Share your Christian testimony and why you are seeking to enter ministry leadership.
My testimony and calling to ministry leadership are related most directly to two different experiences that I’ve had in life. First, my experience with and liberation from addiction and second, my experience whilst I was living in Asia as a 17-year-old.
Growing up in Grand Rapids, with Christian parents and attending church throughout my childhood, I can honestly say that I have never been apart from the faith. But it wasn’t until my later middle school days that my faith – and He in whom I put my faith – became real to me. In 6th grade, I had discovered pornography – by accident – and it had grown into an all-consuming addiction. Indeed, at the end of 8th grade, I had become so beside myself with shame and despair that I ended up telling my parents voluntarily. A massive step for me. They offered to pray with me, and while I sat in tears – begging God to take away my sin, my guilt, my shame and tell me what to do – I heard (clearly but not audibly) “Open a Bible.” When I opened one, the first words my eyes fell on were the beginning of Psalm 32, which I still keep bookmarked in my Bible. It begins, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them, and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
That evening was the very first time I heard God speak to me. And he did so both in my head and through scripture. I was consumed in that moment by an assurance of His love, peace, and presence that I have experienced only a handful of times since, and it was the beginning of my desire to share God’s word (and my experience) with others.
It wasn’t until years later, though, when I was a sophomore in college, that I experienced liberation from that addiction… and at God’s hands alone. After years of fighting and years of failing over and over and over again, I signed up for one afternoon of counseling at a ministry in Grand Rapids called Set Free. Granted, it was a 6 hour session of counseling and intense intercessory prayer/therapy. But I walked out of that building miraculously free – as if someone had snapped their fingers and ten years of bondage had – poof – disappeared.
Weeks later, I was still completely clean. Then it was months. Now it’s a few years. And it is quite possibly the most profound way I that I have ever witnessed God take action in my life. Ever since then, I have been wanting desperately to find ways to share my story and to help other men find the same freedom that I have. It is a ministry that I would be content to commit my life to.
This is a major reason that I have a desire to enter ministry. In order to understand my desire/inclination to enter ministry leadership, though, I should explain a few aspects of my experience while I was living in Asia. When I was 16 years old – a sophomore in high school – my dad received a job offer that entailed moving to China for two years. He told our family over spring break that year, informing us that we had three weeks to decide. To this day, my family will say that it’s my fault we left. One evening, about two weeks after getting the offer, I was laying on my bedroom floor in tears, asking God what he wanted me to do and genuinely promising Him that I would follow his lead if he simply told me clearly.
Once again, I heard the words, “Open a Bible.”
This time, though, when I opened my Bible, my eyes fell on Genesis 12:1, “And the Lord said to Abram, “Get out of your country, and from your relatives, and from your father’s household, to the land that I will show you.” At this, I had a tremendous sense of peace and told my parents that I thought God was calling us to move. We moved three months later.
I believe today, as I did then, that God was speaking to me in that moment, asking me to surrender my life and go where he called. It was the first time I had experienced God calling me to anything specific, and I spent the majority of my year in Shanghai, China trying to figure out why He wanted me there. As it turns out, it wasn’t until the very end of that year that I got an answer to my question. I took an internship teaching English and Western culture as a T.A. at Tongji University in Shanghai and discovered that I had a love and talent for teaching. I also had a fantastic mentor who at the time was speaking into me as I was trying to discover what I wanted to major in in college. It was he who taught me the famous saying, “Your calling is where your passions and talents and the world’s great need meets.” At the time, I knew that I had a serious passion for my faith, theology and for the Bible, a love for people, and a newfound talent for teaching and sharing knowledge. And I knew firsthand that the Chinese people had a great need and desire for the Gospel. I even had the chance to take part in off-the-cuff ministry as many students were fascinated when I told them that I was Christian. Therefore, while I was applying to colleges in the weeks and months that followed, I knew that I wanted to study religion and theology. I also knew that I wanted to go to seminary and get into professional ministry.
