My journey into ministry was surprising like most people. I was working at a camp with a bunch of middle school kids, and they needed somebody to stand up in front of the kids and say something, to do a talk. I didn’t even know what a sermon was at that point. So I said, “OK, I’ll give it a shot.” I went to my cabin and I wrote down a few words and grabbed a passage of scripture. Then I stood up in front of these kids and I gave this talk for seven minutes. Immediately afterward, my co-counselors came up, and they said, “hey, Mandrell, that wasn’t horrible! That that was actually pretty good! You should do that again. You should be the camp speaker.” So I began speaking to the middle schoolers, these seven-minute devotionals at this camp, and God just began to show me the joy of it meant to proclaim truth, to illustrate it, to teach it, and to help people.
The light bulbs came on. Of course, at that moment, I had no idea that God would call me to be a pastor where I would stand up in front of adults and speak. However, over time, as people began to experience the gifts that God had placed in my heart, I began to feel more and more that God has called me to speak. He’s called me to teach. He’s called me to preach. Then, as I began to get more comfortable with that, it became more and more fun. So, I think a lot of calling is following that passion of what brings you joy and letting the world experience what you’re passionate about.
Now being at LifeWay, one of my favorite things is the people. I am surrounded by some of the most amazing, gifted, and talented “called” people. These amazing individuals that I get to work with are experts in their field and I love to learn what they do. So much of leadership, I think, is affirming and encouraging culture and seeing people. I heard a person say once that, “culture is created by the positive behaviors we celebrate and the negative behaviors we tolerate.” I think that’s the leader’s job; “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” one guy said. Therefore, as long as we’re continuing to point out in culture, where people are doing great things, and emphasizing where we see God at work, where the Holy Spirit seems to be working and then having those hard difficult conversations on when a culture begins to drift. I think that might be the most important thing that the leader of LifeWay and the leader of any organization does on a daily basis. My name is Ben Mandrell, and this is my called story.