An Interview with Rev. Ronnie Cupstid about Spiritual Disciplines.
*The information provided in this blogpost are true and complete to the best of my knowledge. If there are any discrepancies, I take full responsibility. Permission was granted for this interview in the Spring of 2019. This interview was part of an assignment in my "Spiritual Disciplines" course at Urshan Graduate School of Theology. Be blessed.
Having success in any venture is determined by the level of one’s desire, commitment, and dedication. Professional athletes demonstrate such a high commitment that no sacrifice is too great and no cost too high when viewed in the light of their profession. The sacrifices that athletes in training make should remind a believer of Paul’s athletic metaphors of self-discipline. The apostle Paul proclaims, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Cor 9:27). If individuals can possess a desire, commitment, and dedication for temporal goals, certainly the Lord Jesus Christ expects those in ministry to be equally passionate for their spiritual disciplines and His kingdom.
Spiritual disciplines are those practices found in the Word of God that promote spiritual maturity among believers. Moreover, spiritual maturity is not necessarily measured in years, but in the perception of spiritual disciplines and how one lives spiritually. Paul highlights that our transformational experience with God will ultimately affect how we behave, what we meditate on, and how we associate with others (Rom 12:1–2, 10–18). A believer is never “off-duty” with respect to the tasks of demonstrating the values of a balanced Apostolic Pentecostal life and identifying with our spiritual disciplines.
Spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading, prayer, worship, service, submission, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, evangelism, and learning are commended in the Word of God. This list is not exhaustive, however. Author Donald Whitney says, “Spiritual disciplines are the habits of devotion and experiential Christianity that have been practiced by the people of God since biblical times.”
When the spiritual disciplines are practiced with faith, love, obedience, diligence, and humility, a believer can expect a deeper relationship with God, and a heart that is most aligned with the will of God. I can think of no better example of having a life aligned with the purpose and will of God than Evangelist, Reverend Ronnie Cupstid. The following interview will present a brief overview of his biography, ministerial background, his concepts of spiritual disciplines, and practical advice for maintaining a spiritual progress toward spiritual maturity.
RONNIE CUPSTID BIOGRAPHY
Ronnie Cupstid was born on October 20, 1960, to Howley Cupstid and Maudie Hudson Cupstid in Hazelhurst, Mississippi. He has been married to Teresa Anderson Cupstid for thirty-seven years and is still going strong. Ronnie and Teresa Cupstid have one daughter who is residing with her husband and their two sons in San Antonio, Texas. Ronnie loves and cares deeply for his wife and family. They are his entire world and he will do anything for them, especially, his two grandsons, Trexton and Benson, ages nine and two.
In observing his interaction with his grandsons, Ronnie is impacting their lives with a strong Apostolic Pentecostal legacy that will help spiritually shape and define those two young boys. If God so chooses, it is Ronnie’s desire to see his grandsons preach and live out this wonderful Apostolic Pentecostal truth. One is amazed at how much Trexton and Benson display their love and affection toward Ronnie. He is intentional in spending time with his family as much as he can. Ronnie has extensive knowledge and expertise in building homes and is quite the handyman.
MINISTERIAL BACKGROUND: HOWLEY’S SCHOOL OF HARD KNOCKS
Ronnie Cupstid is a well-known, sought after evangelist. He is Licensed Ordained Minister with the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI). He felt the call to preach at the age of twelve; however, he did not preach his first sermon until the age of fifteen. He recently celebrated a ministry milestone of forty years of service and association with the UPCI organization. Prior to being an evangelist, he was the pastor for twenty-five years of Apostolic Revival Center in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Leaving his pastorate was a difficult decision; however, Ronnie knew in his heart that being an evangelist is what God called him to do. After the Lord changed Ronnie’s ministerial direction, Ronnie made sure the church property was clear of any and all financial debt. He did not want to leave his church family with a heavy financial burden.
Ronnie’s mentor, pastor, and shepherd was his father, Reverend Howley Cupstid, whom he admirably credits for teaching him all aspects of real ministry unto God. Howley Cupstid was in the ministry for sixty-two years. He, too, was a Licensed Ordained Minister with the UPCI. The apostolic doctrine and lifestyle are in Ronnie’s heritage. His grandfather on his mother’s side was a traveling pastor or “circuit preacher.” His grandfather pastored several churches in the surrounding areas. Ronnie recollects his grandfather walking from town to town sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ to those he met. His grandfather walked miles and miles so much that the soles of his shoes developed holes. Since he could not afford to buy a pair of new shoes, he placed pieces of cardboard inside the shoes to cover the holes.
