American Baptist Churches- Dakotas Ordination Paper

Preface: This document was written fall of 2017. Much has changed in my life since then (read moving to a different state, starting a new church, divorce, remarriage, etc). While much of this still represents my perspective, things have changed. I look forward to writing another document like this or perhaps a post script to show how things have shifted.

Accepted November 2017
Ordination Service was December 3rd 2017

I.                   Christian Experience

I grew up in the church my entire life. My family attended Hillcrest Church, a North American Baptist church, in Sioux Falls, SD for my formative years. At Hillcrest, I attended AWANA, Sunday school, and youth group. I was in Children’s Church when my teacher, who would one day be my mother in law, taught us a song to ask Jesus into our hearts. I don’t have a distinct memory of a “conversion experience” outside from that one. I was baptized by Pastor Harry Kelm, surrounded by my Hillcrest family, at Manna Retreat Center when I was around 12. Though I was baptized young and genuinely felt a love for Jesus, I did not fully understand the commitment I was making or what exactly it meant to follow Christ. 

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was invited to serve on the Student Leadership Team. I was grateful that my youth pastor saw something in me and was willing to put some effort into me. I regularly struggled with friends and “fitting in” because I was an “odd duck,” this impacted the consistency in my faith because I had no peers to truly walk alongside. The Student Leadership Team gave me an opportunity to connect with others in a way we hadn’t had the opportunity to previously. All the while I was encouraged to step into my duty as a Christian but not given clear direction on what that might look like for a young girl outside of instructions towards purity and marriage. 

As a young child, I wrestled through sexual abuse. The abuse impacted the way I related to my peers and my seniors. I struggled to make friends that I could trust to be open with during my adolescent years. In high school my older brother was caught doing drugs and he in turn exposed my dad’s closet drinking problems. My struggles with anxiety were birthed from the abuse of my childhood and from the impact the addictions had on our family. It wasn’t until I was almost done with college that I started to seek professional counseling to sort through the layers of pain, worry, and loneliness; first at a secular behavioral health, which was not a good fit because my counselor did not understand my faith, then at a Christian counseling facility. This was a much better fit as my counselor was a Christian and understood my faith struggles in a way a general psychologist couldn’t. 

Though I grew up familiar with Jesus Christ and the stories in scripture, my faith did not become my own until my sophomore year of college. It was at that point in college that I realized that God had been present with me throughout my struggles. He was constantly calling for me to come to Him for healing, restoration, and direction. My experiences have made me weak but my dependence on Christ has made me strong. 

II.                Call to Ministry

I believe that God had been calling me to full time ministry from my high school days though I wasn’t able to articulate that calling at that time because of all the other things I was sorting through. I sensed a calling but knew that in the NABC women could not be senior pastors and very rarely were women ordained as ministers. Since women couldn’t be senior pastors, I assumed that God was sending me into the mission field, which was not something I wanted to do. I assumed that missions meant a dirt road and a grass hut somewhere in the middle of Africa. I had no interest in living so removed from family or convenience stores. Because of my misunderstanding of my call, I avoided responding or even investigating that feeling inside. 

In college I claimed a major in education, then English, then psychology, all the while taking Bible and theology classes that interested me. I came to realize that those fields of study did not offer fulfillment of the sense of call I felt so deeply. I realized then that theology and philosophy were more than an interest; they were where my call lay.  Though I made steps closer to my call to ministry, I still resisted digging deeper to hear exactly what God intended for me. Upon graduation, I did not follow my sense of calling and instead went for a high paying job at an insurance company; this lead to discontentment and depression. I like to think of this as the beginning of my “belly of the whale” time. 

After a few years of treading water through different jobs and continuing to pray for contentment that never came, I was hired as the youth pastor at my home church. The position had opened up through a financial crisis in the church. During that time of crisis my heart had been opened again to the idea of ministry.  I started serving youth pastor for Hillcrest Church in 2011 and realized I loved the complexity and sacredness of serving people. 

