Pastor Timothy Carroll
How do you know God’s call? Listen.
I was raised in Dale City, VA, not far from Falls Church. My parents
were from New York and I was the only one of the three children
who was born in Virginia. My father was Irish-American and my
mother, Italian-American. My mother’s parents were from Northern
Italy, liked to drink wine and Grandpa had fought for Mussolini in
World War II. My father’s parents were from Brooklyn, liked to
drink beer and Grandpa had fought for President Truman during
World War II. Visiting my grandparents on both sides year after year
was God’s way of developing love within me for different kinds of
Growing up, I had friends from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities,
Black, White, Asian, and Hispanic. I remember my mother
commenting that this was different from how things had been in New
York, where neighborhoods were more segregated. In Dale City, different
ethnicities and backgrounds all lived in the same neighborhoods
and went to the same schools. God used these friends and
neighbors to help me see that there weren’t any good reasons to segregate
people by ethnicity.
When I was twenty-five, I left the northern Virginia area with my
wife Dorothy and moved to St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose was to
get a Master’s of Divinity degree at Covenant Theological Seminary
and become a pastor. While there, I studied under Dr. Nelson Jennings,
a former missionary to Japan and pacesetter for multi-ethnic
mission in the United States. He helped me to see the central importance
of the Church’s multi-ethnic identity.
Throughout seminary, I met many people who felt burdened for
particular forms of ministry. Some referred to this focused desire as
their “calling.” Some felt called to ministry in the military, others
“heard” a call to urban church planting, and still others sensed that
campus or youth ministry was where God was leading. During seminary,
I did not hear such a specific and concrete call. Maybe I wasn’t
listening. All I knew was that I wanted to communicate the fantastic
news of Jesus Christ to people, whoever and wherever they were.
I was ordained as an Assistant Pastor in February of 2013. Crossroads
Presbyterian called me with the understanding that the particu-
lar role I was in would change around 2016. As the year 2016 rolled
around, I happened to be reading Esther Meek’s “A Little Manual for
Knowing.” While reading it, I considered how I might know what
God’s calling was for me. Questions like this one helped me recognize
what to do:
What would you say is your current knowing venture? Here at the
outset of your venture, what puzzles do you have about knowing?
I was puzzled with how to hear God’s call to a new vocation. Turning
those questions over and over led me to see that at the very least a
call requires a voice. To know God’s call required me listening for his
voice. He had spoken through the way he crafted my life. He had spoken
through Scripture. He had spoken through his everyday involvement
in my life. My goal was to walk by the Spirit so that I could hear
what he had been saying clearly.
During a Presbytery meeting in December 2015, Chaplain Doug Lee
stood up and informed the gathering of Presbyters (i.e., church leaders)
that CCCVA had been looking for an English Ministry Pastor for over a
year. He asked that the Presbytery pray for CCCVA and help them to
find someone. At that moment I thought, “Well, here I am listening and
maybe that was God calling.” After prayer, I found Pastor Tan to follow
up. He told me to call him John and said that I should talk to the other
Pastor who is also named John. When I met Pastor Chua, he told me
that everyone at CCCVA is named John (which was clearly a joke because
he was with Elder Ben). Nevertheless, his comment was funny
and we all left that meeting with the sense that maybe we were all hearing
and seeing more clearly what God was up to. Within a few weeks, I
found myself at the Woo’s Christmas feast. In the kitchen, Pastor Chua
outlined a vision for the church which was multi-ethnic: Mandarin,
Cantonese, White, Hispanic, Arabic, etc. It was hard to believe that the
call I had heard at the Presbytery meeting was corresponding to how
God had been writing my life up to that point. The multi-ethnic family,
neighborhoods and emphases in seminary all made more sense in light
of this opportunity at CCCVA.
After that party, I was sure that what I was hearing about the English
Ministry at CCCVA was something I needed to really pay attention to.
And I am very happy I did.
We have a great opportunity at CCCVA to develop a multi-ethnic
ministry. Just look at the ratio of races in the Bailey’s Crossroads area:
The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:14-18 that Christ “For Christ
himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one
people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of
hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with
its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and
Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.
Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means
of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to
death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were
far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us
can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what
Christ has done for us.”
May God bless our efforts to reach our neighbors so that we might be
the flesh and blood reality of Christ’s multi-ethnic body.