Building a Pastor
Following God’s call leads RCA man from construction site to CRC pulpit
The son of a Christian Reformed Church (CRC) pastor, Derek Noorman spent his childhood wrestling with his place in the church.
“Being a pastor was the furthest thing from my imagination,” Noorman says.
He went on to become a builder and later joined Faith Reformed Church in Zeeland, Michigan. In 2009, he led a construction-based mission trip to Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina. At the end of the trip, his team spent an evening sharing “God-sightings.”
“Five people approached me with the same question: ‘Have you ever thought of seminary?’” Confident in his vocation as a builder, Noorman responded, “Nope, you’ve just partaken of the ministry that God has called me to.”
But he couldn’t shake the idea, and his wife, Mardi, affirmed it.
So off to seminary Noorman went, though not without trials. Not only was he a second-career student, but he also didn’t have a bachelor’s degree, typically a prerequisite. However, Western Theological Seminary developed a way for him to attend. Once enrolled, Noorman found a supportive community.
“It meant a lot to have the respect of fellow students and faculty and staff who said, ‘Keep going. Be patient. God’s doing something.’”
Noorman felt that same assurance from God. “God said to me, ‘Be patient, wait on me, and it will be good.’” So Noorman waited. After finishing seminary in 2014, Noorman worked in construction while interviewing with several RCA churches. During this time, East Martin CRC reached out to him, asking for his pastoral profile and wondering if he’d consider pulpit supply. Within weeks, as the other conversations ended, it became clear to Noorman that God was calling him to East Martin.
“God said, ‘The last place you thought you’d be is at a traditional CRC congregation, but this is the one place I want you.’”
Noorman came to agree: “They enveloped us as family immediately.”
The call process wasn’t easy, because RCA-trained candidates must complete the CRC’s Ecclesiastical Program for Ministerial Candidates (EPMC) if they want to serve a CRC congregation in their first call. But Noorman wasn’t interested in more schooling; he wanted to be a pastor.
After talking with his classis, the CRC, and East Martin, Noorman was approved to serve East Martin while completing a modified version of the EPMC. In denomination-speak, Noorman is now an ordained RCA pastor commissioned as a specialized minister serving on extended service to a congregation in the CRC.
Noorman represents a growing number of congregations and people straddling the line between RCA and CRC and, in some cases, belonging to both. These overlapping relationships require everyone’s creativity—that of individuals, congregations, and whole denominations. Noorman’s case, along with several other unusual paths to ministry in the CRC, prompted the CRC’s 2015 Synod to approve a “route by way of exception” to allow such people to serve within the denomination. (Learn more about collaboration between the CRC and the RCA at www.rca.org/togetheragain.)
Noorman’s story is in some ways a story of negotiated partnerships—between him and the seminary, him and East Martin, and the RCA and CRC. His words about his call to East Martin CRC seem fitting for each partnership: “It was both of us being attentive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.”