Taking Up the Cross of Ministry

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

Harsh words? Strong words, yes. But harsh words? Three former Lutheran Brethren Seminary students faced that question as they followed Christ into ministry. Jason Rogness grew up on a farm near Toronto, South Dakota, left a career in sports journalism, and now serves as pastor of Community in Christ LBC in Arvada, Colorado. Paul Tjelta grew up as a pastor’s son in Pasadena, California and Nampa, Idaho. He was an architect before coming to LBS, and now serves as pastor of Bethesda LBC in Westby, Wisconsin. David Narvesen grew up attending Community of Joy Lutheran Brethren Church in Eagan, Minnesota. He was a civil engineer in Washington state, and is now studying the French language in France in preparation for mission work.

What did it cost you to follow Christ into ministry?

Jason: The first thing that comes to mind is money! While I was finishing my Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism, the Fargo Fox television station offered me a job. It was exactly the job you would hope to get coming right out of college. I could have also been a farmer, another career that I would have loved. There is cost in being away from family and the farm. I miss both because I hold close my family and the life I had growing up on the farm.

Paul: It “cost”… money, perceived security, leaving a sense of belonging for not belonging, trading an anticipated path for my children for an unknown path for them, leaving behind our friends and our children’s friends, and feeling responsible for all that my kids and my wife left behind. It cost everything!

David: The decision to leave from our part wasn’t one that felt like we were giving up anything. True we were leaving good jobs and a home we had for eight years. Leaving friends and co-workers was really the only thing hard about moving, but when our backs were to Washington and we were heading toward Minnesota there were no regrets.

Why did you leave to follow Christ in ministry? 

Jason: The call to ministry was clear, and my desire to be in the news room was gone. To spend more money earning a Master of Divinity was an easy choice. After completing my degree, I accepted a call to Arvada. I thought I would be there a couple years and then move back to the mid-west to be closer to family. But the door has remained opened for me to keep serving this congregation. It hasn’t been easy, especially when you are missing holidays, birthday parties, and special events. But again, it’s the call that has kept me where I am, and the people he has called me to serve. I also see that part of the reason for leaving was to find my wife, Savanna. Although I didn’t know it at the time, the Lord was orchestrating our meeting, which was at the church after a baptism!

Paul: Luke 9:23-24 pushed me over the edge. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”

David: Why did I leave? Good question. I enjoyed my job and was getting more and more successful in it, but at the end of the day I just knew there was something else God was calling us to.

Was it worth it?

Jason: It has absolutely been worth it! While the moments of longing to be near home are very real, they pale in comparison to the peace that the Lord gives you when you are living his call for your life.

Paul: It didn’t cost me anything. A better question is, “What did I gain?”

David: Absolutely. These days are certainly harder, but in the end the joy of seeing what God is doing is worth it.

How does the cross make it possible to follow Christ into ministry?

Jason: My purpose in life is not determined by my own self. That was given to me when Christ died, rose again, declared me righteous, and gave me the mission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In fact, we’ve all been given that purpose. There are just too many who haven’t realized it yet.

Paul: The cross makes it possible because the cross is the point at which God’s claim on my life grabs me and won’t let go. He has claim to my life as my Creator, but at the cross he laid claim to my life as my Lover. God’s claim on me as Creator speaks to my mind. His claim on me as Lover takes my heart and makes me his own. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). May I live my life to “the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12)!

David: There are days/weeks when I am being stretched beyond imagination, and looking back I know in those times it is only the cross that is carrying me. Without Christ coming down to this earth and knowing suffering worse than I can comprehend, it wouldn’t have been possible, I think, for us as a Church to be able to fully go as he commands in Matthew 28. He bridges our weakness through his victory over the cross and gives us strength and hope as we seek to spread his mission to the world.

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

Strong words, yes, but not harsh. Not when they are spoken by the One who loves us and laid down his life for us.

Should the Lord be calling you to prepare for ministry, it is worth it. The cross makes it possible.

Rev. David Veum, D.Min, serves the Church of the Lutheran Brethren as president of Lutheran Brethren Seminary.

Mission: Red Deer
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