I was born into a family that had a strong faith, a particular faith, an exacting faith, a fastidious faith, but not an exclusive faith. Although we were securely Lutherans in where we worshiped and what we believed and even where my siblings and I went to school (I attended a Lutheran School in grades 2-8), the faith life of our family was open to people of different backgrounds.
My Godparents were both faithful Catholics, as was my mothers best friend who lived with us. Our bookshelf was filled with literature written by evangelicals. Our weekly prayer service was developed by a messianic Jew in our community. In short my I grew up saturated by an environment of ecumenism.
The reason for this had a great deal to do with the fact that my family was a member of an intentionally ecumenical group called The Word of God Community.
The Word of God Community was made up of people from just about every Christian background imaginable. The lived life together in a committed way and because of that the commitments of all the members somehow became your own commitments.
As a Lutheran this environment was both a blessings and a curse.
I felt blessed to be surrounded by so many faithful Christians, all of which had living faith lives that fed into my own. On the other hand some of their convictions about who God was and how he operated in the world were in direct conflict with the convictions of other members of the community. I learned from an early age that faith is a deeply dynamic thing and that even when someone is wrong about something you can learn something from them.
This process of learning brought me into contact with a LOT of guides in my life, and through those guides a LOT of different ways to see God.
What follows is something of a thank you list. The list is VERY incomplete but I wanted to highlight some of the guides I have had and what they have done to help me see God in new ways.
- My Parents introduced me to so much I can’t even begin to express it all. More then anything they showed me that God is Love They modeled a love for the Bible which I have inherited and taken with me every day of my life. They also taught me how to pray with your heart through prayers written thousands of years ago, three weeks ago, as you are praying, or even with no words at all. Thank you Dad and Mom!
- Rev. Theodore Jungkuntz was my first pastor. He was a theologian and and activist. He modeled for me that the Christian life is full of conflict but the Gospel is worth standing up for. He also introduced me to Martin Luther, who has been a guide of sorts in my own spiritual life. Luther taught me how beautiful and freeing God’s grace is and has taught me to be a minister of that freedom. Pastor Jungkuntz also baptized me, a gift for which I am eternally blessed by.
- Rev. Ronald Zehnder – Was another pastor I had growing up. He was the first pastor that I encountered that taught me how to pastor people. There were lessons I learned as a boy through him that I have kept with me ever since in my own ministry. In a very real way Pastor Zehnder taught me that ministry is a vocation.
- The Faculty at St. Paul Lutheran School, Ann Arbor – Saint Paul taught delivered a treasury to christian resources to me. They sent me home each week with scripture to memorize, as well as the creeds. They had me learn the Luther’s Catechism by heart, and made sure I knew my way around both the scriptures and a hymnal. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t draw from the reservoir they gave me.
- Phil Bell – I met Phil Bell in 1995 when he came over from England as an Intern. Phil introduced me to Youth Ministry by helping me as a young student learn how to navigate a changing world with eyes open to God.
- Marianne H Trombly – Marianne was my youth leader for a number of years. She taught me that God had given me gifts and that I might want to ask Him what He wanted me to do with them.
- Young Life Staff – I was involved with Young Life for a number of years and in that time I learned that being a christian sometimes means you have to be willing to make a fool of yourself so that others might be willing to take a risk for God. Thank you!
- Mike Hasey – Mike ran a bible study that to this day I look to as the turning point in my life where I decided to start seeking God like he was the most important thing in my life. He led mostly by listening and paying for pizza every week.
- Byron Porisch – Byron gave me hope that the Church is worth fighting for, warts and all, and that if you want to see it change you have to be a part of it! He introduced me to the world of Youth Workers and to the Messy Spirituality of Mike Yaconelli which has changed me forever.
- Bill Brannan – Bill was the first person to ever call me out to lead. Through him I started my first men’s group and helped start a Christian Club in my High School. He opened my eyes to a world where God is at work all around, and taught me to hunger for being a part of it. He also introduced me to Charles Finny who rocked my expectations of what God could do and inspired me to pray like it mattered, as well as introducing me to street preaching which forced me to find my voice.
- Jen and John Luton – Jen and John taught me that ministry is about life together. John preached pretty much the same message every week at Mission Christ and I hardly remember what it is. What I will never forget about doing ministry with John is the drive through the night to Florida through the rain with no A/C in the middle of summer, listening to one CD on repeat from a boombox skipping in the back seat. I will remember building a trebuchet, shooting guns, driving trucks through the woods, getting attacked at pro-life demonstrations, getting egged while street preaching in Europe, praying every day together and reading the bible verse by verse by verse. John introduced me to Charles Wesley, Watchman Nee, A.W. Tozer, Leonard Ravenhill, Charles Spurgeon and the Moravians. Jen introduced me to the pentecostal movement where I first prayed in tongues and found some pretty amazing expressions of worship.
- Phil Tiews – Phil helped me learn what it means to love a community with your whole life. I have never met a man more devoted to the people he cares for and the place that he lives it. Phil introduced me to what it meant to work with churches for transformation. He gave me his ears every week. I can’t express to you how valuable that was.
- Fr. Ed Fride – Fr. Ed believes that the Catholic Church is the world’s greatest hope for the world, but was still willing to write a letter of recommendation for me to attend a protestant seminary. He loves his congregation in a way that drips off of him at every moment. He inspired me to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the first time, after doing so I have never been the same.
- The North Park Staff – My time at North Park has been amazing. To list off all the great things I have learned while I have studied here would take multiple volumes. At NPTS I found my stride in ministry and my confidence. I would like to thank Mary Miller and John Weborg in particular. They have both been great sources of hope for me here.
- Dr. Peter Williamson – Dr. Williamson has showed me that the quest for Christ can take you through some very uncomfortable situations, but that Christ must be followed no matter how hard the road is. He was the first person to introduce me to the Church Fathers many years ago, and I have found them to be my most constant and helpful guides outside of the Bible. Peter continues to be a help in my life as I struggle to find my vocation in ministry. Thank You!
- Steve Robinson and Silouan Phillip Thompson – These two guys have been my guides as I have gotten to know the eastern church. Although I have never met either one face to face they are daily companions through e-mail, blogs and facebook. Thank you for helping me to breathe with both lungs
- Curtis Leighton – As my spiritual director Curtis has helped me talk through one of the most challenging years of my life. He may not know it all the time but he has taken on many heavy burdens that were on my shoulders. He has also helped me get to know St. Ignatius of Lyons who has defined my spiritual life more and more this past year.
I know there are dozens of people I have left off so I feel as if I should keep writing, but this entry is fairly long already.
Forgive me if I did not remember to thank you.