How God Called Adam Into Ministry

When I became a Christian as a teenager in 1994, God gave me a strong desire to understand truth. I had never enjoyed school much before, but suddenly I had an appetite to learn everything I could about God, nature, the Bible, morality, and philosophy. I ate up anything I could get my hands on, and God gave me a passion to share what I was learning with others.

After high school, I studied actuarial science and finance at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and then worked as an actuary throughout my twenties. To earn my actuarial designations after college, I had to study probability, statistics, calculus, and actuarial mathematics for three to four hours a day over a period of seven years. During that time, I was heavily involved in my non-denominational evangelical church, teaching Bible studies, serving as a deacon, etc. Eventually, the leaders there asked me to consider coming on staff at the church. I had often wondered if God was calling me to serve as a pastor, but I declined their offer because I had a skeleton in my closet. I had kept this skeleton a secret because I was embarrassed. What I was struggling with was doubt over whether or not Christianity is really true. It seemed like everyone around me had such strong faith and could believe so easily. But as someone with an analytical mind, I was tormented by all sorts of doubts – how do we know the Bible hasn’t been corrupted over the centuries? Doesn’t science and evolution contradict the Bible? How can we explain all the evil in the world if God is all good and all powerful? How do faith and reason work together? In other words, if you could prove Christianity is true with reason and evidence, then what would be the purpose of faith? Was it unspiritual or unbiblical to want evidence that Christianity was really true?

When I said no to joining the church’s staff because of my secret doubts, I became angry at myself for having such weak faith. As you can imagine, this anger exacerbated my doubts, and it exploded into a full-fledged crisis of faith. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or work. I started experiencing troublesome anxiety and intense panic attacks. I was an emotional wreck. I had no choice but to finally begin telling people what I was going through. I’m so thankful that, in response, one of my pastors gave me a book by Francis Schaeffer. I can honestly say that God used Schaeffer, through his books, to rescue me spiritually and emotionally. Schaeffer was a Presbyterian pastor and missionary in the 1940s through the 1970s who specialized in cases like me. He helped me understand the proper relationship between faith and reason. I then spent a few years researching the major doubts I had about Christianity and was overwhelmed by all the good reasons and evidence to believe Christianity is true. As I began sharing what I was learning with others, it soon became obvious that God was calling me to serve others the way Schaeffer served me, by helping people with their doubts and questions about Christianity.

With this new calling from God, my wife and I, and our four little kids, moved to South Carolina in 2008 to attend Southern Evangelical Seminary because this school focuses on my field of ministry, often called apologetics. I became a Southern Baptist pastor in 2009 and served in that role for eight years while I worked on my Masters of Divinity and then my PhD in Philosophy of Religion at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. As a pastor I wore many hats, which gave me some opportunities to serve others via apologetics. But I believed God was calling me to serve full time in this area by providing good reasons and evidence to believe Christianity is true. Thus in 2017, I stepped down from the pastorate to do apologetics ministry full time.

Some people find it odd that I moved from a career in mathematics to the field of ministry. But it makes perfect sense when you consider the type of ministry God has called me to, the ministry of philosophical arguments, evidences, and academic studies. For seven years, when I was studying mathematics for three to four hours a day to earn my actuarial designations, God used that training to hone my mind and develop my skills in logic, proofs, and building good arguments. It’s not a coincidence that the greatest philosophers throughout history have also been the greatest mathematicians. Most everyone knows René Descartes for his Cartesian coordinate system—those X and Y coordinates we all have to learn through endless sheets of graph paper. But not many people are familiar with Descartes’ sophisticated philosophical arguments for the existence of God. As an actuary I studied Blaise Pascal’s probability theory and never knew until years later that he also was a celebrated Christian philosopher!

To sum up, I believe the calling God has given me to serve others is a calling to a certain people group, but not a people group in the usual sense of race or ethnicity. Instead, I feel called to serve and reach those who have doubts and questions about whether Christianity is true. I feel called to serve Christians who are struggling with their faith and to reach out to those who’ve rejected Christianity. I think one of the reasons I feel called to this “people group” is that I was once like them. I often use the example of someone who’s saved out of drugs; who are they passionate to reach now? Usually it’s those who are still addicted to drugs. Well, I was one of those people that had a lot of doubts and questions about Christianity, and I was “rescued” out of that through Christians mentoring me and through apologetics. Thus, I feel drawn to help others who are struggling like I was. It’s a specialized ministry, no doubt, but it’s just like being called to prison ministry, homeless ministry, or a specific tribe in Indonesia.

So those are the people I feel called to serve, but how do I go about serving them? I think there are several key things to do in order to reach folks like this. First and foremost is building close personal relationships and friendships. Within these personal friendships I can show that I love them and care for them, that I don’t just want to argue with them. Second, I try to provide good, honest answers to honest questions. People have real concerns, and we can’t just say to them “Don’t ask questions, just believe!” We have to work hard to answer their questions. Jesus and Paul were constantly answering people’s honest questions and helping them see the reasons and evidence to believe Christianity is true. So my work entails a lot of studying and research as well as answering people’s questions in the process of one-on-one discipleship, preaching, speaking, teaching, and writing. A ministry that combines personal relationships and providing honest answers to honest questions is a difficult combination, no doubt. Usually people emphasize one to the exclusion of the other. But Francis Schaeffer is my hero in this area of ministry, and I aspire to be like him. He’s the best example I’ve ever seen of someone who emphasized both personal loving relationships and honest answers to honest questions. The loving community that Francis and his wife Edith created through their L’Abri ministry is quite remarkable.