Pastoral Calling

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Joe: I remember as a child always being drawn towards the “outsiders”, the oldest or the youngest kids in school, or others who for whatever reason didn’t seem to fit in as well with the rest. I would approach them, listen to their stories, and try to encourage them in whatever ways I could. I saw that kind of concern in my parents. I also saw that kind of care in the Director of Christian Education at the Lutheran church where I grew up in Baltimore, MD.  He also served as an Assistant Pastor, Sunday school teacher, and Youth Director for many years. One weekend I had the privilege to travel with him to a retreat designed for Pastors and youth to discuss how to best minister to the needs of youth (in 1979 I think).  On our drive to Virginia he asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up.  I didn’t have any definite thoughts about this yet, but I recall saying, “I want to do what you do”.

Over the years I’ve had dozens people ask me if I was a pastor. This would happen after I had greeted someone visiting our church for the first time, given someone an encouraging word or prayed with them.  I suppose they saw in me a shepherd’s heart, gently leading them beside still waters to safe pasture. I have coached and counseled other kids since at least Elementary school. I gave my unfair share of lectures or sermons sometimes when I felt strongly about an issue or topic.  I’ve also taught Sunday School and Children’s Chapel classes. I frequently would ask pastors or missionaries how they received their calling to serve God to figure out if God was calling me in that direction. God has never dealt with me with lightning bolts, speaking donkeys, a voice from Heaven, or other super dramatic experiences. I left the idea of being a pastor on “the back burner” for years. The idea came back into the forefront during leadership changes and additions at church over the years. If God was calling me to take on a pastoral role, I felt that He would have to make His plans, calling, and timing clear to me. I definitely did not want to run ahead of His plans or run away from them!

Now Bethany and I have been called to serve in ministry in France with Pioneers. We recently met with the Area Director via Skype.  I shared my vision to touch thousands of lives with the Gospel and for France to become a sending nation.  To my amazement, he said among other projects they were working on setting up a Sending Center for French believers to share the Gospel among the unreached.  Then he invited us to become part of setting up the Sending Center in Marseilles!

Coincidence? No way, these plans had the fingers of God all over them! Then I got a follow-up email from the Area Director laying out the big picture plans for our opportunities in Marseille and it brought tears to my eyes.  It still does even as I write this blog.

“14 juin
I think the big picture would be:

  • Move to Marseille for language acquisition and cultural adaptation
  • And pastoral internship for the first few years. During that time you would learn the major direction of your pastoral ministry including evangelism/discipleship ministry in partnership with an established or new church. {It immediately felt to me that this was God’s calling and I was overwhelmed with joy and humbled that God would want to use me in this way!}
  • Also learning the ways in which you would be able to use your gifts in organization and admin with the Pioneers France organization”

After all these years of my journey with God I truly felt that His calling was direct and clear, that I would I would one day be a pastor of a French church that I would participate in planting or an established one that would partner with us in reaching French nationals.  This direction fills me with hope, joy, and confidence, that God will continue to direct our lives and will finish the good work he has started in us (Phil 1:6).


Bethany: Since the first time I met Joe I have always seen in him a pastoral heart, a shepherd’s heart for God’s people. God has given Joe a love and a gentleness for His children, and it has always been Joe’s heart to guide others to Jesus above all else.

When we received that email from the Area Director, I saw the impact it had on Joe. It touched him in a deep place God had set aside long ago. The tears welled up. Joe finally received his “lightening bolt”.

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