As I served as a youth pastor, restlessness began to stir within me. I was working two part time jobs, my husband had three part time jobs and we were still struggling financially.  I desired one full time job instead of splitting my attention between two things. Therefore in August of 2014, I joined Sioux Falls Seminary in pursuit of a Master in Divinity. I still assumed that God was calling me to serve the NABC and fill an associate pastor position until September of 2016. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, I didn’t get a job that I thought I wanted and turned to Greg and Heather Henson for direction. After talking to the Hensons, I met Randy Rasmussen, changed from the NAB to the ABC, and was offered a position as an interim pastor of a small church in Madison, SD. In May of 2017, I graduated from Sioux Falls Seminary with my Master of Divinity and am still serving First Baptist Church in Madison as their Interim Pastor.

III.             Philosophy of Ministry

I believe the gateway to successfully sharing the Gospel starts with relationships. Because of the model of ministry exemplified in the life of Christ, I meet people where they are, care for them, show them the love of Christ and call them to a renewed life through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. This frequently manifests itself through a strong desire to tell people that they are loved and valued. I think much of this conviction is bred out of the experiences in my formative years. I believe that I am called to be a minister of the Gospel so that others will know of their value in Christ and turn to him for a redeemed life. This world seems to be lost, trying to find meaning in the most insignificant things but in reality if they were to turn to God and follow Christ they would find what they’re looking for. 

IV.             Personal Giftedness

My primary spiritual gifts are teaching, knowledge, shepherding, hospitality, and mercy.  Outside of any formal inventory, it has been affirmed that I have leadership and administration skills. Teaching and knowledge come out most distinctly when I am leading worship on Sunday mornings or Bible study on Wednesday nights. I have a compassion for my congregation. That only makes sense when viewed through the lens of shepherding empowered by the Spirit. The shepherd in me has a desire to see persons in the church meet their potential by using gifts for the church; thus enabling the church community to operate as a body. Their operation would be to care for the orphan, widow, and refugee. Hospitality and mercy are two gifts that significantly impact my view of the church. I want people to feel welcomed and valued as they walk in the doors of the church. 

Outside of spiritual gift assessments, my Clifton StrengthsFinder assessment indicates my top strengths as: communication, input, includer, strategic, and activator. I see these strengths directly in correlation to my giftings: communication and input in teaching and knowledge, includer in hospitality and mercy, strategic and activator in administration and leadership. It is evident that God has equipped and wired me in an intentional way for the call placed on my life. 

I have recognized that within my strengths there is also weakness or vulnerability when I lose sight of Christ. Hospitality, Mercy, and Includer (from StrengthsFinder) all put me at risk of being an enabler or codependent, especially with my family background. Leadership, Teaching, Knowledge, and Administration can put me at risk of arrogance and pride should I depend on my human efforts above heavenly provision. It is when I lose balance in life that my strengths become weaknesses that lead to burnout. Therefore, even though these are strengths, I trust in God to provide above all else. 

(See 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4; Micah 6:8; James 1:27; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Timothy 4:6-16; 2 Timothy 1: 12b-14)

V.                Academic and Practical Preparation for Ministry

I attended the University of Sioux Falls from 2006 to 2010, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Theology/Philosophy. Along with my coursework for my major, I did introductory studies in psychology, education, and art. While attending USF I served the YMCA After School Program; that was my first exposure to serving a non-profit agency. This was a place where my administration, leadership, and teachings skills were developing. 

I was hired by Hillcrest Church (NABC) in 2011 to serve as their part-time youth pastor. Brian Stroh was my supervisor, and we met regularly to review the program and ways I could develop. I was regularly teaching, leading games, organizing events, and contacting parents and volunteers. I led two different mission trips to Chicago through the Center for Student Missions. We also traveled yearly to Minneapolis for a winter camp retreat of skiing, shopping, and intensive learning on a specific topic. 

I entered the Master of Divinity program at Sioux Falls Seminary in August of 2014. I was still serving as a youth pastor for two and a half years of this three year program. Words cannot fully express my gratitude for the professors at Sioux Falls Seminary. The faculty were just as much pastors as they were professors, guiding the little seminary sheep through their studies in order to prepare them for full time ministry. 

One of the professors that stands out as a shepherd is Philip Thompson. Dr. Thompson encouraged me as I pursued a full time position that fit my giftings and convictions.  He is the one that encouraged me to apply for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty Fellows Program. The Fellows Program was an amazing learning experience where I was able to put words to my social justice heart that correlated with my Baptist convictions.  It was during that program in July that I truly felt my convictions fit with my Baptist heritage. 

