Paul Schafer asked me a question earlier today that got the gerbil wheels in my brain spinning. He asked: “What are you studying for at Bethel? How long have you known the call of God on your life and discern your giftings?

If you follow the link, you’ll see my initial response, but I would like to give a longer response and perhaps take it in a bit of a different direction. I appreciate the question(s) and the thoughts they provoke.

Before coming to Bethel Seminary, I spent 5+ years working for the Boy Scouts of America. I have found that this was a great training ground for my future ministry. I was not aware of it at the time, but I think it was as some like to call it -a God thing. Much of my life is marked by things that I was unaware of at the time, but looking back I can see God’s finger prints all over it.

I became a Christian in college, my freshman year. It was in large part a combination of my dissatisfaction with the life I was living, as well as the testimony of some great men living around me. These men were living in a way that I wanted to live, they had something I wanted – JOY. I am proud to still have some of these men as my best friends today. One will be my best man in my wedding in December of 2005 (Thanks Cook!).

Within a few weeks of my becoming a Christian, I was off on my first missions trip. I spent Spring Break of my freshman year of college in the Guaymas, Mexico area trying to minister to other people. I believe I took much more than I gave. Ministry often works that way, but especially this time. I spent almost 5 weeks the following year at this same mission in Guaymas, this time giving more that I previously. Both were great experiences.

One of my friends in college, Cook, took me under his wing and spent time with me walking me through Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest“. Many nights we would get together and he would explain to me what Oswald Chambers was saying. I owe him an enormous debt for being so patient and understanding.

I really began to come into my own as a Christian after moving from Pierre, SD to Mitchell, SD. I bounced from church to church for a while in Mitchell, not finding what I was looking for. On the reccomendation of a pastor from a neighboring town, I visited Northridge Baptist Church, and knew after the first visit I had found a church home. My time at Northridge fostered enormous personal spiritual growth. I got plugged into a fantastic men’s Bible study, with some incredible men. I was part of some great small group ministries. I did the unthinkable and joined the worship team. I say unthinkable because I was the kid/guy who didn’t sing in church. I don’t mean didn’t kinda sing, I mean I had gone to church for more than 24 years, and for most of those years I refused to sing as a type of rebellion. My mother didn’t really believe that I was singing on the praise and worship team until she saw it with her own two eyes. I helped with the junior and senior high youth groups, filling in when there wasn’t a youth pastor, and helping transition the program through numerous other changes. This church is still blessing me in many ways, not limited to but including prayer, continual encouragement, financial support for school, and allowing me to join them when they attend the Willow Creek Leadership Summits.

When I was graduating from college, I felt a quiet tug at my heart that I should perhaps examine the possiblity of going to Seminary. I really didn’t trust those feelings at that time. I hadn’t been a Christian all that long, and still was feeling the burden of the guilt of my past sins. While I understood I was forgiven, I still struggled with that on a personal level. So rather than listen to the small voice, I buried it and tried to move on with my life. Fast forward 4 years, and that voice, while never having left me, was gradually getting louder and louder. I still resisted. I had a good life, a good job, a good church. I was happy with where I was in life. So for another year, I kept putting off much thought about leaving my job and pursuing something else, specifically going to Seminary.

The second summer of my being camp director for Lewis and Clark Scout Reservation was the point at which I knew I needed to heed the call that had been on my heart for all these years. I still really didn’t fully trust what I thought I was being called to, but I gave it up to God, and trusted Him to make it happen if it was supposed to. After spending a few weeks in prayer, I got what I felt like was the answer. I was driving down the road, listening to a Christian Radio station just on the outskirts of Mitchell, SD, when it all became clear to me. I had to pull over to the side of the Interstate Highway because the tears were streaming down my face. I knew I had to apply to seminary, I had no other choice if I was to be obedient. I still wasn’t sure how things would go, but put my trust in the Lord. God threw wide open the doors that needed to be opened for me to go to seminary. I applied to only one school, and was accepted. My bosses took the news that I was quitting much better than I anticipated. My parents (while surprized and a bit confused) were supportive. I had no place to live, God provided. I was afraid I was too late for student loans, and I wasn’t. I was worried what my roommate would think of me abandoning him and forcing him to find a new place to live, and he was enormously supportive. Many other things fell into place. I gave it up to God, and He made it happen.

Along the way, through the journey of my education at Seminary, God has been giving me a vision of the way the church should work. I believe He has been equipping me to give life to this vision, and I pray for more opportunities to further His Kingdom. I has been scary, affirming, challenging, frustrating, rewarding, energizing, and tiring all at once. Thankfully it doesn’t ride on my back. Christ carries the yoke, the Spirit does the work, and I try my best to help, or at least not get in the way whenever I can.

As far as being called to ministry beyond this, I believe that all believers are called to ministry. I think the question that is so often asked “when were you called…” is a flawed question. Certainly some are called specifically, but we are all called, and that is made clear in scripture. I think too many people in the modern church rely upon the pastor’s ministry to be the workhorse of the church. That is so wrong. I believe that my job as a pastor (ok, future pastor) is to enable others to minister. I can only minister to a handful of people at any given time. My ministry mulitiplies though if I can teach and equip others to minister. I will consider my successful when I have worked myself out of a job.