Benny Tate never faced a time that wasn’t filled with obstacles. The odds were completely stacked against him through poverty, abuse, aimlessness, illness, and disappointment upon disappointment. Yet in every crisis, God was there to redeem his pain into purpose, transforming Benny’s life into a living testament to His power.
Through his struggles, Benny’s faith grew as he saw how God provided him with the strength, wisdom, and resources he needed to overcome each staggering challenge.
And Benny is proof that you, too, can get through tough times. He’ll remind you to never see yourself as the victim of your own life. But instead, you can be someone who defies the odds and perseveres, even when life is stacked against you.
It was through God’s grace and mercy that Benny was able to rise above his circumstances, and this is the same grace and mercy that’s available to you too, sister!
Today, Dr. Benny Tate is the Senior Pastor of Rock Springs Church in Milner, Georgia, serving in this role for over 30 years. Under his leadership, the church has grown from 80 to more than 8,000 people. He also serves as President of the Congregational Methodist Denomination and has served many times as chaplain for the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives in Washington, DC. He’s the host of the Leads Club Podcast, and he’s the founder of the Defy the Odds Church Growth Conferences.
Now, isn’t that a testament to how God can completely transform someone’s life?
I just loved listening to Benny because his words are full of hope. As we talk about his book, Defy the Odds: How God Can Use Your Past to Shape Your Future, you’ll get to hear Benny’s heartbreaking story and how he found hope in the middle of the darkness. He’ll share how what others meant for evil, God meant for good.
My dear sister, the hand you’ve been dealt may be incredibly hard, but don’t give up. God can bring you through these hard things and seasons! And just like He did for Benny, He can use these trials to build trust in your heart and create faith for your future.
You truly can defy the odds, my friend, because you’re not a victim—you’re a victor—and you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.
[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]
Learn More About the Amos Bible Study
- Discover more about how you can live the good life through my newest Bible study, Amos: An Invitation to the Good Life (Lifeway, August 15, 2022). Watch the video trailer and pre-order the study here!
- Watch the Amos study session one for FREE, and read a sample chapter here.
More from Benny Tate
- Visit Benny’s website
- Defy the Odds: How God Can Use Your Past to Shape Your Future
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4:13 Podcast: Can I Defy the Odds When Life Is Stacked Against Me? With Benny Tate [Episode 203]
Pastor Benny Tate: And the reason why I couldn't learn and comprehend, because each day of your life you're told you're stupid, you're ignorant, you're illegitimate, you'll never amount to anything, you start believing that because death and life is in the power of the tongue.
Jennifer Rothschild: Benny Tate never faced a time that was not filled with obstacles. The odds were stacked against him for sure: abuse, poverty, aimlessness, illness, and disappointment upon disappointment. Yet in every single crisis, God was there to redeem pain into purpose. He transformed Benny's life into a living picture of God's power. And today Pastor Benny Tate is going to give you a guide to get you through tough times also, and he's going to remind you to never see yourself as the victim of your own life. 4:13'ers, it is time to defy the odds with Benny Tate. So, K.C., crank it up.
K.C. Wright: Welcome, welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you and I up to live the "I Can" life, because, my friend, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
Now welcome my soul sister, Jennifer Rothschild.
Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, our people. Jennifer Rothschild here. I'm just here to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you, along with me and K.C., are living this "I Can" life. We say it all the time, it's two friends, one topic, and zero stress. So if you've got any stress going on, take a deep breath, leave it behind. Thirty minutes of inspiration here with you, me, and K.C.
K.C. Wright: Oh, man.
Jennifer Rothschild: And if your stress is still there, you can pick it up if you want when we're done, but I'd just leave it behind personally. It's fun that we're in summer now. And K.C. and I were talking before we went live about the end of school, his little Ellie just finished fifth grade, which is a big deal.
K.C. Wright: Fifth grade, yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: And I love what you were telling me. Y'all, this is so sweet. K.C. had flowers delivered to her school for the last day of school, which was very sweet. But I had never asked him what happened with the balloon, because you were questioning the balloon. So tell us about the balloon.
K.C. Wright: Well, yeah, I busted in asking you, Jen, should I have sent a balloon that said "Congratulations" or not. I think she's going to be embarrassed either way. I am the man that has endless dad jokes, so I'm always telling them to her and her friends, and she'll tell me later -- she's using a new word on me called "cringe." She's like, "Dad, that was cringey."
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, that's so cringe. That's cringey.