VI.             Revelation and Scripture: 

Revelation is the revealed knowledge of God to humanity. Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling say that revelation “[r]efers to both the process by which God discloses the divine nature and the mystery of the divine will and purpose to human beings, and to the corpus of truth disclosed.”  It is because God has chosen to reveal himself to us that we can know about God and we cannot know anything about God outside of what He wants us to know.

There are two types of revelation: general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is the knowledge we can gain about God through the created world. The order and beauty of creation points to a Creator. This revealed knowledge is accessible to anyone.  Grenz and His colleagues say “[t]his self-revealing of God through creation is called general because it only gives ‘general’ or ‘indirect’ information about God, including the fact of God’s existence and that God is powerful.” Since we know general revelation does not tell us about Jesus’ death and resurrection, it cannot lead us to salvation, but only idolatry

Special revelation, defined as “specific” and “direct,” is not accessible simply through nature but through specific means which God provides. These include the appearance of the living Word (Jesus Christ Himself) and the written Word of God (the Scriptures), revealing a holy, loving and just God who graciously provides forgiveness of sin. The Bible is the inerrant Word of God, a special revelation that gives us knowledge of God, our salvation, and a way to live out our salvation. The Bible gives us direction for how to live a holy life that glorifies God; it is the sole rule of faith and practice.  It is only through Jesus Christ, who is revealed in Scripture that we can be saved from our sins and restored into a relationship with God.

(See Matthew 11:25-27; 1 Corinthians 2:6-16; Luke 19:40; Acts 4:12; Deuteronomy 6; Romans 8:38-39; Romans 10:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)

VII.             God

“The Lord is our God and our God is one.” God is goodness, justice, mercy, and love. Our God is holy, the Almighty, and eternally present. God is beyond our natural human comprehension. We only know about God because God reveals Himself to us. God desires the best for us and wants a relationship with us. It is through Christ that we are able to have this relationship.

We learn about God through His revealed Word. Though our language is insufficient to fully describe the incomprehensible God, we use metaphors and analogies to help us gain a better understanding of who God is.  We are not clueless about God as agnostics claim, even with the limitations of language; we can gain a better understanding of God’s character when we read Scripture.

One example of the limitations of language is trying to use pronouns to speak of God. Though we use masculine pronouns to describe God, God is outside of gender. Scripture uses masculine pronouns; therefore I choose to use masculine pronouns. I prefer to use proper nouns, when possible, to talk about God rather than pronouns to prevent myself from gendering God. It is in gendering God that we get a skewed view of God and humanity and our roles as God’s children. 

Though our God is one, God is three Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. Our God is a community of love and service within His oneness. Without God’s triune nature, he could not be the love that scripture reveals him to be. Each Person is fully God. I see God the Father most visibly in the Old Testament with His interactions with Israel and in the New Testament with Jesus’ prayers to the Father. Frequently we hear people simply refer to the Father as “God” and then the Son and Spirit as distinct from that title, but this misrepresents the Trinity.  God the Son, though eternally present with the Father and the Holy Spirit, becomes incarnate and enters human history as Jesus Christ. Jesus is my Savior and through Him I have access to God’s forgiveness. I anticipate the Return of Christ, the resurrection of the body, and the restoration of the earth. God the Holy Spirit has always been present with the Father and the Son. 

(See Genesis 1:26-27; Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 63:16; John 1:1-5, 14, 16; John 1:1-5, 14, 16; John 14:1-3, Acts 11:1, Philippians 3:20)

VIII.          Christ

 God the Son humbled himself and entered into humanity as Jesus Christ.  Jesus is fully God and fully human simultaneously. If Jesus was not fully human and fully God, he would not be the salvation we need. Gregory of Nazianzus makes it clear when he says “that which is not assumed has not been healed; but that which is united to God is also being saved,” meaning, Christ must be simultaneously God and human in order to be the one providing the saving act.  Through his death on the cross and resurrection, he has forgiven me of my sins, which separated me from God, and because of my belief in him, I am now restored in my relationship with God. There is no salvation apart from belief in Jesus Christ. As such, Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

The Apostles’ Creed helps to unpack the uniqueness of Jesus. I  ascribe to what Article II claims: “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again; He ascended into heaven, He is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He will come to judge the living and the dead.”

