Stephen felt called to the ministry after his work in The Navigators. He took a call to an OPC congregation in Columbia, Maryland where he served for 22 years until this past summer when he and his family moved to Oregon so he could launch Impact Biblical Counseling.
Why did you originally choose to attend WSC?
I chose WSC for several reasons. I had been looking for a seminary that would provide a strong understanding of how to study Scripture, and the freedom to follow where Scripture took me. I had a number of friends who had been part of a para-church ministry with me in college and who attended seminaries that required signed doctrinal statements to graduate. Westminster had the right approach and an outstanding faculty.
What actually made my decision for me, on top of what Westminster had to offer academically, was when I called to get more information about the seminary Dr. Strimple, (who was both a faculty member and also president of the seminary), talked with me for an extended period. When we were finishing our call, he said if I had more questions I could call him at home. He then gave me his home phone number. I was so impressed by the servant spirit Dr. Strimple demonstrated that I knew then I would attend WSC.
What were the most significant things that you learned/gained during your time at WSC?
I was struck by the priorities I saw in both students and professors. WSC was certainly concerned with training scholar preachers, but this school was also concerned to make sure that the pastors they trained were able to balance the demands of their home lives and their ministries. I watched as a student two years ahead of me would choose ministry over studies. He was willing to take a lower grade in order to serve Jesus, but he was not willing to forsake learning. He would make up what he missed so that he was prepared for ministry. The grades didn’t matter as much as ministry, and learning was necessary for ministry, so he would study in order to know how to do ministry well. This was not common in other places where I had studied, and I have not seen it in other seminaries to the degree I observed it at WSC.
What are your present endeavors and/or future plans?
I have served in a reformed and evangelical congregation for 22 years. I am now working to establish a Biblical counseling ministry in the Pacific Northwest. My hope is that Impact Biblical Counseling will serve the churches in the northwest by providing intensive Biblical counseling in cooperation with the discipling ministry of the churches here. I also want to build a movement through this ministry that will provide opportunities for Biblical counselors throughout the Pacific Northwest.
How did your education at WSC equip/prepare you for your present and/or future roles and responsibilities?
WSC taught me how to study Scripture and how to bring it to bear on the issues of life. I not only studied under my professors, but I also worked in ministry with them as we worshipped together in the same congregation. I was able to serve as both an intern and an elder in our congregation. In my role as fellow elder I sometimes oversaw their ministries in the church. This well rounded style of training and ministry launched me as I went out to serve a congregation as pastor.
How has your relationship with the faculty developed/continued in the years since you graduated from WSC ?
I moved to the east coast and quickly got overtaken by the demands of my ministry in the DC area. I did not do a good job in staying in contact with my faculty. I did stay in some contact with Dennis Johnson and John Frame. My relationships with my fellow students who are now faculty, particularly Bryan Estelle, are stronger. It is a delight to see men with whom I studied now serving as faculty and preparing the next generation of pastors.
What is one of your favorite memories of your time at WSC?
I really loved every minute of my time as a student. I enjoyed the times I had with fellow students discussing classes and preparing for tests. Perhaps a favorite memory would be working through a difficult theological issue with Dennis Johnson and being able to sit together and talk over that point with an academic whom I trusted fully, and who was also a friend and fellow elder. I learned much more than which side of that doctrine I believed through that time. I learned how important it is to take time to build community and live as the body of Christ.
What advice would you give to prospective students considering graduate theological education?
I do not think I have the space to give a complete answer to this question. In short, I would want to hear their story about why they are looking to study theology. If they are looking to use what they learn in kingdom ministry, then I would encourage them to look for a school that teaches them to study Scripture well, and allows them to follow the convictions their study gives them. I would also advise them to look carefully at the interactions they will have with the faculty and with their fellow students. Seminary is much more than the classes you take. In my experience, WSC has excelled as a place to prepare the next generation of pastors.