Hi, my name is Matthew Barrett. I’d like to tell you about my own testimony and calling to teaching and ministry.
I owe really my identity in Christ, in large part, to my parents. I resonate a lot with what Paul wrote to Timothy and how Paul pointed out to Timothy, don’t forget who first taught you the gospel. Paul then points to Timothy’s mother and grandmother. For me, my story is not all that different than Timothy’s. My parents, both my mom and my dad, were just very faithful in many ways. They were faithful to take me to a church where the scriptures were taught and proclaimed even as a young child and as a youth, where I was invited and welcomed to ask questions to the pastor. He was just very welcoming to try to answer those questions, sometimes even if they were a bit odd. My parents were so faithful because in the home they were consistent. What I mean is they were consistent to teach me the gospel of Jesus Christ and not just the facts of the gospel but to actually present Christ to me as the risen resurrected savior and Lord.
As the Holy Spirit worked through the times when my parents would talk about the gospel with me, the Spirit also worked through the reading of the word. This is why I always tell my students to this day, the Spirit and word, go together, and that’s certainly true in my own life. As I read the scriptures, especially the gospel of John, I saw who Christ is and I was altogether born again. From that moment forward, I really began to follow Christ and to learn through ups and downs what that looked like. Sometimes it was very difficult to understand, what does it mean to be a Christian? At other times, it was full of great joy and excitement as my faith came to life, even when I had the opportunity to share who Christ is with other friends that I knew. In those moments, it was very much confirmed in me that I really do belong to Christ. I’ve been united to him and I want to serve him with my life.
As for how I was called into ministry and specifically teaching, well, my story is a little bit different. I remember when I was just a beginner college student eager to learn, but not quite sure how or what books to look to; I remember finding a beat-up discarded and trashed copy of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. It was large, really, really thick, and I found it intimidating. However, when I started to open those institutes and John Calvin starts, in a very famous way, talking about the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves. I immediately felt at home. As I worked through those institutes page by page, I started to learn not only who God is, but what it means to be a Christian, as Calvin had much to say about prayer and the Christian life. When I finished, not only had I grown in my knowledge of God, but something was stirred within me. And I thought, if this is what theology is about, then this is what I want to dedicate my life to. So I’m thankful to this day for many professors at that time who recognized that “hey, you seem like you actually are not only interested in theology, but care about it and are passionate about and may even want to teach theology to others one day.” They were exactly right. Many of them encouraged me to pursue more studies, which I did. However, as I prepared to teach in the classroom, teaching classes in systematic theology, as well as Bible classes, church history, and philosophy, I started to notice how much I desired to see these important truths, doctrines, and concepts not only taught and embraced, but also applied in real life.
Shortly after that, I had the opportunity to serve in the local church as a pastor, and I did that simultaneously while being a professor in the classroom. To my surprise, what I discovered was that doing both went hand in hand. They complimented each other so much. So, I would get intellectual in the classroom and get into the weeds of theology, I would then turn to those in the pew at the church and not only teach those same truths, but also apply those truths to their Christian lives. And I can tell you, from personal experience to this day, that both proved to be rewarding. Not only seeing the light bulb come on with students in the classroom, but then seeing those in the pew take God’s word, understand these crucial doctrines of the Christian faith and then apply them to their lives in ways that made a real difference in affecting the course of their lives. Being able to see that in real-time and space again and again never fails to remind me that God is at work. He’s at work through us for the sake of his people and ultimately, for the sake of his glory and his everlasting kingdom.