As One who was foretold by the prophets, conceived by Holy Spirit and anointed by the Spirit at His baptism, Jesus’ miraculous actions on earth were a result of the Holy Spirit. His actions are, by His own promise, examples of things we as Christians can do. As the Second Adam, Jesus is the example of how I should live my life. As a Christian, I strive to emulate the love, grace, and forgiveness to all people just as Jesus demonstrated while on earth. 

(See Luke 1:35; 3:21-22; 6:40; John 14:11-14; Acts 2:21-24, 32-33, 38-39; 4:12;  1 Corinthians 11:1; 15:45; Ephesians 2:1-10; 5:1-2; Philippians 2:1-11;Colossians 3; Hebrews 2:5-18, 4:15;  James 1: 19-27; 1 Peter 1: 13-16)

IX.       Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is one Person of the Triune God. Like the other Persons in the Trinity, I see the movement of the Holy Spirit throughout the entire Bible as well as in the lives of believers today.  The Holy Spirit is present with the Father and Son at Creation, the Exodus, in the prophets, and many other circumstances. The Holy Spirit was involved in the incarnation of Christ, the beginnings of the early church, and still is providing us with spiritual gifts that equip us to live out our calling as believers. The Spirit is much more involved in the lives of believers than simply providing spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit has been active in human history, convicting, regenerating, baptizing, sealing, indwelling, filling, empowering, assuring, illuminating, teaching, praying, gifting.

The Holy Spirit, like the Father and Son, has no gender. Some translations refer to the Spirit as “it.” The intention appears to be attempting to keep God’s Spirit gender neutral. Use of “it,” however, can depersonalize the Holy Spirit, even implying the Spirit is less than a Person of the Trinity, equal to the Father and Son.

We know that the Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son because of the way Scripture describes the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Church history wanted to make it clear that the Spirit is in unity with the Son and Father; they did this by adding a phrase into The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed that describes the Holy Spirit as “the Lord and life-giver, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, Who is worshiped and glorified together with the Father and Son, Who spoke through the prophets.” 

The Apostle’s Creed does not give us great details about the Holy Spirit; there is simply a declaration of belief in said Spirit followed by belief in a unified church. In my theology class titled Creation, Spirit, Church we discussed Article III of the Apostles’ Creed and Dr. Philip Thompson stated: 

“Yet this should give us pause – because the Third Person of the Trinity and the church are not on the same level. Yet this very ‘same breath confession’ teaches us something very important for proper regard for the church. In particular, there are two things we need to be aware of here in order for us not to say too much or too little about the church.”

We confess the church and the Holy Spirit in one breath. The early church fathers were making a subtle statement by doing this. I will discuss the Holy Spirit’s roles more in the sections on salvation and the church.

(See Judges 3:10; Micah 3:8; John 14: 12-17; 16:8; Acts 1:8; 2: 1-13; 1 Corinthians 11-13; Ephesians 4)

X.                Nature of the Human Condition

I believe that I am created in the “image of God.” Since God is outside of gender, as mentioned earlier, the attributes that make up men and women together help us to understand a better picture of God’s character. In Genesis, God breathed life into Adam and formed Eve out of Adam’s rib. Adam means “earth creature.” God made humanity out of earth and humanity received the breath of life from God.  God’s breath is in our lungs and his image is reflected in our form, this makes us stand apart from the rest of creation. We are not like the animals or plants that are on this earth because we are the image of God. For this reason, we are also accountable to God. 

The Baptist Catechism tells us “The chief end of [humanity] is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” This is what it means to live as God’s image, living the lives for which God created us, caring about the things about which God cares. Because of our unique relationship to God, we have a distinct purpose on this earth. God gave humanity dominion and responsibility over all of creation. This is a call to be caregivers of the rest of creation.  We are on this earth to show love to God; all actions come out of this purpose. God cares about his people and God cares about creation, we are to order our lives in a way that nurtures not exploits. 

Scripture tells us that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. Our God is community in his being and we are made in the image of God. Therefore God created us to be in community. When we are faithful to the way God created us, we are in community with God, our neighbors, and creation and our relationship
with each of those communities brings God glory. I believe that sin is best described as refusing this relationship through the misuse of the gift of free will.

