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Growing Up

Rev. Daron Brown (‘01)
ead Pastor, Waverly (TN) Church of the Nazarene
NTS Alumni Council, TNU Region Member-at-Large

Eighteen years ago, I stuffed my Chevy Cavalier and made the 600 mile trek to Kansas City. It was long before I owned a GPS or a cell phone.  I had little clue where I was going or how the journey might unfold. I had rented a second floor apartment at Nob Hill, sight unseen. The temperature was a sweltering 105 degrees on the July afternoon that I rolled in on Interstate 70. I lugged boxes up two flights of stairs, wondering if the heat and humidity from the southeast had followed me to the City of Fountains. With an apartment lease and utility bills, I had entered a new stage of life. Faced with my ineptitude in the kitchen, the college cafeteria didn’t seem as bad as I had remembered. My roommate joined me. I found a job. I connected with a local church. Life was beginning anew. I was growing up.

My first NTS experience was the spiritual formation retreat led by Dr. Freeborn and Dr. Weigelt. I sensed that something significant was taking place in those early days. I wasn’t going to get in and out of there by simply comprehending coursework. By design, my seminary experience was going to be guided by a framework of spiritual formation. If NTS had their way, I wasn’t there just to learn. I was there to grow up in Christ.

My four years were marked by perpetual unlearning and learning: Absorbing lectures. Hallway conversations with friends.  Being renewed in chapel services. Study sessions in Westport coffeehouses. By attending NTS, I gave myself to the church for a theological education. Throughout my time at NTS I was formed and stretched. I gained both confidence and humility. I learned how to be a better Christian. I learned how to be a better Nazarene. I learned how to become a pastor.

Over the course of my seminary years I lived with a total of six roommates. I kept the last one. I married her so she wouldn’t get away as easily as the others did. Each of my six roommates contributed, in their unique ways, to my maturation. In an era in which the word “community” was idealized and overused (The word was thrown around like a Frisbee at a college campus on a Sunday afternoon.), we learned how hard living in community actually is. Living together, we offended and we forgave. We debated and we prayed. We talked for hours upon hours and we dished out long stretches of silent treatment. Most importantly, we were changed. We may not have realized it at the time, but God used us to become instruments of his sanctifying work in one another’s lives.

Nearly four years after my stuffed Chevy Cavalier rolled in on Interstate 70, I loaded up and headed back the way I came. The Cavalier was long gone. This time it was a large moving truck and a couple more cars. Marriage has a way of multiplying stuff. I had no clue that my journey would end up being the equivalent of a round trip. The Lord led me back to Tennessee, to pastor a church about an hour from where I began.

Much has changed in the nearly twenty years since I enrolled at NTS. Most importantly, I have changed. And I’m still changing. My NTS experience put me on a trajectory of growth in a number of ways. I am different because of NTS. I am a better person and a better pastor because of NTS. I am a pastor who thinks theologically because of NTS. I am blessed beyond measure because of NTS. I am NTS. 

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