How have you seen God at work in your ministry since becoming a commissioned pastor?
Since becoming a commissioned pastor in 2011, God has worked in powerful and, at times, surprising ways. I have been given a broader platform to develop and equip leaders, and to positively impact churches, and help churches to plant churches. I do none of this on my own strength, but rather through Christ who strengthens me. Being a commissioned pastor has opened doors for me that would not have otherwise been opened.
How did your commissioned pastor training (including the mentoring and ministry experience you received in your home church) prepare you for the work God has you doing today?
The preparation I received through training, and as I was being mentored, was instrumental in my development. I grew in theological understanding, as well as broader exposure to and understanding of a wide variety of ministry contexts, and of course in leadership development.
What words of wisdom would you give to someone who is discerning a possible call to commissioned pastor ministry?
To commit fully to what the Lord is leading and calling you to pursue. There are some who enter the program and procrastinate, delaying classes, etc. Continued, steady forward movement is essential. Don’t approach your training plan intermittently, but rather set a course and hold to it, regardless of how challenging it might be at times. I would also advise those who enter into training to find others they can journey together with in community. I was fortunate to get to know some others in the program, and my experience and equipping was enhanced as a result.
Past story written of Mike here at CLC:
“It’s like water soaking a sponge” – that’s how Mike Gafa describes how he senses God’s calling. “I never had a cathartic experience where I’d suddenly know exactly what to do. But it was the compounding effect of a lot of things, and paying attention to how I was feeling and to the still, small voice of God, listening to it in the voices of people around me.”
It’s been over 10 years since he first felt God calling him to deepen his ministry, to not just use his leadership gifts as a deacon, but to move out of the business world into full-time paid work in the church. This took him by surprise. A few years later, he sensed that deepening call again.
“Where do you go if you occupy a second chair leadership role yet are called to grow?” With a busy family life and an already full ministry, seminary was not for him. He used his research and analytical gifts and found the Commissioned Pastor program – grateful that the CLC would “meet me where I was.” His program of study included building up his competency in Systematic Theology, Old and New Testament, and Church History.
And then that inconvenient calling of God started up again, nudging Mike to leave the role he was serving in and the church he was undertaking the CP program with. While it’s not how things usually go, Mike was open with the CLC and his church and Classis, and everyone worked together, although there was no clear idea of where he would go at the end.
People working together is a hallmark of Mike’s approach to ministry. One of his favorite aspects of his work as Administrative Pastor for Remembrance Church is team development, “seeing a focused staff whose hearts beat for serving Christ in his church.” He gives credit to his full team (including his family, church, and CLC) for where he’s at: “Part of who I am is because God has blessed me with people in my life who I’d be better off with than if I were alone.”
An unexpected result of his CLC training (besides discovering that he “could actually preach”) was the increase in his spiritual practice of intercessory prayer – widening his team even further.
God has been filling Mike’s sponge again, guiding him to “help churches and leaders think strategically in a way that’s Holy Spirit-led and not corporate, something that’s not taught in seminary and not in the toolbox of most pastors.” As a result, Remembrance is now sharing him with the Reformed Church in America’s Classis of North Grand Rapids as Stated Clerk where he develops training and discernment tools and coaches local congregations.
Only God knows how much wider Mike’s team can get, but God’s not telling. Yet.