We can choose to live into our created image or reject it. Unfortunately, fallen human nature chooses to reject our created order. We have chosen to reject the way God designed us and reject his intentions for our lives. We have become selfish beings and want to choose our way over God’s way; believing we know better than God.  

We have chosen to reject God’s intent for us and this rejection is best known as sin. Sin is a refusal
to be human as God intends human life to be lived. It is rebellion against God and against our most authentic existence. Sin is the divorce of relationship with God and with others.  The consequence of sin is separation from God, and this is death. Our sin also affects the people we come into contact with whether directly or indirectly.

Since God is the giver of life, when we separate ourselves from him we are choosing death, instead of the very being that gives us breath in our lungs. When we choose to follow God we are choosing life. God has continued to pursue his people and call them to faithfulness since humanity fell from their created glory in the garden to faithlessness. God called Israel to live faithfully, to bless the nations. This blessing, the restoration of humanity, became fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Final Adam. Through the blood of Jesus Christ we are adopted children of Abraham, who are “blessed to be a blessing.” The children of Abraham are called to show the world the One True God. We are to demonstrate love, through various means, to our neighbors both locally and globally. 

(See Genesis 1:26-27; 2:4-25; 3; Exodus 19-20; Matthew 22:35-40, 28:18-20; Mark 10:18, 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-27;  Romans 3:23; 6:1-12, 23, 7:14-25; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 15:45; Ephesians 2:1-10; 4:25-5:2; Colossians 3:13-17; 1 Peter 1: 13-16, 2:9-10; 1 John 2:6, 4:11)

XI.             Salvation

God is the Author of Life and is restoring creation to its original order through Jesus Christ. When we follow God through faith in Jesus Christ we are embracing life rather than death. Stanley Grenz states it excellently when he says, “salvation entails God’s deliverance of humans from the power and effects of sin and the fall through the work of Jesus Christ so that creation in general and humans in particular can enjoy the fullness of life intended for what God has made.” This restoration deliverance is both individually and corporately. Individually, we will experience the resurrection and have redeemed bodies. Corporately, the church will once again be unified and the whole of creation will be healed. 

While our salvation will be complete only when Christ returns and we are glorified with Him, it is a present reality. By the words “justification” and “sanctification,” we identify aspects of this present salvation. This is enabled by God’s regenerating grace. Regeneration is “a biblical motif of salvation that emphasizes the rebirth or re-creation of fallen human beings by the indwelling Holy Spirit.” Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice heals my broken humanity. Turning to God by faith in Christ, we are justified, made right, open to the transforming work of the Spirit in sanctification. 

Just as sin separates us from God, our neighbors, and the rest of creation, in Christ we are restored to friendship with God and fellowship with both humankind and the rest of creation. In this, we receive of the Holy Spirit, the “bond of love,’ who enables us to withstand those things which would tempt us from God’s way. We are given the opportunity to be who God intended us to be through Christ’s salvation.

(See Acts 3:15; John 10:10; Acts 3:19-21; Romans 8:19-25; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:11-13; John 17:20-24; Psalm 133; 1 John 4: 7-21; 

XII.          Nature of the Christian Life

I believe that every aspect of my faith is connected and affects the way I live my life. At the heart of the Christian life is our pursuit of Christ-likeness. We are to live in a way that exemplifies God’s love for others. Thus my actions flow from the truth of God’s love for me and for all humanity. 

In order to pursue Christ-likeness we need to know who we strive to emulate. Therefore, reading Scripture becomes imperative to the Christian life. It is through the revealed word of God that we learn about who Christ is and about his teachings. We should approach Scripture with a prayerful mind, asking the Holy Spirit to convict us, to guide us, help us to understand, and empower us to action.

Christ came into the world to redeem the world and restore the world’s relationship with God. We are made right by God but that does not mean we can live whatever way we choose. As followers of Christ we are committing ourselves to living based on God’s Word. Christ simplified the law into two points: love God and love others as oneself. The Old Testament contains the accounts of Israel and their struggles to be faithful to these two commandments. Upon confession of faith, we receive the power of the Holy Spirit to assist us in faithfulness to God’s commandments. 