K.C. Wright: But there's something in me that if she says I'm cringy, I want to release the Kraken and even say more cringey --
Jennifer Rothschild: Do more.
K.C. Wright: -- Dad jokes.
Jennifer Rothschild: Do more cringe.
K.C. Wright: Yes. Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: Take it up a level.
K.C. Wright: Yeah. Okay?
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, I'm sure the balloon was not cringe. Because it wasn't like a Disney princess, right?
K.C. Wright: That's right. That's right.
Jennifer Rothschild: It just said, "Congratulations."
K.C. Wright: Yeah. And be praying for Ellie. Her and her bestie, Olivia, they are going to summer camp for the first time. So I'm praying that God gets ahold of them girls and the presence of God just falls on them and calls them. Anyway...
But I got to tell you, she made my day the other day. We're walking into a grocery store, and I'm smoked, and we're getting something for dinner.
Jennifer Rothschild: You're smoking?
K.C. Wright: No.
Jennifer Rothschild: What did you just say?
K.C. Wright: We're exhausted.
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, smoked, as in wiped out. That's so cringey, K.C.
K.C. Wright: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: Anyway, go ahead. So you were exhausted, you were tired. He's not smoking.
K.C. Wright: We're walking into the store, and, you know, just -- what's the Scripture that a word is like -- an encouraging word is like a --
Jennifer Rothschild: It's like apples of gold in a fitly --
K.C. Wright: Thank you.
Jennifer Rothschild: -- whatever.
K.C. Wright: I knew you would know that.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Well, I'm not smoked.
K.C. Wright: Anyway, out of nowhere, my daughter just says this little thing that I'm still living off of. I said, "Ellie, I just want you to fall in love with Jesus. Stay close to God all your days, and I'm just trying my best to be a good dad," as we're walking into the store. And she said -- very matter of fact, she turns to me and she goes, "Dad, you don't have to try, you are a great dad."
Jennifer Rothschild: That's the sweetest thing ever.
K.C. Wright: I know.
Jennifer Rothschild: That is so --
K.C. Wright: And she just has no idea how much that meant to me. Because, you know, we as parents, we're just doing our thing every day.
Jennifer Rothschild: Right, right. We're doing our best, and we always feel like it's not good enough.
K.C. Wright: Oh, and I have so many parenting fails. Like, aw, man --
Jennifer Rothschild: Don't we all?
K.C. Wright: -- right there, that was a parenting fail. But to hear your daughter say, hey, you're not -- "Stop trying, you are."
Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, that is awesome. And you know what? You're not the only one who needed to hear that. There's somebody listening right now who needed to know that that's true too. Your kids someday will grow up, they'll look back and they'll think, wow, my daddy, my mama, they did their best, you know, they really did.
In fact, just the redemption of that reminds me of the story you're about to hear today. But you're not just going to hear a story. You're going to get a lot of very practical personal encouragement, because Benny Tate just didn't have a story of his past, he's got this testimony of his present and how God has redeemed everything. He's a pastor of a huge church. Well, K.C., why don't you just introduce him.
K.C. Wright: Yeah. Dr. Benny Tate has served for over 30 years as senior pastor at Rock Springs Church in Georgia. That right there is a testimony of a living God right there, 30 years as a pastor.
Jennifer Rothschild: Really. Amen.
K.C. Wright: Under his leadership, the church has grown from 80 to more than 8,000 people. He also serves as president of the Congregational Methodist denomination and has served many times as chaplain for the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. He's the host of the Leads Club Podcast and the founder of the Defy the Odds Church Growth Conferences. He's married to Barbara, and today he and Jennifer are talking about his book, "Defy the Odds: How God Can Use Your Past to Shape Your Future."
This is going to be so good. Pull up a chair, there's room at the table for you. Let's listen in.
Jennifer Rothschild: All right, Pastor Benny, your book is called "Defy the Odds." So evidently the odds were stacked against you even before you were even born. So I would love it if you'd give us a picture of your upbringing, what your early life was like.
Pastor Benny Tate: Well, basically my mother spent one night with a man and they conceived a baby. And she told him she was with child and he left. And so here my mother was, sixth-grade education, no father. Actually, she had two children and no fathers. And she developed a relationship with a man, and she said that that man on one occasion took her to a dark, drabby, dreary medical facility. She said, "I really didn't know why we were there." And she said, "I finally said to him, 'What are we doing here?' and he said, 'Well, I don't want that baby that's inside of you, and you don't need that baby that's inside of you, so we're here to end that baby's life. We'll be better off without that baby.'" And my mother ran out of that facility crying, this sixth-grade education, and said, "Nobody's going to kill my baby, nobody's going to kill my baby." And, you know, needless to say, I'm so grateful that she didn't.
