John X. Miller, editor, minister
Updated: Sep 19, 2022
John X. Miller is a familiar name to many people in journalism. He has been a senior editor at several newspapers, he has worked for ESPN's The Undefeated and actually has returned to the newsroom at the Dallas Morning News. But what people might not know about John X is that he is a minister, he's a pastor and he is the head of an online ministry on YouTube. John X and I have known each other for a while, and we had a great conversation on why he decided to move in this direction.
Yvette: John, thank you so much for being on the show today.
John X: It's a pleasure to be here. It really is. I'm looking forward to it.
Yvette: You and I … we have had another life together in a sense of the word. We've known each other for many, many years when we were involved in journalism and media, but when I saw that you were doing some good work for the kingdom. I just thought, wow, that is amazing. I was so happy to see that and thought I would have you on the show. I'm sure that your experience and your walk is going to bless somebody today. So again, thank you.
John X: You're welcome. I do hope so. You know, we're all disciples on our own and we're all disciples in our own way. And so, as we can spread the word and, and that's a blessing every time we get a chance to do so.
Yvette: Absolutely. So, you are the Reverend John X Miller, and you are a minister at Heritage Fellowship Church in Reston, Virginia. I learned about your entry into ministry based on some YouTube videos that were shared with me and we'll get to talk about that a little bit later. But that's kind of how I got to know that you were doing this, that you were actually doing such good work for the kingdom.
But let's get to know you a little bit better. Tell the listeners a little bit about you. And like I said before, you know, we knew each other back when we were in Detroit, we were both in journalism. I moved on, you moved on, doing lots of great things. So, tell our listeners a little bit about what you've done and how you basically got to where you are today.
John X: Well, journalists are known as professionals who travel around. We're almost like missionaries. We're almost like Paul, traveling from place to place to place.
And so that was kind of always in my spirit, as a journalist everywhere I went, I wanted to be able to give people a part of who I was, who I believe to be a Christian man.
And I've always been a devout Christian. I grew up Roman Catholic and I always had a thirst for kingdom work.
When I was young, I nearly went to seminary to become a Catholic priest because I had in my spirit going to Catholic school going to Catholic church that I really had a faithful spirit I wanted to serve.
But early on my father died so that really precluded me from going to seminary because I needed to stay home with my mother and my sisters to kind of be the man of the house. But I never really lost that spirit to serve.
And so, as I journeyed through college as I journeyed through earlier part of my life, I always felt a calling into the church. And so journalistically no matter where my family lived, I was always in the church -- Baptist churches mostly but also other churches and Zion Church.
No matter where we lived, I was always called to work with the men's ministry and work with the choir ministries with men and so as I progressed through life after my kids got out of college and unfortunately I was divorced then I felt God had called me to service more direct service since I didn't have a family to fend for.
I was still in journalism, but the Lord took me to Hickory North Carolina Hickory North Carolina where I was the editor of the newspaper there, the Hickory Daily Record and Hickory is also in the in the middle of the bible belt. And so, when I got there, I went to a black Baptist church morning start first Baptist church in Hickory where I was ordained and licensed. And the calling really grabbed ahold of me there.
And so I went to school, I went back to theology school while I was at the newspaper as the editor. But I felt there was a calling there. So, I was licensed and ordained in Hickory.
And that calling really pulled me into service of trying to minister to men because, you know, being a newspaper editor, we always see the evil and always see the trouble in the world and how it surrounds men, how it pulls them into places and the things that if they might have had an opportunity to experience the Lord and experienced salvation, they might not have been there. And so, my ministry began to focus on ministering to men.
While I was in Hickory, I was a part of immense council where regularly we minister to men in and around Hickory and in the hickories in the charlotte North Carolina area.
And that really became a colleague for me.
And while I was in Hickory, I really kind of decided that I wanted to pastor a church.
But even though I was there, and I had in my heart to do that Lord had other things for me to do. And so, I left Hickory went to Winston Salem North Carolina, which was my hometown as the editor of the newspaper there.
And I thought at that time that I was going to go to Winston, managing editor of the newspaper, retire at the Winston Salem Journal.
And then they go into ministry in North Carolina. But God had other plans.
And so, he directed me, he brought me here to northern Virginia, where I worked for ESPN and a website called The Undefeated. But that also has given me the opportunity to minister to people that I would not have been able to minister to before.
And so, at Heritage as one of the associate ministers, my role is to minister to men. My role is to do as much outreach as possible. And as the pandemic took hold, I felt that it was necessary to spread God's word beyond the edifice, beyond the physical church because we couldn't assemble in churches anymore.