As we learn more about God, we will learn about the importance of community and doing ministry alongside other believers. God is community within His singularity. The Trinity gives us an example of how we are to live in sacrificial and submissive love for each other. We, as believers, are to pursue God in all things. Every part of our life has the capability of glorifying God. The next step is to choose to pursue and enjoy Him.

(See Leviticus 19:2; Exodus 20:1-21; Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 1 Peter 1:13-25; Romans 12:1-8, Colossians 3:1-17, Hebrews 10:19-25; Matthew 20:25-28; 22:34-40; John 6:35-40; John 15: 26-27)

XIII.       The Purpose and Place of Christ’s Church in Today’s World

In the Greek New Testament, “ekklesia” (ἐκκλησία) is used as a noun for the community of believers. Ekklesia (ἐκκλησία) is frequently translated as “assembly” or “a gathering with common purpose” but it could also be translated as “called out ones.” I believe that we are one community of “called out ones” that is connected over space and time. Those of us who have professed Jesus as Lord and have committed to following Jesus’ example are part of this ekklesia (ἐκκλησία).

In Deuteronomy 6, the Israelites are called to be holy as God is holy. Holiness is to set something apart for a special purpose. The Israelites were to lead a “called out” life. For the church to be ‘called out,’ then, is to say that it is called to a holy life; a life lived according to God’s norms rather than those of the world around it. 

There is no following Christ without being part of the community. Gathering as a community reminds us of our common purpose to glorify God. As image bearers, we are also called to life within community because God is in community in his Trinitarian nature. As a community of “called out ones,” it is the responsibility of the community of believers to encourage each other to demonstrate God’s love in the way we live. The community of believers is made up of both men and women. Since both were created in the image of God, men and women both have equal roles and full responsibility within this community.  We, men and women, are ambassadors for Christ to the world and it is imperative we represent Christ correctly. If we see a member of the community that is distorting the image of Christ, we are to approach them with love and correct their misrepresentation. Love manifests itself in many different ways through our words and our actions. We are to love and serve both the gathered community of believers and people outside of the church. I believe that we are equipped for our responsibilities to love God and love others through the Holy Spirit. Each believer is given spiritual gifts that are used to glorify God in different ways. 

Jesus ministered to others by taking care of both their physical and spiritual needs. The church should follow his example. We are to share the Gospel, meaning we tell others about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as well as the forgiveness and love we have in Jesus. But we are also called to demonstrate that love through selfless service, for example by providing food, clothing, shelter, or education. This is also sharing Good News.  A famous quote about Gospel work is attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, which states “Preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.” Whether or not Francis said this, the meaning stands firm. We are to show love through our actions as well as through our words. God loved us so that we may show love to others. Caring for others is a way to show God gratitude for all He has given us.

(See Proverbs 27:17; Matthew 18:15-22; Romans 12:6-8; 16:3-16; Galatians 3:23-29; 5: 16-26; Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 28-30; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Micah 6:8)

XIV.          Role of the Minister and role of the Laity

Christ is the perfect example of the ideal relationship structure between a minister and the laity. Though Christ had authority to embody the world’s standard of kingship, instead he ministered to the disciples as servant leader. He led by example; he demonstrated ministry to the disciples and then sent them out to do the same. Baptists have historically understood that both the pastor and congregation share in the servant leadership of Christ. Pastors are sent by God to individual churches to prepare those congregants for their own ministry. Pastors and congregants are to be co-laborers for the Gospel; learning, worshipping, and serving together. 

Pastors are also to be willing to minister to any person that comes their way. My preaching professor Randy Maas regularly talked about his personal conviction that pastors should be politically independent as a statement that the Gospel is not for one specific party. The Gospel breaks down barriers rather than building them. A minister of the Gospel is called to care for all demographics, regardless of race, gender, orientation, political affiliation, socioeconomic class, favorite sports team or level of education. 

Though the pastor is in their position to fulfill pastoral duties, the congregation will teach the pastor as much as the pastor teaches the congregation. If the pastor does not have humility enough to be taught by the laity, they should not be serving. The pastor is to care for the congregants; providing them direction, encouragement, spiritual care, and boundaries. The congregation is to care for the pastor, making sure they are living within those boundaries by not placing unreasonable expectations on the pastor.

