we have identified and spoken of often are those that we practice in community or communally. 

Further, many other necessary biblical actions of Christians are communal in nature: encouragement, accountability, confession, bearing one another’s burdens, hospitality, etc. 

Sin is always destructive. 

Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:15

"Freely you have received, freely give. "

When Jesus sent the twelve apostles out to declare the Gospel of the kingdom, He told them, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8).  Jesus made it clear: the Gospel is not for sale. 

Years later, Philip traveled to Samaria and preached the Gospel there after persecution broke out in the Christian community in Jerusalem.  Acts 8:12 says, “But when they believed…they were baptized, both men and women.” Since only the apostles could impart the gift of the Holy Spirit, the apostles Peter and John went to Samaria to complete Philip’s work. 

One of those who had obeyed the Gospel message was a man named Simon, who formerly practiced sorcery.  Acts 8:18 says, “When Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money.” Peter’s response in vv. 20–21 is telling, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in our ministry, because your heart is not right before God.” Neither the Gospel nor the gifts associated with it are for sale. 

The apostle Paul teaches that ministers have the right to receive a wage (see 1 Cor. 9:8–14; 1 Tim. 5:17–18). In certain settings – particularly Corinth, a place of “self-made” wealthy men – Paul refused to exercise his right because he knew it would hurt his evangelistic influence. 

In all that we do, the example and ethic of Jesus should guide us. Even Jesus received financial support, particularly from the wives of prominent men (Luke 8:1–3). What Jesus did not do, however, was charge a set price in order to show up or speak. His word to the apostles was “Freely you have received; freely give.” He lived that word by example.

Those who have devoted themselves to the Gospel have the right to be compensated for their work. The Gospel minister must exercise this right with discretion, depending on the generosity of God’s people, and not sales tactics.