It was definitely a long road to the ministry for me. While I had grown up in the church and in a Christian home, and had often been told as a child that I should consider the ministry, and while I always had a love for God and his word, somewhere along the way I got lost. I got lost in the place where so many of us do: living a life during the week that was much different than the one I lived on Sunday.
I had long professed to being a Christian, and truly believed myself to be, but the amount of real evidence in my daily life just wasn’t terribly convincing. I knew that God wanted me, all of me. At least that is what he tells me in his word. But I didn’t know that I was ready for that. There were just too many unanswered questions for me to truly surrender myself to him. So I kept living my life in the uncomfortable comfort of the middle.
Over those years, I went through what you might call a crisis of faith. Do I really believe the things that I have long been taught? Do I really believe that which the Bible tells me? In some ways I truly did, but in other ways I just didn’t know. I struggled over these questions for some time, trying to reason it all out, until the Lord brought me to Isaiah 1:18:
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
The Lord wasn’t opposed to my need to reason it all out before I was really ready to give my whole life to him. In fact, he invited it. He wanted to reason with me about it. But he wanted to start that reasoning process with this fact: while I might not know a lot of things about God that I would like to, I know this one thing about me, I am a sinner. That was one thing that I had never been able to fully leave behind – not just the recognition of my sin, but also the burden of it, the shame of it, and the bondage of it. In that moment I heard God saying, “John, the question you really need to be asking is what you are going to do about your sin. Give yourself to me, and I will truly make you clean.”
The amazing thing about it was that once I did that, many of my other questions began to find their answers too. And it wasn’t long before I felt the undeniable call of God to surrender my life in yet another way: to leave my hometown and small business for full time work in the ministry. That was 1996, and after all of these years, I wouldn’t have it any other way. While ministry is challenging, there is truly no other way I could spend my life that would seem worthy of my investment.
After 6 years of ministry in Holland, Michigan, I accepted a call to come to St. Joseph. From the beginning of my discussions with church leadership it seemed clear to me that God had already been doing an important work here – one that dovetailed well with the work he had been doing in me during my time in Holland. Now, after almost 15 years here, it is clearer than ever that God has been leading and working all the way. Though there are challenges that every church needs to face along the way, I am deeply convinced that God has led our congregation to where we are “for such a time as this.” All of what that might mean for us is not clear, but God rarely leads farther than one step at a time. My prayer is that we will be able to take each and every one of those steps with the faith that truly can move mountains.
My wife, Kim, and our 5 children have been along on that journey too. And I couldn’t do it without them, especially Kim. What a blessing it has been to share it together, to struggle through it together, and to celebrate the work of God together! And that is what we continue to look forward to.