College junior Aijalon Church, 20, from Bellmawr, New Jersey, thinks about becoming a doctor. Yet after attending the fifth Timothy Conference, he now realizes that fears that he might be inadequate for the ministry should not keep him from considering that calling. "Though my flesh and heart may fail, the word of the Lord stands true forever. This truth leads me to consider more strongly the possibility of a call to the ministry, where previously fear had kept me from acknowledging such a possibility," he said.
Church was one of twenty high school- and college-aged men who attended the conference on March 24-25 in Glenside, Pennsylvania. The Committee on Christian Education, through its Subcommittee on Ministerial Training, offered this conference to help church sessions encourage their young men to consider whether God has given them the gifts and the calling to become ministers in the OPC. Since the first conference in 2008, eighty young men have attended.
Danny Olinger, general secretary for Christian Education, hopes the conference helped the young men to grow in love for the brethren, to consider more ways to serve their pastor and congregation, and to cultivate their gifts to serve the church. "The men the sessions have recommended as participants have been uniformly outstanding," he said.
Before the conference, Ben Franks understood some of the dynamics of the pastorate. "The single greatest area where this conference has helped me is in getting a practical feel for what ministry looks like in the OPC." Franks, 21, hopes one day to seek ordination in the OPC.
Douglas Clawson, Foreign Missions associate general secretary, spoke on the office of a minister. "When we think of a minister, we must not only think of the noble preaching of the Word, but also the washing of feet," he said. John Knight, 20, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, appreciated learning that a pastor also talks to the lonely, reaches out to those with different political views, and empties the trash.
Ross Graham, Home Missions general secretary, spoke about God's calling to the ministry. "A career is something you pursue with a great deal of self-interest," said Graham. "A calling is something that God puts in your mind and heart and gives you the interest to pursue." That teaching prompted Josiah Lozier, 18, of Salem, Oregon, to say that becoming a minister "needs to be treated with more contemplative and prayerful thought."
For a special treat, Dr. Darryl Hart took the group on a three-mile walking tour of Philadelphia to see spectacular buildings from early Presbyterian history. Olinger explained that the tour's message was, "We gave all this up because the gospel was more glorious than any of these earthly trappings. As Orthodox Presbyterians, the Bible and the historical person and work of Christ are most important." They also visited the row home where Westminster Theological Seminary began (see photo above).
Dr. David VanDrunen, Westminster Seminary California professor and OP minister, spoke on the importance of seminary training. The students also sat in classes at Westminster Theological Seminary. Peter Carrillo, 20, of Silverton, Oregon, was impressed by the high level of examination required to become ordained. "As Dr. VanDrunen said, 'You would get nervous having an untrained physician taking care of your physical body; how much more would you need someone to be trained to take care of your soul?' " said Carrillo.
OP pastor Paul Browne, of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, encouraged the men to prepare diligently for future ministry now. "One thing that has been reinforced during this conference is the importance of God's Word, and how much it ought to pervade our lives and ministry," said Daniel Teti, 18.
After the conference, six of the twenty men said they were seriously considering the ministry, while the others were unsure. "The weight of the call hit me like a wrecking ball," said William Sprague, 20, of Torrance, California, who hopes to become a pastor.
Although Steve Tijerina, 19, of Joliet, Illinois, didn't sense a call to the ministry, he returned home with "a greater appreciation for the Scriptures and how they affect everything in my life."
"One of the most important things I learned during this conference was to examine my intentions for wanting to pursue the ministry," said Eric Tsiliacos, 19, of San Francisco. "It must come from the Lord. As I wait for his 'calling,' I plan on taking the advice of many of the pastors by testing my gifts and listening for encouragement from wise women in my church."
"This conference has shown me a glimpse of the future leadership of the church," said Thomas Carson, 17, from Frederick, Maryland. "When I see the genuineness of my fellow young men, I cannot help but have an optimistic view of the future of the church and the preaching of the gospel."
Clawson agrees. "I think this is one of the best preparatory programs that could have been started with a view to raising up pastors from within our churches."
(For information about the 2012 Timothy Conference, click here).