Part of the pastor’s care of the congregation is also the pastor’s self-care. A minister cannot properly lead if they are exhausted or swimming in stress. I believe part of the command to “love God and love others” is self-care. This involves time for spiritual growth, learning, and retreats as well as time for family development through weekly designated family time, vacations, and not placing unreasonable expectations on the pastor’s family. 

(See Genesis 12:1-3; Deuteronomy 6; Matthew 20:20-28; John 13:12-20; 15:1-17; Galatians 3:23-29; Philippians 2:1-18; Colossians 3:1-17; 1 John 4:7-21)

XV.       Eternal Hope/Christ’s Return

God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. I believe that is when Jesus Christ will return to earth, the dead will be raised and there will be a final judgement. Sin will be wiped from the earth and the earth will be restored. All believers, living and dead will be resurrected in their glorified bodies. This is the moment when our glorification comes to its fullness. Those who do not believe in Christ will be separated from God. 

I believe that the return of Christ and resurrection of the body are the Christian hope. Thus I do not think of heaven as my main goal, but the renewal of all creation. God created us with physical bodies and “it was very good”. I do not believe that God wishes us to be purely spiritual without a physical body otherwise He would have created us as purely spiritual beings. I believe that God’s creation of the earth was good. Both the body and the spirit are valued and good, to say otherwise would be to contradict the creation account in Genesis 1.  In the same manner, I have to emphasize the expectant hope in the restoration of the earth. Just like Christ’s body after resurrection was distinctly His own, still had the scars from His human life, we too will have the same body made new by God. 

I believe that we should not speculate about the date or details of Christ’s return. In fact, I think it is arrogant of us to attempt to make a clear narrative of what will happen at the Second Coming. The more we try, the more we are at risk of being like the Pharisees who missed the coming of the Messiah. 

 In the Gospels we learn that the Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection but the Pharisees did. As a result of this belief, the Pharisees believed there must be some place that the dead wait until the time of resurrection. They called this place “paradise” but Christians have interchanged the concept of paradise with heaven. Over time heaven took the place of the resurrection as the Christian Hope. I believe that heaven exists but perhaps we might misunderstand the purpose of heaven. We await Christ’s return and the restoration of the earth; not for our turn to go to heaven.

(See: Genesis 1:31; Matthew 24:29-31; 25:31-46; Mark 13:32-37; John 21:20-23; Acts 1:6-11; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Peter 1:3-12; 2 Peter 3:1-13)

XVI.       An Understanding of Ordinances as Practiced in American Baptist Churches

Part of being a community of believers is to gather to worship God through song, prayer, scripture, and the ordinances of baptism and communion. Participating in these ordinances is a public statement that we are in community together with Christ and each other for God’s purpose. Baptists hold two practices as ordinances, commanded by Jesus Christ, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. 

Baptism is a public confession of faith and a commitment to Jesus Christ and to his church.  There is evidence in scripture that baptism comes when a person first believes not after a full life of trying to rid their life of sin. We do not come to the water perfect but we are raised from the water cleansed by the blood of Christ. It is in the waters that we identify with Christ’s submission to the will of God even unto the cross. We submit ourselves to the will of God in the waters of baptism. 

Baptists do not find biblical warrant for the baptism of infants. We believe baptism is something reserved for those who can confess with their own mouth that Jesus is Lord. Baptism is not for infants, who cannot make a personal commitment to Christ and statement of belief. We do not baptize babies because, baptism is not the thing that saves us, no human action saves us, only the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ can do that. It is in the waters of baptism that we pledge our marriage vows to God and to the church. We commit to following the teachings of Christ, being transformed by the Spirit, and growing alongside fellow believers as the body of Christ. 

Baptists practice believer’s baptism by immersion most frequently, however we know it is not the mode that saves us. I will practice the mode of immersion unless through the process of pastoral care it is determined that the believer requires a different mode. I refer to the writings in the Didache, which are attributed by the early church to the Apostles. In Didache 7:1-5 it states: 

“But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited all these things, baptize {in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit} in living (running) water. But if thou hast not living water, then baptize in other water; and if thou art not able in cold, then in warm. But if thou hast neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Along with the ordinance of baptism, the church is called to regularly practice the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, also called Communion. We saw this meal demonstrated by Jesus and the disciples before Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. We learn from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that this is a meal of remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice and a meal of expectant hope for Christ’s return. We consume a piece of bread and a sip of juice to remind us of Christ’s broken body and blood poured out for our salvation. 

