Drew seemed to have it all. A degree in finance. A job in the business world that could make him wealthy. But one day he walked away from that world and enrolled in Lutheran Brethren Seminary to prepare for ministry. What happened? What happened is this: Drew was returning to “the journey down,” the journey to humble service as a pastor.
That journey began for Drew when he was a young boy. He told his grandma that he wanted to be a pastor. In fifth grade he reasoned, “If Jesus Christ is all that really matters, then I want my profession and life to be all about him and his people.” In eighth grade, he told his confirmation pastor that he wanted to enter the ministry.
Then his journey took a detour. “That calling stayed with me for several years until my sophomore year of high school. I allowed myself to believe the lie that my sinfulness and mistakes had tarnished my calling to the point that I no longer deserved to be a pastor someday. I struggled with those thoughts throughout the rest of high school. I ended up deciding to pursue a degree in theology and philosophy before going to law school. I really struggled with what I wanted to do with my life, and just didn’t feel like I was a good enough person to answer God’s call.”
Instead of studying to become an attorney, he graduated with a degree in finance. He landed a job in business and thought he was doing well and on his way to making money. Maybe he would answer the call to ministry later in life when he was more worthy of being a pastor.
Then three factors put him back on the joyful journey down. The first was a lack of satisfaction with his work in the financial world. He found that he was much more anxious than he ever imagined he would be in his job. In contrast he experienced significant joy as a volunteer in youth ministry at Oak Hill Church. The second factor came in the form of a comment from a supervisor who said Drew was resistant feedback. That shocked him into reconsidering the journey.
But it was the third factor that really made the difference. God’s people. All along the way, God’s people encouraged Drew toward the ministry. His confirmation pastor, Bruce Stumbo, told the church of Drew’s calling to ministry. A leader in the congregation, Conrad Fiskness, told me, “You need to talk with Drew Skog about the ministry.” That started a conversation. When it came time to apply to seminary, the Oak Hill congregation committed to paying for his tuition. Drew was back on the journey down, the journey down to humble service as a pastor.
It has not always been an easy journey. I recall a conversation with Drew’s wife, Holly. We happened to be walking in the same group to a seminar at the youth convention in Colorado in 2019. Holly talked about Drew’s anxiety. That led to a dinner conversation back in Minneapolis with the three of us talking about his anxiety. We discussed how anxiety can serve as a thorn in the flesh that humbles us. That thorn is a gift to keep God’s servant on the joyful journey down.
But is the journey down really joyful? For John the Baptist, the journey down meant wearing the clothes and eating the food of a prophet. It meant opposition from the religious elite. It meant imprisonment by Herod after speaking to him about God’s law against adultery. Then John’s journey down ended as he laid down his life in humble service to the One whose coming he had proclaimed. Joyful? Really?
John said it was. For John this calling meant announcing to the world, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” This calling meant hearing the voice of God say, “This is my beloved Son.” This calling meant watching the crowds of broken, sinful people leave him and flock to Jesus. And John said, “This is complete joy.”
That’s the joy that Drew has found as he has been preparing for ministry and serving at Oak Hill. He is so blessed to have his dear, sweet wife Holly to encourage him. He is blessed by a congregation that has watched him grow and affirmed his gifts. Most of all, he is grateful to Christ his Savior for his salvation and for calling him into the ministry.
He wrote recently, “It is humbling to think that all of my fears and failures can be used by God to help encourage others to serve him. I went from being absolutely terrified of being called, to grateful for all of the voices that helped me to where I am today.”
In his seminary application letter Drew wrote, “I have never felt more like myself than when I allow the powerful joy and truth of God and his Word to bubble up in my heart and overflow into my life. I have experienced the power of God’s grace firsthand and desire nothing more than to help other people experience that same freedom.”
The Journey Down. What a strange metaphor. Why would anyone take that path? It’s because of the joy—the joy of proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Lamb of God. It’s the joy of seeing people set free from their burdens, their fears, and their sins.
The journey down is not attractive, but the joy is. If that joy attracts you, contact Lutheran Brethren Seminary. We would be honored to have a conversation about this joy.
Dr. David Veum is President of Lutheran Brethren Seminary in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.