“It’s enough foundation, enough knowledge, enough training without sacrificing that ministry is to be done, not just talked about.”
Eric Peterson was in the thick of ministry by the time he entered the Commissioned Pastor program. He’d been a youth pastor at a West Michigan church and had spent several years doing mission work in Swaziland. After returning to the States, he was a pastor of discipleship. He was doing ministry, but not to the fullest extent. His church wanted him to be able to lead people in the sacraments, so he went to the Church Leadership Center (CLC) and they developed an educational and training plan for him. A year and a half later, Eric was fully credentialed.
His class in the sacraments was the most powerful because of its focus on practice: “I’m leading people in communion, in baptizing babies and adults. In a seminary setting, it’s more theoretical. In this, it’s more practical, we deal with it as a practice.” He appreciated the opportunity to sharpen his thinking on the sacraments, even down to “practically working out the theology of passing the elements.”
Before entering the program, he’d done just enough seminary to appreciate the cohort-style learning community of the CLC, not only because of the sense of camaraderie that grew because his fellow students were already in ministry (whether they got paid for it or not), but also because “the instructors were practitioners themselves.”
“As I was learning, I was in a place to be practicing. This makes sense.”
As of this writing, Eric is on his second commission. Although he started as Pastor of Discipleship for an established congregation, his part-time gig has turned full-time: he is now the Church Planting Pastor for The Church at Benjamin’s Hope. Ben’s Hope is a residential center for adults with developmental and physical disabilities, and The Church is a place where residents, their families and, really, anyone can worship. Their mission is to connect people of all abilities with Jesus and with each other.
Their commitment to having people of all abilities on the various committees creates challenges, since some of their members are non-verbal. It also takes some intentional work to move non-visibly-disabled members from viewing their brothers and sisters with disabilities not as objects of pity or compassion, but as friends and co-laborers in the Kingdom.
Eric calls them “a no-shush church where we welcome all movement and all utterances and all verbalizations.” So church can be loud and unpredictable, but you can hear his grin when he says,
“It’s all worth it.”