While attending Calvin College as a dual major (English and Religion), I took my first worldview class. Chaplain Dale Cooper showed me that being a Christian is a whole different way of looking at life. I began to examine every area of my life in the light of Scripture. I began to sense God calling me to pastoral ministry, but I wanted to be sure. Both my father and grandfather were pastors (my father left the ministry in 1995; my grandfather continued until his death in 2007). I didn’t want to simply follow in the “family business.” I rationalized that this call might just be a way of trying to escape to the familiar. At the same time, I realized that I was in a dating relationship that was taking me away from Christ. So I broke off the two-year relationship.
The combination of grief over this loss and my running from the continual, insistent call of God sent me into a year-long depression. In the midst of this depression, I became very self-centered. I dropped out of school without telling my parents. I did everything I could to maintain the illusion of a well-balanced Christian, but I was destroying myself. Eventually, I could no longer live that lie. I gave up. I saw only two choices: kill myself or submit to God.
In wrestling with these choices, I realized that suicide is an ultimate act of unbelief. And I also realized that I did believe God but that my life did not match my belief. So I cried out to the Lord. I was broken, tired, and weak. I said, “Lord, I will do what you want me to do. But I don’t have the strength to do it on my own. You will have to do it through me.”
In that instant, I learned true grace for the first time. I confessed my sin to those whom I hurt and began to pursue God’s call on my life. I discovered real joy in worship and service. I tried every kind of service but soon found that my gifts were teaching and preaching. So I submitted to God and committed to him, praying, “If you will show me the way, I will become a pastor.”
From that point, I pursued my calling as a pastor. God confirmed this call in three ways:
- First Baptist in Tustin, Michigan, called me to be their pastor.
- In seminary, where I was presented with the Nicolai Weins Pastoral Ministry Award. This faculty award is given to the student who shows great promise for pastoral ministry.
- One pastor in attendance at my ordination council commented “he had not attended any ordination council with a more clearly called and thoroughly prepared candidate than Pastor Sean. There was hearty agreement to this observation by all of the delegates.”
Over the years, God has continually shown that I am called to pastoral ministry. I love seeing lives changed as God uses my teaching and preaching to help people live, love, and lead like Jesus.