Chris and Lyssa Hartley were living near Des Moines, Iowa, where he taught art, coached basketball, and oversaw the high school yearbook. He loved his job. Then a job opening in their home area brought them to DeWitt, Iowa.
At this point in their lives neither of them had any significant connection to church, although Lyssa had wondered about it. Then the Lord did something really creative. A friend of Chris was at the chiropractor and struck up a conversation with another man about his i-Phone. “Here, would you like to take a look at it?” the man offered. That led to more conversation. The other man, Pastor Paul Lang, invited Chris’ friend to Emmaus Road Lutheran Brethren Church.
The friend tried out the church and told Chris, “I went to this church and really enjoyed the music. You ought to check it out.” Reluctantly Chris agreed, but said to Lyssa, “It’s fine if we go to church once in a while. But let’s not go crazy with this.”
Then they met the Langs. They really enjoyed the father-son pastor team, Paul and Jason. “Jason just blew me out of the water. He was such a normal, down to earth guy. We had a lot in common.” They started hanging out together.
That led to Chris and Lyssa hearing the Word of God. Chris relates, “I always had a feeling that there was a God, that there was something bigger than me. But I never knew about a relationship with God.” Somewhere in the first year-and-a-half Chris and Lyssa came to believe in Jesus Christ as savior. “One Sunday morning our whole family was baptized.”
Now Chris wanted to confess his faith in Christ. “Why don’t you come to Tweens or youth group and hang out with kids? Build some relationships. See how God can work in even the youngest people.” He did. Eventually he and Lyssa became leaders of the youth ministry.
Then Pastor Paul suggested that Chris read 1 Timothy. He did. Paul asked him. “What does it look like to take responsibility in a church?” So Chris read it again. A few weeks later the question was, “What do you need to be like in your person if you are going to take responsibility in a church?” So Chris read it again. That led to an invitation to serve as an elder in the church. “I was extremely humbled by that.”
Something else began to happen. Even though Chris loved teaching and earned a master’s degree in his field, he had the nagging sense that he had a greater desire to talk to his students about Jesus than about art. His pastors and church encouraged him toward ministry.
“I never felt like ministry was an option. It’s like it was given to me. People would ask us, ‘Isn’t it hard?’ Yes, it’s hard, but it’s not my decision.” This summer Chris and Lyssa moved with their children to Fergus Falls, Minnesota where Chris is enrolled in Lutheran Brethren Seminary, preparing for pastoral ministry.
And this all started with a conversation about an i-Phone.
Dr. David Veum is president of Lutheran Brethren Seminary.