If You Really Want to Know… (biographical)
At heart, I am a country boy. Raised in the rolling hills of rural Harford County, Maryland (about 45 minutes northeast of Baltimore) and I must say that I do not understand the appeal of city life: too much concrete and steel and too few trees.
As a young man, I was an average student in school because I would have rather been outside or with my friends. I was never much of a "jock" but I loved camping and hiking and am an Eagle Scout — class of 1986 (that dates me, doesn’t it).
I entered the workforce in 8th grade and was one of those kids that sat on the street-corners in Baltimore selling flowers…in those days it was a little safer to do that than it is today. I have worked as a landscaper, a Domino’s Pizza driver and manager, a warehouseman, a karate school manager, a mechanic’s apprentice, a blue-print line-printer, a high-speed Xerox operator, a carpet installer, a general laborer, a High School teacher and administrator, and now as a Pastor. I have also been the owner or part-owner of 4 businesses that were opened and later closed down — one of which was a used book store (which proved a colossal failure, but we live and we learn).
In many ways, all these jobs reflect two things. The first thing is that I spent a lot of time running from God’s call upon my life to be a pastor. I tried about everything else but never knew the satisfaction and peace that I now know given hat I am following God’s path and no longer my own reckless dreams. The second thing is perhaps more sanctified and theological. God’s permission that allowed me to run down these various paths has proven helpful in relating to people in a variety of different vocations. Further, it helped to mature me (at least a bit) before I entered into a pastoral role.
So, by calling, I am a pastor. And while in theological terms, “pastor” is a vocation, it is also my avocation and often my vacation. In other words, unlike many vocations, a pastor does not cease to be a pastor when he leaves the office and goes home or even when he goes away on vacation. He is the shepherd of the sheepfold of God and threats to the sheep are not scheduled around a 50-60 hour work-week…nor are opportunities to lead.
So, I am a pastor and like most pastors, I gladly wear a lot of hats. At the same time, where I thrive as a pastor is as the primary teacher and theologian of the church. I take great joy in those mornings when I wake up and find questions about the Bible in my inbox. With this in mind, there are also two things in ministry that I have found that I “cannot not” do: preach and write.
Theologically, I am Reformed by conviction and by choice, not by upbringing. I grew up in a Methodist household and even began preaching as a licensed “Lay Speaker” in the United Methodist Church. Yet, after 5 years of preaching regularly for pastors who were sick or on vacation, I found that my theology had changed in significant ways and so, I headed off for Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS.
While in seminary I continued to provide pulpit supply (this time in Presbyterian churches) but also ended up spending more than 3 years preaching weekly (sometimes twice-weekly) at a downtown homeless shelter and then ministering to the men afterwards.
After seminary, ministry was bi-vocational. I was recruited out of seminary to serve as a chaplain for Rocky Bayou Christian School in the panhandle of Florida and while at Rocky, I was called to serve on a part-time basis as the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCA) about 45 minutes down the road.
After 5 years in Florida, God called us to return northward, bringing us here to western Pennsylvania, a place culturally and geographically much closer to where my wife and I grew up and closer to our aging parents. St. John’s (Burry’s) Church is a conservative and evangelical congregation in the German Reformed tradition, using the Heidelberg Catechism as its primary historical statement of beliefs. This has been home ever since and, Lord willing, will continue to be our home for many years to come.
I have also had the privilege to do some traveling to teach the Bible. Most of that traveling has been to and from Ukraine, where I have been involved with a seminary there since 2005. I have also been privileged to speak at conferences in Moscow and Nairobi.
I have written a more than a dozen books with several more in different stages of readiness for publication. You can read a little more on the books I have written if you go to my blog above. While there, consider following my blog and twitter feeds. I post new articles about faith and the Christian life about three times a week; that way you won't miss anything.
I have been married to my wife, Denise, since 1997 and we have two children together: Paul and Chloe. Paul has great dreams of being a YouTube video producer, so while I express myself to a digital audience primarily with words, he does so with pictures and video. We live in the church parsonage at the top of Muller’s Hill in New Sewickly, Township, PA — a prettier place you will be hard pressed to find.
In my free time, I enjoy gardening, splitting my own firewood, historical war-gaming with little lead soldiers (I never grew out of my army men!), cooking, and reading. My philosophy regarding books is borrowed from Desiderius Erasmus: “If I get a little money, I buy books; if there is anything left, I buy food and clothing.” Yes, my wife is patient with me.
Some of my favorite authors outside of the Bible are C.S. Lewis, J.C. Ryle, John Dick, and Ronald Nash. My favorite character from fictional writing is Sherlock Holmes. Oh, and I better say that I am also a bit of a Mac snob (really, are there any other computers out there to choose from?) and our household proudly maintains its “Apple-Only” status.