There is not a litmus test one must take in order to participate in the meal. A confession of Christ as your savior is the only prerequisite. Just as we are all equal in God’s eyes, we are equals at the table. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of God’s love for us and our purpose on this earth as a gathered body of believers. By partaking in the Lord’s Supper we also remember our baptism and the commitment we made in those waters. We are united with all believers throughout time when participating in Communion. 

(See Matthew 3; 26:26-29; Mark 1:1-11; 14:22-25; Luke 3:1-22; 22:15-20; John 1:19-34; Acts 8:26-39; 9:1-19; 10:44-48; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

XVII.    The Relationship of the Local Congregation to ABC/USA and its Ecumenical Witness

Part of what makes me a Baptist is my deeply held belief in the autonomy of the local church. I believe that each church is equipped and authorized to make decisions about ministry, outreach, finances and more. Though I believe in the autonomy of the local church, I also believe that autonomy has its limits. Autonomy is not mere independence. It is quite easy for a church to become heretical or self-absorbed if a church is completely isolated from the rest of the body of Christ. Therefore the church, while autonomous, also has interdependence with the churches of their denomination and within the community they serve. 

We gather as a greater community not because it makes us right with God but because God calls us to community as He is in community. Community is the place where we demonstrate love, gain wisdom, offer encouragement, and carry out the Great Commission. This support comes from the ABC-USA, our Regional ABC, and from the ministerial associations built within the local community. 

The ecumenical body of Christ witnesses to God’s kingdom here on earth and demonstrating the love of Christ to the world. It is through unity that we better hear the truth of Christ. While I am grateful that the ABC participates in the National and World Councils of Churches, and shares in bilateral ecumenical dialogues, ecumenism for Baptists should have a local dimension.

One way I connect with others is through social media. I really depend on social media as a primary way of staying connected with other pastors throughout the world. Thanks specifically to the platform of Facebook, I am able to keep connected with different groups such as ABC-USA Young Adult Pastors, Innovative Models of Pastoral Ministry, and Female Pastors and Ministry workers of the Midwest. A few years ago I started the Facebook group for female ministry workers in the Midwest. We use this platform to share resources, offer guidance, and pray for each other. Once month we, those in Sioux Falls, gather together at a coffee shop for face to face connection. I value and am enriched by my friendship with persons of different denominations, ministries, and locations. We stay connected for accountability and encouragement. 

XVIII. Personal Commitment to the ABC

I became an American Baptist in October of 2016. Prior to October of 2016, I was a member of a North American Baptist church. My previous denomination did not allow women to be senior pastors or hold positions with higher authority than men. I felt God calling me to be a preacher and then that calling was affirmed by others. Through a series of events, God closed the door on the NAB and opened the door to the ABC. Since October I have experienced amazing support through the Dakotas Region staff and other ABC pastors in the region. I cannot go back to what I once was, knowing that the ABC exists. It feels like home.

Another aspect to my commitment to the ABC is continuing to keep myself trained, educated, and in relationship with organizations that fit my convictions. I will continue to seek education through local seminaries, conferences, and personal retreats to better myself for my call. In the past twelve months I have been to the Prairie Pastors’ Conference, Dakotas Pastors Retreat, Mission Conference, was a counselor for middle school camp at Camp Judson. I have met with other ABC pastors, utilized the ABPS, and in pursuit of ordination in the ABC. My desire is to build relationships that take root to foster the spread of the gospel and the continued sanctification of the church. 

Outside of the ABC Regional connections, I have also found great comfort in the Baptist World Alliance and the ABC’s connection with organizations like the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. In July, I went to Virginia as a 2017 Baptist Joint Committee Fellow to learn more about religious liberty and it’s connection to the Baptist heritage. This organization is supported by a collection of different Baptist conferences, including the ABC. By being an ongoing participant in the BJC and BWA,  I feel both a deeper participation in historic ABC commitments and deeper connection to broader Baptist life.

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