Recently the Companion asked Herb Frost about his call to ministry and what he has learned serving the church. Frost is the nominee to be the next executive minister of Ordered Ministry and Develop Leaders. He will stand for election at Gather in June.
Jelani: How did you come to faith and experience a call to ministry?
Herb: I come from a family with a fairly long heritage of faith and ministry. I’m not sure if I can put a date on coming to faith in Christ, but I know I made a conscious decision to receive Christ when I was a freshman in high school at a youth retreat. I committed my life to Christ and woke up the next morning with a deep sense of, I think I need to be a pastor.
So for me, conversion and calling were virtually simultaneous. Now I will say, I didn’t embrace the idea of being a pastor. I kind of fought that for a couple of months. I remember walking home from school toward the end of that school year, and saying to God, Okay, if you want me to be a pastor, “Here am I, Lord, send me.” So I responded to that calling. But I was a freshman in high school, and the rest of my high school years were not, um, times of pursuing robust faith.
Sure, that tracks.
By the time I got to college, my life was in need of a significant recommitment to Christ. And when I recommitted my life to Christ, immediately the sense of calling resurfaced. So that has been part and parcel of my life with Christ. I think I responded to the gospel when I was in high school, because it was true. I’m a five on the Enneagram, so the whole cerebral content of the gospel was critical to my saying, “Yeah, I believe this.”
How did you get connected with the Covenant? Did you grow up in the Covenant church?
No. I grew up in the Lutheran church, and in my collegiate years I was involved with the campus ministry called the Navigators. One of the fruits of that particular ministry was a deep respect for the Scriptures. Because of that, when I was in college, I looked for a church that was near me, that valued Scripture as a high authority, and near to campus. The Covenant church ran a van from their church to campus, so I started going there. And except for a couple of different seasons, one of which was when we were ministering with the Navigators at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and went to the non-denominational Protestant chapel, we’ve been in Covenant churches ever since.
In your years of service to the church, what have you learned about ministry, or the church in general?
Although my calling to ministry was robust and resurfaced when I recommitted my life to Christ, because I was involved in campus ministry, the early part of my ministry life was working in a parachurch organization with college students. Because of that, the church was not in the focal point of my ministry.
I’m a chemist by training—my first master’s degree is in polymer science and engineering. When I was working in industry and involved in a Covenant church, I was invited to be the chair of that church. As I served in lay leadership of the church, I began to have a much deeper appreciation for the quality of ministry that took place in the more full-orbed setting than a mono-generational campus ministry. That cemented my love for the church. I’ve cared for pastors almost from the beginning, partly because, as you can appreciate coming from a heritage of people who are in ministry, I had a deep appreciation for the burdens and the concerns of pastors.
Which is probably part of the reason why you fought against it initially, right?
Very well might be, yeah. There’s probably something to that. There was also a desire to make a name for myself in the scientific world. From early on, I loved math and science and thought that I could be something in that area.
In a parachurch ministry, you opt into it. Everybody who is there has opted in, they’ve chosen to be there. There’s an expectation of a deeper commitment. But church ministry is an intentionally inviting and embracing space. And there’s a wide variety, a range of spiritual maturity and spiritual life on any given Sunday morning. There are people in the pew who don’t know Christ. And so church ministry has to be geared toward a spiritual population that ranges from the uninterested, to the semi-interested, to the very interested, to the deeply committed. For everything that happens in the building, you have to be aware of all of those people.
My sense is that, increasingly, church ministry is going to take place outside of Sunday mornings. I love some of the strategic partnerships that we’re seeing with Love Mercy Do Justice, so churches that have figured out how to utilize their presence in a community for the greater good, ministry is going to increasingly be a presence of a body of believers, people collectively engaged in their community, and that will become part and parcel of what it means to live the gospel.
Do you feel like there is a word God is speaking right now to the church more broadly, or to church leaders?
Like a lot of pastors, I ask God at the beginning of the year, Is there a word that I should be leaning into this year? For me this year, the word is “heal.” I think that is both for me to make sure that I am coming into my life and my ministry healed and whole, but also to be available as a presence for healing in the church as a whole. The church is a microcosm of a highly polarized culture and country, and I think healing is what we need. So what can we do together to collectively heal ourselves and be a healing presence in a fractured world?
Do you have books on your nightstand or podcasts on your phone or shows in your streaming queue that you are particularly into right now?
One of the books I’m reading right now is by Willie Jennings, called The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race. I love the way he incorporates observation of the world in theology and the use of language to convey ideas in a very compelling way. The one that’s open on my Nook e-reader right now is Subversive Witness, by Dominique Gilliard.
And then there’s another one that’s called Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, by Catherine May. That’s the idea that life comes at us in seasons, such as spring, summer, fall, and winter. The wintering is a time for roots to go deep, so that when the conditions change, there is rootedness that allows for growth.
So here’s a bonus question: in one sentence, how does someone develop leaders?
Well, to play on the word, this is my one sentence: to be engaged in developing leaders. I’ve been involved in that from my time in parachurch ministry until now. Leadership development is done in the context of relationship, it’s allowing people to live in contexts where they are able to discover what God has put uniquely inside of them, and find expression of that in their ministry, to call out of people the positive attributes that we see, and then foster those attributes. So it’s done in community, with intent and with purpose, but also with a deep, deep dependence on the active work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the people who are being developed.
Ultimately God is the one who develops leaders. That’s what we learn in Ephesians—that God is the one who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry. The development of leaders is God’s responsibility. He uses us in the context of community and dependence on the Holy Spirit.