Posted by: Katie | May 7, 2012

Becoming a Pastor

Michael used to be a close neighbor when we were children, but moved to West Virginia while we were still young; I have just recently got back in contact with him. Michael graduated with a Mechanical Engineering degree, but eventually found his true passion of a religious life as a Pastor.

1.)  What would cause someone to graduate with a Mechanical Engineering, then decide to go to seminary for four more years of school in order to become a pastor? The mercy and grace of God!  I grew up in a Christian home and went to “church” every Sunday morning. So I learned about the Bible and Jesus Christ at a young age, but I never really treasured Jesus Christ and fully appreciated the love He demonstrated for me on the cross, until my freshman year in college. Up to that point, Jesus was just a free ticket into heaven and something I only concentrated on Sunday morning or right before I went to bed. I wanted to live life my way and earn the big bucks as an engineer, so I could buy Rolex watches and a Lexus sedan. At this point in my life, the thought of being a pastor was out of the question, because they don’t make any money.

If I truly understood the cost that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, endured for my sins to be forgiven, however, then my whole way of life exists for Him. During my freshman year in college, for the first time in my life, that made sense to me, and I earnestly wanted to know Jesus more and love Him with all my life. So, I got involved in a Christian college ministry called Baptist Student Union (BSU) and became a leader during a sophomore year. During the rest of my college career, I continued to serve as leader within the BSU and went on several mission trips (Philadelphia, Spain, Madrid). Becoming an engineer seemed less important than being the person God made me to be.

But what was that? During my last year in college, three different people who don’t know each other asked me the same question: “Mike, if you had the whole day free, what would you do?” My response to them: doing what I was doing at the BSU, namely Christian ministry. Soon after that I was able to visit Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and sit in a couple of classes. After which I left knowing deep down, if I am not doing full time ministry I might as well be dead. I had also prayed and asked God to confirm in me and  through other people if He wanted me to be a pastor. Sure enough, deep down I felt called to be a pastor and other people starting telling me that I would be good as a pastor.

What changed my direction in life then, is hearing and understanding the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and how God sent His only Son, Jesus, to save me from that which I could not save myself. I was a slave to sin and incapable of understanding and obeying all that God requires from us as written in the Bible. I could not change my heart to love Him more and be closer to Him. I could not do any good work that would save me from the punishment of Hell that I deserve after I died.

But Jesus can, and that’s the good news! And all I need to do was to acknowledge my sin before God, repent of it (meaning forsake living a life that was offensive to God and rebellious to His ways, and instead love His ways and obey Him), embrace Jesus Christ with faith as my only Savior, and commit to live for Him for the rest of my life. Romans 10:9-10 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” This goes for every person, and when they do this, they will finally experience what life is really about and learn who God made them to be.

2.)  I don’t run into many people with religious careers (location may be a factor).  Do you feel that there could be a decline in interest with younger generations?

We live in strange days, so the answer to the question about whether or not there is evidence of a decline of interest in spiritual matters is complicated. On the one hand, our culture has become a melting pot for all sorts of religious beliefs, and therefore we are a “spiritual country” that prides itself in tolerating all beliefs as equal in value and truth. On the other hand, secularism has become predominant as well as naturalism, so what is “proven” by scientific theory and evolution trumps all matters of faith.

In regards to Christianity, however there has been a major shift in the mindset of our culture today, compared to what it once was. Christian Smith, a professor of Sociology at Notre Dame, had recently published some his findings from research on young adults and their faith in our country today (Souls in Transition: the Religious and Spiritual lives of Emerging Adults). What he found was that the “Christianity” of today has morphed into something contrary to what it once was, and what the Bible teaches. He termed the name of this belief, “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” although many will blindly equate this to Christianity.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism believes there is a God who exists and created the world, but He is far removed from us, not involved in our lives, and not personal (Deism). Second, God cares most about people being happy and feeling good about themselves (Therapeutic). Third, God does not hold everyone accountable to one Moral Law, from which they will be judged. Rather, morals are relative to each person, and as long as they are “good and fair” people, they will enter heaven after they die (Moralistic). Those who adopt this belief are familiar with the stories of the Bible, may even attend church, and even believe in Jesus, except His claim to be the only Savior.

To add to that, we live in a postmodern culture that denies absolute, universal truth, and accepts instead truth as relative, plural, and socially constructed. Meaning, what is true for one group of people is not necessarily true for others. Meaning is no longer objective, but rather subjective, relative to each person. In other words,  meaning is in the eye of the beholder. Moreover, authority of any kind is denounced, while individual rights and liberty are elevated to the highest degree. This means bye-bye to the God of the Bible, whom we will stand before and give an account to. This also means that the Bible is no longer honored as being authoritative for our life, but rather just a good moral guideline and story book to help me feel good about myself and be a better person.