Ronnie believes young ministers need and should seek out "voices of wisdom and correction, mentors that will impart a measure of biblical wisdom as well as life experiences to young ministers." He strongly believes "that is foundational to the beginnings of a young minister starting out in ministry." His father taught Ronnie that service to the Lord is of the utmost importance and everything else is secondary. Howley Cupstid did not believe in spiritually feeding God’s people, and playing around. Ronnie recollects that his father would say, "There is a time and place for recreation, but when it was time to minister, it was time to pray and get in the Word (2 Tim 2:15). Howley Cupstid was an “old school” preacher. Ronnie reminisces that he had to weigh out the certain things that mattered most in ministry. His father posed eternal questions like: "Do you want income or outcome?" "Do you want the anointing of God or favor with men?" His father told him, "There is no showmanship in ministry."
Howley Cupstid recognized the call of God on Ronnie’s life, and wanted him to take the call seriously. Before ever getting behind the pulpit, Ronnie’s father taught him first to pray, persevere, and then preach. At Howley’s direction, Ronnie did not preach until the age of fifteen, even though God called him to preach at the age of twelve, Howley wanted Ronnie to understand that ministry is not all about the pulpit. For instance, sometimes the call of ministry means that the vending machine is stocked full of soft drinks at all times. It is this writer’s belief that it is no wonder Ronnie enjoys Dr. Pepper so much! Another example of the call of ministry means cleaning the men’s and women’s bathroom even when you do not feel like it.
Howley Cupstid instilled in Ronnie that the call of God requires dedication, commitment, and longevity. Ronnie keenly recollects his father saying, “If service unto the Lord is below you, then leadership is beyond you. If you cannot learn to serve and fulfill responsibilities, despite how minor they are, you are not ready.” Added to his church responsibilities, Ronnie was put in Sunday School teaching ages three to five years old for several years. After that, Ronnie felt he should be Youth Pastor; however, Howley had other plans for him. Ronnie was to teach the Primary Class ages six through eight, at which point Ronnie was questioning his call to preach.
The whole point of delaying Ronnie preaching was to humble him. He says, "It was draping the cloth and finding a place to serve, and serve it well with all of your heart." Ronnie needed to learn that ministry is humility and servitude; it is a lifelong partnership with God like a marriage is for a man and woman. Ronnie believes that ministry is built on proper ethics, diligence, servanthood, contentment, and excellence, all of which bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ. Ronnie had to learn that he was not his own, that he belonged to God, and that he needed to fulfill his duty. Ronnie was not the kid out on the baseball field with his buddies. Ronnie had a call on his life. There has never been a truly great preacher who was not first a great student.
The late Rev. J.T. Pugh once said, "Let none be mistaken, the approach to ministry is a long, hard road of prayer and study, whether in school or out, whether learning while one preaches or simply digging it out in the classroom. Regardless of which road he chooses, he should consider himself an apprentice to many truths, both practical and spiritual, until after three or four years of hard study and ministerial work. This does not mean that in this tenure the candidate cannot be winning souls, preaching, and doing much good; but in his later years, when ministerial responsibilities hem him in, he will always be glad he disciplined himself to learn basic things in those early years."
Every day Ronnie would learn life and ministry lessons at the "Howley Cupstid's School of Hard Knocks." At one point, Ronnie believed his father would use his leadership position at the District level to have pastors call Ronnie to preach at their churches. That was not the case. Indeed, Howley believed that Ronnie was ready to preach, but his father was not going to call pastors to have Ronnie preach for them. This tested Ronnie’s perseverance. Howley emphasized to Ronnie that "your ministry would make way for itself". His father never believed that a preacher should call other pastors for preaching dates. If pastors do not call, it is not God’s time. Ronnie loves and misses his father, who has passed on, very much. Lastly, Ronnie fondly remembers and is most thankful that "my dad never made me, as a young minister, do nursery duty at the church."
CUPSTID'S CONCEPTS OF SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES
Ronnie Cupstid believes that "we can have a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God if we are willing to seek Him through prayer and the study of His Word." He says that, "God comes first in our daily living." The spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible reading are accomplished in the early morning of the day for Ronnie. He does not take any phone calls or text messages. He says, "To start the day without distraction takes intentional discipline."
That is Ronnie's alone time with God. In fact, he and his wife each have their alone time of prayer and Bible reading. Then, they come together for united prayer and Bible reading as a couple. He believes that one of the most power prayers to recite is the Lord’s Prayer. However, he believes that The Lord's Prayer should not be confined by repetition. He believes The Lord’s Prayer should be prayed "with great feeling, allowing yourself to be led of the Spirit. Prayer should be quality over quantity. Why watch the clock? Just spend quality time with Jesus."
