Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Interrupted: Brad Edwards

CSM Chicago will be posting a blog series called "Interrupted: The Unexpected Movements of God Working Through CSM's Ministry".  If you have a story about how God interrupted your life through a CSM trip, please email it to!

There is a season and a time for everything under the sun. This is a fundamental, beautiful, simple, and humbling truth that believers respond to in obedience. God’s timing is perfect for when He chooses to interrupt our plans. Brad Edwards experienced this at a very young age, during a season of his life in which most people have a swirling fury of voices telling them whom to be, the loudest of which is often their own, and the softest of which is sometimes God’s. After God grabbed Brad’s attention in the right season, his whole life trajectory was altered. This is the story of Brad Edwards’ life interrupted.

Growing up in rural Colorado, Brad had little exposure to the unique issues faced by urban communities. He would periodically take trips to Denver, but that was about it. His first experience with CSM came in 1995 during the summer before his sophomore year of high school. High school is a time during which many search with hysterical energy for identity and grapple until they find sure footing in the rocky ascent toward becoming. It should come as no surprise, then,  that during that summer Brad was thinking a lot about his future. It was with this mindset that he entered a trip to CSM Los Angeles with his high school youth group. This was Brad’s first real exposure to urban ministry, and he was struck with the level of discipleship that was catalyzed by this experience. He saw that exposing the youth group to this new culture, which was far out of their comfort zone, and making them process and come to terms with all the things they were experiencing was a huge source of discipleship and spiritual growth for both him and his companions. He was encouraged by what God was already doing through the various ministries that were planted in Los Angeles and that his group simply was blessed to be able to join with for a week. He was also struck with what God could do in the world even through youth. He began to consider entering vocational ministry. As he served the following summer in Mexico, he felt a palpable call from God to vocational ministry.

All of this led Brad to attain a degree in Youth Ministry from John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. In 2000, during the summer after his sophomore year, he took a job as a City Host for CSM in Houston. The method and philosophy of ministry God was carrying out through CSM had resonated with Brad, influencing his own philosophy of ministry. When Brad graduated college, he took a job at a church plant called Emmaus Road Community Church in Laramie, Wyoming, where he essentially built the youth ministry up from the ground. By the summer of 2004, he had built up a core group of youth, and he was faithful to what the Lord had taught him through going on a CSM trip and serving as a city host; he brought them on a trip to CSM Chicago, and it was a wonderful growing experience. He had seen through personal experience that missions trips provide a unique opportunity for spiritual growth, for discipleship, and for growth as a youth group community. CSM trips, which carried a unique focus on allowing youth to see and step into the ways God was already moving in the city, and which had so profoundly impacted Brad’s personal philosophy of ministry in the past, became an important part of the discipleship program he implemented as a youth pastor. God had truly used CSM to greatly change Brad’s heart for ministry, and Brad was responding faithfully by giving his youth the same experience in order to change hearts.

From 2005 to 2008, Brad attended Denver Seminary, during which time he had stints serving at both a suburban church plant and a mega church. In both contexts, he served in young adult ministry, and even here he applied CSM’s focus on providing growth opportunities by immersing people in cultures and contexts different from their own and allowing them to see how God was moving just as strongly in those contexts. He would lead the young adults in service opportunities that, similarly to CSM, focused on urban immersion, and, ever constant, God used these experiences to bring about growth and heart change.
After graduating from Denver Seminary, God brought Brad and his wife full circle back to Siloam Springs to minister in the very place he had been taught how to do so. Brad became a youth pastor at First Presbyterian Church, where he still works today. Brad was again tasked by God with building the youth at First Presbyterian Church into a much more established group. Once he reached that point with his students, he again began implementing CSM as a part of the discipleship program, taking his students on a trip to CSM Houston in the summer of 2011 and then on a trip to CSM Chicago this past summer of 2015, again seeing tremendous growth as a fruit.

CSM was a foundational part of God’s efforts to interrupt Brad’s heart for ministry, and now, some 20 years later, he is providing that same experience to students who are the same confused, identity-seeking age that Brad was when he was so powerfully spoken to by God. One has to wonder how many other teenager’s lives are being rocked in much the same way as Brad’s by his faithfully passing down what God passed down to Him. It is beautiful to see how Brad has come full circle to spread what God taught him as a teenager to countless other teenagers and young adults, building leaders and disciples in the process. Powerful, contagious Holy Spirit movements happen when we humbly and simply surrender in obedience to the easy yolk of God. Brad’s life is a testament to this. This story is one of many stories of humble servanthood and its beautiful returns. Allow God to interrupt you in season, and sow seeds of obedience to His faithful, interrupting voice. The harvest will be the most beautiful thing you could ever imagine, and, in fact, probably more beautiful than you could imagine.

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