Jalen Ontoy, Junior Biblical Studies Major
To say that I have greatly learned during my pastoral internship would be an understatement. My time in Shannon, IL has given me much exposure to pastoral ministry.
I realized that pastoring takes intentionality. It takes intentionality to lead biblically and blamelessly. As Christ’s under-shepherds, it is our delightful duty to lead both the family and the flock. This does not happen overnight, however. This only happens once people come to trust us. But how do we build trust? We build trust by lovingly caring for others. This aspect of ministry is called shepherding. We shepherd the sheep by our genuine interest and involvement in their lives.
By God’s grace, shepherding came easily in Shannon. The population of the village (Shannon is too small to be considered a town.) is 800 people, and it only takes two minutes to drive across the village. Because the community is small, people naturally have more intimate relationships with others, especially at our church of less than 100 members. Every single night of our internship, Nik (the other intern) and I would have supper (They refrain from the term dinner in the Midwest apparently.) at a church member’s house. This allowed us from the very beginning to build personal relationships with the church. Some families had us over once a week, which gave us the ability to experience life with them. We spent hours with them going shooting, watching movies, boating on the river, or even babysitting their kids. All these unique opportunities gave us the chance to truly know the people we were ministering to.
Almost every Sunday night we would have a fellowship at a church member’s property. This allowed me to spend time with the youth group specifically. We would play basketball, volleyball, gaga ball, and other various games. This was a fun time because it gave me the chance to know the kids in an informal setting. Because of my age, I was able to relate to them and understand them. This opened the door for me to minister to some of them as well.
Shannon Baptist Church started in 1962. Today, there is one founding father remaining. This godly man has impacted many souls for God’s Kingdom, including mine as well. Each time we went to his house, he would share stories from the past. He told us of his amazing wife who entered eternity over ten years ago. Through this, he stressed to us the importance of finding a godly wife who was passionate about people and committed to ministry. His testimony opened my mind to the necessity of surrounding myself with godly mentors.
My main mentor this summer was Pastor Tim Lehman, the head pastor at Shannon. He has served God faithfully at Shannon for over 25 years. The main lessons I learned from him occurred outside of the church. Pastor Lehman graciously allowed us to stay with them in their home during the internship. This was the biggest blessing of all because it showed me how a pastor should deal with his family at home. The consistency that Pastor Lehman showed both “on and off the court” ministered to me in tremendous ways. His family taught me that there is no false dichotomy between ministry and fun. There is joy in doing things together as a family. Whether it was chilling at home to watch TV or going outside to cut wood, I found that making the most of every opportunity with family is extremely important to the success of the home, and therefore the success of the church.
Even though I learned many good truths about ministry, I also learned many hard truths as well. I realized that ministry is not easy. Pastor Lehman told us of how division in the church caused a split over ten years ago. He told us of countless individuals he spent hours discipling who no longer attend and even criticize the church. He told us of changes the church made that surprisingly caused separation. Yet these painful stories reminded me that nothing worthwhile is easy. My main responsibility is to faithfully serve God. Paul, in 2 Corinthians, says, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls.”
Overall, I left this internship amazed with God’s goodness and sovereignty. It was not luck that led me to this internship. God actively worked in my life to bring me to Shannon because of what I would learn. His goodness renewed a passion within me to pursue pastoral ministry. Yes, I am uncertain of where He will lead me. And yes, I am uncertain of the hardships it will bring. But I am certain that as I stay satisfied in my Good Shepherd, He will lead, and I will follow.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.