I really didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up until about a year or two ago, just to be honest. Stumbling into Bible college as a twenty-five-year-old who recently just resigned from a youth pastor position, which was my only stream of revenue as a newlywed, kind of shook things up with my wife and I. The reason that I left the ministry is because I took a step back and realized no one had ever trained me in how to study the Bible. I had never been discipled. The method in which I would use to prepare for sermons, let’s just say, it was very emotional, self-centered at best, and I was really convicted. So I Googled Bible colleges and found Calvary Bible College in Kansas City, Missouri, and talked to my wife about attending and transitioning into becoming formally educated. In that season of life, I felt that God was calling me to the pastorate. Over the last nine years, the Lord had been using me over through the Ministry of Gospel Rap; traveling with friends. At that time, my wife and I began to do music together, our hearts extremely grieved for the urban core of Kansas City, where we grew up. People would come up to us after alter calls were given and they would ask, “what church do I go to?” I would ask them about what churches are in their communities. And my heart just broke. My wife and I just laid that before the Lord, and we had stopped doing that type of evangelism because we didn’t know where to send people. So we wrestled through that together, and prayed to God, “What do you want to do with us? This is a burden, so what are you calling us to do about it?”
Pursuing an undergrad in biblical studies, and then going into seminary while pastoring allowed me to be introduced to the reality of having one foot in higher education and the other foot rooted in the local church, which helped bring those worlds together. However, I recognize because of where I was raised, in the trap, in the hood, I had to translate everything that I was learning in the space of college, especially theologically, to the language of the hearts of the people where we were planting the church to reach. At the same time, I was helping them understand ideology in their heart language. I had to almost do double the work in everything. And that’s when I began to really wrestle and struggle through this.
The good news is that my wife was there with me through the entire process and as we grew together in understanding our gifts, our talents, we also grew in understanding our limitations, which allowed us to walk a little bit more freely in the Lord’s calling. The further I went along in my education, the more I felt the Lord transitioning my heart more towards the academy. Now, I feel extremely free to be a missionary in the academy where I believe the greatest act of social injustice has taken place.
You take the first educator, who is God himself, and you systematically parse him out of research to allow humanism to be centered. Here I see a window of opportunity, as a missionary, and my discipline is missiology, to go into a humanistic-centered academy, but now engage the dialog of spirituality. So that I, through empirical data and research, can present argumentation for God to usher in his presence into the academy where he has been boxed out of. At the same time, I’m able to keep the relationships grounded in the local church. Serving as a professor at California Baptist University allows me to share my story in my 40s with young people who are between 18 to 23 years old. I get to show them the mistakes I made, be completely vulnerable, transparent, honest, and then give them tips. Like on the streets, we call them the “big homies”, or “the OGs”, the better Arno’s. They are the ones that school the up-and-coming ones, and that’s what I want to do. I want them to learn the truth of God’s word. I also want to show them how to perform cultural exegesis, and at the same time, whatever space that God calls them into for work and life, they’re wrestling with the same question, “God, what do you want me to do?” I want them to know something that I did not learn until my late thirties. You don’t have to serve as a pastor to be living on a mission for Jesus.
I thought that was the only way that I could do a life of missions, if you will, for Christ. However, that’s not always the reality for everyone. God has not called everyone to be a pastor. So, that is where I want to empower them with the understanding that the talents, the gifts, the abilities, God’s fingerprints have on your life through his sovereignty, and providence, and in writing their story of testimony can now make. When they surrender these things to the Lord, and they say yes to His will, He sends them where He wants them to go while having that deep connection and commitment to being rooted in a local church. That’s what keeps the balance. That’s what brings the experts in all these fields who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit into dialog to help the church remain balanced. We won’t stray too far to the extremes and fringes, but we will understand the robust gospel, the beauty of the great commission.
We will walk in obedience to the social and spiritual commands of Christ given in the scriptures, and we will make the Kingdom of God a little bit more visible with acts of mercy and compassion, both internally in the church and then externally in the community. I praise God that he allowed me to go on this journey, so that I would learn more about His heart from my life.
My name is D.R. Horton, and this is my called story.