My roots are in conservative, West Michigan; in fundamentalist evangelical Christianity.
I grew up in a wonderful home with two parents who loved and provided for me well. We were actively involved in a “bible-believing” church that was committed to an expository preaching the Scriptures and promulgation of the Gospel; my mom has been the custodian for 27 years, my dad has served as a deacon, both served as Junior High Youth Directors for 12 years, and I was involved in our church jail ministry, quiz team, and choir. Needless to say, I have deep roots in Christianity and my experience in that particular local expression shaped much of how I viewed everything about God’s reality for years to come.
The next stage in my journey came in college when I attended a Baptist university in Ohio. Like most people, my college experience was incredibly de/refining: I discovered that I was a leader and excelled in positions of leadership, I grew as a communicator, gained experience with organizing and planning events, and I developed a set of skills that empowered me to think critically and reason through philosophical and theological concepts.
This period in college also impacted me spiritually. During my Freshman year, I rededicated my life to the Lord and asked Him to take my life for His own. While my mother helped me ask Jesus to forgive my sins and restore my relationship to himself when I was 5, I really did not pursue Jesus with my life growing up. After beginning college, I reevaluated my relationship with God and, through a period of honest self-reflection, realized I did not know Him nor was I seriously pursuing Him. So on February 7, 1999, I dedicated myself to Jesus and asked Him to take my life and use it for His glory. To this day I consider that moment my transformation experience and continue to celebrate it as my day of rebirth and much of my spiritual progress through college was an extension of this point of transformation.
By the time I graduated at the age of 22, I was a leader, an intellectual, conservative, a fundamentalist evangelical, a patriotic American, and destined for a life of politics.
Then I moved to Washington, D.C. and everything changed.
When I first tell my D.C. story I always explain, “by no means did I come to D.C. to do ministry!” God originally brought me to the Washington, D.C. area to work on Capitol Hill. After graduating with a B.A. in Political Science, I felt Him drawing me to work in our nations government. Originally, I worked for a Senator and planned to work for him three or four years to gain legislative experience with the intension of moving off Capitol Hill and into an analyst position with a policy group. God completely altered my life course, though, and drew me away from policy and into a life of ministry.
While in my ministry role on Capitol Hill, I shepherded eighteen men each week, taught six small group studies, wrote evangelism and discipleship training programs and developed a postmodern ministry philosophy. Those three years were a pivotal period of growth as I learned how to teach and shepherd a body of believers and swim in our emerging postmodern culture. While I did not study to be a pastor during my undergraduate education, God clearly and deliberately placed me in a ministry position to learn how to teach and shepherd a group of postmoderns to growth and maturity in Jesus Christ.
But after being thrown into ministry (not to mention one that was an extension of a right-wing, fundamentalist), wrestling with my interaction with non-followers of Jesus and a diverse spectrum of people, and feeling spiritual sapped and a bit disillusioned with evangelicalism and its traditional answers, I ended year 2004 by asking God to revitalize my relationship with Him and move me to a new level of intimacy and understanding. In answer to that prayer He brought me back to the centrality of Christ, in everything. Of my theology, doctrine, spirituality, ministry and life, God called me to drop all preconceived notions, deeply held beliefs and practices in an effort to make Jesus the most central figure. In so doing, I entered into a period of deconstruction and reconstruction the likes of which I had never experienced in my theology and spirituality. Thankfully in the midst of this “tearing and building” I never rejected foundational, orthodox Christian teachings. But though I held to the fundamentals of traditional Christian orthodoxy, I did reject and continue to re-understand my fundamentalist, evangelical roots.
Through this personal spiritual progression, my professional ministry efforts underwent a radical perspective change, as well. Much of my personal reflections centered on re-understanding Jesus and His Way in a postmodern, post-Christian context. This reflection spilled over into my ministry efforts to postmodern young adults by igniting a passion to help influence these people to follow Jesus with their lives and rethink that following in an emerging, postmodern culture.
And then God cut me off from ministry for a time, a season which was incredibly dark and seemingly hopeless, yet refining.
This spring I moved back to my roots, a place I fled five years earlier to pursue the Master of Divinity in Pastoral Studies and Church Planting at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. I desire to learn how to missionally engage our postmodern, post-Christian Western culture with the teachings and way of Jesus by forming alternative communities that embody both, and I am excited about this new leg of preparation in the gritty drama that is my pilgrim story.
We shall see what happens, though. But in the mean time I am expectant of the good, hopeful, and prosperous future Yahweh has in store for me…