Do you consider yourself a new pastor?
Um, yes, by the definition that we give as a church: non-ordained. And I’m certainly new to full-time ministry.
Every level of ministry carries its own set of challenges. Overtime, when you go into a new dynamic of ministry, it’s new. I certainly don’t consider myself to be a seasoned pastor.
Just a short time ago you were a full-time law enforcement officer, while an associate pastor at your local church. Could you give the readers any advice about ministering while pursuing a career outside of the church?
Ministry in general, whether it’s paid or not, requires great commitment. It requires a commitment of time, energy, and personal resources in order to minister the way you feel God is leading you to in His church. When you have a full-time job it requires an even greater commitment than when you are a paid minister, because your ministry takes up more of the time you would normally have off.
I believe God has called everyone to be a minister, as part of the priesthood of all believers, and is looking for individuals to make a commitment to that calling. We need more people to make a commitment to lay ministry. That is how the New Testament church was started, through the work and commitment of non-paid ministers. Christ was right when He said the harvest was plentiful but the laborers were few, He wasn’t talking about paid ministers. We need more laborers to make a full and complete commitment to the work of ministry.
My advice would be to accept the calling of ministry in whatever areas God has gifted you, to grow spiritually so that you have a firm commitment to God and develop a passion for lost souls, and to make a firm commitment to the work God is calling you to do and give of your resources to see it completed.
How long have you been in ministry?
I’ve been in ministry for two and a half years.
How long were you in lay ministry?
I don’t know. I’ve been doing lay ministry pretty much all my life. I’ve been a junior deacon, deacon, Pathfinder leader and director, elder, head elder and associate pastor. I’ve pretty much always been in ministry, for at least all of my adult life.
Given the many types of pastoral ministry, how did you decide to become a church pastor?
I just felt that’s what God was leading me to do. I preached my first sermon when I was 15, in February of 1996. Walking off the podium at the end of the service it just hit me that this was what I would do—that this was what I was supposed to do.
Is it harder than you thought it would be?
What, being a pastor? Yeah, in some ways, I guess. Dealing with people and issues in the church is probably the hardest part. You have to be very diplomatic in how you deal with your congregation. There are so many different personalities, ways of thinking, and ideas, and you have to be able to relate to all those different kinds of people in some way in order to minister to them effectively.
Is it as rewarding as you hoped it would be?
I don’t know that I really had any desire for earthly rewards. It’s rewarding because I know that I’m doing what the Lord has called me to do. It’s rewarding to see God working in the lives of people. Other than that, the rewards are more heavenly than earthly.
You aren’t yet ordained. How important would you say ordination is to your personal and/or church ministry?
I’d say it’s pretty important. There are certain rights that ordained pastors have that non-ordained pastor’s don’t. For instance, the biggest thing is, as an non-ordained pastor within our denomination, you’re only allowed to work for the church, legally, for your local sphere, within your local district or within your local conference, by permission. Technically, I can’t perform certain duties outside of my local church district, except by approval. Also, If you want to advance, like maybe to a conference level, ordination is gonna be a must.
As a standpoint to me personally, it’s recognition that you have the gift of ministry. It’s recognition from your peers and superiors as well. For now my sphere of ministry is within my church district, here–three churches and the area surrounding them. That’s what my license is for, officially. As an ordained pastor you can go anywhere and do those things.
Are you comfortable with the current track for ordination in your conference?
Yeah, Montana does a pretty good job. They have usually one or two new pastor meetings a year where we do ordination classes. Our ministerial director does coaching sessions every two weeks with non-ordained ministers. In our coaching sessions we talk about areas where we can grow personally and in ministry. It’s good. I think they do a pretty good job here.
You have a large family. Would you say pastoral ministry has affected your family?
Certainly. It would affect any family. The biggest effect it has on family is that a church pastor operates mainly in the evenings, with meetings. That’s when you do your visitation, because people are home. That’s when you do meetings, because people are home. That’s when you do Bible studies, because people are home. So if your kids are in school you miss the biggest part of the day when they’re home. Also, as the first family of the church you’re kind of in a fish bowl, and the church can put some undo pressure on you to perform the way they think a pastoral family should.
