Texas church prepares future full-time ministers
ARLINGTON, Texas – Connor Torrealba didn't have a bad job. The pay was good. The work environment was healthy. Torrealba figured he could stick with his career as a database analyst and live a happy life.
But that job wasn't what God had called him to do. God was leading him into vocational ministry.
"In order to flesh out that calling, it takes time," Torrealba said. "It's not just a matter of I feel a sense of calling, now I know it and I'm just going to go do it. Maybe for some people it is. For me, it was a process of putting myself out there, trying this thing out, and then seeing what I really felt compelled toward on a really deep spiritual, emotional and a mental level. And I think ministry checks all of those boxes while the other stuff doesn't quite make the cut."
Torrealba recently quit his job to study full time at Criswell College in preparation for a life of ministry. He is one of a growing number of young people who have surrendered to a call to vocational ministry at Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington this year.
The church's staff recently presented to the church body seven students who had committed their lives to ministry. Torrealba is one of several other church members who had previously expressed a calling into full-time ministry.
Jared Wellman, pastor of Tate Springs, said he was encouraged by the church's recent wave of ministry callings. He noted that just down the street is Sagamore Baptist Church, which has a history of seeing people called into ministry.
Sagamore's former pastor Fred Swank was instrumental in the ministry calling of Southern Baptist notables O.S. Hawkins and Jack Graham, among dozens of other ministers in Texas and beyond. The church is currently pastored by Denny Gorena, the man under whom Wellman was called into ministry many years ago in East Texas.
"But as a pastor, for whatever reason, it seems like you don't see or hear that much anymore," Wellman said. "It seems like the whole conversation about ministry tends to be that everyone's called into it. You just do your ministry where you're at. There's less of a focus on those set aside specifically for [vocational] ministry. I think both are true. I think everyone is called to minister, but I also think there has to be a focus from the church on identifying people who are called [to full-time ministry]."
Tate Springs has long been focused on giving people an opportunity to serve. The surge in vocational ministry callings did not happen by accident. As Torrealba began wrestling with his call into full-time ministry three years ago, the church asked him to help start a young adult ministry. During the past three years, the ministry, called The Spring, grew from just a handful to around 30 people on a typical week. Last year, the ministry took its first mission trip, serving in Boston.
"It has been really cool to have that experience to try things out and learn and get your hands into the engine of how ministry works and to get a chance to be creative," Torrealba said. "That opportunity with The Spring has been monumental for me in crystalizing the vision and the calling in my heart."
Another individual recently surrendered to ministry from Tate Springs is Corban Redman. Like Torrealba, he pointed to the helpful opportunities the church has given him to explore ministry -- both while he was still in high school and currently as a worship intern at the church.
Redman said he appreciates regular opportunities to sit down with Tate Springs pastors to talk through what his calling means.
Recounting one particular conversation he had with Wellman as he was preparing to graduate high school and trying to decide what to study in college, Redman said his pastor asked if he felt he could be satisfied doing anything other than serving in vocational ministry.
"I just knew immediately that I could not have some kind of outside job and feel content with my level of service," Redman said. "I feel like I would have needed to come to the church every night and do something, whether it was cleaning the floors or something else."
Redman said he still isn't sure exactly what kind of ministry God is calling him into. The college sophomore enjoys ministering to youth, but he particularly feels led to music ministry.
When people experience a calling into ministry at Tate Springs, the church tries to connect them with a pastor who can walk them through their particular ministry direction. Earlier this year, David Stokes, who was relatively new to the church, told Wellman that God was calling him into ministry. Wellman has helped guide Stokes through his next steps.
"He's just been great alongside that journey with me. He hasn't held anything back as far as information and advice and just walking alongside of me," Stokes said.
Wellman looks forward to seeing how God will use the leaders He is calling out of Tate Springs today.
"We want our pastors intentionally pouring into people who are called into ministry," Wellman said. "We're seeing people called to ministry here, but we're also looking for people who are called into ministry. It has been cool to see."
Written by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.