Westwood Christian Church’s Minister Search Committee recently interviewed Adam Tomlinson. After graduating from Milligan College in 2012, Adam served for several years in ministry while pursuing his Master of Divinity degree. Adam finished his Masters work in December at Emmanuel Christian Seminary and will participate in the commencement ceremonies sometime in the future.
The Committee is excited to introduce him to you. To help facilitate that, we asked Adam to send us a short, fun video of him and his family.
We encourage you to listen to Adam’s sermons:
Adam’s Résumé and Application:
Read questions that Westwood members asked. Adam graciously provided answers and we have published them below.
- Questions will be presented in bold
- Answers will immediately follow
- For Adam – why in the world would you want to bring your family to Madison, WI? (Chardel and Dick Johnston)
- There are a few reasons, but the most important one is that I feel called to the area. When I began looking for a church position in the fall, my ideal area was the Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago triangle. Last year, Barna (a research group who primarily studies/equips churches and church trends) ranked Madison as the 11th most Post-Christian city in the country (link with Barna’s definition of a post-Christian city and the full top 100 list). Having spent 5 years in New England, I am especially attentive to the regions and people who are furthest from God. Throughout the last 8 months, I have compared every position I’ve looked into against the need in Wisconsin, and nothing could draw me away from ministry in the Dairyland. On top of that, Wisconsin is my home-state, where I grew up. As such, it holds a special place in my heart, and I feel called return, equipped with what I have learned in school and in the church and help to curb those trends, while being closer to my family in Illinois, friends who still live in the area, and around people whom I care for.
- For Lauren – what do you see as your roll by moving to Madison with Adam? (Chardel and Dick Johnston)
- My goal will be to empower Adam and his ministry by encouraging him but also being an active volunteer and participant in the church and community. I want to invest my time and skills into the church and community to help it grow. I want to support Adam and give him space to lead while also being willing to come alongside and help with whatever I can.
- How do you see yourself working with the existing campus ministry that Westwood supports? (Wayne Shockley)
- I hope to find ways to partner closely with His House. I will attend their weekly studies or services regularly and build a relationship with the staff they have there. This coming year will be challenging because there is so much uncertainty around Covid-19 and how that will impact the coming academic year. I hope to be able to help campus ministries continue their work despite how different that may look this coming year. That said, I would like to build a mutually beneficial relationship to coordinate rides to and from church, ways for students to get involved with their talents at Westwood, and provide career and spiritual mentoring.
- How do you understand the statement “God is in control”? (Wayne Shockley)
- I’ll be honest, I’ve wrestled with this idea over my life. I prayed over my dying grandfather for him to be healed and he did not. I prayed for my uncle to live after a stroke, and he did not. How do we reconcile the Holocaust, or slavery, or any other inhumane treatment with the idea that God is in control? If God is all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing, how can we imagine anything other than God’s all-controlling nature? I’m not sure. It’s interesting that this idea is not as explicit as I once thought in Scripture. There are places that allude to the idea that God is in control such as Isa 14:24, which reads: “The Lord of hosts has sworn: As I have designed, so shall it be; and as I have planned, so shall it come to pass. ” And certainly Jesus promises that God provides and therefore we need not worry about tomorrow (Matt 7; Luke 12). And Paul echoes this same idea (Phil 4:19) In fact, Jesus teaches us to pray that God have specific influence in our lives (Matt 6). But Scripture does not teach that God is controlling every little detail. Luckily, we can be sure of one thing which God is in control of, and that is the end of the story: the Kingdom of God will be victorious over the Kingdoms of Man, and we will enter the perfect Shalom that God is preparing for us. Along these lines, I take solace in what Scripture does teach about God’s involvement in our life. While there is little assertions about God’s control over everyday affairs, there is much said about God “being with us” (Isa 41, 43; Matt 18; 28; Gen 28; Deut 31:6; Josh 1 to name but a few!). The Psalms regularly entreat God to come to help and remind us that God is a fortress of safety, a refuge in ever-present trouble, a rock which we can rely upon, and life a great mother bird under whose wings we can hide when we need it. Scripture teaches that we have freedom to act—even to reject God!—but that we also have the joyous privilege to join God in God’s work, by asking God to come to our aid in prayer. Passages like Moses on Sinai (Ex 32), or Abraham pleading for Sodom (Gen 18) show that God’s control over affairs are not deterministic, but open to our involvement and interest. As such, while I wrestle with how to understand God’s control, I take comfort in the fact that the way of God is solidarity with humanity—best represented, of course, in the person of Jesus, who showed that all things were possible through him for those who follow him.
