My Name is Eric; I live in Worcester, MA where I attend Next Level Church with my wife and three daughters. I grew up as a pastor’s kid in a non-denominational church in the north suburbs of Chicago. Truthfully, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth—spiritually speaking. My parents are mature believers, my father an accomplished pastor, and I have a strong family line of generational blessings and ministry. Though I grew up always knowing and loving the Lord, the idea of cheap grace and my own personal insecurities kept me from living a godly life. In college, I came face to face with James 2:14 and was forced to take a deeper look at my commitment and my life. I couldn’t reconcile “faith without works is dead” and the manner in which I was living.
I had a heart for ministry and often believed I was going to be a pastor—even dreamt of working with my dad someday. Then, life happened. It was numerous twists and turns that caused me to end up where I am now. A new elder board unfairly let my dad go and I became jaded to the idea of professional ministry. I graduated college with a degree in education and started working with my brother at a gymnastics gym where I have been for the past 11 years. During that period to the present, I’ve served in lay ministry at my church, always feeling a pull towards leadership and ministry, but also thriving at my job.
I have been in church leadership as far back as I can remember, starting with peer small groups in Sunday School classes as a kid. As I’ve grown in leadership, I started to see the most fruit coming from the discipleship relationships in my life. This has been supported and encouraged greatly by my church’s leadership. Multiple pastors have made time to meet with, poured into, and discipled me in many ways. Though my walk over the past decade has ebbed and flowed, there has always been a desire, a hunger, and a giftedness to teach and lead. After recently hitting one of those points where God had to hand me over to my sin in order for me to turn fully to Him, I’m finally feeling more ready to take my gifts in ministry and leadership to the next level. That’s where Christian Leaders Institute comes in.
I know there is a call on my life for ministry; I’m just not sure in what capacity or what doors God will open in my life. But, I want to be sure that when He does open doors, I’m prepared and ready to walk through them. With my wife in graduate school and my life busy with three young kids, I needed a program that wouldn’t be too demanding or costly. I wanted to wade into my continued education, leery of making a time or financial commitment I couldn’t live up to. I quickly fell in love with the Christian Leaders Institute. It was a perfect fit for my life! I often woke up earlier in the morning so I could fit in extra reading before work. I often jumped out of the course texts to do additional studying or research on a topic at interested me. Not only has this matured me as a Christian leader, but many of the courses have helped develop me as a manager on the job.
I’m not getting this ordination to meet a specific requirement or get a job. Instead, I see it as preparation for any ministry God calls me to. Right now that means small group leadership and children’s Sunday School at my church, but who knows where it may lead. My focus is equipping and preparing myself so that whatever opportunity God brings me, lack of training or an ordination will not be an issue.
Thinking about the questions “what it is like to do ministry in this country,” and “what are some unique challenges in your geographic area”, the same issues come to mind—comfort, prosperity, and laziness. I think it’s relatively easy to do ministry in the United States because of our freedom and resources. However, it is difficult to be fruitful because there is little “good soil” for the seed to take hold and for its roots to go deep. I’m a firm believer that conflict and challenge are tools to grow, strengthen, and spur us forward. In America, it seems like we’re too comfortable to even consider that. It reminds me of Homer’s Odyssey when they land on the island of the Lotus Eaters. There is so much comfort and ease, they forget their mission and continually put it off until years slipped away. That’s what ministry is like in America. It’s so comfortable and easy that spiritual disciplines aren’t disciplines at all. The Gospel is put off or approached haphazardly, resulting in weak or false converts. There is also a strong sense of intellectualism and being too smart for God. Liberal beliefs are incubated at the universities and then spread. Everything is subjective. The only wrong is to tell someone they are wrong, and though the value of love for others is high, it’s completely void of truth. Not only is everyone too smart for God, but no one thinks they need Him.
Your free ministry training has given me preparation that I otherwise would have put off or maybe not even pursued. It’s helped me fill in gaps in my knowledge and theology. As I continue to serve in multiple capacities, I haven’t really focused on a single ministry. I have learned the importance of and tried to incorporate discipleship into all of my ministries. I think too often we see discipleship as a ministry that is done instead of other ministries, which is a big mistake. Discipleship is key in each of my ministries as I work on growing up and multiplying other leaders beneath and alongside me. If I’m teaching a life group, I’m also raising up a co-leader to eventually lead his own group. If I’m teaching children’s Sunday School, I’m raising up kids who can assist/co-lead while growing my assistant into a leader.
Over all, my ministries aren’t focused solely on leading, but on growing up and multiplying leaders. I would appreciate prayer in that venture and as I work to find where God is calling me. Though I would say that I mostly identify myself right now as an “Equipping and Training Leadership” style of pastor/leader, I’m just not sure what that’s going to looks like specifically. As this stage of preparation and training draws to a close, I’m anxious to see where He will lead me next.