A pastor discovers the surprises in surrender
A generous white binder figures prominently in the lead pastor’s office at Forest Grove Community Church in Saskatoon. Full of encouragements and prophecies, affirmations and “coincidences,” this humble faith marker contains the pieces of the puzzle that eventually became Bruce Enns’ call to the pastorate.
Bruce grew up in a stable Christian home on a farm in Carrot River, Sask. After high school, he claimed his family’s faith as his own at B.C.’s Camp Squeah. “That’s where God really got a hold of me,” he remembers.
He was committed to serving God with his life, but certainly not as a pastor. Pastors were a very serious bunch, he believed, who had to be exceptionally holy in order to preach God’s Word. Bruce’s idea of serving God was discipling others through sports – particularly hockey.
After a year at Columbia Bible College (CBC) in Abbotsford, B.c., extended travels to the South Pacific, and a short-term job in Saskatoon, he gladly accepted a position as assistant athletic director at CBC. He married Lisa, his Saskatoon sweetheart, and completed various degrees in church ministry, physical education, and sport management.
“I wanted to make an impact for Christ on my own terms,” he explains. “I wanted to be obedient, but still have a business card that said something cool.”
After a number of years coaching and teaching at CBC, Bruce and Lisa began to feel restless and that God was calling them to step out in faith. They moved to Calgary, the national headquarters for numerous winter sports and home of Bruce’s beloved Calgary Flames. In spite of his connections and qualifications, however, Bruce was unable to pin down a satisfactory job in his field. With only one class to teach at the University of Calgary, he and his growing family struggled on a limited income.
“God slowly took away my foundations … my job … my identity,” he says. “It was an unsettling time when I started to question God and his intentions for my life.”
The turning point came in an interview with Flames’ president Ron Bremner. Bruce had geared his entire career towards an opportunity like this, but the closer he got to it, the more he realized it felt empty – something was missing. He left the Calgary Saddledome that day relieved there was no place for him within the Flames organization.
A new dream
Freed of the old dream, Bruce was ready to consider a new one. In January 2000, he began compiling “The Binder” as a record of God’s leading in his life. He and Lisa valued the discernment of the believing community, so invited “15 people who knew and loved us” to gather and pray and hear from God.
The gathered ones confirmed Bruce’s worst fears. “It’s about time!” they said with one accord. When even Lisa agreed with their verdict and wholeheartedly affirmed his calling, Bruce stopped running from the inevitable.
Reluctantly, he applied for the role of pastor of college and career ministries at Lisa’s home congregation, Forest Grove Community Church. He remembered that he had laughed off a similar invitation years earlier for the same position. This time, he told God he would go, but only if there was a 99 percent acceptance of his candidacy. The vote was 99.1 percent.
With no legitimate way out, the Enns family moved to Saskatoon where God gradually gentled Bruce’s unwilling heart. “I discovered that who God was calling me to be was more important than what I should be,” he says. “When I discovered that God was calling me to be me not to live up to anyone else’s expectations – I was able to give up the struggle and surrender my life to Christ.”
That surrender led to a surprising discovery. The things Bruce loved about teaching and sport management are also part of building God’s kingdom through effective pastoring: creating programs, solving puzzles, ordering chaos, presenting concepts, developing leaders.
Today, as lead pastor of Forest Grove, Bruce believes the coolest thing his business card could ever say is “surrendered to Christ.” And if ever he forgets that, he has The Binder to remind him.
Ingrid Koss attends McIvor Ave. MB Church, Winnipeg. This is one of a series of “call stories” collected by Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in their Ministry Quest program.