- What is the function of the indwelling Spirit in a Christian’s life? (Wayne Shockley)
- The Spirit is sent by Christ to help us grow into the people whom we are designed to be. The Spirit is the only avenue to the Christian life. Jesus says that “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. ” (Jn 16:13-14). All revelations we have about the nature and Kingdom of God comes by way of the Spirit. One of the most encouraging passages of Scripture—to me—is Romans 8:14-17: “14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father! ” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. ” We are told that we have a Spirit which is—at all times—reminding us that we are adopted children of God! Even when we struggle to pray, or get discouraged in our faith, the Spirit is calling out to God on our behalf, praying unceasing. To put it shortly, it is only through the indwelling Spirit that we experience God.
- Why do you think that homosexuality has become such a huge issue in our culture today? (Wayne Shockley)
- This is hard to answer, but only because my answer is purely suppositional. But I think it has to do with a few factors. I think the biggest contributing factor is that the issue has become political, similar to other social issues of our day (healthcare, abortion, etc.). As such, when we discuss LBGTQ issues, we often find ourselves either being assigned to a political stance, or find ourselves using political language in an otherwise apolitical issue. As one example, how often do we hear people who think same-sex marriage is wrong acknowledge that the notion of “all people being created equal” could extend to people who have different sexual orientations? I think too, that it is a divisive issue because of fear. Churches are afraid that the government will force them to break their convictions or face overwhelming social, cultural, or financial pressure. People who believe homosexuality is wrong are afraid for their children, or what ideas they may come in contact with, or afraid simply that the world around them is changing. I think another factor, though, is that it is hard to navigate. Because our culture is so divided, and disagreement or misunderstanding can be seen as offensive or discriminatory, conversation is often not meaningfully engaged. Because we are afraid to offend, or don’t know how to interact, we lose our ability to interact, to seek to understand. It’s worth noting, as well, that because sexuality has become part of our notion of “identity” (it has not always been that way), the conversation is all the harder, because now, to have a belief—one way or the other—about sexual practice is to make a judgement of someone’s identity. The best way forward is to carefully work on constructing Christ-centered ideas of what an “identity” is, and learn to listen, rather than speak.
- You wrote that one of your spiritual gifts is prophecy. How has God prompted you to use that gift in your ministries? (Clarissa Shockley) also On Adam’s resume I noticed he specifically listed three spiritual gifts. I am curious to know how he feels the gift of “Prophecy” has manifested itself in his life. (Scott Clark)
- I believe that to be a “prophet” is to be willing to speak God’s words to the community regardless of how unpopular that may be. Good examples of this are Ezekiel, who was criticized by his peers and held with disdain for proclaiming doom upon Judah, Micaiah Ben Imlah (1 Kings 22), who Ahab is said to hate because he never gave good oracles to him, and Amos and Micah who criticized the religious leaders and practices of their days as being empty of meaning. Jesus himself is a prophet not because he told the future, but because he offered understanding of Kingdom to the people of his day. Thus, to be a prophet is to look at the Kingdom of God as described by Scripture and understood by theology and to speak on its behalf today. As such, I have modeled this by speaking to political, social, and humanitarian needs as they come about. I have preached sermons in which I challenged people to reconsider how they interact with homeless and under-resourced people around them and have preached sermons including topics like racial reconciliation.
- While there are numerous ways that we, as individuals, can approach people to acquaint them with the gospel, what are specific ways that we, as a church, can do that—in particular, in respect to younger families, keeping in mind that there are many in our congregation who are older adults who may not have much contact with these younger families? (Clarissa Shockley)
- I love that you ask this question! I read a book a few years ago that argued (convincingly I think) that the only way to prevent a church from growing old and dying was for it to continually fight to grow young. This is accomplished by looking to equip and empower young people—including our children and teenagers—to lead where appropriate, while regularly addressing the needs of young families. Obviously we cannot neglect the members of our community who are older and have their own needs, but in order to attract young families and young people, we must work to build programs, activities, and ministries that are not only addressing their needs, but work around their schedules and rhythms (meaning that we must be aware of bed-times, sports seasons, and be aware of the kind of foods that we are serving their children). There are many potential ways to do this, and I hope to explore a number of them with Westwood and some community leaders (like the Campus Ministries on UW’s campus), but things like parenting classes for significant age groups, care packages during finals season for college dorms, and working to equip parents to disciple their children Monday through Saturday are some simple things that we can do together. These things may be peripheral to the Gospel, but they help to open the door to church or keep it open longer for many people.
