Hi, my name is Jared Wilson. I’m an assistant professor of pastoral ministry at Midwestern Seminary. And this is my calling story.
I was about five years old when I responded to an invitation, an altar call at my church service, First Baptist Church in Brownsville, Texas. I walked forward and went into the counseling room with a counselor who walked me through a little gospel tract that outlined the plan of salvation. I don’t know the name of the track. I don’t remember all of the details, but I do remember that it had a little illustration of a choo-choo train. So, that image still sticks in my mind. Shortly thereafter, I was baptized. So I grew up in the church, hearing the things of Christ and learning the scriptures.
It was 1989, between my seventh and eighth-grade year, I was at a youth camp called 3D camp, which was at Camp Zephyr, near Corpus Christi, Texas. The camp was in association with our church. It was one ordinary morning when I was getting up to have my morning devotions and I would love to say that I was super spiritual and that’s why I was so moved to get up in the morning to spend time with God. However, I’m pretty sure I was trying to impress a girl. So, I got up early to read my Bible out in public at a picnic table, hoping that this girl would notice and think how spiritual I was. I don’t remember being in a particular bible plan, but I think I was picking parts of the Bible to pretend to read through. I found myself in Exodus Chapter 3, and it really grabbed my attention. Now, having grown up in the church, I was familiar with the story of God’s call of Moses through the burning bush and that sort of thing. I even had the flannel graph imagery in my head. For whatever reason on that particular morning, it really caught my attention and I was really riveted to what was happening there when God called Moses. I believe He used it to tug on my heart, and he put an alien thought in my brain about my future, an idea that I had never really crossed my mind before. I saw myself in Moses, all of the different means of defense, all of the deflections, the excuses that he was making, those were all things that, even at that age, were running around in my brain. Who am I? Questions of identity, questions of security, and insecurity of assurance. I was a stutterer from kindergarten all the way into college. Actually, I struggled with a speech impediment. So hearing Moses say things like, I’m slow of speech or I’m slow of tongue; that really resonated with me. There was just something that kind of leapt off the page, and this alien idea landed in my brain, I believe, from the Holy Spirit, using the words that he had breathed out on that page that I was to be in ministry, that I was to be a pastor. I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t come from a family that put that expectation on me. I grew up in a Christian home with Christian parents, but my dad wasn’t a pastor nor was my grandfather a pastor. There was no external exertion on me to pursue ministry. It really was a brand new idea.
Later at the end of the week, as I was still sorting through this strange idea that popped into my head, that week during another camp invitation, I heard something I’d never heard before. Now, I don’t know that I had never been said in an altar call where I was present, but it was the first time I ever remember hearing this kind of invitation. After the preacher was asking people to come forward to make confession of faith or to rededicate their lives, he said, “if any student here believes that God is calling them into ministry, come forward for prayer.” I thought I have never heard that before in my life. How weird would it be to hear that the very week the Lord’s calling me into ministry? I thought, maybe this is for me to receive some kind of confirmation. I went forward out of about 600-700 students that were there, only two of us responded to that invitation. It was actually me and the pastor’s son from my home church. We went forward to receive prayer. Then I went back to our new home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We had just arrived there and I was just about to begin the eighth grade. And the youth pastor of that church who knew nothing about my experience at camp that summer, something I hadn’t told anybody about, he sent me a letter in the mail. In fact, he had sent it to several students in the youth group. He was forming something he called The Ministry Team. It was basically a student leadership sort of program. And I was the only junior high student that was invited to be a part of this, so I just saw that as another sweet confirmation from the Lord. Here was a pastor who saw something in me, where maybe he thought I had the makings of ministry leadership of some kind. Perhaps to the point where he wanted to disciple and train me. So that’s what I did. I sort of just walked through these open doors that the Lord provided for me and I was very blessed to have pastors in my life ever since. Pastors who took me under their wing and took me seriously, even as a young kid who didn’t know anything but took the calling that I believed that I felt seriously about. They discipled me and were heavily influential in my formation.
I started my first ministry position the summer I graduated high school in 1994. My first ministry role was as the Youth Minister for Zion Chinese Baptist Church. Honestly, it was kind of being thrown into the deep end, so to speak. However, it was another confirmation for me, where I thought, “I think this is what God has wired me to be.” I spent about 25 years in local church ministry serving in ministerial roles, then in 2014, I started working for a Midwestern seminary, and left the pastorate. My last ministry role in the church was in a small rural church in Vermont, where I was the pastor for six years before coming to Kansas City to work at Midwestern. These days, I get to train young men who want to pursue that calling themselves. And the Lord has been very sweet to confirm that my calling is still, in a sense, irrevocable. I am fulfilling that ministry by helping others train for theirs and to focus on the gospel as the center of the Christian life and of Christian ministry, through my own church as well. I’m directing a residency program called the Pastoral Training Center, where I get to pass the baton and aid the next generation grow into their own sense of identity and strength in the gospel. The Lord has been very sweet to open up new doors as I pursued the calling that he placed on my life when I was 14 years old. And here I am. 31 years later, I still believe that calling was true and sure, and he’s been great to confirm that.