McDonald’s. Text messages. Amazon Prime. ATMs. Google. The retired Concorde. What do all these things have in common?
They are all spelled the same way: F-A-S-T
In the United States of America, we put a special emphasis on receiving things and accomplishing things as quickly as possible. On the one hand, that’s okay, since our life is a vapor and will soon be gone. On the other hand, we tend to settle for less than the best when everything is done as quickly as possible.
Most notably, we forget that some of the most precious things in the world require lots of time to produce. Of particular interest to me as a photographer is the high-end professional photography lenses that Canon produces. Some of the more expensive lenses have special glass elements made of flourite. Canon grows their own flourite crystals for these lenses, and some of them are so large they can take a whole year just to grow them.
For the parents out there, think about the 9-month wait required to give birth to a child. Yet I’m sure you would all agree that the wait is worth it.
Pineapples take two years to produce after they are planted. Two years for one fruit!
Wait…why are we talking about pineapples anyway? Some of you don’t even like them. Okay, moving on…
I knew for a long time that I wanted to go to Faith Baptist Bible College & Theological Seminary to get a 4-year degree, and I also wanted to get a 3-year seminary degree. But after finishing high school, I made the decision to stay at home, take some online classes, and wait a year before going to Faith.
Once I finally arrived at Faith, I made the decision to take several classes that were outside my program of study, thus taking an additional year to finish college. After college, I went straight to seminary, whereas many of my friends graduated and got jobs or went straight into ministry positions.
Theoretically, I could have been working in a church or a church plant already in the fall of 2012, but I decided to keep waiting, getting more training.
Now, even though I have graduated and want to go into church planting, God has led me to an established church as an assistant pastor, and I have no idea how long God will keep me there. Nevertheless, I am not in a rush to leave because I know that God has a plan for me at this church.
To some people, all these decisions may not make much sense. Why not get a Bible degree and jump into pastoral ministry as soon as possible, doing what I believe God has led me to do? Because I believe there is value in waiting and using that time of waiting to keep preparing.
Today in my devotions, I read Luke 1:57-80, the account of John the Baptist’s birth. The verse that really stuck with me was the last one, verse 80: “So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” John the Baptist waited in the desert until God was ready for him to prepare the way of the Lord…a wait that lasted about 30 years.
Likewise Jesus, the Son of God, was 30 before he began his earthly ministry, a ministry that only lasted 3 years.
What’s the point? I’m only 26. There’s no reason to rush into such a heavy responsibility.
Another question people often ask me is “Are you dating anyone?” The answer is always no. Why? Because there’s no rush. I’m still single because I am joyfully serving God where he has placed me, and he has not yet given me that urge to pursue a relationship. “But you have to be married to be in full-time ministry.” Well, yes, it can be a huge benefit, but for now, God hasn’t led that way. So I’m waiting, and I’m extremely thankful for the many people in the last year who have assured me that it is good to wait. They have all told me that I won’t regret it, and I feel the same way.
I am also thankful for so many people in my life that God has used to stretch, challenge, and encourage me in ministry as I have waited on Him. At my home church in Mason City, IA, I am thankful for Pastor Grismore who got me involved in ministry when I was barely a teenager. Before I finished high school, he had taught me how to preach, lead music, and perform other ministerial duties. Pastor Junior Miller got me involved in youth ministry while I was still in youth group, and he imparted to me a high regard for studying the Word of God and training young people for ministry. Pastor Derek Phillips was another youth pastor of mine, and he also worked with me in the areas of youth and music ministry.
During the 11 summers that I worked at Iowa Regular Baptist Camp, Pastors Phil Betz and Dave Callison took me out of my comfort zone and taught me how to serve with humility. They also taught me how to pay attention to details, look out for the needs of others, and equip myself for as many avenues of ministry as possible.
When I attended Faith, I was active at Heartland Baptist Church in Ames, where several pastors continued to build upon what I had already learned at home and at school. Pastor Russ Dennis gave me practical tips for managing one’s personal life in ministry, and he also gave me great advice for working with children. Pastor Ernie Brown gave me many opportunities to expand my horizons in music ministry. Pastor Randy Abell provided me with many unique ministry opportunities and also challenged my thinking on many occasions in the areas of preaching, evangelism, missions, and church administration.
For 8 months in 2012, I got to work with my grandpa, Pastor Gary Gonnerman, at St. Ansgar Baptist Church. During that time I led the song services and preached on a few occasions. Perhaps I will never fully understand how privileged I was to work with my grandpa at his church. It was definitely not something I had imagined would be possible as I was growing up.
On two summer ministry trips to Brasil, God used Pastor Jim Leonard to give me a greater understanding of missions, not only on a foreign field but also back at home with the people I come into contact with every day. Over the course of 6 years of involvement with church planting in Omaha, Nebraska, ultimately culminating in a 12-month internship at Bennington Baptist Church, God used Pastors Eric Wilmeth and Peter Jenks to demonstrate to me the joys and challenges of church planting. I will never forget this advice that was passed on to me, “There are two ways to learn the right way to do something. When someone does it right, and when someone does it wrong.”
I often look back on the last 14 years of my life and realized that by waiting on God while still being involved in ministry one way or another, God gave me the privilege of working with all these men (and more). It has been a blessing to work at camp for 11 summers, do three pastoral internships, work at four different churches, and spend 16 weeks in overseas ministry. If I had rushed into ministry or marriage somewhere, my life could be a completely different story right now.
“So you want to be a church planter, eh?”
Yes. But not until God is ready. Sometimes it’s best just to wait in the desert for God’s perfect timing. From personal experience, I can confidently say, the wait is worth it.