But that man became my stepfather, and so I grew up in an environment raised by that stepfather. And, Jennifer, he would just pretty much daily tell me I was ignorant, he would tell me I was illegitimate. I wish he'd used that word, "illegitimate," because he used another word that just rang in my ears many times. And he told me I was stupid, he told me I would never amount to anything. And I experienced physical, emotional, mental abuse. Not only did I experience it, but my mother experienced it. I remember, Jennifer, on occasions he would beat my mother. And my mother said the words that kept ringing in her ears were these words: "When I get through beating your face, no other man will ever look at you."
Jennifer Rothschild: Gosh.
Pastor Benny Tate: "No other man will ever look at you."
So I remember on one occasion going to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, I went with my sister and stepbrother and sister. And I was told we were going for physicals, we were going for physical evaluations. But the three where, I wasn't. I was going for a mental evaluation to determine whether or not mentally I was sound, because I couldn't learn, I couldn't comprehend. And the reason why I couldn't learn and comprehend, because each day of your life you're told you're stupid, you're ignorant, you're illegitimate, you'll never amount to anything, you start believing that, because death and life is in the power of the tongue. And so that would have been about the first 15 years of my life, that's the environment that I lived in.
Jennifer Rothschild: That's -- it's brutal and it's powerful, and that kind of first 15 years should be the launching pad for the rest of your life, trajectory of your life, but it wasn't. So --
Pastor Benny Tate: No, it really wasn't.
Jennifer Rothschild: -- how did God step in and transform things? What happened?
Pastor Benny Tate: Well, when I was about 15, my mother left. Now, let me explain. When I say we left, we probably left 15 times. We would leave all during the night. We would leave -- you know, we would leave throwing clothes maybe in a bag, just trying to get out as fast as we could. We would catch him gone. Like I said, we were on the run for our lives. But we always went back. And so I asked my mother, I said, "Mama, why did we always go back?" And, Jennifer, she said, "Well, I had no education, I didn't think I could provide for you all, and I just felt like that was a way to have a roof over our head and food in our bellies, and so that's why we always went back."
But eventually we did leave for good. But, Jennifer, to be honest with you, we had no foundation when we left, so it wasn't real good. We lived in nightclubs, we lived in taverns. We sold whiskey illegally. We were just as dysfunctional. I've often said we put the "func" in dysfunction. There was no church, there was no God, there was not anything.
And I remember when I was 16, my mother went to bed. She had gone through relationships, but she had a relationship that really went south. And my mother decided that life just simply wasn't worth living. She'd had nothing but heartache, disappointment, and she decided that life wasn't worth living. And she put a pistol in her pocketbook, she drove 30 miles to her first cousin's house, this first cousin that she had partied and caroused and done things with. She thought, this will be the place to go and end my life because I can do it there at her house. She's older, she can find me. I don't want Benny, I don't want his sister to find me, so I'm going to go there.
She knocked on the front door of that first cousin's house and said, "Can I spend the night?" And we didn't know. My mother didn't know. And that first cousin said, "You can spend the night, but I want you to know I'm a different person. I'm not the person that I used to be. I've given my life to Christ and he's radically changed my life. And more than anything, you need to come to know Christ. Jesus is right for whatever's wrong in your life. Jesus is the answer."
And that night, that night, my mother gave her life to Christ. That night they called the pastor and she gave her life to Christ. I've said a thousand times, the place where my mother went to end her life, Jennifer, she found abundant life. She found eternal life. She found life. You know, the place where it was supposed to end, it actually all began. I mean, our life began that very, very moment that my mother accepted Christ.
Jennifer Rothschild: Wow. Talk about defying the odds. That's what Jesus does. So then your mama is transformed, new woman. Oh, my goodness.
Pastor Benny Tate: Yes. Let me tell you something. My mother came back home. Again, she didn't know anything about the Bible. You know, she didn't know anything about -- she had a sixth-grade education. She came back home, Jennifer, and she said, "Benny, I haven't raised you right. I haven't been the mother I should have been. But I want you to know, your mother gave her life to Christ," and she said, "I'm a different woman." She said, "Inside I'm just different, I'm just different." And she was different.
