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Called: J.T. English

by J.T. English August 25, 2021

I didn’t grow up understanding the gospel and by that, I don’t just mean I didn’t understand it when I was a child; I didn’t understand it when I was in middle school or high school. I went to college in Colorado at Colorado State University. Again, not understanding the gospel; I was randomly placed with a roommate and he kept inviting me to this Bible study. I had gone to church a few times when I was a child, but again, never really understood the gospel and certainly didn’t understand the story of scripture. However, he continued to invite me to this Bible study that I really had no interest in going to. After the fourth or fifth time he asked me to go, I finally said, “fine, I’ll go to this Bible study with you,” just to simply placate you.

I go to this Bible study and they say, open up to Jonah. And I couldn’t find Jonah because it’s a very small book. I couldn’t go to the table of contents, because then you’re outed as the person who doesn’t know what’s in the Bible. I began thinking, “am I in some kind of cult? Like what’s going on here?” I’ll never forget the leader next to me, a sophomore college student, literally used his hand to open the scriptures for me to Jonah. For the first time, I heard that God would be gracious and that God was gracious to somebody who had been outrightly and blatantly disobedient to his command and his law. That made no sense to me; that God would extend grace to a sinner.

The following week, that same leader, the sophomore, took me to Burger King in the student union, and he offered to buy me a whopper. We’re eating lunch and he extends the four spiritual laws to me, which is a campus crusade gospel track, and in the most non-compelling gospel presentation in the history of the world… He proceeds to simply read it! Literally, he just went one, two, three, four, without even making eye contact with me and God saved me. It was at that moment that I realized that I was that sinner who had been disobedient to God’s word, but could receive grace through his mercy given to us in Christ.

I spent the next three or four years just throwing myself into tasks like evangelism, because this good news, was so good. God is gracious to sinners in Christ. Yet at the end of my time in school; I realized I don’t know that I’ve really grown. I don’t know that I really spent time thinking about how to study the Bible or learn the Bible or teach the Bible. I wasn’t really expressing a call to ministry at that time, but I went to my pastor, who is a wonderful Southern Baptist pastor, and I said to him, “I want to grow.” And he said, “oh, you want to grow? Well, then you need to go to seminary.” Now hear me, I am so thankful for so many wonderful seminaries. My seminary experience is one of the best experiences of my life. But I asked him at that time, “what’s seminary? Isn’t the local church supposed to be the place where we grow Christians?” Now, of course, he was just operating in the system that we’ve become accustomed to.

So, I went off to seminary and again, had a wonderful experience. In my classes, I was learning things about the Bible and theology and spiritual formation that I wasn’t learning in the context of my church. I realized this is gold. This this is the fruit, the riches, the robust theology of the Christian life that I need in seasons of suffering, doubt or trials. So, I was feeling equipped in the context of seminary, realizing why are we not doing this in the church?

So for me, part of my story and my calling into ministry is realizing the local church is the primary place that Jesus desires to make disciples. From that moment on, I’m learning and trying to gather all of these resources there in the context of the seminary, so that I can take them back to the context of the local church. What I have found in in the midst of my calling is that there are so many brothers and sisters who have a very similar story to me, who desire to follow Jesus, who desire to know and love him with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength.

I’m thankful for my story because so much of our ministry calling is formed and shaped by our stories. I’m thankful for that freshman who invited me to the bible studies. I’m thankful for that sophomore who opened God’s word for me for the first time. I’m thankful for that pastor who said go to seminary to get equipped. So, wherever you are in your calling story, my hope is that you would look back over your story, and pinpoint some of those high points or low points where you can see God’s hand, his fingerprint on your life and ask him how might he be calling you to make disciples? My name is J.T. English and this is my called story.