Hearing God in the Interruptions

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In Greg Janke’s old office at Bauer Christian Reformed Church, there was a folder that contained material for hundreds of sermons. A quote on the outside of that folder reminded Janke of Henri Nouwen’s words: “My interruptions are my work.”

Janke appears to have heeded that reminder. Throughout his life, he has been willing to be interrupted and rerouted by God. The most recent interruption brought him to Calvin Theological Seminary as director of admissions, but the interruptions began with Janke’s call to ministry nearly 20 years ago.

Janke was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., and grew up in the Chicago area where his father was a pastor. While not averse to ministry, Janke was not inclined to consider it for himself. So when he felt God calling him “it was very easy for me to say no and explain it away,” he said. “I’m the pastor’s son. Of course [people are] going to say, ‘You should go into ministry.’”

Janke went to Calvin College, expecting to teach English after graduation. Instead, he enrolled at Calvin Theological Seminary “on a bargain with God,” he says. “I would go for a year, part time, and we’d both figure out that this wasn’t for me. Then I could get on with what I wanted to do, and God could move on to more fertile territory.”

But a year later Janke found himself continuing, as seeds God had been planting since high school began to bear fruit. “I was a year from being done [with seminary] when I finally had that sense of confirmation,” he said. “That was God’s way, through all the experiences early on, to say, ‘Trust me, trust me, trust me.’”

After seminary Janke pastored First CRC in Crown Point, Ind., for seven years and Bauer CRC in Hudsonville, Mich., for five years.

Janke said he loves pastoral ministry: witnessing the power of God in people’s lives, the preaching task, and the people. “You deal with people at the best and worst times of their lives. What’s most enjoyable is seeing the gospel take root in people’s lives, either for the first time or in a new way.

“It has nothing to do with me; it has everything to do with the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit. But it’s wonderful to be able to be there to witness it.”

In the midst of witnessing that kind of growth in the congregation of Bauer CRC, God interrupted again. Last fall, Janke saw the seminary’s ad for a director of admissions. Two friends encouraged him to apply.

He said he remembers thinking, “God must be in the midst of this. I have two people who both know me, my heart, and my passions, both saying basically the same thing.”

Despite some doubts about leaving his ministry at Bauer, Janke sent in a resume and by February 2006 he was the new director of admissions.

Janke said the continued unfolding of God’s call in his own life allows him to understand the questions that prospective students ask him. He sees his role as more of a pastor to students than as a recruiter.

“Leaving a ministry that I really loved to come and do something I knew nothing about—that also is part of my understanding of calling,” he explained. “All of that makes me more sensitive to some of the things prospective students are wrestling with.”

Janke’s story, like that old preaching folder, is a living reminder that “my interruptions are my work.”


About the Author

Kristy Manion is a CTS student and project coordinator for the vice president of student life at Calvin College.
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