Since then, I have taken another pastoral ministry internship through Calvin at Bluff City Church in Memphis, TN, where I am happy to say that my inclination toward seminary and professional ministry was affirmed. All in all, my inclination toward ministry and church leadership is tied up with my testimony, my God-given gifts for teaching, and my God-given passions for my faith, the Word, and for people.
Share how a relationship you built with another person (preferably not an immediate family member) opened a door of opportunity for you, in any aspect of your life – vocational, academic, experiential, etc.
My relationship with pastor Bob Grussing (the youth director at my home church LaGrave Ave. CRC) has opened up multiple opportunities for leadership growth and ministry opportunities throughout the years that I have grown up. For example, he provided me with the opportunity to serve on the high school youth leadership team and take a role in leading the program. When LaGrave took on a new pastor for the middle school youth program, he asked if I wanted to serve as a youth leader because they needed help and he thought I would fit well.
When LaGrave started its college-specific youth ministry, he asked if I desired to be on the leadership team for a Bible study program designed for college students by college students (with help from other pastors). He has provided me with the opportunity to speak on Christian education Sunday at church services. He has given me the chance to provide a leadership role in fundraising for mission trips and food pantries.
The opportunities that he has given me have been numerous. How did the relationship begin? As I grew up and came through the youth program at LaGrave – and even after I graduated from the program, Bob came alongside me and played a significant mentorship role in my life. Over probably 8 or 9 years he has met with me for breakfast and coffee on countless mornings and has stood next to me in faith and kindness and wisdom as I have struggled with my addiction to pornography, moved to China and back again, considered attending seminary, gone through a couple crises of faith, struggled with relationships and more. He has been supportive of me for the entirety of my involvement in LaGrave’s youth program – and upon seeing me take initiative – has always looked for ways that would allow me to use my gifts for God’s service in increasingly significant capacities.
How are you currently working to build authentic relationships with people who may serve as references or points of contact in your future career in ministry?
I am currently employed by the Calvin University Campus Ministries department as a discipleship assistant. I lead and mentor a team of 5 Barnabas students who lead the spiritual life of the dorm KHvR. As I work at this position, I am in the midst of maintaining a mentoring relationship with Calvin’s Discipleship Pastor Matthew Postma in which he directly supports my leadership development. We meet once every two weeks for lunch so that he might be able to pour into me and give me advice on how to best serve my Barns and lead/guide them as they lead the spiritual atmosphere of the dorm. It requires me to know my Barn students well and be vulnerable with him about my insecurities and weaknesses so that he can support me as best as possible.
That being said, I am also in the midst of building relationships in which I am able to support others. For instance, my relationships with my barn team that are characterized primarily by pastoral support – in the capacity that I pray with and for them, get to know them intimately, point them to wherever I see God acting in their lives, and use my resources to support/care for them as best I can while they do their work. Outside of school and work life, I have been building two other authentic relationships that constitute potential references and points of future contact.
One is with Tom Krygsheld, a church planter and owner of an HVAC company in Crown Point, Indiana. I know him through my girlfriend and future fiancée, for whom he cares deeply. He has been a valuable mentor and source of wisdom as I have considered my calling to seminary and beyond. I have been striving to maintain this relationship by offering to get involved in his church, and to give back when I get the chance.
Another relationship is with Tom Fuerst, the head pastor of Bluff City UMC in Memphis, TN, where I spent as summer as an intern of pastoral ministry. He was my mentor pastor, and over the course of ten weeks I lived, ate and breathed what he did. I am striving to maintain relatively close correspondence as I apply to seminary and think about my future. I have been sending him the occasional note and Christmas card, and stay up to date on the happenings around his church. All of these people, whether they are students, seasoned pastors, or church planters have been crucial in my move toward seminary in the past few years.
I intend to maintain relationships with all of them as I move forward into a life of ministry, whatever form it may take.