You know, it wasn't that Mom came back home and talked to me about the Bible and about Scriptures, but I saw a difference in Mom's life. I saw Mama not doing the things that she did do and I saw her doing some things that were so out of character for her. And my mother would -- she just started praying for me. I would come in at night and I'd go to my bedroom and I'd hear in there. I'd hear her praying like, "God, I know Benny's doing stuff that he shouldn't be doing, but, Lord, I want Benny to become a Christian. I worry about Benny." And she did that, Jennifer, and she was just faithful to pray for me.
And one night about midnight, I said, "Mama, I can't take it anymore." I said, "I can't take it anymore. I want to become a Christian." And she said, "Well, let's call our pastor." And she called the pastor, and the pastor came, and I asked Christ into my heart. And he radically, Jennifer, he radically changed my life. I literally became a new man because of the power of Jesus Christ.
Jennifer Rothschild: And you still are. You're living in that newness. And the first 15 of years of your life could have been a prediction. It just shows that our past is not a prophecy of the future. It's just not, because look at what the Lord has done. And as I introduced you earlier in the podcast, I mean, our listeners know how God has used you. And it's a beautiful story and it should give each of us hope, Pastor Benny.
But I'm wondering this. So you become a believer in Christ. Clearly now you're pastoring. Yet, just because you've become a believer in Christ doesn't mean that stuff doesn't just still happen and life isn't hard. So talk to us about how in the process of growing in your faith, when the difficulties happen, how'd you stay steadfast and hold on to hope?
Pastor Benny Tate: Here's something, Jennifer. I think the foundation was understanding that God does have a plan. You know, when I was about 17, I started preaching. I started preaching, Jennifer. Again, I wasn't from a church background, so I was preaching messages out of the Book of Spasm. I didn't know it was Psalm. I mean, literally it's the Book of Spasm. And I remember I preached one night and one lady said, "Brother Benny, what is the epistles?" And I said, "I think that's the apostles' wives." I mean, I literally didn't know anything about the Bible. But I found out that God is not looking for ability, he's looking for availability. And so I just made myself available.
And I reached 30 years of age, Jennifer, I reached 30, and my sister said, "Somebody wants to meet you." And I said, "Who would want to meet me? Who would want to meet me?" She said, "Your biological father wants to meet you." I said, "My dad." I had never used the word "daddy" because I'd never had a daddy. And we set up a meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, to meet my biological father. And he walked in and we started talking. And he started telling me about that he was a professional gambler, and he traveled. And he said, "That's how I met your mother, I just came through traveling." He said, "I was actually running an illegal whiskey ring when I met your mother." And he began to talk to me about the time that he'd spent in prison and began to just tell me a little bit about his life.
And as we were wrapping up, I said, "I want to ask you something." I said, "Are you a Christian?" And he said, "Yes. About two years ago I staggered into a church," and he said, "I gave my life to Christ." And he said, "What you may not know is," he said, "I've been in the crowd many times when you've preached."
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh.
Pastor Benny Tate: He said, "I was sitting out there," he said, "many times when you preached." And he said, "I would go by your table and I would get your cassette tapes" -- it would have been cassettes back then -- and he said, "I would get cassette tapes." And then he said some things, Jennifer, that I'll never forget if I live to be 100. He said, "First of all, I want to tell you I'm dying," and he said, "I don't have long to live." He said, "I'm on kidney dialysis," and he said, "I'm not going to get a transplant," and he said, "So I don't have long to live." And he didn't live long.
But he said, "The second thing I'd like to say to you is we didn't spend any time here together. We didn't spend any time here together." He said, "You know, I hope when we go to heaven, that we get to spend time together." He said, "I just want to believe that when we go to heaven, that maybe we can spend heaven together."
And then he said the third thing I want to tell you. He said, "Your mother and I just spent a night together," but he said, "I've thought about all the people you've reached." And he said, "I've often thought what we meant for evil, God meant for good."
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Pastor Benny Tate: "What we meant for evil, God meant for good." And the foundation is for my life -- see, it's God's sovereignty that helps me keep my sanity. It's the fact that God has a plan and God has a purpose. And Romans 8:28 tells us that God works all things. And so I want our listeners to know that the good, the bad, the ugly, God works all things for our good. We just have to trust him, Jennifer. And so I've just tried to live a life that I'm going to trust God. I don't understand everything. I feel like many times my pain can be somebody else's gain, and I feel like that God wants to use everything in our lives for our good and for his glory. So that's the foundation of my life.
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and it is the foundation upon which your ministry has been built also.
