Today marks the 2nd anniversary of my first day of full-time employment at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I remember skating into town on icy roads in my 1997 Chevy Suburban in mid-February. I missed my first shot at preaching in chapel because the drive from Vermont was slower-going in bad weather than I expected. After moving things into my campus apartment, I sent my wife and kids back to Vermont on a plane (so the girls could finish the school year there), set out myself on 2 weeks of speaking engagements, and returned to my lonely abode in our new home. My first day in the office was March 9, 2015. As I begin my third year here, I have a lot of blessings to look back on and praise our Lord for. On this minor milestone, I thought I’d share a few, some personal, some more generally applicable.
1. I am grateful for Midwestern hospitality and the fellowship of Christian friends.
I spent 4 months apart from my family in 2015 before Becky and the girls could join me. I am naturally an introverted guy, but I get lonely pretty easily. In those looong four months, I was grateful for folks like MBTS VP Charles Smith and his wife Ashley who had me over for dinner. I am grateful for Prof. Russ Meek and his wife who did the same. (Russ is now teaching at Louisiana College, but I’ll always be grateful for the kindness they showed me.) I was and am grateful for Christian George, who became my closest friend during that time and continues to be a wonderful encourager, creative confidant, and friend who is closer than a brother. Even within the communications department at the school, the growing team I’m a part of is devoid of ego or arrogance. It is a happy work place on a happy campus, and while I’m tired on more days than I care to count, I never dread going to work. I love my colleagues. The hallways are full of laughter and warmth. It is the camaraderie that flows from and fuels this kind of organizational culture, I’m convinced, that can make or break a church or ministry.
2. I am grateful for the “local” vision of Midwestern Seminary and our president, Jason K. Allen.
Before the seminary called to offer me a role on staff, I was already feeling called away from pastoral ministry. But I love the local church and couldn’t figure out how I might serve her and fulfill God’s call on my life without being a pastor. It was a very spiritually discombobulating time. I will confess it never occurred to me to think I could work at a seminary. But the opportunity to help serve and train the next generation of pastors for gospel ministry was too great to pass up. And I have found in the last two years embedded here that Midwestern’s vision of existing For The Church is not just a slogan. It is real. It is a daily calibration for us. And it has served to attract — and continues to attract — many young men and women whose hearts are for the gospel and for the local church, which “keeps us honest” in this pursuit. I am glad for a vision that intentionally focuses on the dignity and preeminence of faithful, local shepherding, and for the relentless, confident, and humble leadership of Jason Allen, which keeps us on track.
3. I am grateful for our church home.
“Do you miss pastoral ministry?” I get asked this question a lot. And the answer is yes and no. There are some things I miss, certainly. But God has been really sweet to confirm we correctly discerned his call away, and part of that confirmation has been finding a sweet fellowship of believers to covenant with. After 20 years in ministry, the last 9 or so of which has been as a solo pastor in a couple of hard ministry contexts, it has been good for me to submit week in and week out to being fed. And it has been good for my wife and girls to have a pastor who isn’t husband and dad. Maybe some day the Lord will allow me to step back into a vocational ministry role in a local church, but I am not too hungry for that, honestly, and so until or unless that happens, I want to enjoy the pursuit of being the best church member I can be, encouraging and cheering on my pastor (who is a doctoral student at MBTS and an adjunct professor) and our other leaders, and taking on a bridge-like role in my middle-aged years for our church, which is a rapidly-growing revitalization work full of people who are mostly either young or old — not too many of us “in-betweeners.” In the fall, I will begin directing an 18-month residency program for men interested in training for pastoral ministry. I am grateful for a church that treats me and my family like normal people and allows us to contribute in small ways to something much bigger than all of us.
God is good. Ten years ago I could not have fathomed serving in this role at Midwestern Seminary. Heck, 4 years ago I couldn’t have imagined it! But here were are, by God’s grace. And here we go, by God’s grace. I don’t know what all the Lord has in store for me, my family, or the great institution that has brought us to Kansas City. But I know that God’s plans for us will always serve his glory, and for that, I can’t be anything but grateful.
And at this point, I’d be remiss not to point out, that if you’re exploring your options for biblical education, whether at the undergrad, grad, or doctoral level, you should consider the seminary that exists explicitly For The Church. We’d love to see you perhaps on our next Preview Day, March 28.