Looking back, I see how God’s hand has steered and blessed each chapter of my life.
By God’s design, I was born in Aurora, Illinois, on May 26, 1974. When I was 3, my family moved to the small town of Oswego, Illinois, a southwest suburb of Chicago. God placed me into a loving, honorable, and hardworking home. Growing up the youngest of three siblings, I never knew my biological father, who left when I was 2. When I was 5, my mother married my stepfather. They were two of the hardest working people I have ever known. They taught and modeled integrity and hard work.
Our lives were heavily involved in sports and the normal activities of an American childhood. My elementary and junior high years were fraught with academic struggles and behavior issues in school. I often joke that my teachers had my parents on speed dial.
But underneath my orneriness, the Holy Spirit was working on my heart. It was during this time that I began to ask myself questions such as Who is God? What happens when I die? Why do so many of our neighbors and friends go to church, while we stay home?
Fast-forward to my high school years. I was your typical narcissistic teenager. Athletics was the mechanism that kept me out of trouble during my teenage years. My closest friends and I spent most of our waking hours lifting weights, training for football, and playing pickup games of basketball until the late evening hours.
High school was also a time when I changed academically. I began to excel in certain subjects. For some inexplicable reason I began to love reading. I found history, politics, and biographies the most intriguing. Looking back, I can see God’s sovereign hand in preparing me to be a pastor.
During those years God brought a young man into my life who exemplified a heart transformed by the gospel. It intrigued me that he didn’t use foul language. Instead of asking him why he talked and lived differently, I would often ridicule and belittle him. God would eventually use that young man’s testimony to spark an interest in my own heart for the gospel.
On Christmas break of my senior year in high school, my friend who had been sharing the gospel with me took me to a small Baptist church in my hometown of Oswego. On that Sunday morning, Dec. 29, 1991, the gospel was clearly explained to me. By God’s grace, I turned from my sin and self-righteousness and trusted in Christ’s full payment for my sins on the cross and believed in my heart that He had indeed risen from the dead. Two weeks later I was baptized by immersion in that same church.
Postconversion and God’s Leading into Ministry
It’s difficult to put into words how much God changed my heart and life after I came to Christ. My heart was like a sponge soaking in the truths of the Word. I couldn’t get enough of church. God gave me a desire to share His truths with others. Without much tact or evangelistic training, I zealously began sharing the gospel with my unsaved friends and family. The dear saints in that small church welcomed me in and modeled for me true Christlike hospitality.
From the moment of my conversion, I desired to share God’s truths with others. While at college I was introduced to and captivated by a young lady named Christina Tavares. After nearly two years of dating, we were married on June 29, 1996. She is the love of my life, and I’m grateful to God for my bride.
God would sovereignly ordain that while being involved in a local church, I would work secularly as a tool- and diemaker. During that time I learned an important trade, a foreign language (Spanish), and an understanding of the world that people in our churches live in day after day. During that time God also blessed Christina and me with two children, Joseph and Hannah. We love and cherish our children and thank God for them.
But the God-given desire and passion to teach God’s Word would not go away. While Christina and I attended Harvest New Beginnings in Oswego, God opened a number of doors for me to teach men’s Bible studies, lead small groups, serve as a deacon, and fill the pulpit for Sunday services. God’s leading into full-time pastoral ministry was confirmed both by the church leadership and the congregation. With the strong encouragement of my pastors and the congregation, I entered the pastorate.
God in His goodness has enabled me to pastor two amazing churches. The weekly journey of discovering the text, developing messages, and delivering the Word on Sundays is one of the greatest joys of my life. It has also been a great delight to be encouraged week after week by God’s people and to see them grow and change into the image of the Savior.
Since I’ve been in ministry, the greatest influences in my life have been the training I received through Biblical counseling and the investment of a number of close pastoral peers. The ministry opportunities that God has blessed me with are far beyond what I had ever imagined or deserve.
Over the past six years of serving on the Council of Eighteen, I have developed a great love and burden for this association of churches. Christina and I covet your prayers as God possibly transitions us into this new position. We desire to continue to grow and be conformed into the image of our Savior as we serve this association.
Mike Hess is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and has been nominated to be the next national representative of the GARBC.