Rewards of Courage: Life Callings
Q: Michael, when did you enroll in ATI, and how long were you enrolled?
A: My parents first applied to ATI (without the knowledge of us children!) for the pilot year. However, we were not accepted. We were accepted the second year, though.
Looking back, I can see the Lord’s timing in that delay. I, for one, was resistant to the idea of ATI at first. By the second year, however, the Lord had changed my heart so that I actually asked my parents if we could enroll; we were all “on board” with the idea when it actually worked out. I was about 15 when we started ATI. I then studied at home for two years and served at the ATI Headquarters for about seven years (1988–1995).
Q: What is the most significant thing that you learned through ATI?
A: Without a doubt, I am most grateful for the way the Lord used my ATI experience to nurture a love for Scripture. In those early days, before an “Apprenticeship Program,” Headquarters opportunities, Training Centers, or any of that existed, the ATI curriculum was really little more than a curriculum of piety: memorization, prayer, early rising for private devotions, and so forth. I can’t say that I was particularly effective in such disciplines, but Christ promises that He takes the responsibility on Himself to draw near to those who draw close to Him (James 4:8), and I will always cherish those early teenage years at home simply learning to love the Word.
Michael and Heather LeFebvre with Rachel (2 years) and Andrew (4 months)
Q: Michael, sometimes we have a hard time discerning our life callings. How did God reveal His calling for your life?
A: I suppose He is still revealing it. I struggled for several years to try to discern the right life purpose, until I came to rest in the sufficiency of Scripture to guide my life without seeking extra-Biblical revelation. It sounds kind of silly to suggest any other approach, but in practice, many of my uncertainties about the future were really just a selfish insistence upon God to give me extra clarity beyond Scripture.
Once the Lord graciously (albeit through some painful hurdles) taught me to rest in the sufficiency of Scripture, I was free to start making some decisions. I took some months to take stock of my background, my interests, the needs of God’s people, and to prayerfully decide what I ought to do. I can’t say that I necessarily made all the right decisions, but the Lord has proven faithful to hedge me into His way step-by-step as I have continued to make decisions the best I know how under the instruction of Scripture.
In particular, my path has clarified around the pastorate. But I have found that even within a set vocational title, the meaning of that calling will mature and refine. Through my preparations and ministry thus far, I must say that my understanding of the pastorate has changed significantly from what I envisioned when I first embarked on this path. So, I guess the Lord is still unfolding what His calling on my life involves as I move along, and I am thoroughly enjoying the adventure of growth and new discovery!
Andrew was born August 31, 2002, in Scotland, making him a Scottish citizen!
Q: Do you have portions of Scripture that are especially meaningful to you?
A: First Peter 5 and the books of I and II Timothy, written to instruct men about ministry, have significantly shaped my thinking about the pastorate. I recently preached a sermon series in Genesis 1–3 that has profoundly influenced my thinking on the purpose of life and the meaning of redemption. I could name other sections of Scripture, but those illustrate a few which have been particularly important in my recent Christian growth.
Q: Michael, would you share about how you met your wife?
A: In short: Heather and I met while serving together in the same church. We also both took mid-week theological classes sponsored by our church. It was through various church classes and Bible studies that Heather and I got to know each other. We knew each other three years in that context before we began courting.
We were engaged in January 1999, and then married the following July. God has been good to me in the wife He has provided: Heather is a joy as a companion, a wonderful mother for our children, a great support and help in ministry, and an overall beloved friend.
Rachel with her new baby brother
Q: Do you have any advice for an ATI student who is going through the same struggles you faced when you were a teenager?
A: Decision-making, both in the “big” areas (vocation, partner, education) and in “small” matters (purchases, activities, etc.), seems to be a struggle common among ATI young people. I think this is because of the intense desire we share for making not only right decisions, but the best decisions possible. When we move from principle to practice, however, we find it is not always that clear what the best decisions really are. This can leave a person feeling paralyzed, unable to make any decisions; or it can lead to a disengaging of the mind, leaning on external “signs” or other people to make decisions that are really the individual’s responsibility.
In ATI, we frequently look to Joshua 1:8 and the instruction to meditate on God’s law as the basis for “good success” (i.e. God’s best). We often stop at the end of verse 8, however, and would do well to read on. Verse 9 states what is actually the major theme of the chapter: “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
It is this command God gave Joshua to move ahead into the land without fear (based on the assurance of God’s presence “withersoever thou goest”) that is the main theme of Joshua 1—it is repeated three times in verses 5, 9, and 17. Meditation is featured as the way a man like Joshua receives instruction from the Lord, which is our role in our relationship with God. But this relationship is not one-sided. Ultimately, it is God’s promise to never forsake us or leave us to our own devices, but to walk beside His people in whatever decisions we make (teaching, correcting, and guiding), that is the point of confidence in the Joshua 1 call to advance.
In terms of our decision-making then, if I had one word of advice for ATI students, it would be to shoulder the privilege of daily meditation to learn not only what we should do, but especially to learn what Christ has done and is doing. We can only translate Scripture into daily practice with faith and courage when our hearts are being nurtured in a growing comprehension of God’s faithfulness. When we study Scripture, then, we look not only for what we should do, but we build our faith in what God has done, does, and will do for His people: it is in knowing His faithfulness that we know the “good courage” of Joshua.
Q: What advice do you have for a young man who wants to become a minister or missionary? How can he prepare most effectively?
A: Jesus trained the twelve through close discipleship (Mark 3:14). He also trained them (and others) through classes at the Temple (Luke 19:47). Paul likewise used a combination of discipleship (Acts 16:1–3) and classroom (Acts 19:8) methods to teach. I have been grateful to have benefited from excellent mentors and quality seminary courses and would heartily encourage the same to others. I would encourage young men to seek the oversight of their church leaders—it is, after all, the church’s responsibility to train men for ministry (2 Timothy 1:11–2:2). Then, with the oversight of elders, assemble a program of discipleship and study, drawing upon ATI, seminaries, and other resources for a combination of pastoral mentorship and doctrinal instruction.
Q: How are you presently serving the Lord?
A: My wife and I moved to Airdrie, Scotland, a year ago. We came to Scotland in order pursue university research preliminary to my entering the pastorate (Lord willing). We came to Airdrie, specifically, so that we could serve with a sister congregation in this town during my time of study. I preach every other month, lead a weekly Bible study in our home, recently taught a Beginning NT Greek class for the church, give Psalm expositions for Sunday morning worship, participate in congregational outreach, and otherwise endeavor to serve with a small church in the difficulties of European secularism.
St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, where John Knox pastored.