And so, we needed to go beyond that to spread the word. And so, what came to me was an idea of starting a YouTube channel of praise and worship, of meditation, of prayers and of psalms and to record these and to send these out over the transom, just to push out God's word and then to let it fall where it would.
I started the channel about 6-8 months ago called prayers psalms and meditations and once a week or so, I record videos with music, video prayers and psalms and occasionally I sing, and I send that to friends and family and others, and I just sent one out this morning.
And someone from Hickory uh texted me back and said, you know that word fell exactly where it needed to this morning.
I understand now in this world that we live in that the word of God has a place in our lives if we allow it, the word of God soothes us, it inspires us, it keeps us. And there's nothing like the Word of God now, you know, sometimes in our, secular world we believe that there are things that can supplant the peace that surpasses all understanding that the word of God brings, but there isn't.
And so, the meditating over the word, praying with the word and even going to sleep with the word through meditation and guided meditation soothes our minds and our spirits. Because one of the things that I've heard so much in the last year in the pandemic is that people were having difficulty focusing, people were having difficulty sleeping, people were having difficulty making sense of all the things that are happening around us.
And so, prayer is the solution whether that solution is corporately, whether it's a morning prayer group prayer call or whether it's individual prayer, prayer is the solution.
In this world I know that you know God has given us an opportunity to disciple. God has given us an opportunity to teach, to evangelize and you know, using technology is one way to do that, technology is one of those ways that we can reach people outside of the church walls that we might not have been able to do previously.
Yvette: So true, and I love what you said … well I love several things, but I'll go back to them… But the one thing about using technology to soothe us, to use it by you know distributing his word and to soothe us. There are, a couple different apps that I'm aware of and then I use that I used to calm me and helped focus me when I go to sleep and usually, I am out even before we get to the end.
You're probably like I am and there are many people out there, you think you're ready to go to bed, you're tired, you lay down and then your head, your brain just starts racing, you're thinking about all different kinds of things and sometimes it's the goings on of the day, sometimes it's you know what we've seen on media. it's hard to settle down and so, opportunities to listen to material like your YouTube channel and like these apps I was talking about, it's such a help.
I also love what you said about journalists being like Paul. we do tend to wander. A good friend of yours and mine -- Walter Middlebrook -- I'm going to quote him because he was the first person I ever heard say this, but he talked about separate journalists into two camps:
the locals and the nationals. I don't know if you ever heard him say that. The locals or people who, stay in one place for a while. The nationals are folks who, who just go to, you know, work in several different markets, go to several different newsrooms and I certainly was, I was the latter definitely, I was a national moved around quite a bit.
And I don't know about you, you moved around, but when I got to a new place and most of the time I had no friends or family there, I would find a church and I would, I would literally go into the church, sit down just in the middle of the day. Sometimes churches are locked now, but back then back then churches were open, I would just go sit down in the pews and just center myself because that's where I knew I would find the love of God and I would find basically someone I knew and that's and that's Jesus Christ because I didn't know anybody else.
John X: That’s so important to find that where there are like-minded people where you know that the spirit of God resides right? And so, you might be able to go to a library, you might be able to go to a park, but you know, when you go into a sanctuary, you know, the spirit of God resides there and you know as scripture says, you know scripture, our spirit communes with God's spirit with the Holy Spirit.
And so, when we are in the presence of God, we recognize that our spirit recognizes that and it brings about a peacefulness, it brings about solace, It brings about a comfort that we can't gain elsewhere.
And I used to do the same thing. I moved around, you know six or seven or eight times and every time I went to a location and I told people I find a church and a barbershop, because the guys in the barbershop could tell you where the churches were, but also the barbershop was a place where you could learn about the community in ways that you couldn't learn elsewhere.
Yvette: You and I have a lot in common, some things I didn't know. So, I also was raised Catholic in Chicago and went to elementary school high school, I didn't go to a Catholic college. but there were times when I thought that I was going to be a nun. It takes me back to sitting in that church and of course those Catholic churches and there are some that are newer now, but many of them are kind of old with the marble floors and the pews and then you would just you would go into the space and just sit down uh and here like the clicking of people's heels against the marble floor and you know, you would feel that rough wood of the pew. And I just felt home. So, there was a time when I was very young, when I was in elementary school where I thought actually become a nun. I knew God had me for something.
But as a journalist, I don't want to say I lost my way. But I'm curious to see how you feel about the statement. As a journalist, I had to subjugate my faith publicly for many years.
