A Company of NCD Pastors on a Journey to Grow Together

This June, 10 NCD pastors, a TEDS church history professor, and a ReachGlobal medical officer will travel together to the Alps. Together, we will explore pastoral ministry against the backdrop of Calvin’s Geneva and wrestle with pastoral practice while hiking the renowned Tour Du Mont Blanc. This is the story of how the trip came together.

As I stood in the 16th-century church that John Calvin pastored, I found myself wishing Dr. Scott Manetsch, my church history professor from TEDS, was there with Matt and me. I remembered his book Calvin’s Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church.  I wanted to listen to his perspective on this historic church and discuss the pastoral ministry of John Calvin. Most of all, I wanted to hear Scott’s wisdom on how the ministry of this pastor and this church, so many years ago, should influence my life and ministry today. Let me explain…

It was 2019, and my friend Matt Cote and I were in Geneva, Switzerland. We were at the beginning of a shared adventure to hike the Tour Du Mont Blanc. The TMB, as it is known, is a 100-mile, multi-day thru-hike that passes through Italy, France, and Switzerland. We were on this trip together because I needed a restorative, lifegiving break from my ministry with the North Central District. The year before this trip, our district board had encouraged me to seek out intentional space from the always-present burdens of being a district superintendent. They encouraged me to pursue restorative rest, and find time to reflect on my life and ministry. I was grateful for their encouragement, and wanted to make the most of the time away.

It might sound like a strange way to rest, but I felt led to do a long backpacking trip (which seemed like the happy opposite of my everyday ministry). I had heard other EFCA superintendents talk about doing the Camino de Santiago in Spain. But that was far too long and much too far away for what I had in mind. Instead, I was focused in on the Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota. I knew I needed someone with me (as my wife Teri kindly reminded me while we were discussing the idea…she very much wanted me to come home alive from this restful adventure :). So I asked my good friend Matt Cote if he would be open to an adventure together. Matt is an ER doctor who now serves in a voluntary role with ReachGlobal Europe. He said yes, but asked if I would consider hiking the Tour Du Mont Blanc instead. As I looked at the information he shared, I felt drawn to the Alps and took him up on his suggestion.

When we arrived in Geneva, we had a little time on our hands before starting to the TMB. We decided to head over to the International Museum of the Reformation and St. Pierre Cathedral. As we explored the museum and experienced the cathedral, I found myself thinking back to my time at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Church history had been the surprise highlight of my TEDS MDiv, due in large part to professors like John Woodbridge, Doug Sweeny, and Scott Manetsch. The lessons of Christian history came alive to me at Trinity. So it was no surprise that being in Calvin’s Geneva brought me back to my time at TEDS.

Matt Cote and me in Geneva in 2019

It was during that trip in 2019 that the idea for this upcoming pastors’ trip was birthed. I began to wonder what it would be like to bring a group of pastors from the EFCA. I imagined a similar trip, and thought of inviting leaders like Matt and Scott along with us. I hoped it might provide a welcome environment to learn, reflect, and grow in our understanding and practice of pastoral ministry. During the few years that I followed, I would occasionally share about the idea with pastors and church leaders. Step by step, the trip came together.

Fast-forward to 2024. After much planning, God has brought together a little company of NCD pastors (to borrow a phrase from Scott’s book title) who have committed to traveling Geneva and hiking the TMB this summer. We will walk through that ancient church, with our trusted seminary professor as our guide. We will consider life and ministry against the backdrop of Calvin’s Geneva and his company of pastors. As we hike, we will talk about important facets of pastoral ministry, working to grow together. We know that this trip needs to be more than a fun, memorable adventure. We are hoping it will help each of us (1) experience personal growth in Christ. (2) sharpen our understanding and practice of pastoral ministry, (3) strengthen our pastoral friendships in the NCD, and (4) enhance the connection between TEDS and the EFCA.

Along the trail, we will have meaningful discussions and practice thoughtful reflection on many important areas of pastoral ministry. These will include being an example, administration, counseling, preaching, physical health, developing elders & deacons, congregational worship, prayer, evangelism, discipline & restoration, calling, equipping, and personal discipleship. After the trip, there will be a series of follow-up articles to share what we have learned about pastoral ministry with our NCD and EFCA family.

Because of our goals, we have only included NCD pastors who have a strong connection to TEDS or serve in a leadership role with the NCD. Our group includes Kyle Bushre (Calvary EFC in Rochester), Chris Cundiff  (Sandstone EFC), Clay Edens (Hope Church in Oakdale), Brent Kompelien (New Life Church in Hastings), Bryan Lair (Trinity City Church in St. Paul), Ryan Petersen (Skandia EFC in Balaton), Andrew Peterson (Park Community Church in St. Louis Park), Mike Strand (South Suburban EFC in Apple Valley), John Stromberg (Elmwood Church in St. Anthony), Matt Cote (Medical Officer ReachGlobal Europe), Scott Manetsch (Church History and the History of Christian Thought at TEDS), and me.

We invite you to pray for our trip. Pray that through this trip we will grow in Christ and grow as pastors. Pray that our God would use this trip to strengthen our ministry friendships in a way that allows us to serve the NCD and EFCA for the long haul. Pray that this trip will serve as a visible reminder of the importance of our beloved seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Moreover, that it might strengthen the connection between Trinity and the EFCA.

Above all, please pray that this unique journey by our NCD company of pastors would glorify our Triune God. From what we already know of Calvin’s Geneva, that seems a fitting aim for an adventure like this.