It seems that pastors’ kids get a little flack for behaving too well or not well enough. Do you have plans to help your kids embrace ministry in a healthy way?
One of my biggest fears as a pastor is that my family will resent the ministry–especially my kids. I don’t want my job to adversely affect their spiritual lives. They didn’t choose it, I did. Same for my wife. She didn’t choose it, I did. You can ask other pastors; they may ask their families to attend all their church services and meetings. But for me, personally, I’d rather they learn the value of ministry. I don’t let the church put a lot of pressure on them, and I try not to put pressure on them to perform in any way other than normal Seventh-day Adventist children. They’re at the age now that they don’t have a lot of pressure to perform in any certain way, but that might change as they get older.
How do you separate family time and church time?
I wish I had a really good answer for that, but I don’t. It’s a delicate, delicate balance. It never seems to be optimal, either way. I don’t have a good answer yet. I think one thing I do is try to make certain things family-related. We do Pathfinders together as a ministry. I grew up in Pathfinders and loved it. So we do that together. We’ve done family nights in the past when we take one night a week and dedicate it to family. The problem with that is that something always comes up. Someone will need to move a Bible study. The choice is to drop the Bible study or change family night.
Another option is to take an actual day off and set boundaries with the churches so they know that that day is your day off and set aside for your family. I do that well. We also take a couple vacations outside our district a couple times a year. That’s important. It’s a struggle on a day-to-day basis.
What is one thing you want congregations to know about their pastors?
That they’re real people. Congregations tend to put their pastors on a pedestal. They expect them to be the most spiritual, the most Godly person in the church. It sometimes creates a situation where the congregation is looking to the pastor instead of Christ. It creates the idea that there are expectations for the pastor that the people themselves do not intend to meet. As Christians we should all have the same expectations, and that’s to be like Christ. Sometimes we set expectations for others that we do not intend to keep ourselves. Sometimes they do this and glorify the position more than it should be.
The other thing is that they forget the true role of a pastor, which is to train and equip the members for ministry, to help them grow spiritually, to reach their maximum potential for ministry. The unrealistic expectation for pastors gets in the way of the true role and function of the pastor.
What do you perceive to be the most important facet of church function?
Spiritual growth that leads to discipleship. Included in discipleship would be ministry. I have a significant burden for spiritual growth in my churches. Without it a person can’t achieve what God wants them to achieve, whether it be ministry or otherwise. That leads to the training and equipping role of the pastor. It’s essential for spiritual growth.
And family function?
I think the same thing. Family is supposed to fulfill the same function as the church. The two are interchangeable, though one’s smaller than the other. The church is a family unit. In the family nucleus there is a spiritual leader, just like in the church, which is the Father as head for instance. It should be a place where the individual members grow together as Christians and hopefully it leads to the same place that growing in the church will lead to—Christ and discipleship.
As we’re coming into December do you have any advice for families to keep Christ in Christmas?
Not really. I guess I don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on Christmas, other than what’s usually put there. Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas. He was probably born sometime between mid-to-late-August and mid-to-late-September. But it’s a good holiday. It’s certainly good to celebrate Jesus’ birth, but as a Christian we should celebrate the life of Christ every day. There is a certain danger in putting that significance on one single day. It could cause us to downplay the significance of remembering Christ every day. We do the usual: Christmas plays, nativity scenes, Christmas songs, Christmas programs. But, I encourage my members to keep Christ in every day, to focus on Him every day. That’s what I’d continue to focus on.
Do you have any final comments?
The only thing I would say is that we are living in interesting times. Bible prophecy is being fulfilled before our very eyes and we know that the end is near. God is looking for committed Christians who will live up to being the last day remnant people and will work diligently in order to complete the work He has given us to do. The most important thing we can do as Christians is remain focused on Jesus, spend time daily in prayer and Bible study, commit ourselves to the work of ministry, and be watching and ready for the soon coming of Jesus Christ.