Following months of careful prayer, long hours of personal reflection and a host of conversations with my own spiritual mentors, a short voice mail left on my mobile phone Friday put my mind at ease and marked the beginning of a new phase of my life. My application had been accepted. In January, I will begin working towards a Master of Divinity degree at Campbell University in Buies Creek.
Since I began the application process nearly three months ago, I have known without a doubt that God has called me to better equip myself as I work to serve his purpose with my life; pursuing formal theological training was the clear step to take, and looking back, it is obvious to me that the Lord brought me to this place for this purpose from the beginning of my journey.
I originally made this Web site to present myself and my work to potential employers. I quit my job at the Sanford Herald in October and, while I will not place any limits on what tasks God may use me for in the future, I don’t plan on looking for another newspaper job anytime soon. I hope to revamp the site in the near future to coincide with the new direction my life is taking, but in the meantime I would like to share my admissions essay with you to hopefully answer any questions about the circumstances that have brought me to this point. As always, feel free to contact me if you want to talk more.
As a Christian saved by Christ’s love, I have no greater task before me than spreading the truth of God’s love to those who don’t believe — either because they haven’t heard, or because their hearts have been hardened in such a way as to keep them from truly understanding the message of Christ. From the time I dedicated my own life to Christ I have hoped that everything I do, whatever job I work at, wherever I live and whatever circumstances I find myself in, that I live my life in such a way that others would see Christ working in me. I believe this is the duty of every Christian, and that everyone can be an effective piece of the body of Christ by seeking to please Him everyday. I also believe there is an unprecedented need for spiritual support in the world today, and I want to equip myself as well as possible — spiritually, mentally and physically — for a life of daily service to the Lord. I feel sure I will find that preparation at Campbell University.
I was blessed with the opportunity to grow up in a Christian home. I learned the importance of daily prayer, Bible study and Christian fellowship from my parents by example. When I was 7 years old I made the decision to give my life to Christ. I approached my father (who was ministering at First Baptist of Four Oaks in his first position as a senior pastor) one evening after dinner and told him that I wanted to be baptized. We spent some time talking about the decision and what it would mean for my life before he joyously consented to baptize me.
I remained active in church throughout my childhood, but the next significant milestone in my spiritual life came as I entered high school when I began to be very involved with the youth group at my church. Over a period of two years I attended several youth conferences with my church, including one hosted by evangelist David Nasser. Nasser was raised in a Muslim society and was forced, by his father’s choice, to sever ties with his family when he abandoned the teachings of Islam and committed his life to Christ. As a teenager who had spent most of my life in the Southeastern United States, I had little first hand knowledge of the sacrifice many must make to follow Christ, and Nasser’s lecture opened my eyes up to the power of the gospel. During this time I also participated in summer mission trips through the World Changers program of the SBC. Short-term mission trips to Joliet, Ill. and Birmingham, Ala. showed me how effective spiritual ministry can be when it is coupled with programs that meet the needs of the lost — not because people will follow anyone offering a handout, but because the effort and resources expended to care for strangers demonstrates the reality of our faith in a way people can understand. These programs showed me how real God’s presence could be in my everyday life and challenged me to take my faith to the next level.
At this point I began seriously focusing on regular, daily spiritual devotion and prayer. For the first time I understood what it was to have a truly personal relationship with the Lord. I started turning to God not just when I was curious about spiritual issues of heaven and sin but for real world issues I dealt with at home and school. I began to take a leadership position in my youth group at Jonesboro Heights Baptist in Sanford, serving on the youth committee of the church, leading Wednesday night worship for my peers whenever our youth minister was absent and delivering the morning sermon on youth Sunday. As I was preparing to finish my high school career, several people in my church and in the community spoke with me about entering the ministry. They told me to seek God’s guidance in the decisions I made about my future and encouraged me to explore a career in the ministry. I knew how taxing the work of a pastor could be on an individual. My father would frequently leave the house in the middle of the night to aid a struggling church member and cut vacations short to return home to comfort a family coping with an unexpected death. As an adolescent I had made up my mind that this was not the life I wanted for myself and my family, and as I finished high school and laid out my future I was already numb to any suggestion that would put me on that path.
The summer before I began college I traveled to Surabaya, Indonesia with a small group of youth from my church, my future-wife Kristen included. This was my first experience overseas and the most involved outreach program I had been a part of. I saw the need for strong Christian families to be in the world, sharing their faith with the unchurched but also living it out each day with the compassion and true love of humanity that only comes from knowing Christ. I experienced the challenge of openly sharing my faith and limited knowledge of the scriptures with those who were raised to reject Christianity. I understood the reward that comes with knowing that I have allowed Christ to work in me, bringing others to know Him and understand His teachings for the first time. Our experience living and working with career missionaries in Indonesia led Kristen and I to think about pursuing a career in missions — not that it would be our clear path when we entered college, but we would give it equal consideration.
I continued to mature spiritually during my time in college. I was blessed with the opportunity to learn from professors who did not make an effort to hide their faith, despite teaching in a public university. I learned not to separate my own faith from academic endeavors, as any knowledge gained about creation is knowledge of God’s work in our world. In college I truly developed a passion for knowledge and for understanding the human condition. I majored in journalism, thinking it would be a career path that would allow me to live a life of constant learning while providing a critical service to society.
After graduation Kristen and I (now married) looked for an entryway to the mission field. We were both willing and eager to travel abroad and dedicate ourselves to serving God by meeting the needs of the lost, but wherever we turned, doors seemed to close. We felt that as Christians, our first responsibility above all else was to share Christ’s message with the lost. We desperately wanted to go, but for a variety of circumstantial reasons, it seemed that God was keeping us here. We changed direction and started looking for work in the fields we had prepared for in college. We moved to Dunn, N.C. when I was offered a position as a reporter at The Daily Record.
I enjoyed my job there and I learned a great deal about government and society, but I did not feel satisfied in my work. My position was cut after nine months. Our first thought was to explore our options in the mission field again. Just as before, new circumstances beyond our control kept us at home. I was offered a job as a feature writer at The Sanford Herald and returned to working as a journalist. Through my interactions with people at work, the Lord has opened my eyes to the spiritual hunger of the people in the community. Over the course of several months I began to feel the Lord urging me through my personal devotions to prepare for a full-time career in the ministry. I shared this sense of direction with my wife, and within the next week the calling was confirmed through unplanned conversations I had with two former youth ministers, friends and our pastor at First Baptist Dunn.
After talking with one of my former youth pastors, Nate Leonard, who is an alumni of the Campbell Divinity School, as well as other people connected to the university, I realized that Campbell is clearly the place God wants me to be as I prepare myself for the ministry. I do not know if the Lord will lead me to the mission field, to work in youth ministry or to lead a church as a pastor, but I do believe that His hand has been involved in every decision that has brought me to this point in my life — including the decision to work in the newspaper industry for two years, where I gained an insight into society that would be difficult to come across in any other line of work, as well as the chain of events that brought Kristen and I to live in Benson, just down the road from Campbell Divinity School.
There are certainly specific areas of ministry I would prefer to work in and I can identify the jobs my current skill set qualifies me to do, but I do not want to place any limits on what God will use me for in the future. My hope is to enter the Divinity School at Campbell University in January with a completely open mind, to focus on the tasks immediately before me — preparing for a life of ministry — and to let God lead me to the next step, wherever that would be.