Running the race with endurance
Pastor Doug Graham (left, '99) was passed the baton of faith by influential mentors—his father, his football coach and his youth pastor. Their examples in sportsmanship, service to others and ministry continue to bear fruit in Doug's winning approach to ministry via his involvement in community sports. Doug's church, Evangel Assembly, in Bismarck, N.D., has supported AGTS since 1992. He is pictured above with his church leadership team.
"I could do that!" I thought after reading an article about sprint-distance triathlons (500-meter swim, 13-mile bike ride and 3-mile run). I had recently assumed the lead pastorate at Evangel Assembly in Bismarck, N.D., and I had thought my days of athletic competition were behind me. But I discovered that my athletic juices were as strong as ever. Today, after participating in several sprint- and Olympic-distance triathlons and one half-Ironman-distance triathlon, I have become a marathon runner.
While athletic competition has been a way to stay active, it has also opened many doors for ministry:
- Several triathlon friends have visited our church, leading to many spiritual conversations.
- When teaching spinning classes at the YMCA, the Christian music I play has been a powerful witness for Jesus.
- Refereeing youth hockey has opened many doors for witnessing for Christ, both on the ice—interacting with players and coaches—and in the locker room with fellow referees.
This kind of community involvement has brought our church greater credibility with some who are not typical church people, and I'm known as "the ref who's the pastor at Evangel."
I have learned many things through athletic involvement in our community. First, I've gained greater awareness of the needs of unchurched people. This has proven strategic in our passion to reach our community, and our church has grown from 600 to 1,600 in eight years. Also, I have learned the value of being a pastor whose time is not totally consumed with church activities. With a vision to reach the community for Christ, I have learned the importance of managing my time so I can be active in the community. This has resulted in my being a spiritual voice in the lives of people, many of whom have virtually no other godly influence.
This past spring Doug's entire family ran in the Fargo Marathon, half-marathon and 10K (left to right, son Kirk and wife Kaylee, wife Breeanna and son Kyle, Doug and his wife Vicki, daughter Karlee, wife Autumn and son Kaleb).
In addition to the influence of mentors and athletic competition, I have also been deeply influenced and shaped through ongoing education. I am grateful for my educational experience at AGTS. The format of the classes, along with the unique expertise each professor provided, proved to be exactly what I needed to deepen my theological understanding, appreciate my Pentecostal heritage and broaden my leadership capacity. I am finishing my Doctor of Ministry project, which focuses on stress management in pastoral leadership. I am convinced that pastoral leaders face unique challenges and stresses. Like a marathon, pastoral ministry is a long-distance journey. My hope is that what I have learned all of my life from mentors, athletic competition and education will result in the fulfillment of my personal life's mission:
To live a life honoring God, my family and my fellow man; stewarding my talents, resources and opportunities to their fullest potential so that when my life is over, I can say, "I made a mark; I left something behind; I touched others; and I gave more than I received."
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AGTS Office of Institutional & Alumni Relations, 1435 N. Glenstone Ave.,
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Tuesday, October 1, 2013 5:54 PM