I felt I had to, do you know what I mean?
John X: I do, I do.
Yvette: Did you feel the same way?
John X: Well for the most part, I recognize that as a Christian in the newsroom and dealing in a secular environment that you couldn't reveal truly who you were to everybody now,
particularly as a manager and I was an editor and lots of places. So, I would reveal myself only to people when they allowed me to meaning if there was a moment of anguish or hurt or a moment of trauma in a newsroom that I would, you know, offer a voice of empathy and then the empathy would turn into counseling, Christian counseling. If I felt that way.
But the one thing I will say in about the Detroit Free Press is that with they had a religion reporter by the name of David Crumb and David Crumb was one of the most astute religion reporters in the country because he talked about faith, not just talked about covering religion.
And so, in that newsroom I felt somewhat more hospitable to me because early on identified other journalists in that room who were Christians, right?
And so, then we could, we could have conversations, we could talk about what was happening in the outside world among ourselves.
And so that was very helpful. But the one thing that you mentioned is that at times newsrooms are not hospitable to Christians because we are so bound journalists and the empirical, we are so bound by things that we can see, touch, report.
And so, you know, faith is not about what is seen, but it is about what is unseen and it's about what we believe. And sometimes journalists, we become so cynical right that we believe in the negative, while faith allows us to believe in the positive.
And so yes, there are opportunities seldom in newsrooms to be faithful, practicing disciples in a newsroom, but when we find that safe space, it is a wonderful thing, but you have to find those like-minded people otherwise, you could be ostracized or denigrated or marginalized because the same thing that happens in the world happens in our newsrooms.
Yvette: That is true, and I think it was when I moved into a position where I was managing the front page in particular, I was making decisions that affected what went on the front page, what stories went on the front page and how we played them and that job, I guess I just felt like I wanted to remain as objective as possible.
And of course, in journalism, we talked about objectivity, but as you know, there's the trauma in the job, the journalists, covering murders, covering child abductions, all of that, we have to almost become numb, and I think that that is something that I learned to do very well.
But here's the funny thing, after the Kansas City Star I went to Oklahoma City, the Oklahoman, and I wasn't thinking about this at all. I mean, I knew it was the Bible Belt, it was the buckle of the Bible Belt, but I wasn't really thinking about that, I was still, basically doing what I did.
I went to church one day again happened to find a church, just like you say, go find a church and a beauty shop. I went and I saw that the sermon that day was going to be given by the name that was the same name of a colleague at my new newspaper.
And as I was sitting there in the pew, I said to myself, well that's interesting. That must be a very common name here. I had just got in there, I didn't really know everybody, didn't know what they did.
So, the so the person walks up to the pulpit to deliver the sermon and it was this journalist, a very high-ranking journalist in this newsroom.
I've never seen that before. I mean my mouth fell open, you could have knocked me over and I said okay, as they say, Dorothy, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. That is true, this is going to be different. Maybe I can actually start wearing my faith in the way that I want to.
It took some time because frankly I was used to, keeping it undercover. I didn't really speak out, I didn't do the kind of work that that I'm hoping God is allowing me to do now.
John X: Great, well, I felt that same way in some ways that my job at the Winston Salem Journal where I was managing editor, but I had been managing editor also in Hickory.
And so, as I was going through my education and becoming a minister and learning,
going to divinity school. I began to understand how I can incorporate my Christian life into my work life.
And so and so as the managing editor there for about three years, I we have to make sure that the people in the newsroom knew that they could trust me. Because sometimes, reporters and editors, they don't trust each other. They do maybe on the outside, but not intrinsically.
The second thing is that I made sure that I treated people fairly and that I didn't play favorites.
And then the third thing is that I may make sure that whenever I had conversations with people and you know, the newsrooms are very open, right? And so, every time I had a conversation with people with someone in the newsroom was very mindful that I was not only talking to the individual, I was talking to anybody else and in earshot. Because we know journalists, they'd be listening more than talking to somebody, their ears get this big.
Yvette: Folks who are listening right now might not know about this, but there's actually a Twitter feed called overheard in the newsroom. So, folks are listening.
John X: They really are, they're listening, but I'm telling you they act like they're,
but they're typing or something, but they're listening. And so, I was very mindful of the conversations I was having in public. I knew I was having them with more than one person.
And so, when instances came up where I could show my Christian love and Christian demeanor to the people that I knew that that would go a long way to letting them know and having those people who were Christians identify with me and feel comfortable with having conversations with me.
