Alumnus Chris McCormick – How God Used a “Silly Idea” to lead Chris to Seminary

July of 2013, Chris was taking in just a “regular” Sunday sermon from the book of James when the Holy Spirit clearly spoke to him. Arriving home from church, he shared his “impression” with his wife Cindy, adding on, “Isn’t that a silly idea?!” Expecting her to agree with him, Chris was shocked to hear her say, “I think you should!”

Rewind 43 years…

Chris McCormick already sensed God’s call on his life at the young age of 10. While attending summer camp, the evening “campfire” speaker said, “God is calling some people into ministry and if that’s you, raise your hand.” When Chris raised his hand, the leader asked him to share what he felt God was calling him to do. Chris replied simply, “I think God is calling me to preach the Gospel.”

Out of high school, Chris attended the University of Illinois and graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering. He then took a job with an oil refinery in Toledo, Ohio, 500 miles away from all that was familiar. God used the time in this “foreign land” to renew a spark and strengthen Chris’ commitment to serve Him. Recognizing Chris’ fervor for the Lord and his spiritual gifts, the pastor of his Oregon, Ohio church poured into Chris and entrusted him with leadership roles. He also encouraged Chris to take classes, leading him to become credentialed with the Assemblies of God. On top of his full-time engineering job, he began volunteering as his church’s Associate Pastor.

After a brief relocation back to Illinois, Chris and his wife Cindy found themselves once again in Toledo. That first week back, they visited Calvary Church and quickly decided they were home. Again, Chris balanced his full-time work at the refinery alongside significant ministry leadership. He served on the board, led small groups, and participated in hospital visitations. And because he was credentialed with the denomination, he even was asked to lead at the occasional wedding and funeral. Over the years, a niggling thought began to surface: “Maybe I should formalize my ministry education…”

Then in July of 2013, during a Sunday sermon, the Holy Spirit gave Chris a clear “Yes!” to that niggling thought. And what he thought was a “silly idea” became his call to seminary.

Thanks to trusted friends who had already attended Winebrenner Theological Seminary, Chris fired off an inquiry about the Master of Divinity program. He applied, was accepted and began classes in a matter of weeks! Suddenly Chris was juggling work, volunteering at church, and taking a full load in the MDiv program. His schedule cleared some when Chris retired from the refinery in May 2016, and then in August 2017, Chris graduated from Winebrenner with his Master degree.

Reminiscing about his Winebrenner experience, Chris shares, “I always felt like I fit in at Winebrenner, even from the get-go. All the professors and admin staff made me feel like I fit in, even though we all belong to different denominations. One of the things that attracted me was that I got to hear viewpoints from people from different backgrounds. I find this to be very important. I learned to listen and respect others’ perspectives, even if I don’t agree. Winebrenner helped me grow in that way, instead of just forming an opinion and winning the argument.”

Chris identifies Winebrenner’s Ministerial Person class as a critical moment in his three years there. “Prior to that class, I viewed what I was going to do at Winebrenner to be primarily theological, almost data oriented. Dr. Ebner made me realize that the courses’ content was not the biggest lesson I would get out of my education. She wisely said, ‘YOU are going to be formed!’ That class set the stage for me to look at every other class through a new lens. At the start of every class I would ask, ‘How will I be changed through this class?’ not just ‘What can I know from this class?’ That shift made all the difference.”

The very same summer of his graduation, Calvary Church hired Chris as a full time Associate Pastor. He now oversees adult discipleship and hosts the church’s video venue. He continues to oversee “Calvary Ministry School” which he launched while studying at Winebrenner. The school provides theological education and ministry training for lay people, and it contributes towards credentialing with the Assemblies of God.

While Chris shyly thought that pursuing a seminary degree was a “silly idea,” God knew it was exactly where He needed to be.