Born into a family with a rich spiritual heritage, I quite literally grew up in the Church. I was dedicated as an infant at a Baptist church. A few years later my mom was offered a job as the Director of Christian Education at a Lutheran church in the area. We worshiped and participated fully in the life of that church for most of my adolescent years. As I matured in my faith and grew in my relationship with Jesus, I began exploring other faith communities and ultimately attended a non-denominational and then a Brethren in Christ church during my high school years. While in college I attended a more charismatic Vineyard church, and upon graduation joined the pastoral staff at a United Methodist Church.
I’m grateful for this diverse religious background, particularly because it has taught me one of life and ministry’s most important truths: it’s about Jesus. Whether it’s a Baptist, Lutheran, non-denominational, Vineyard, United Methodist, or Anabaptist church, what ultimately matters is the death and resurrection of Jesus. I’ve been influenced by a number of different theological traditions, but most importantly, I’ve been influenced by the person and work of Christ. It’s this influence, this relationship, that drives and sustains me, that gives me life and hope and meaning and purpose, and that I’m pursuing with everything I have and all that I am.
From a young age, I have been drawn to the life of faith and in my early high school years began articulating a desire to “become a pastor one day.” Part of me wondered whether these were the naive pipe-dreams of adolescence; however, as my faith grew and relationship with Christ deepened, the desire to pursue full-time ministry intensified. During my college years, this calling—this vocational clarity—became undeniable. Eugene Peterson writes about this in his memoir The Pastor, saying that pastor was “not just a job so that I could make a living, but a way of living that was congruent with what I had spent all my life becoming.” Peterson’s words resonate deeply with my own experience: an inward calling to ministry that makes sense of and is in accordance with all the ways God’s been moving in my life to this point.
In addition to this inward calling, I have also felt an outward affirmation from the community of faith. I’ve had people speak into my life—peers and mentors, pastors and parents, colleagues and congregants—who have affirmed some variation of the same message: “God’s gifted you for ministry. You’re wired to be a pastor.” I was initially uncomfortable with these conversations and unsure how to respond. Over time, however, I have come to cherish these interactions as one of the ways God is continuing to confirm my call and invite me to pursue vocational ministry.
John Ruth has written that, “The way we do church is the evidence of what we believe.” I’ve found that to be true. Our beliefs have a profound influence on the way we do church, and my own Anabaptist convictions eventually led me to pursue ministry in the Mennonite church. While I’d never actually been part of a Mennonite church, I align so squarely with Mennonite thought and theology that the process has felt very much like a coming home.
Looking back over the past few years, I have to marvel at the way God’s led me to serving in Franconia Conference: a chance meeting with a Mennonite pastor at an ecumenical training event; a late-night conversation with a Conference staff member at a restaurant in rural Vietnam; a meeting with a seminary professor who encouraged me to put my Anabaptist beliefs into practice by filling out the MLI (the first step toward becoming a pastor in Mennonite Church USA); an invitation to join a local Mennonite pastors group despite the fact that I was, at the time, a Methodist pastor. On the surface, all these random “Mennonite connections” seemed coincidental, comical, and—to be honest—sometimes a bit creepy. However, I can now see how each of these experiences were part of God’s unique calling, a way of bringing my wife Kim and me to the Mennonite church in a way we never could have imagined.
I look forward to listening to, learning from, and leading in the Mennonite church. More than anything, I can’t wait to see how God continues to draw us into inspiring stories, using them to disrupt our complacency and remove our fear so that we might strive after Jesus together.