I remember one instance before I left, there was a young guy in the room who had two young daughters who was a hunter. He was, he was a gun advocate. He was a good old country boy, But he was, he was very focused on kind of life, raising his family, but he was really in the world.
And then out of the blue, his brother committed suicide. It was very tragic because you know, his brother worked at one of the local hospitals as a nurse. And so, it was very public because people knew him and so he struggled with that mightily for the first couple of weeks.
And so, one afternoon I said come on into my office, let's talk. And I knew he needed to let it out. I knew he needed to talk, and I knew he had to make some sense of it. And I knew he needed some way to at least allow that burden to be lifted from his spirit and from his mind in some ways.
I just let him talk, and he talked about 10 or 15 minutes, and he just started crying and I just said, "Hey, go ahead man just let it out don't worry about it. We know that God knows what pain you're going through even though you might not understand it, he understands it and eventually you may be able to understand it but there's a reason behind it. You might not see it now but there is a reason."
And so, we've remained friends uh over these over these last five years. But it's because I allowed my Christian spirit … I allowed the word … I allowed the Lord to do the work for me and not try to push it on to someone who might have been resistant to it at that time.
I allowed the Lord and the Spirit to lead the way.
Yvette: So, there are people who are listening, who you know might not be in journalism,
but they might be in a workplace where they feel very uncomfortable about living out their faith. What would you say to them?
John X: I would say to them a couple of things. Firstly, we are no matter who we are ministers, evangelists … we're all called to be disciples for Christ. And so, we all have something that we can offer in this world to help other people to Christ.
And so, maybe just look for opportunities to minister to people, right? You know, look for opportunities when that door opens, walk through it or when that window opens, reach into it to find a window into somebody's life.
Look for those opportunities and they may not present themselves every day. And the other thing is, living a Christian life allows people to see the Lord in you.
When there's profanity over here or when people are gossiping over there, extricate yourself from that, and then after a while people will say, he or she is not involved in that conversation, why aren't they upset? Why aren't they buying into this, and then that window will open and when that window opens, then the Holy Spirit will give us the words that we need to say and the and the things we need to do to allow that person to see Christ in us.
I've become kind of in the world as looking for opportunities to do that any time I reach a public venue with somebody, not just in the office now. Even in the grocery store or walking down the street.
Yvette: So, let's talk a little bit more about the YouTube ministry.
So, you said you record about once a week, how do you decide on what psalm or what meditation to use?
John X: Well, one way I do it is the way we do it at Heritage. We have a morning prayer call every morning at seven o'clock and so often I take the lead from those calls, take the lead from what people are praying for what they're in need of. And then I have all kinds of scripture and books and, not just books, but prayer manuals and books that I will read and pray over and then get inspiration from those.
Then once I do that, I'll just write a script. And then and then pray over the script. And then what I try to do is I will start with a prayer and then I'll read a psalm or two and then I look for music that I can find free on YouTube to use for their videos and then I usually are able to find videos that are free that I can find and stitch those together. I find a couple of programs but I use iMovie for one, I use to do the videos and then as I said, the music is generally free and then I stitch those together and make a video.
That process takes about three hours to do everything, but it starts with prayer, and you know, I also look to kind of the happenings of the world. And so usually on Tuesdays I begin to think about what I want to do for the week.
We need to have more robust prayer in our individual prayer life and in our corporate prayer lives to pray to God to hold back some of the evil in this world.
But when you see these the spirit of evil overtake people in such a maniacal way, you know that the devil is at work. So, we have to pray that the Lord helps restrain that evil in the world because without that restraint, no matter where we are, no matter who we are, evil or trouble could be following us.
I am very mindful of using kind of current events to fuel my prayer and to fuel my thinking about what people need to hear.
Yvette: The Lord directed you in many different ways. I think there's people out there that he is doing that with too, but people are unsure about what their role is or what they should do. I think that there are people who are wondering … “I think he wants me to do something." So, what should people do? They, they have the willingness, but they might not know what to do to, to profess that message.
John X: That's excellent, because you know we're all called to be disciples, but we don't know how to disciple. One of the ministries that Heritage that I'm involved with is called ambassadors for Christ. We are all ambassadors for Christ and so I fall back on something that came about probably a decade ago: WWJD -- What would Jesus do? And so, if you begin that mindset of what would Jesus do it begin understanding who Jesus was, but that would take you out of the mindset of what you know, what the world would have you to do and think about what would Jesus have you to do.
