When Ross Wiley moved to Northwest Ohio to oversee the expansion of his family’s restaurant business, he and his wife Elisha believed their time in the region to be temporary. They had planned to stay just long enough to establish a few new restaurants and then to head back to the West Coast or wherever the business led them.
When commuting through Findlay one day, Ross spotted Winebrenner Seminary’s building situated right on Main Street. For some time, Ross had felt called to full time ministry and specifically, church planting. He always sensed God’s call on his life, but he didn’t want to be a bi-vocational pastor. If possible, he wanted to be full-time and “all-in” with his energies and time.
When Ross spotted Winebrenner Seminary, he knew it was time to pursue formal theological education. With Elisha’s full support, he entered the Master of Divinity program in fall 2018. In addition to his classes, Ross began to trust God for practical ministry experience via a church position. Thanks to the urging of his professors, Ross set up a time to meet with Dr. Earl Mills, Regional Director of the Great Lakes Conference, Churches of God General Conference. After what seemed like just minutes, Earl speed dialed Pastor Dave Odegard of Wharton First Church of God. The two connected immediately and long story short, Ross joined their staff team within a week.
While Ross was new to the CGGC, he found the transition pretty seamless. He affirms that Wharton Church is great training ground, one that is exposing him to the breadth of church ministry and preparing him for whatever God has in store. He relishes deep theological conversations with Pastor Dave and greatly appreciates the warm community he and his family of five has found at the church.
Ross is currently in his fourth trimester at Winebrenner. He shares passionately about the quality of his professors: “They are all very well educated, very responsive, very calculated in their responses. They are unbiased. I take great pride in learning from Dr’s Sweeney, Barbee, Dennison, and Nissley.” When faced with the common argument that pastors don’t need formal education, and that “just” the Holy Spirit is enough, Ross is gentle yet firm in his response. He argues that seminary grows your ability to answer the bigger theological questions. How was the world created? How can a good God allow evil? How can the Church respond to difficult questions from today’s society? How do we engage an increasingly biblically illiterate culture?
Winebrenner Seminary, the CGGC, and Wharton First Church of God are all playing a role in Ross’ journey into pastoral ministry. Take one away and his preparation simply would not be as fulfilling nor as extensive.