Sometimes God’s work in our lives is dramatic and instantaneous—the sudden softening of a heart, the breaking of an addiction, a miraculous physical healing. However, often the Spirit’s work is slow and steady, leading us in a “long obedience in the same direction,” as author and pastor Eugene Peterson says. The latter path is the one I’ve been on for the last 43 years.
My parents came to Christ when I was an infant. God saved me at the young age of five. I was discipled in a Christian home and heavily involved in the local church throughout my childhood and youth. In junior high and high school, I was highly active in youth group. My youth pastor became a tremendous mentor, and during my junior year of high school, I committed my life to full-time ministry. For the next 13 years, I served as a volunteer youth worker, a part-time junior high pastor, and a full-time pastor of student ministries. In 2003, I joined the staff of Stand to Reason as the Student Impact Director. Through it all, I’ve learned innumerable lessons, gained a wealth of experience, and made my share of mistakes. But by the unspeakable and undeserved grace of God, I have tried to serve Him faithfully in ministry.
The last 14 years of ministry at Stand to Reason have been absolutely tremendous. I trust the Lord has used my efforts to impact students, but I’m certain He has significantly shaped my life along the way. Before I ever joined the STR team, God used Greg Koukl to mentor me from afar through STR’s ministry. After joining the team, STR’s impact on me multiplied exponentially. I grew leaps and bounds in my capacity to love God with my mind by thinking more carefully. I grew in my ability to defend the faith. I grew in my skills as a teacher and communicator. Indeed, I cannot adequately express all the different facets of spiritual and ministry growth I’ve experienced. Every step of this journey, the STR family has been by my side, guiding, challenging, encouraging, and supporting me. And it is only because of the Lord’s impact on my life through STR over the last 14 years that I can take the next step of obedience.
On September 1st of this year, I will begin a new adventure. After working with students around the country for the last 27 years, I’m absolutely convinced the church needs to redouble her efforts in discipling the next generation. In particular, there is tremendous void of youth ministries and youth parachurch ministries that are wholly dedicated to training up Christian young people to know God’s truth deeply, to apply it to every single area of life, and proclaim it to an increasingly hostile culture with courage and compassion. Our youth desperately need more worldview teaching, more training in theology and apologetics, and more mentoring in bringing the truth of Christ to our culture. For these reasons and more, I will launch MAVEN in September, a new organization completely dedicated to training youth and the people who train youth—parents, youth workers, pastors, and educators. Through MAVEN, I want to exponentially expand what God can do in the lives of our children and students.
As I’ve wrestled and prayed through this new vision, the support of my STR family has been crucial. To be sure, for us it is not a parting of ways, but a sending out. Of course, it’s a bittersweet moment for my family and me. However, I’m pleased to say that STR will continue to build on the youth work we’ve started together through the reTHINK apologetics student conferences. Indeed, we are allies in this ongoing effort, and I look forward to doing my part as I speak and teach at the Orange County reTHINK Conference this September. But there is vast amount of work with youth that needs to be done, so we don’t need fewer individuals and ministries, we need more. May the Lord raise up a hundred more ministries like Stand to Reason and a hundred more like MAVEN.