Meet the Staff & Elders: Cliff Ellis

Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school and what did you study? Share a little about your family. Where do you currently work and in what role?

I was born in Indianapolis, IN and then moved to the western suburbs of Chicago when I was in middle school. My wife, Mackenzie, and I met when we were juniors in high school and started dating our senior year (I have the prom picture to prove it). After high school, we went to different schools our first semester, but decided to transfer so that we could be at the same school. We ended up at Dana College where we were both Education majors. After graduating, we got married and moved to Seattle where we both had teaching jobs. I taught high school English for four years before accepting a position at Mars Hill, and Mackenzie taught at an elementary school for eight years before our kids came into our family five years ago. We adopted all three of our kids through the foster care system, which is a much longer story we always enjoy sharing with people. I am currently an Associate Pastor at Trinity, and my primary responsibilities include overseeing our Community Groups and Counseling & Conciliation ministries. Mackenzie is currently a part-time Reading Intervention Specialist at White Center Heights Elementary.

How/When did Jesus change your life?

I was not a Christian when Mackenzie and I started dating, but she had been a Christian most of her life. As we got to know each other, I started asking her questions about her faith. She then introduced me to her youth pastor who became instrumental in my discipleship. As I began reading books that he recommended, like C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I experienced an increasing desire to know Jesus and be in a relationship with him. One night in my dorm room during my freshman year of college, I prayed a simple prayer, expressing that desire to Jesus. The next day, I told Mackenzie and she said, “I think you just became a Christian.” I was surprised to learn about all the people who had been praying for me who were excited to hear that Jesus had granted me faith in him and an awareness of my need for him.

How/When did you come to Trinity?

Mackenzie and I joined Mars Hill West Seattle almost eleven years ago. We had been going to a church on the Eastside but were feeling disconnected because of the distance, so we decided to check out the Mars Hill campus that was then meeting at Chief Sealth. Shortly after we started attending, the church moved into our current building and we joined a Community Group. Apart from two and a half years working at Mars Hill Ballard, we’ve been a part of this church ever since.

What ministries are you involved in at Trinity? Why do you serve in those ministries?

My primary responsibilities at Trinity are overseeing our Community Groups and Counseling & Conciliation ministries. I am passionate about those ministries because I tend to be highly practical in understanding biblical and theological truth. I want to know not only what something means, but what it looks like in real life, whether that’s personally or in community. Walking through the challenges of infertility and then adoption have also helped me grow in compassion for people who are suffering or struggling. I find it a great honor and privilege to come alongside people and walk with them through the trials they are facing.

What evidences of God’s grace have you seen in your life and at Trinity this past year?

Just over a year ago, our family moved back to West Seattle after living in Carnation for two years. (That is also a much longer story, but suffice it to say, we are thankful to be back in West Seattle.) The way in which that move unfolded is truly an evidence of God’s grace.

At the start of the year, we launched a new Community Group, and we have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the people in our group, and seeing how God is at work in their lives–babies being born, a couple becoming foster parents, individuals vulnerably walking through struggles with sin and loss. We are grateful for the community God has provided.

What have you been learning about this past year? What have you been reading or listening to?

Here are some of my favorite books from this past year:

I also recently started the M.A. in Counseling program at Westminster Theological Seminary.

What are some of your favorite things?

I love to read and learn, but it’s hard to choose a favorite book. I’d have to say Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is probably one of my favorites. More recently, I read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and loved it.

I also enjoy gardening, hiking, kayaking, and exploring new places.

How are you hoping to grow and mature as a discipleship of Jesus this coming year?

I am hoping to grow in trusting God rather than relying on own strength. For me that looks like cultivating a more regular and intentional prayer life where prayer is not an afterthought but a starting point.