By: Tammy Allison
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
It’s often said that when God closes one door, He opens another. For Pastor Sean Ingram of Westerville, Ohio, God closed several doors to make clear his journey to the First Baptist Church of Stryker.
The call to ministry is often a second or even third vocation for many pastors, and this is his story as well. Prior to full-time ministry, Pastor Ingram worked a variety of different jobs-at a stock photo agency, as a computer programmer, and as an education coordinator in a trade show department for a business magazine. He was involved with his church in Colorado in volunteer positions. It was in the role as a Junior High youth sponsor when his minister first approached him and encouraged him to consider entering the ministry on a full-time, vocational level. “I prayed over it with my wife and began taking classes,” he recalls.
Pastor Ingram enrolled and graduated from the Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania with his Bachelors degree in Bible and his Master of Seminary degree in 2007. As part of his Master’s degree, he was required to complete a one year internship. He served his internship at a Baptist church in New Albany, northeast of Columbus. When that founding pastor moved on, Ingram was recommended to fulfill the role of pastor.After his graduation in 2007, he accepted that role where he served until 2012 when his church merged with another church. His pastoral position was eliminated, and he was left to search what was next in his life and ministry.
Pastor Ingram then spent nine months as a chaplain at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. He was considering the mission field when he learned of the opportunity at the Stryker church through the Ohio Association of Regular Baptist Churches. He debated whether to apply for the pastoral position since he was strongly leaning towards the mission field. “Good friends advised me to pursue every opportunity and let the Lord close the doors,” he shares. Taking that advice to heart, he applied and prayed that the direction for his life would be made clear. “It’s a daunting process, not knowing what’s ahead,” he reflects.
Meanwhile, the First Baptist Church of Stryker had received sixty applicants to fulfill the vacated role of pastor. Their previous pastor, Dan Douglass, retired in February after serving the church for 31 years. The deacons Rick Buehrer, Lowell Riegsecker, and Mark Miller along with youth pastor Matt Dodd were diligently working to find the right person to lead the future of their church.
Pastor Ingram first was interviewed by the deacon board and then preached in front of the church two Sundays before the congregation voted unanimously to call him as their pastor. He accepted the following day. Ultimately he had decided that local ministry was his true calling. “God closed every door for the mission field and opened the door to Stryker,” Pastor Ingram affirms.
Pastor Ingram and his wife Kathee, who will be married for twenty-five years in April, have three children, Nathan, 21, a senior at Wright State University, Bethany, 18, a freshman at Grace College, and Lucas, 16, a high school junior. Pastor Ingram is currently commuting from their home in Westerville to Stryker for about half the week every week to allow for his son to finish his semester and his family to sell their home in Westerville and find a home in Stryker.
Where does he see the future of the First Baptist Church of Stryker? “I’m the biggest student!” he chuckles. He is taking this time to absorb everything…finding out what’s important to his congregation and the needs of the community. And, he is spending a lot of time in prayer. His main focus is to preach the word of God followed by helping other people in the community to that same heart for God. By community, he does not mean only Stryker. The church which averages around 100 most Sundays has members from several local communities including Archbold, Bryan, West Unity, Montpelier, Edgerton, and Pioneer. “We see the four county region as our area of ministry,” he states.
Outside of his involvement with his ministry, Pastor Ingram enjoys classical films and traveling. He has been to Russia and Europe several times. This summer, he will be traveling to Israel with his family and in-laws as a celebration of their 25th wedding anniversary. In February, he will head to Mongolia for a short mission trip to teach future mission leaders.
For now, the Ingrams look forward to becoming a part of the Stryker community. Pastor Ingram believes that his life experiences help him to minister to people because he has done the 9-5 thing and can relate to people. He believes his vision for the church will develop as he gets to know the needs of the church and community.
He strongly believes he is right where he is supposed to be in the community of Stryker. With a smile, Pastor Ingram confirms, “Ministry is my passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
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