And then once you kind of have that conversation then lead them to the gospels,
take them to the gospels so that you can see what Jesus actually did and then expand the conversation beyond the gospels to the epistles, because the epistles can a great teaching tool to help us get through these times where the world is pulling on us so much.
And so, when I'm into elongated conversations, you know, singular conversations with people, I go to the Book of Romans, because Romans gives us a sense from what Paul tells us about how we should act in the world and how the world is in opposite position to God.
And once we begin to understand how the flesh, how the world is in opposition to God, then we can begin to see where we should be. and Romans and the word of God through the gospel helps us begin to separate ourselves from the world because the mindset of a Christian is different than the mindset of the world.
The biblical worldview is very different than a secular worldview, but you have to get people to begin to separate themselves from that, so they can kind of look at it, as an opportunity for change. Because if we don't change ourselves and our world view and how we see things around us and of course how we see ourselves, then we can never do what Jesus did,
which is love our neighbors as he loves us and to love our God with all of our heart,
our mind, our strength.
Yvette: Yes, I tell people it's simple, love God and love people basically, that's what he said to do. I love what you said, I've heard it referred to I think as the Roman road … a way for us to learn.
You mentioned the word epistles -- in case there's no people out there not quite sure -- you're talking about the letters written by the apostles and the disciples of Christ. And I agree with all of that and then also to be open and to listen. I would say be open to be open to that inner dialogue. This is something that I've struggled with to hear him, I used to hear him very well as a as a as a young girl and then I grew up got in the world all of that and I felt like I wasn't hearing him. So, for the last few years I have I've done some some workshops and I've really tried to center myself open myself and listen for his still small voice. And it is hard.
But you know, I really do try and do that and when you do you know, and when you are active in that, he will come through.
John X: Well, you know, he's laid that anointing on you, you know, because you listened, and you mentioned listening and I think listening is critically important only listening for the voice of God, which as you said, it's a still, small voice.
Often people think God is going to talk to them in a thunderclap, right? He will talk to them, you know through a meteor shower, he'll talk to them through something very demonstrative, but scripture says God has a still small voice and it will come to us when we pray and meditate in quiet.
That's why you know In Matthew, Jesus said, go to your hidden place, go to your closet, essentially go to your prayer closet and pray because there you'll find that quiet time,
we can hear a small voice.
Meeting people where they are
You know, we don't necessarily meet people where they are. The greatest example of that is in the gospels where Jesus fed the 5000, you know, he needed to fill their stomachs first before he could fill their hearts and their minds.
And so it is important to listen to what people need first and then you can minister them to minister to them when they are listening to you, but you have to get them where they are in the scripture and we hear this all the time, come as you are, and when we come as we are to Christ, then we can listen to what he has to say.
But as ministers and disciples, we have to meet people where they are and listen to them.
Yvette: So true and you are doing that by listening in your prayer calls and understanding what people need, what they're asking for in their prayers and then responding to that by using your YouTube channel to, to send out the message that would be most fitting for those concerns. And so, you're doing that and that's wonderful.
John X: Well, that's one of the things that I learned as a journalist, right? As a reporter,
you got to listen right in order to do the reporting, you've got to be able to listen in multiple ways. And I remember telling kids this. younger journalists listen with your eyes, just don't listen with your ears listen with your eyes so you can discern what is going on around you so that you'll be able to then address what is happening as a reporter. But as a minister see what people need and serve that need first and then once they're alongside you then you can begin to minister to them.
Yvette: You create this content that is so important and so needed. Do you have a favorite scripture that you stand on?
John X: I do. I have several but my favorite and I and I have this and I actually my family knows this because I've done my work to prepare for my going to glory. And so, what I have told them as I said on my tombstone. And I'm not so sure I want a tombstone at this point. I might just want cremation, but on my tombstone, I want to have Romans 8 28.: I'm not I'm not quoting it exactly, but we know that you know those who love the Lord who are called according to his purpose will be blessed.
Romans teaches us a lot of things and actually, my favorite chapter in Romans would be chapter eight: But we all know that those who are called by the Lord recognize his voice, recognize what he would have us to do and if we listen to his voice and follow his will, then he will grant us whatever we seek in this life. And so that's really important for me to help people understand that if we stand on his word that he will, he will take care of us no matter what, he will take care of us.
Yvette: Well, I think that's a perfect way to end this. Thank you so much. What you are doing resonates with me and what you've done and what you the path you walked resonates with me because there's some similarities, but I think it also can resonate with a lot of other people. So, I appreciate you being here today.
John X: You’re welcome. Godspeed, take care of yourself. Blessings.