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The long and winding road

As long as I can remember, my life has always been connected to the church. My dad is a pastor and I grew up in a parsonage. Throughout my life people have encouraged me to become a pastor. However, as long as I can remember, all I knew was that I never, ever wanted to be a pastor.

It wasn’t that I had anything against pastors or the church, I just didn’t want to do it. I figured I could serve God in other ways. So I finished college with a business degree. I went to grad school and got a degree that let me work with college students — something I love to do — at Texas Tech and the University of Missouri.

Along the way God was faithful. Each stop on this winding road found me connected to a congregation where I could regularly hear God’s Word and receive His gifts. I participated in the campus ministries when I was in college, which occasionally led to me being asked to lead a devotion or Bible study. I started to hear the same words of encouragement from my childhood, “You should think about being a pastor.” My answer was the same, however, I started thinking I might be able to negotiate with God. I thought maybe we could strike up a deal that would allow me to do what I wanted to do for a while and then maybe, when I turned 50, then I would go to the Seminary and become a pastor. Best of both worlds, right?

God had other plans, however, that would get me to the Seminary long before I turned 50. I found myself in a relationship with someone who was a faithful member of another denomination. This pushed me into needing to know why we believe what we believe and to take more ownership of my own faith. I also found myself regularly working with students who were in crisis. These crises ranged from academic struggles and arrests for drug possession to being the victim of rape or experiencing the death of a parent. Some students I met with were Christians. Some were not. I quickly learned that the secular response to crisis seemed very unfulfilling compared with the hope that I knew we had in Jesus to restore the world and make all things new again.

I started to realize that maybe I should become a pastor. Maybe God had been preparing me though all these experiences so that I could use them to serve others with the Gospel. The problem was that I loved my job and still didn’t really want to leave it. Fortunately, one of my younger brothers was already enrolled here at Concordia Seminary and occasionally I’d drive over to visit him. I started to realize that this was a good place to be, and that God really could use the skills and experiences that He had given me in service to others.

I remember telling my brother that I had decided to become a pastor. His response was, “I know. I was wondering when you’d figure it out.” Throughout this winding road, God continually put people in my path to encourage me and experiences to form me so that eventually He could call me into His service. I would venture to guess, based on my conversations with others, that you probably have people and experiences like this in your life too. You may not understand them in the moment but as you reflect on them, you’ll see how God is working in your life to prepare you for further service to Him.

Your path to full-time ministry may be longer and windier than mine, or it may be shorter and straighter. Regardless of the path that leads you here, the good news is that God is always in charge, and He is always faithful. Like the prophet Jonah, no matter how much we try to ignore it or how far we try to run, God patiently walks alongside us, calling us to where He would have us serve. That is a blessing that we can count on always!

Rev. Tom Schlund is an admissions officer at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.