- How did you find Westwood? (Dennis)
- I was browsing Crosslink.org looking for churches in Wisconsin that I could connect with in order to pass my information along in case someone there knew a church looking for a minister. I have felt called to Wisconsin for the better part of a year now, and Madison in particular was important to me. So when I found churches in Madison, I clicked on Westwood’s info and saw that WCC was looking for a minister! I downloaded the application, read about the church, and the rest—as they say—is history.
- Also from the application “I believe that women should be empowered to do anything a man can do.” Does Adam feel that there any roles or practices from which women should scripturally be excluded within the church or worship service? (Scott Clark)
- I do not think that Scripture teaches that women should be considered less-than men, and therefore barred from any role in the church. I do recognize that in 1 Tim 2:12, and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, we find statements that seem to do so. 1 Tim reads “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man she is to keep silent. ” And 1 Cor 14 reads, “Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. ” However, there are a few things that need to be understood about these passages. First, grammarians have long puzzled over these lines because they disrupt the sentence structure in the Greek, and appear to be added (at least the ones in 1 Cor 14) later by someone other than Paul. The comment in Corinthians is especially puzzling since Paul gives instruction on how women should cover their heads when they speak prayers or prophesies. And this comes in the context of worship. But even aside from grammatical issues, looking at the whole Biblical corpus, I conclude that God does not show partiality (Rom 2:11). The first people to ever declare that Jesus was alive (that is, to preach the Gospel) were women. Deborah was a leader of the entire Jewish people of such repute that Barak refused to go to battle unless she accompanied him (Judge 4-5). Paul sent the letter of Romans with Phoebe—who is called a Deacon, and it would have been her job to read it, and then to answer questions about it (i.e. teach it) to the Roman church (Romans 16). In fact, Rom 16 lists at least 7 women who are important to Paul in the Roman church. We should not assume that these are merely friends. Priscilla is described as a church leader with her husband. Lydia (Acts 16) led a church in her home. Chloe is such a leader that she has “people” whom she oversees (1 Cor 1:11) and who bring word to Paul. When we take in the nature of Jesus, constantly showing favor and honor to women, I conclude that even if Paul wrote the words of 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:12, there must be something else going on here. These words of advice were written to specific churches in specific contexts, and we must remember that Paul did not intend to write universal truths. He was advising his friends, peers, and co-workers based on his ministries. Perhaps most importantly to me is Galatians 3:28, which remarks that to God, race, sex, and freedom cannot keep us from God, and therefore for all who are in Christ, they should not matter.
- I wondered if you would ask Adam what the following scriptures mean to him. I listened to his first sermon on grace and it was really good. Matthew 16:24 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. ” (I especially am interested in “he must deny himself.”) Ephesians 5:5 “For this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Kathleen Gammeter)
- Ultimately, being a Christian is not about going to heaven (that’s only a very good part of it!). Following Jesus is about becoming more like him and being transformed into the perfect people which God intended us to be without sin. In order to become like this, we must regularly deny our own desires and take the harder path of unconditional love and abounding grace which are indicative of the transformed life. Paul tells us that Jesus—who is God—did not want to exploit or keep a strangle-hold on that privilege. Rather, he gave it up out of deep love for us that all would be saved. For this reason, greed, immorality, and impurity have no place in the Kingdom. These are the marks of someone who is in it for his or her self rather than for the good and hope of others. But Jesus did nothing for himself, so we who follow after him must constantly fight our nature to look out for ourselves. Paul begins Eph 5 with a call to “imitate God” which is of course a tall (perhaps terrifying) order! Luckily, I think he’s being a little hyperbolic in his warning in 5:5. I think that those of us who struggle with greed or impurity, but are constantly working to imitate God will still inherit his Kingdom, and we can take solace in the fact that upon entrance into that Kingdom, those unhealthy marks of our being will be cast into the lakes of hell.