Various circumstances led me to discern an inner call to serve within God’s Kingdom of grace as a pastor. As a child in Sunday school I was impressed with a certain pastor. He was a personable man who declared the Gospel clearly to me in children’s messages. I held him in high regard, and I remember developing a fondness for what he did.
As a teenager I was encouraged by fellow believers. Mr. Hebner approached me after a youth-led Christmas Eve candle light service. He said, “You should become a pastor.” At that moment I pooh-poohed his encouragement, only to recognize years later that that was another bit of encouragement.
As a young adult I attended a small Bible school. Through these applied studies I was amazed as to how (like a puzzle) Scripture came together to tell of God’s redemptive act to save the world through Christ Jesus. Many “aha” moments brought inner peace and contentment. I was spurred on to act in thinking, “If only more people could gather this great sense of meaning in their lives.”
As that same young adult, I sensed that inner call to be a pastor. In growing up in a different synod, I, though, struggled with the direction to which this church was moving theologically. I saw a closed door before me, for I couldn’t discern a future in that direction. However, as I relocated to pursue a teaching career, attendance at a local church put me into contact with a LCC pastor who shared similar struggles. Soon he pointed me to a different door, which only confirmed the call that was already there.
As a married man who could no longer be considered a young adult, seminary education was both enjoyable and challenging. It first appeared that the goals to get settled and start a family would be delayed. Yes, much midnight oil was burnt in preparing for exams. Yes, we had to be good stewards with our financial resources. Yet, with the help of family we were able to sail through seminary, while developing close friendships which are still cherished today. In hindsight, everything worked out very well.
As a pastor I feel privileged to be welcomed into the lives of people during moments of both joy and heartache. I have witnessed how God took a worm such as me to declare His sweet Gospel into the lives of others. And while times are challenging, I still feel a sense of invigoration of how God continues to enrich me with His Word, empower me with His gifts, to be a part of His mission to reach into a lost and hurting world of people.
Sincerely in Christ,
Pastor Neil D. Stern
(St. Peter’s, Leduc)