A couple weeks prior to writing this article, I had the privilege of giving a chapel speech at Covenant Christian High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The topic on which I spoke was the same as that of this article, namely, God’s work in my life to lead me into the ministry of the gospel. I spoke to high school students on this particular subject because God’s work of leading me to consider the ministry took place when I was their age, walking those same halls as a high school student. The hope, therefore, was that they could relate to and learn from the experiences God led me through to pursue the ministry. I have the same hope for the young people who read this article.
For some men who pursue the ministry of the gospel, the desire to do so was present in their hearts as a child. That certainly was not the case for me. Although I grew up in a thoroughly godly home in Grand Rapids, Michigan and attended both Protestant Reformed churches and schools my entire life, the thought and desire to pursue the ministry of the gospel were never present throughout my childhood and into high school. Instead, my thoughts and desires were centered on something very much different. God, however, worked in a powerful way to change the inclinations of my heart.
Wilson Pro 1000 11.5 inch infield glove, Nike cleats, Louisville Slugger 32 inch-29 ounce bat, batting cages, ground balls, double plays: these words would characterize my interests throughout most of high school. I had a singular focus on baseball. I thoroughly enjoyed playing the sport and spent a lot of time doing so. Summers were spent working during the day, practicing at night, and playing in tournaments on the weekends. To a certain extent, it even played a part in determining my plans for after high school. I always wanted to go to college, continue to play baseball, study to be an educator, all with the hope of one day teaching and coaching in high school.
These desires and plans began to change the summer after my junior year in high school. The day of my first summer league game, I injured my left hand while at work in the morning. Originally, I thought nothing of it, but by the middle of the game that same evening, I could not squeeze my glove nor grip a bat. The next morning, my hand was swollen twice its normal size, and off to the doctors I went. The diagnosis was a fractured scaphoid bone in my left hand and the prognosis was three to four months in a full arm cast to heal due to limited blood supply to this particular bone. The summer plans of work, practices, games, and tournaments ended. That original fracture and time of healing were followed by a re-fracture as well as multiple surgeries, thus keeping me from playing for the better part of a year during my senior year. As a result of the injury, the post-high school plans of hoping to play in college were no longer as well.
Although at the time I was disappointed because I was unable to play the sport that I thoroughly enjoyed, in reflecting upon that time now I am able clearly to see the work of God to re-direct my life to pursue the ministry. There are two things that stand out in my mind that led me down this path. First, I began to develop a love of reading theological literature. Instead of practicing and playing that summer I was injured, I began reading. I am convinced that if God had not worked in such a way so that I could no longer play baseball, this love would not have developed. Second, I remember clearly the many petitions offered during congregational prayers concerning the need for men for the ministry of the gospel. At this time, I was a member of Faith Protestant Reformed Church, which was without a pastor. Often, therefore, visiting pastors would pray that the young men consider the ministry of the gospel. Those petitions left a deep impression upon me. Hearing those frequent prayers coupled with developing this love for reading caused me to consider for the first time the gospel ministry as a potential life-calling. After much reflection and prayer, I became convinced that God was in fact leading me down this path of the ministry.
With the goal of entering seminary, I enrolled at Hope College in Holland, Michigan for my undergraduate studies. After completing in four years a major in history and minor in psychology as well as the necessary pre-seminary courses, I entered the Protestant Reformed Theological School in the fall of 2007. The summer between college and seminary I married my wife Jessica (nee Karsemeyer; God has since given us two daughters, Kate and Emma). Throughout the eight years in college and seminary, the doubts concerning the call to the ministry were there. The desire to serve as a minster, however, was always present and strong in my heart, and never did God in a clear way indicate that the door to the ministry for me was shut. Thus, I pressed on in my studies and eventually graduated from seminary in 2011. The internal call in my heart was confirmed by the external call that I received from God that same summer through Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan, where I have been serving as a pastor ever since.
In conclusion, I would like to urge the young men who read this article to do just one thing. It is simply this: prayerfully and carefully consider pursuing the ministry of the gospel. It may be the case that the Lord’s will is that you are not called to serve God in this way. That is okay; the gospel ministry is not for everyone. But at the very least then, you stand before God honestly having considered prayerfully this calling. I am thankful to God that he worked in a very clear way as I explained above to lead me to consider the ministry. The fact is, however, that prior to those events taking place, I would have dismissed without any thought even the possibility of being a pastor in Christ’s church. It was something that I never thought of seriously. Looking back on it now, however, I write with humility that it is something that I should have considered simply as a Christian young man in God’s church. Young men, have you considered prayerfully whether God is calling you to study for the ministry? I urge you to reflect in a personal way upon the well-known words of our Lord in Matthew 9:37–38, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.”