Jessie KearnsYou have probably heard the saying, “God doesn’t call the equipped, God equips the called.” Well, I think that’s a great way to describe my call story.

As a child,  I grew up going to church and accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was about eight years old. In middle school, I got mixed up with the wrong crowd, but even then I never stopped believing in God. Shortly after I started going back to church, I attended a youth retreat, where I experienced God calling me to ministry for the first time. I was alone praying in my room, and I said something like, “Lord, whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.” I then heard God’s voice telling me that I was supposed to become a pastor. That really caught me off guard. In protest, I replied, “I’m too young. I’ve made too many mistakes. Besides can’t you see that I’m a girl?”

You see, I was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist church, one that did not affirm women in pastoral ministry. So I kept this call experience to myself, thinking that either I had misunderstood or that God had somehow made a mistake. Yet even on that retreat, people said to me: “You’d make a great missionary.” “You should be a pastor’s wife.” In their eyes, those were acceptable ways for women to serve in ministry.

Fast-forward five years. I was working a couple of dead-end jobs, trying to pay my way through community college. I still had no idea what to do with my life. Then one day, during my daily devotional time, I cried out, “Lord, what do you want me to do?!” And God said, “I’ve already told you.” I knew exactly what that meant. I still felt unworthy of the calling, and I asked God to give me courage. I told my close family and friends that I felt called to ministry. No one was surprised. In fact, they were all very supportive!

A short time later I was offered a volunteer position as youth director. The ministry grew, and the church decided to hire me. They also gave me a “License to Preach” and changed my title to “youth pastor.” Eventually, I transferred to Asbury University, a Christian college in Kentucky. While I was there, I began pursuing ordination through the United Methodist Church (UMC). In 2010, I received my BA in Bible and Theology and began my studies at Wesley Theological Seminary. As a seminary student, I realized just how important my Baptist heritage is to me, so I withdrew from the UMC ordination process.

In searching for a more moderate Baptist church, I discovered Commonwealth Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia. Robin Anderson, one of Commonwealth’s pastors, took me under her wing and helped me get connected with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Baptist Women in Ministry. Through those connections I have meet several other people who have become influential in my life.

This past year, as part of my seminary education, I served as a pastoral intern at Commonwealth. Toward the end of my internship, Pastor Robin told me that the church council wanted to put together an Ordination Council for me, and just a few weeks ago, on September 28, Commonwealth Baptist Church ordained me to the gospel ministry. I am now even more excited to find the ministry position God has for me. Even with all of the bumps in the road that I’ve experienced as a Baptist woman called to pastoral ministry, the journey has been worth it all, knowing that I am living into God’s calling on my life.

Jessie Kearns has several years of ministry experience and is a recent seminary graduate. She was ordained on September 28, 2014 at Commonwealth Baptist Church and is currently searching for a ministry position.