If you add all these variables into the equation, is there any wonder why there is a decline in young adults who are biblically grounded in their faith in Jesus Christ and meet regularly as the church? No. To make matters worse, over the years churches have neglected to stand firm upon the timeless truths of God’s Word and have accommodated to the culture, in order to become relative and socially accepted. If a church is not built with biblical integrity, then just like any building without sound structure, it will collapse. Do we not see more and more of that happening today?

So, what is the solution? Getting back to the Bible and receiving it as what it claims itself to be, namely God’s Spoken Word. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV) Not only must we study the Bible intentionally, but we must expose the fallacy and self destructing nature of believing in Moralistic Therapeutic Deism or what the postmodern culture values. We must also pray and seek God to give illumination to what the Bible means and to draw us back to Him, because God promises this: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13, ESV) How precious it is, to know we have such a loving God in heaven like that.

3.) What would you like to say to those that don’t take religion as seriously as they should or don’t attend church?

To those who don’t take religion seriously, I would like to say I understand and can relate to them, because as mentioned in the first question, I was like that. Romans 10:17 says this, “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.” The more I earnestly sought to learn the Bible and asked God to reveal His truth to my soul, the more my eyes were opened to its truth and the more I hungered to know this amazing God of the Bible. So, I would encourage people to spend more time reading the Bible (start in one of the Gospels and take it slow), calling out to God for help, and attend a local Bible believing, Gospel centered church.

There is too much evidence in all of creation, in our own conscious, and in the authenticity of the Bible to deny the existence of God. Furthermore, there is too much at stake to not put forth effort in reading the Gospels and asking God to help you. Let me explain what the Bible says in regards to this

The Bible is clear about what happens after death: “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, ESV). Why is that, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, ESV).  God made us to know Him and enjoy Him forever, and to obey His good and holy commands.

But sin is in us and enslaves, so that it becomes impossible for us to obey God’s commands, and as a result we fall short and are condemned before God (Isaiah 59:2; John 8:34; Roman 6:16). The Bible tells us that there is nothing good within us or any good deed we can do to earn forgiveness or a new heart that loves to obey God and enjoy Him.  “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6, ESV).  The judgment we will receive unless we are saved, is spending eternity in a real place called Hell, which is described as a Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15). You don’t want to go there.

But thanks be to God, because He sent a Savior into this world, who would enable complete forgiveness and a new heart for all who receive Him by faith. His name is Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son [Jesus], that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV).  Believing in Him includes acknowledging Jesus died for my sins on the cross, taking the punishment that I deserve for them, not Him. He was then buried, and then He rose again to life three days later, like the Old Testament prophesied (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

His death and resurrection proved that the sacrifice of His life completely atones for (forgives) my sins, and that He can give new and eternal life to those who believe Him (Romans 4:25). Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father [the God who made us and we are accountable to] except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). Only Jesus can make us right with God and worthy of entering heaven and not Hell after we die (2 Corinthians 5:19). Jesus Christ alone is our Savior.

To receive eternal life then, one must repent of their sins, believe Jesus as their only Savior, and commit to live their life to know Him, treasure Him, love Him, and live for Him everyday. Proof that a person has been saved and will enter heaven, is that their life has been changed and that they now hunger to know God more, and at the same time hate sin.

4.) What religion do you practice? What are your daily duties as a pastor?   I am a Southern Baptist pastor. Southern Baptist means that I agree with the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, and that I agree in joining up with other Southern Baptist churches to spread the Gospel around the world.

As a pastor, my responsibilities include preaching and teaching the Bible. So, for a good portion of the week I am spending time studying the Bible and writing out sermons and lessons. I also visit those who are in the hospital, nursing homes, or unable to come to the church because of old age. I also counsel people for different needs. I also lead wedding services and funeral services. I also am in charge of leading the whole church and caring for the people.

5.)       What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?   The most gratifying aspect of my job is teaching the Word of God and caring for the people. I love the  Bible and I want to help others cultivate a similar love for it because of how rich it is. I love to counsel other people with God’s Word, because its truths apply to every problem we struggle with, in life.

6.)      What challenges do you face as a pastor?    The challenges I face as a pastor, is the newness of it all. This is my first pastorate, so I am learning for the first time what it is like. I am so insufficient for the task, but I am thankful that my sufficiency comes from God, and not me. God is faithful to His Word, and He is faithful to His children, which is what we become when we trust Jesus as our Savior (John 1:12-13).

7.)  Do you have any favorite passages you read for inspiration when times get difficult?

Some of my favorite passages include the following. “ ‘My [God is speaking here] grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, ESV)  “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, ESV)

8.)  What hobbies do you enjoy during your free time?

My hobbies when I have free time include jogging, lifting weights, hiking, taking walks with my wife and daughter, carpentry, and reading. The trouble is, however, finding time to do all that!

9.) Do you have a favorite religious songs?
“How Deep the Father’s Love for us,” by Selah; “Before the Throne of God Above” Keith and Kristen Getty; “Oh to See the Dawn,” Keith and Kristen Getty

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