How Much Time Do You Have?
That is the response I give folks when I’m asked: “So, why did you come to Seminary?” I’ve been asked this many times so I’ve come up with the 30 second version, the 5 minute version and the “let’s go out for coffee” version.
So hey, wanna go out for coffee?
As a 38-year-old guy with a blessed career in the IT field, it has been a long journey to get to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. I spent the last six weeks just trying to absorb the reality that I’m finally here and praying many prayers of thanksgiving for the fact that God’s plan to bring me and my family here has involved so many people helping to make it happen. I’ve sat in Greek class more than once and pinched myself. Of course, the daily quizzes are enough to let me know that this is all very real!
I was seventeen years old when it was first suggested to me that I should become a pastor. For all intents and purposes, I shrugged it off as a really whacky idea from out of left field. And, I proceeded to ignore the idea completely.
A major life event would occur at age 25 (just two years after Debbie and I were married). Out of the blue, my closest friend from childhood, Dana Hobelman (whom I had not talked with in several years at the time) called me. He wanted to know if I would stand with him at his wedding. I was honored, so my wife and I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, and joined with friends to celebrate their special day. Ironically, the pastor officiating the wedding was one of my childhood pastors, Pastor “Woody” Wilson. It was all quite nostalgic and very much fun.
During the reception that followed the ceremony, Pastor Wilson walked straight up to me and looked me square in the eye and said: “Mark, God wants you to be a Pastor.”
He was very serious. But, for me it was as if he struck some kind of nerve. Quite arrogantly, I responded, “When?”
Pastor Wilson did not know why I asked that question. I was a 25-year-old college drop out that was planning a career working in computers and was already well underway in my plan. I was thinking along the lines of, “Well, if God wants me to be a pastor then he will have to make a way.”
Pastor Wilson was surprised and clearly confused by my response. He then told me that God had spoken to him in a vision that morning and had plainly stated that I should become a pastor.
Certainly, after hearing something bearing such a supernatural description and dramatic truth claim, I was taken aback. I had no response. I was immediately skeptical.
“So, you should get started as soon as possible!” he quipped after the brief silence. And, after a few more awkward moments of silence, we shared a brief conversation during which I continued to be dubious about his startling claim. He walked away shaking his head. Once again, very blind about what I was doing, I shrugged my shoulders and thought to myself, “If God wants that, he'll make it possible.”
I was focused on the many obstacles which prevented me from going off to Seminary. I was convinced that God had some work to do before anything like ministry could be a part of my life. And, on that last point, it would seem that I was right.