When students graduate from seminary and are looking for a call, they typically go one of two routes: (a) look for an established church that matches their vision and values, or (b) plant their own church that will (hopefully) embody their vision and values.
Although there is nothing wrong with these two options, they both presume that you take a call at a church that is (largely) already where you want it to be. Overlooked in such situations are the many, many smaller churches that are struggling and not necessarily what you want them to be. But, they have amazing potential to grown and change.
This is the world of church revitalization. It is catching on in some quarters, but only slowly. A number of years ago, RTS Charlotte grad Hobie Wood (class of 2011) decided to go this route. He took a smaller, struggling church and decided to commit to it and faithfully minister there, waiting to see what the Lord might do.
And the Lord showed up in a mighty way. Hobie’s ministry is thriving and it is a great reminder that church revitalization is a real option.
So, Hobie is the next installment of our Where Are They Now? series. Here is his interview:
1. What are you currently doing?
I am currently the senior pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church, PCA in Clarkesville GA.
2. Why did you originally come to RTS Charlotte?
I came to RTS after working in campus ministry (Cru). My wife and I were serving at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, and one of the pastors at our church offered for me to take a seminary class at his expense. I had heard of RTS and decided to take a course from the Global campus. From there, the Lord began to change my internal sense of call from campus ministry to pastoral ministry. We left campus ministry and moved to RTS Charlotte in 2008 so that I could attend seminary full-time.
3. Is there one thing that you learned at RTS that has come back to you as you have ministered to others? A phrase, encouragement or advice?
The things that I learned at RTS make their way out in every aspect of the ministry here. Perhaps the main theological idea that comes out in my ministry here is the Reformed/Covenantal understanding of the Bible as one book…with an emphasis on the unfolding of the covenant of Grace. This affects how I preach Christ from the OT, how we teach our congregation to interpret the Bible in their own reading…it affects everything! One more thing – the faculty at RTS were all very clear in teaching us that what our people need is God’s Word…the Word is sufficient for the ministry. This is rescued me from jumping off the ledge of triviality and novelty in ministry…and from being “over programmed.” The people (and I myself) need Jesus…and we get Him in the Scripture. And that’s enough.
4. What do you enjoy most about your current ministry?
I am enjoying the weekly preaching of God’s Word. It’s a joy to prepare, to preach, and to watch God work in the lives of people. It’s also a tremendous blessing to see how God works in my own life as I preach every week. I did not expect such joy in the task of preaching. I enjoy the other aspects as well (shepherding, counseling, discipleship, leadership development) – but preaching is probably the greatest enjoyment in ministry right now.
5. What has been a struggle in your ministry?
I think the greatest struggle in my ministry has less to do with the ministry…more to do with me! Ministry exposes that I am not nearly as far along in my sanctification as I would like to be. It exposes that too often, I am not walking in the grace and truth that I’m preaching. It exposes that my heart has not been softened by the Word that I’ve prayed God would use to soften the hearts of others. I think this is normal…but it’s a struggle to be an imperfect pastor! At the same time, this has been something the Lord has used to break me and bring me to repentance and faith again and again. So while I hate it…I’m glad God is still at work in me and the congregation in the midst of my pastoral imperfections. Sanctification for those in pastoral ministry is a hard road…but a crucial one.
6. If you could give any encouragement to a current student in seminary, what would it be?
My encouragement to current RTS students would be: make sure you pair this excellent education that you’re getting at RTS with a real, legitimate relationship with a local church. Our experience through our normal involvement at church in addition to my internship at the church leaves fingerprints on every aspect of ministry here. It wasn’t just the practical experience of ministering in the church that was helpful….it was also learning what it means to be a normal member of the church. So go deep at RTS…and go deep in the local church. Also, be intentional about forming good relationships with other future pastors while at RTS. The people that I call most frequently about ministry-related things or personal things are my closest friends from RTS, even if they live far away.