Ronnie says, "Quality prayer will create an inner attitude in you that allows God to speak to you directly and quite specifically about His Kingdom and His will." At times, for Ronnie, "prayer is more than just speaking in tongues." Although he rightly believes we should speak in tongues in prayer often and pray in the Spirit, but "we need to pray for others and their needs using our own words. Jesus prayed for others. He prayed for His disciples. He wept over Jerusalem. Therefore, we must pray like Jesus prayed." Ronnie believes that "we cannot be effective in intercession without a burden or concern. Also, our praying must be wholehearted and not from our lips or head only." Ronnie emphasizes the need for faith when we pray. He says, "When you walk by faith, you will live by prayer. We can ask in faith because we have read the promises of His holy Word, and that kind of prayer coupled with faith is powerful. Anything can happen when you pray in faith."
Praying the Word is another spiritual discipline that Ronnie practices on a daily basis. He says, "Praying without ceasing is a spiritual discipline and principle that one must daily practice to keep the mind pure from lust, bitterness, perversion, anger, and anything that will keep your mind off of Jesus Christ." He states, "When a minister of the Lord prays the Word, he will walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh, but rather fulfill his calling (Gal 5:16). By praying and reading the Word of God, illumination will come into the lives of those who trust in the Lord and His Word. A believer without the Word of God is like a ship without a compass or a helm. Allow the Word of God to dock in your mind."
One of Ronnie's favorite disciplines to practice is praying through the book of Psalms. By doing that, he believes it "creates a song in his heart which makes a melody that is pleasing unto the Lord."
Fasting is another spiritual discipline that Ronnie practices at least two or three days a week. Every so often, he will do the Daniel’s Fast and will also do a liquid fast only. He and his wife sometimes fast in harmony without each other’s knowledge. In other words, after thirty-seven years of marriage they are on the same page and connect spiritually.
CONCLUSION WITH PRACTICAL ADVICE
One of the main points that Ronnie makes throughout the interview is that one must be Spirit led. When asked what does following Jesus Christ mean to him, his reply is simple, “It's following His lead.” He goes on to elaborate, "If God goes left, I go left. When God goes right, I go right. If God stops, I stop. If God goes, then I follow Him. When God says wait, then I wait. Following Jesus Christ means to be at the right place and the right time. Do not ever get ahead of Him, and do not ever fall behind. Sometimes following Jesus will cost you."
Following Jesus Christ led Ronnie Cupstid to a dark season in his life, one that greatly affected his health. His faith was severely tested. Just when he was about to launch into evangelizing, his health became compromised. The doctor, who was Ronnie’s friend, found a tumor. The place in his body where the tumor was located was inoperable. His pastor, Jerry Wayne Dillion, told Ronnie that they would not accept the report and were going to pray. In the end, God miraculously healed Ronnie Cupstid of the tumor. As expected, the doctor could not understand how the tumor disappeared. During that dark season of his life, the Lord was dealing with Ronnie’s obedience to His Word.
It is interesting to observe that God allowed Ronnie to go through that scary experience, but it was to fulfill the purpose and plan of God and His will. It was for the honor, glory, and praise of God and none other. Since his own healing, Ronnie Cupstid has seen every New Testament miracle. Ronnie is mightily used in the operation of the Gifts of the Spirit; however, he does not like to draw attention, nor will he use it as a “calling card” to book preaching dates. In fact, he refuses to promote it. That is true humility.
In conclusion, Ronnie’s most practical advice is that we must die daily (1 Cor 15:31). He states that, "Our flesh is something that we must conquer every day. It is an ongoing saga, spirit versus flesh, but if we structure ourselves mentally and emotionally through the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and reading the Word of God, we will achieve the purpose of God’s will. Our spiritual disciplines must be fueled by the Spirit of the living God. Our spiritual disciplines are meant to draw us closer to God so we can discern His voice. Prayer and reading the Word of God are a minister’s stock in trade, and we must cultivate it; we must protect it. If a preacher does not die to self, he cannot be led of God."
Through the spiritual disciplines, one will rise above the common individual who has no desire to spiritually achieve. The call of God leads to the death of the self-life. No minister can ever truly feel completely the rule of the Spirit in their life until the dying of self has abandoned the throne of a minister’s life. Ronnie Cupstid is totally dependent on the anointing power of the Holy Ghost and nothing else. After conducting this interview with Rev. Ronnie Cupstid, I truly believe that I have a better understanding of what it means to be a real servant of God. I am thankful that he sits at my spiritual table because I value his input, correction, insight, and ministerial experience.
Thanks for reading. Be blessed.
(Rev. Ronnie Cupstid and me, March 5th, 2017 in San Antonio, TX. Picture taken at Hope Center UPC.)