“Part of what drives me to this day is Christ called me into ministry. I ran, but he called me back, and he did not revoke his call.”
What does one do after an experience like that?
For the next two nights I remember I lay in bed and I just tossed and turned as I thought about whether or not I was going to give my life back to Christ.
I wasn’t thinking about the verse that says, “Count the cost,” but that’s what I was doing, because I didn’t want to go back to him and leave him again. I was like, this time, if I’m going to make this decision, no matter what, I’m sticking with it. And I was thinking about how that was going to affect my friendships and how it was going to affect everything.
About two nights later I had really weighed it all out and decided, I don’t care. I want to go back to him. I remember I rolled out of bed, I got down on my knees, and I asked Jesus to forgive me—and not surprising now, but surprising then, he did. And I knew it right away. I felt that weight lifted off and I committed: “The rest of my life is yours. No matter what.”
At this point, there is a pause in our conversation. Farmer tells me later, “I don’t spend much time thinking about the past.” He’s more forwardthinking. And yet, as emotion stops him for a minute, it is clear that these events, though in the past, continue to shape his ministry, the passion that propels his preaching, an intensity that, though understated, is clearly deeply felt. There is something so simple here, so basic to Christian experience, how could we ever let it slip from a daily consciousness of grace?
As your senior year unfolded, you still had a future to think about. How did this resurgence of faith shape your deliberation of next steps?
Well, in my mind, I was trying to decide, Now what am I going to do with my life? At that point, I had planned on being a doctor. I was going to try to go to the right school so I could get into medical school and do the whole route. As I came back to Christ, the desire to be a doctor just totally went away from me. I started imagining all the things doctors have to do and I thought, “I don’t want to do this at all. I think I just like the sound of it.”
But in my mind, God had called me into ministry and I had forfeited that call. I had just done too much sinning. So now what was I going to do?
And it was February of 1999, my senior year in high school, and I was driving home in my pickup truck and God just—it wasn’t audible, but the Holy Spirit came on me so strongly and reaffirmed my call into ministry. And I remember saying to God, “What will I do? I can’t sing and I can’t speak.” I was trying to think what people in ministry do, but I couldn’t think of anything I would be able to do. [Laughter]
I persisted. I was like, “Well, what do you want me to do?” And God said, “I will show you when you get there.” And that was it.
This time you didn’t keep the experience to yourself.
No, I went home and got my parents and told them what had just happened. My dad quoted Scripture, he said, “It’s like God is a lamp unto our feet. It’s not a searchlight to our path. It’s a lamp to our feet. It sounds to me like God’s calling you to follow him one step at a time,” he said. And that really resonated with me.
And that has always been my sense. Later I would talk to people in college and they would say, “I’m called to do X,” and they knew it. I didn’t. It’s never been that way with me. I’m called to follow one step at a time, and he’s really only doing the one-step-at-a-time thing. He will not give me the next one.
I always had ideas in my mind. I can think about the future and live in the future so much that I struggle to be present in the moment. And I think that’s why God has led me one step at a time. It’s been good for me to be on that journey of learning, when he’s ready, he’ll tell me.
So part of what drives me to this day is that I came to Christ as a 7th grader. It was a powerful experience. He called me into ministry. I ran, I said no, but he called me back. I had run, but he took me back so graciously, and he did not revoke his call. I’m quoting Scripture now I could not have quoted then. But that verse means something different to me now. His call really is irrevocable.
CHERRY HILLS COMMUNITY CHURCH
Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Senior Pastor: Shane Farmer
Affiliation: Evangelical Presbyterian
Growth in 2013: +1,868 (43%)