And when you mention cassette tapes, you know -- let's put on your pastor hat for a minute, because that shows you've been a pastor a long time. I think over 30 years.
Pastor Benny Tate: Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: So I would be -- just from your view from the pulpit, I'd be curious what you sense peoples', or Christians especially, biggest struggle is right now during this season of life.
Pastor Benny Tate: Well, I think people have so many struggles, you know, whether it be fear -- I think fear, I think apprehension, I think uncertainty. I think there's so much uncertainty in our world, and it seems to be -- as I pastor people, it seems to be what we're battling and what we're facing. And, see, what I would say to people, Jennifer, with all the apprehension, with all the uncertainty, I am convinced that trust is about the past. Faith is about the future. The Scripture says faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. And what I would say to the listener, allow trust to build in your heart. Allow trust. Because as trust builds in our hearts and we look back at how God has been faithful and how God has brought us through, that creates faith in our hearts for the future. I'm convinced that's what David did. You remember when David went up against that giant, he talked about the lion and the bear. He referred back to trust, and that propelled faith for the future. So people just have a lot of -- they have a lot of apprehension, they have a lot of concern about the future. People are struggling in so many ways.
But this is what I found. This is what I would say to the listener. Jennifer. Psalm 139:5 says he's hemmed us in. That is to say, God is before us, Jesus is behind us, the Holy spirit is inside of us. Psalms 34:7 says angels are circling all around us. Just lean into God. You can trust God. The Bible says we went through the fire and the water, but the Lord brought us out.
Jennifer Rothschild: Amen.
Pastor Benny Tate: So go back to that trust. Go back to that trust. Lean into that trust and that will give you faith for what you're going to battle in this future.
Jennifer Rothschild: That's a good word, Pastor. Good word. Thank you for that.
And as I think about looking back and how remembering the goodness and faithfulness of God builds trust, I also think of that person who's listening right now and they could identify with some of your story. Different facts maybe, but similar emotions and difficulty in their upbringing and in their past. And when they look back, it's hard for them not to feel like a victim and to fall into that victim mentality. And your life is proof that we don't have to live with that mentality. So how would you coach someone to not let them live in that kind of being hemmed in by feeling like a victim?
Pastor Benny Tate: You look around you, because there are some things to be grateful for.
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, yeah.
Pastor Benny Tate: There's some things that's good in your life. And I'm convinced the enemy wants to keep us focused on those things that are bad. You know, I would say to that person also too to keep an attitude of hope. Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive in your life. It's so important. You know, I've learned to be fulfilled in life, that we need something to do, we need something -- someone to love, and we need something to look forward to. Just make sure you've got something in your life that you look forward to.
Jennifer Rothschild: Good stuff, right? I loved his quote, "Trust is about the past; faith is about the future."
K.C. Wright: Yeah. And if you look back and see how God brought you through, if he did it then, he'll do it again, right?
Jennifer Rothschild: He'll do it again.
K.C. Wright: But he's brought you through those hard things, he's brought you through those valleys and seasons in your life. It brings -- and it makes so much trust building our hearts that creates faith for the future. You truly are not a victim, you're a victor, and you can do all things through Christ.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Thus the verse, right?
You need his book, our people. And we will have a link to it on the show notes at 413podcast.com/203. And we're also going to hook you up with his church, his podcast, and all things Benny Tate.
K.C. Wright: I love that the 4:13 connects you to such quality people and quality resources. So be a part of connecting others with the podcast. If you don't mind, if you've got time -- and I know you've got some time -- share the podcast, please. It will give people you love practical encouragement and biblical wisdom to live the "I Can" life. I read recently on one of our reviews that a girl wrote -- she just put a little message for us: "Just found you. Now I'm binge listening."
Jennifer Rothschild: I love it.
K.C. Wright: Right?
Jennifer Rothschild: I love it.
K.C. Wright: And we just can't thank you enough for sharing the podcast. Because there are millions that still don't know, so we need you to do your thing.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
K.C. Wright: Speaking of "I Can," never forget that whatever you face and however you feel, you can defy the odds, because you and I can do all things through Christ who gives you supernatural strength. I can.
Jennifer Rothschild: I can.
Jennifer and K.C.: And you can.
Jennifer Rothschild: Always and forever.
K.C. Wright: Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: It's true. It is true.
K.C. Wright: Now, find something to do.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.
K.C. Wright: Find someone to love. Find something to look forward to.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, I love that he said that.
K.C. Wright: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: Easy. There's your To Do list.
K.C. Wright: Three things.
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