Faith News Niagara presents another instalment of "5 Questions", the continuing segment where readers can get to know the local ministers of the region a little better.
Today's 5 Questions article with Joel Overduin is from an interview from July, 2017.
1 What is your name, the name of your church ministry, and the length of time you've been at that ministry.
So my name is Joel Overduin. It's a Dutch name. If you're Dutch, you say Over-dine. The name of the church is Vineland Free Reformed Church. And I've been here just over four years. Before that I was in a place called Mitchell, Ontario. It's between Stratford and Goderich. It's a rural setting. A wonderful place to live and to minister. That was from 2005.
2 What is your favourite pastime: reading, sports, outdoors, etc.
Sure. So I'm married, my wife and I have five children between the ages of four and 12. So my pastime is my children!
My family life is very busy. We had one girl, two boys, and then two more girls. And they love the outdoors. We all love hiking -- since moving here, we've done many trips to Short Hills Provincial Park, and places like that. We like sports also. When I do get some free time, then I love to read. I read whatever I can get my hands on.
3 Favourite all time (or current) Bible book, Bible story, or Bible passage, and why.
That's not an easy question to answer! I love the book of Proverbs. Someone once said that in Proverbs, you meet truth in street clothes. So for the imagery, for the analogies, for the vividness of the points that are made -- like, "it's better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs, then a fool in his folly" -- that's a powerful image, right? And you can immediately identify, and be warned not to ever be a fool, and also to stay away from those who are foolish.
In my own devotional life... someone tipped me off to this years ago... Proverbs has 31 chapters. Usually, there are 31 days in a month. You read a chapter a day, according to the day of the month, and you can read the book 12 times a year. I've been doing that for a number of years. And I've found that to be good for my soul and, hopefully, helpful to my development as a Christian.
The Proverbs are profound. On the face of it, even a child can understand many of them. But when you dig into all of the nuances and applications and ways you can work these things out in your life, you can be busy with them your whole life.
4 Briefly describe the series of events that brought you to your church, your current role, ministry in general.
I think what I'll do is I'll start with the end question, ministry in general. So I'm 39. I first sensed that I was called to be a pastor when I was a young boy. That sort of went through different stages. But when I was in university, I remember once reading this line out of the book that went something like, 'God needs the best men in ministry'. Well, I thought, that was easy! That settled it. I closed the book and then put it away, thinking, I can go... and do something else.
And I did. I married my wife, and I was working at a (plant) nursery -- this was over in British Columbia -- but there was something in me that was not settled. And so, through some different events – visiting a seminary, spending some time with a friend who was in ministry, listening to a lecture from Africa that spoke about many churches not having pastors, and that being a chronic problem (and we have the same in our setting here) -- I began to struggle with the question, am I really being faithful with the few gifts that I have been given? That question didn't leave me. So that led to some more discussions with other people, elders in my church, and so on. That brought me to the point where I applied with my churches to be a student for ministry. I went through the whole process, was examined, and then declared to be fit for call, as we say in our churches.
In my own understanding of the way the Lord calls a minister to serve him, there is an internal aspect to the call -- your own desire, your own compulsion your own gifting, and so on -- but that has to be matched by an outward call, by a church through which the Lord speaks by extending a call, or somehow saying they'd like you to serve in a certain capacity. So when that came in 2005 that was, for me, a joyful moment and a confirmation; I had sensed I was being led of the Lord down that path, and it was of the Lord, and not of myself.
So like I said, that first church that I served was in Mitchell -- a rural congregation of 200 to 250 people. Beautiful congregation. They treated us so well. And I learned so much there. I was thankful for the years that I could serve in that place.
Then in 2013, this church was without a pastor, and they called me. That was quite a struggle because I was very settled where I was, and I didn't need to leave. And yet it became apparent through different providences, and the counsel of others, and other circumstances, that I was being called here. So I came.
5 Briefly describe how you met Jesus.
I was raised in a Christian home, and I'm thankful for that. I have godly parents, faithful parents, who taught me. And I was also given the privilege of attending a Christian school all my life -- Christian Elementary, high school, and I even went to a Christian university, Trinity Western University in Langley. So those were all blessings in my life. And I'm grateful for them.
I cannot remember not knowing about the Lord. I cannot even remember not loving the Lord. But I can remember coming to a point where I understood that the basis for peaceful relationship with the Lord was not anything I was doing, but was everything Christ had done. So in theological and biblical terms, you'd say that that was when I came to understand the teaching of justification -- that God declares sinners righteous not on the basis of what they've done, or anything they contribute, but solely on the basis of the righteousness of Christ, which we receive by faith.
And the declarative aspect of that is very important, because justification is a term that comes out of the court room, under a legal setting. So it has a certain authority, an official quality to it. God doesn't just say, well I like you. Or even that I accept you. But he says, I find you to be righteous before me. So he looks at you and me as one who was no longer guilty, and not simply innocent, but actually perfect – perfect through the person and work of Christ.
So I think that was around grade 11 or 12, I don't remember. That really clarified things for me. And I think that was the moment of being set free. Having said that, there was much to learn, and still is much to learn. I find myself aspiring to the language of Paul, when he says, 'for me, to live is Christ.' Which is a profound statement, I think. What does it mean, 'to live is Christ'? You know, if you just take that at face value you could say, 'what are you trying to say Paul?'
Over the years I think I've come to understand him saying, 'it's Christ for me, it's Christ in me, it's Christ with me, it's Christ through me. For me, to live is Christ.' And then he finishes it by saying, 'to die is gain.'