While God sends RTS Charlotte grads all over the world, sometimes he calls them to stay right here in Charlotte. When he does so, it gives us a chance to watch their ministries grow and develop in our own city.
This is the case with the next individual in the Where Are They Now? series: Jordan Olshefski. Jordan was my TA at the seminary and also my intern at my church (Uptown PCA)–duties which he (incredibly) upheld at the same time. It has been a blessing having him stay around.
Jordan gets the award for the most thorough answers (so far) to the interview questions (which is no surprise if you know him). Listen to his wise advice below.
1. What are you currently doing?
I am the Associate Pastor at Cross Park Church. We are PCA church in Charlotte that was planted 3.5 years by Uptown Church.
2. Why did you originally come to RTS Charlotte?
I wanted to come to a seminary that believed in the authority of the Word and held to the core convictions of Reformed Theology. At the time I really didn’t know what I wanted to do after seminary. I was simply coming with the desire to learn the Bible. RTS seemed like the perfect place to do that. When we visited RTS-Charlotte, I was immediately struck by two things: the quality of the teaching and the warmth and friendliness of the people.
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?
“All theology is practical.” I don’t remember who said it, but it has been a helpful reminder for me through the years. The study of theology should never be detached from practical application, and the study of theology done with that aim is never a waste of time.
4. What do you enjoy most about your current ministry?
What I enjoy most about my current ministry is simply the opportunity to teach and preach the Word. I realized pretty quickly into ministry that my own resources and wisdom were not what people needed. I think it’s easy for a young pastor to think that what his people really need is his own cleverness or his wise analysis. But what people ultimately need is God’s Word so that their hearts can be reoriented to the Lord Jesus. That doesn’t mean you hit them over the head with the Bible when they come in the office, but it does mean that you tactfully point them to the Scriptures again and again. And it means that we must saturate ourselves with the Scriptures so that when we speak to others, Scripture naturally comes out.
5. What has been a struggle in your ministry?
One of my biggest struggles in ministry has been with feelings of inadequacy. Oftentimes this has been the result of thinking that God won’t use me unless my pastoral skills were up to a certain level. It seems so arrogant when you finally write it out, and it’s easy to see that it comes from thinking too highly of myself, of thinking that my performance is what the Spirit really needs, and of a misplaced identity. Those feelings of inadequacy are ultimately sinful. But it’s also been helpful for me to realize that there’s a good side of inadequacy. In one sense, you don’t ever want that feeling to go away. It should be a common experience for all pastors, especially as we see the magnitude of the tasks ahead of us. When viewed rightly, these feelings are a gift in at least three ways: 1) Because they remind us of our need for the Lord Jesus. They force me to see that my only hope is for my identity to be firmly rooted in Christ. 2) They help expose sin. They show me that I’m easily given to seeking the approval of others, etc. And finally, 3) they remind me that I do need to be a better preacher, teacher, counselor, and shepherd. In other words, I shouldn’t be content with being the same preacher or counselor that I was when I was first started. Overtime, I should be growing in my understanding of Scripture, in my ability to communicate with clarity, and so on. I want to improve! Recognizing that process of improvement has been hard for me. Sometimes it’s easy to conclude that you’re not called to ministry because people are falling asleep in your sermon. In reality, we need to recognize that it takes time and effort to improve. As I was coming to this realization a few years ago, I heard an interview with Ira Glass, the host of the radio program “This American Life.” In the interview, Ira listened to his own broadcast from 20 years earlier and then went on to critique it, pointing out all of the rookie mistakes in his earlier recording. That showed me that in any and every field it takes time and effort to improve. To sum it all up, feelings of inadequacy have pointed me to my identity in Christ, to my need to depend on the Spirit, and to my need to pursue growth and improvement by God’s grace in the areas of preaching, teaching, and so on.
6. If you could give any encouragement to a current student in seminary, what would it be?
Two things: 1) At RTS, if you are willing to sit under the teaching with an open heart, you will regularly be convicted of your own sin. This is the inevitable result when professors teach the Word not simply as intellectual knowledge but as truth to be applied to all of life. When you’re confronted with your own sin, especially in a class setting, it’s easy to just ignore it and keep taking notes for the upcoming test. Don’t do that. Take the time to stop and deal with what God has exposed. If you let God use this time, seminary will be a crucible of sanctification. It will be hard, but it will be for your good and God’s glory. 2) Go to chapel and the prayer meetings. It is a great privilege to both worship and petition God each week with your brothers and sisters. It will edify your soul and teach your heart about what matters most. It may seem like a better use of your time to study, read, and write papers, given all that you have to do each semester. But your work in seminary is spiritual work. The doctrine of illumination, for instance, teaches us that we need the Spirit to understand the Word. That means that taking time to cultivate your spiritual life both personally and corporately, will better enable you to do your work.
To get a taste of Cross Park’s ministry, see this great video of their 2013 Missions trip to Haiti: