What have you discovered in your educational and ministry develop in the last year (2021)? Grant Mensonides is a returning Leadership Development Grant recipient of Classis Grand Rapids South
The last 12 months have been a whirlwind. I transitioned from attending school online and being more or less confined to home due to Covid restrictions to accepting a job opportunity in northwest Indiana, spending a large portion of the summer on a farm/ministry in Maryland, moving away from home, and stepping into a new role as the director of youth ministry and worship ministry at the church I am currently serving. Throughout this process, I have struggled to make ends meet financially and have learned to embrace an entirely new level of humility and gratitude. I have been forced to allow other people to take care of my needs in significant ways that I had previously taken pride in being able to manage myself – especially as a privileged straight white male American, this has been a challenging lesson.
As a result, however, I have gained a new appreciation of the reality for those in full-time church ministry of needing to rely on others to have your needs met – and also of being given far more than you deserve (which has included learning how to accept that level of generosity). This has fostered in me an entirely new sense of gratitude for the generosity and care that others exhibit for me by the power of the Holy Spirit, and has pushed the depths to which I am able to love and be grateful to others and God for what I am blessed with.
In all of these things, I have learned to love others in ever deeper ways, be a more present witness to the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life as well as others’, do away with pride, and foster an ever deeper sense of gratitude for the love and care that both God and others exhibit for me.
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.