As part of my Applying to Seminary, here’s my first essay:
Reflect on your past Christian experience, including the most significant spiritual event/influence in your life, the role of Christ in your religious experience, the effect your faith has on your worldview, your involvement in Christian service, your perceived gifts/calling for ministry, and your reason(s) for attending your church. (minimum 250 words; maximum 500 words).
One of the most influential experiences of my spiritual journey was my initial involvement with a spiritually abusive Christian college ministry.
I was raised in an agnostic home in which we looked down upon religious people as mentally weak or acculturated into a mythological system that we did not want or need. However, during my senior year of college, I converted to Christianity. Unfortunately, the legalism of the high-vision, Arminian, evangelistic ministry I joined eventually led me to abandon my faith after 8 years of dedicated surrender of my soul to God and the organization.
Subsequently, in my late 20’s, I went on an Abrahamic journey in which I had to let go of my faith in order to rebuild the foundations of my convictions. This process was both harrowing and liberating. I explored and benefited from psychology and counseling, as well as both Buddhist and yoga traditions.
My return to Christianity was cemented during the last days of a 10 day silent Buddhist retreat, in which we were practicing meditation with the view that there is no personal, transcendent God. Not only did I find the practice of ignoring the personal God unnatural and perhaps ignoring God’s reality, I reflected upon the competing world views, and how they translated into, among other things, public policy and social well-being.
Rather than my faith affecting my world view, I found that the comprehensiveness, accuracy, and benefits of the Christian world view, as compared to others, was so impressive I would be foolish not to return and live under its umbrella, and that realization has since buttressed my faith.
My exodus from unhealthy faith, through unbelief and other faith traditions, and back to healthy Christian faith has shaped my goals and informed my mind with principles that I employ in my current position as Associate Teaching Pastor in my local AOG church.
My goal, plainly put, is to feed God’s sheep. I plan to do so by:
(a) Rethinking church structures and emphases. Like a good trellis, such structures serve the life of church participants, enabling them to become aware of and equipped to fulfill God’s individual and corporate call on their lives.
(b) Focusing on preaching balanced, complete, and timeless Biblical truths, with emphases on practical solutions for modern social, intellectual, and personal challenges.
My primary gifts and profound interests in analysis, preaching, teaching, writing, and mentoring/discipleship can serve these ends.
My wife and I attend our current church for a few important reasons. First, the Senior Pastor creates an atmosphere of transparency and reality in Christian living, and is not afraid to talk about his and our human foibles in the spiritual quest. Second, we felt both the internal call and external witnesses to that call with regard to this church. Lastly, for the past four years, I have had the generous opportunity and privilege to preach one or more Sundays per month, and without an M. Div., something I might be hard pressed to find elsewhere.