Friday, November 09, 2012

My Faith Story

I spent the first portion of my life knowing there was a God, without having much knowledge about that God, or having a personal relationship with that God. I always knew that Jesus was something that should be important to me; I just did not understand that it was of greatest importance. I had been living what I thought was a good moral life, and thought that paired with my years in church and Sunday school had me covered.

The theme of my faith journey is that God works in unexpected ways, and one of the ways in which he was working in my life was I was placed with a strong Christian as my roommate in college my freshman year. Through him and some of our close friends, I began to understand that I did not have the relationship with Jesus that I needed to have. Their faith and support brought me into a relationship with Jesus and fostered in me an interest that has not since been quelled. I began to ask questions of them. I dusted off my Bible and began to read. For the first time in my life I was excited to learn about the Bible and Jesus Christ. I went on my first mission trip just a month after coming to Christ, and followed this with a month long missions trip to the same location in Mexico the following school year.

I spent the next six years learning and growing in faith. Early on in those years I was not as focused on my faith as I wish I had been, but I was going to church regularly, and usually was part of a Bible study or small group, though I wasn’t serving with any regularity. When I moved to Mitchell, S.D., and began to attend Northridge Baptist Church, I entered into a period of fantastic growth in my personal faith. I was challenged by the teaching in sermons. I joined the praise and worship team, something I would never have imagined previously (my parents didn’t believe it until they saw me sing). I joined a Men’s Bible study that taught me volumes on being a Christian, friend, and leader of a family.  I was also a member of a small group Bible study while at Northridge. I could not find enough time in the day to learn and grow in my personal faith. It was during this period that I began to listen to God's call on my life towards ministry. I also worked with the High School youth group for a couple of years while at Northridge Baptist, filling in in-between youth pastors. This gave me my first real taste of teaching about and through the Bible.

I left Northridge Baptist and this season of ministry to enter full time into Seminary at Bethel Theological Seminary, Arden Hills, MN. I have completed a Master’s of Divinity in the Greek Track with a focus on Transformational Leadership. While in seminary I grew enormously spiritually. I was regularly challenged to re-evaluate what I believed, and forced to think through many areas of theology I had never approached before. It was a greatly challenging and enlightening time. Some who go to seminary find their enthusiasm for spiritual things waning by the conclusion of their education, but not me. My faith is far stronger, and deeper because of my experiences in seminary.

Seminary was also a great training ground for ministry for me. I had the opportunity to be the teaching assistant for the Preaching department for 2.5 years (serving under Bob Merritt of Eagle Brook Church, Phil Print of Crossroads Church, and Dan Rotach), and then spent another year as the teaching assistant in the Transformational Leadership department (serving under Justin Irving). The leaders in these departments were greatly influential in my personal development. I also served on the Student Senate for three years, and was the President of the Student Senate for school year 2005-06.

Following completion of Seminary I began to serve at Crossroads Church and had again the wonderful opportunity to learn under some incredible men of God. Having served as the teaching assistant to Pastor Phil Print while I was in seminary gave me the opportunity to see the inter-working of this large church first as an outsider, then as an insider. I had the opportunity to write bible study lessons and daily devotionals for some church wide projects. I continued to grow in faith and leadership as a small-group coach as well as a small group leader. I had the amazing opportunity to be part of the team that transitioned the church from being a church with small groups to a church of small groups. In May we had something like 150 members in small groups, and when we re-launched the following September we were just shy of 700! This was a great opportunity to see God’s blessing first hand.

We were “blessed” in March 2008 to be called to a small church in Southern, MN. I say that a bit tongue in cheek because coming out of seminary I knew that I wanted to be on staff at a multi-staff church in a large city and that I did not want to be a Senior Pastor, and my long term goal was to be an executive pastor. Thankfully God knows best, and indeed He blessed me with an opportunity to do everything I didn’t want to do – I’m a solo pastor in a small church in a small town that I had never heard of before applying for the position! And indeed God has blessed me and my family in mighty ways through this experience. I have experienced tremendous personal spiritual growth through my having to preach roughly 55 times a year the past 3 years (that includes holidays, special services, weddings & funerals). Additionally, I’ve been leading & teaching (and team teaching) Jr. High and Sr. High youth groups and Bible studies for adults, so my time in the Word is greater than ever before! Thankfully God is God and I am not, He knows best.

I continue to grow through personal study, study related to ministry, and through various church conferences. I regularly listen to other preachers’ sermons to allow them to feed me, teach me and challenge me. I read regularly to continue to add to my knowledge base. I also read from a wide range of blogs and online resources to keep current with trends in our churches and our culture. I practice personal devotions from the Bible, and am growing spiritually with my wife as well. I am still being formed, am not where I would like to be, but am amazed at where I have come from. God is indeed gracious.

If I were to sum my faith up in one sentence it would be:
I am a Christ follower who is seeking to serve God, hoping to bring Him glory, desiring to be used by God, and thankful God is great enough to use me in spite of me.

My Bedrock Beliefs:
That Christ is my personal Lord and Savior and is the only solution to my (and the world's) sin problem.
That we need to honor God in everything we do.
That people matter to God.
The Bible is God’s Word.
That the local church is the hope of the world.
That the truths of Scripture should be communicated in meaningful and relevant ways.

1 comment:

Amrita said...

Good to read about you Pastor. I invite you to visit my blog.

Shalom from India