By: Mia Anderson
Who is our Pastor of the Week?:
Reverend Joshua K. Kesler has served in many places and churches, as you will read later in this story. However, he is currently a pastor at The Well in Huntington, Indiana.
The Life of a Pastor:
Can you illustrate a time when you knew you had chosen the right path in becoming a pastor?
I had been serving as the Resident Director of a men’s residence hall and I felt compelled to enroll in the graduate school of Christian ministries at that school. Initially I was not planning on seeking a degree and was only hoping to grow in Christ and His Word. Very quickly in my first class, I realized that the compulsion to further my education was the Holy Spirit guiding me in my calling to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By the time my first day of class was over I was enrolled full time pursuing a degree in Pastoral Studies with my life’s trajectory set on serving God in whatever capacity He would lead.
The greatest way that God has confirmed my calling over and over is that he has implanted in me a deep love for His Holy Word. I may be feeling down or overwhelmed, but when I open the word for personal study or for teaching preparation I am always inspired and eager to learn and understand. I was never known in college for my study ethic, so the fact that the word of God can always hold my attention is remarkable.
What has been one of the biggest difficulties you have overcome for your congregation, yourself, your family, etc.?
One of the greatest difficulties that we have overcome as a church body is the planting of our church. When I was called to Huntington, Indiana it was from a church named Eagle Brook Church in Minnesota where I served first as the Director of Creative Arts and then as the Pastor of Men’s Ministry. Eagle Brook is one of the largest churches in the United States and has many campuses and services in the Twin Cities. We loved our time there and made many friends, but my wife and I truly felt God’s calling back to Indiana. It would have been easy to ignore this calling and choose comfort. Many of the signs in our lives pointed to staying.
My wife Molly’s undergraduate degree was in Communications with a concentration in Broadcasting and in the previous year she had been working with the Local NBC Affiliate KARE 11 including several on-air appearances. We had every reason to believe that she had a bright future in that field. I am overwhelmed with gratitude when I think of all that she gave up for us to follow our calling.
My family and I arrived in Huntington to serve as the Senior Pastor of Good Shepherd United Brethren Church. The church’s home was a century old 64,000 square foot former Catholic Friary that sat on 30 acres of wooded land. While it is a beautiful building, annual utilities of $64,000.00 made it difficult for this church of 150 people to thrive. Additionally, the previous 2 decades had seen 2 youth pastors imprisoned for crimes against minors and a third had recently been acquitted of similar charges. As Huntington is a smaller community, public perception was our greatest barrier to reaching people.
After much prayer and fasting, the leadership team made the decision to close the church, place the building up for sale, and plant a new local church called The Well. The first year was difficult as we met in a local elementary school gym. We maintained the Good Shepherd property (which took a financial toll) and saw many of our friends transition into other local churches. In that time we lost about half of the people that initially transitioned with us but God was faithful. During that time we struggled financially, but many people came to know Jesus Christ and we grew not only past our beginning attendance figures but again by 25%.
Within four years of the church plant, the Good Shepherd building had sold to a foundation and they restored it beautifully, we were able to purchase a former lumber company and renovate the building where we currently meet. We have a wonderful sanctuary, spacious children’s ministry areas and are eager to grow into the rest of the spaces on our property in the very near future.
Tell us about your church and congregation.
The demographic of our church is unique. We are located about one mile from a Christian college campus and a good amount of our Sunday attendance is college age (up to 25%). Additionally about 25% of our attendance is 5th grade and younger with our infant space near capacity every week. My daughters love this and seem to find a way to serve there several times per month.
We are not very “churchy.” I am not speaking of “church” as negative, it’s just that many of our people did not grow up in church so they do not have specific expectations as to what a church should be and do. When we do something that is traditionally “churchy” along with it comes the opportunity to present why we do it. We also reach a lot of people who for one reason or anther haven’t been attending church in many years.
One example is a close friend of mine. Phil and I got to know each other when he was a high school student and I was a Campus Life Director. In his junior year I witnessed Phil come to Christ and presented him with his first Bible. Later Phil attended the university that I worked at and lived in my residence hall. It was there that he met his wife Tyanne (who actually baby sat my children as babies). After getting married the two of them drifted away from church. As we restarted our friendship it did not take long for Phil’s passion for Jesus to reignite. Together we began to host a small group for college men in his man cave. This group has now been in his home every Sunday evening for 4 years and we have seen many young men come to know Christ and/or grow in their faith. Additionally, Phil is now on the leadership team at The Well and his wife Tyanne serves as our Director of Children’s Ministry. Molly and I serve as a surrogate aunt/uncle to their three girls Haiden, Harper and Hadley and my daughters are regular babysitters and big sisters to them. (Attached is a picture of me baptizing their middle child Harper) God’s truth is truly stranger than fiction.
Any words of wisdom for current IWU students?
I would encourage students to find a local church and use your spiritual gifts in service to God and the people. As an undergraduate student, much of your life is centered on programs that serve you. This is not a bad thing as your main focus should be your studies and your social and spiritual development. However, if you are not careful a consumer mindset can very quickly develop. Regular attendance is a great start, but serving will afford you opportunities to deepen your faith and grow in relationship with others. If you can stand at a door, pass out bulletins, smile and shake hands then you can serve. If you love kids, you can serve. If you currently find your involvement in the local church passive and based on what you receive, change your focus from consumer to contributor and you will be amazed at what kind of work God will do in and through you.
In 2011 the Sunday evening small group began to dream of what it would be like to serve directly in our passion. As most of the young men were baseball players we began to dream of how we could use baseball to further the gospel. Since then we have taken 3 trips to Masaya, Nicaragua where we are known as Los Rinos to play baseball against club and professional teams, host instructional baseball clinics for children, work on building projects and share how Christ as changed our lives. We could never have imagined the impact that it would have on us as well our friends in Masaya. Over the years we have not only built long lasting friendships and seen people come to Christ, we have seen 15 members of our team get baptized as an act of obedience in the Pacific Ocean. For one of those men, his baptism marked his initial step of faith in Jesus Christ. In the summer of 2014 he became a member of The Well. We will be headed down again in January 2017. (If you love baseball and Jesus we might have a spot open)
Written by Mia Anderson, Blog and Social Media Manager, and Writer for the Alumni Office. Mia is a Senior at IWU studying Strategic Communication with her concentration in Public Relations. She will be getting married and moving to Indianapolis after she graduates in December 2016! Mia loves hearing others’ stories and sharing them with the world. Visit her personal website at www.MiaLAnderson.weebly.com.