My path into full time vocational ministry took many twists and turns, beginning in Junior High, when I first felt the Holy Spirit leading me towards some sort of vocational ministry. I went through some spiritual ups and downs through High School and even Bible College, and I emerged with a passion for teaching, and a complete lack of interest in pastoring a church in the States. I had seen pastoral ministry done poorly, and I had been disenchanted with some of the nastiness that I saw coming from supposed “sheep.” My plan was to head overseas and teach, helping to equip national pastors to preach, teach, and counsel the Word. A good calling, no doubt, but God had other plans for me and my family. Those plans would be realized through the influence of a wonderful man of God.
Psalm 1 reads like this:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
When I packed up my family and we moved from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania to attend seminary, I had no idea that God was about to give me the best theological education I ever could get…and only part of it would come in the classroom. Within three months of arriving, God answered my wife and I’s prayer for a smaller church to ministry in and be discipled in by bringing up across Pastor Jim Spears and Calvary Baptist Church in Pottstown, PA. We would spend the next seven years ministering in that church. However, anything that we contributed to that body was vastly outweighed by the great amount of wisdom and humility that Pastor Spears poured into me.
When I try to imagine what the “blessed” man of Psalm 1 looks like in real life, this mentor and friend comes to mind. During my time serving under him, Pastor showed me passion for the Word of God and a great desire to live righteously before Holy God- not to gain His approval, but because of a passion that can only arise out of having been forgive much. He was a “tree planted by streams of water.” I watched him love and respond with great compassion to those who were undeserving. When the sheep bit, he prayed. When the church was struggling, he was faithful. When his seminary-student youth leader and later assistant pastor (me) thought he needed to “get with the times” a little bit faster, he smiled and gently explained his rationale for doing what he did. Through that I began to understand what it means to have a heart for people, to love those who do not show love back. In this I started to understand a little bit more the love that Christ showed for me. It was through this man’s influence, faithfulness, and humility that God led me to pastor a church in the USA. I am an imperfect pastor, and I pastor an imperfect church. But I am a better man, Christian, father, husband, and pastor for having been under the influence of a godly mentor.
We need more Jim Spears in our churches. Assistant pastors are not disposable razors that we use until they have lost their “edge” and then discard. These are young men who need to see a heart for ministry, a love for God’s people, and an unfiltered look at the trials and joys of being in the service of the King. Thank you Pastor Spears for filling that role in my life. I will seek to carry on the example you set for me.
Before going into pastoral ministry, Pastor and his wife spent almost ten years in the Philippines as missionaries. Their faithfulness has carried over into the lives of their four boys. You can learn more about their story in this well-done video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-xaisiWbQk
I would love to hear about mentors who have increased your faith. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your comments below!