Mark Vander Pol was ordained to the gospel ministry during morning worship on February 2, 2014, at Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, CA.
Christ URC’s pastor, Rev. Michael Brown preached from Ephesians 4:1-6 on Christ’s gift of pastors to his church. Dr. Michael Horton, Associate Pastor, gave the charge to the minister from 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and officiated as Mr. Vander Pol took his vows. Rev. Christopher Gordon, Escondido URC, led the congregation in prayer. Christ URC practices weekly communion and newly-ordained Rev. Vander Pol administered the sacrament.
Asked to share his reflections on this ordination milestone, Rev. Vander Pol says, “My initial thoughts, especially as I have administered the sacraments, are ‘Am I really doing this?’”
He adds, “For the past decade I have had the internal call to be a minister of the gospel and for the last five years I had been candidating towards that end.”
A 2009 graduate of Westminster Seminary California, Mark sustained his candidate exam in June that same year. The intervening years have been packed with exhorting in a variety of locales.
“During this time I candidated at some point in the process for a number of churches across the U.S. and Canada,” he says. “I was also privileged to ‘simply’ fill a number of pulpits from coast to coast, and I was able to meet and fellowship with many brothers and sisters.”
“Many people have asked if I was discouraged during this time when it seemed that church after church called other men to serve their congregations,” he adds. “I always responded that first of all, one cannot be discouraged when the Lord’s will is done. In all these situations, I believe that the right man was called and it just happened to not be me. Of course there were times when I was disappointed, but yet the Lord was faithful and he had his reasons for keeping me where I was.”
Mark worked between 25-30 hours per week for the White Horse Inn while attending seminary, and he was hired full-time following his graduation. The flexibility of that position allowed him to travel as a candidate or fill pulpits for more extended periods. He also was able to do some mountain camping and backpacking during recent years.
He spent most of 2010 working with the Bellingham URC to plant a church in the Tacoma/Gig Harbor area of Washington, that effort ending in September. In November of 2011, he was ordained and installed as an elder of Christ URC and subsequently elected as Clerk of Consistory.
“I am extremely grateful to have been able to serve Christ’s church as an elder for over two years,” he notes. “I really would have been content serving in that office had the Lord so led. Serving as an elder is a very tough job and I believe having that experience will serve me well in the future as a minister.”
In January of 2013, Mark was elected as Clerk of Classis Southwest U.S. and served as a delegate to Synod Nyack in June of 2012. Attendees will remember his expertise as Synod’s tech wizard.
From December 2012 through January 2013, he served as Stated Pulpit Supply for Hills URC in Minnesota.
“In March 2013, candidating was put on hold as my wife and I became foster parents and unable to move from San Diego County,” he explains.
As Associate Pastor, Rev. Vander Pol will fulfill the duties listed in the church order and assist Pastor Brown as necessary. His Associate Pastor position is unpaid for now. He recently resigned from White Horse Inn and is currently employed in the chemistry field.
“Throughout the rest of the year, we will determine what other duties I will be given and whether or not it would be in the best interests of our congregation to have the position be paid in some capacity,” he relates. “The Council of CURC made it very clear that their calling me was dependant on my willingness to remain the Clerk of Consistory/Council.”
Mark Vander Pol was baptized and raised in the CRC until the Escondido church joined the URC in 1997. He graduated from Trinity Christian College in 1999 with a chemistry degree and worked in that field in the Chicago area.
His father, Keith Vander Pol, served as vice-president of Westminster Seminary California and as an elder of the Escondido council until his death in 2000.
“When my father died I lost my ‘theological answer man,’ which meant that I needed to begin finding answers on my own,” Mark says. “I had always known about the Three Forms of Unity, of course, but really took them for granted. I began with earnest to dig into the Confessions and, with the help of the White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation, I really began to have a love for studying God’s Word. After a few years, the internal call to the ministry was confirmed by my friends and my pastor, who encouraged me greatly to pursue the ministry by going to Seminary.”
Because he’d grown up on the campus of Westminster Seminary California from the age of six, there was no question about his seminary destination. He and his wife, Michelle, moved to Escondido in 2005.
Rev. Vander Pol encourages believers to pray for those waiting a call to ministry or graduates who will soon be in that position: “It can be very troubling when it takes awhile for the external call to confirm the internal call. Being able to serve the church as an elder is a very worthy and important office and it is a calling from the Lord as well. A seminary graduate has training and insight that the eldership needs and that might be the Lord’s will too. It was for a season in my life.”
As he begins his work as Associate Minister, his hope and goal is “to serve the sheep of Christ URC and to be a faithful pastor-shepherd however I can. The encouragement that I have received from my congregation is very humbling and I am blessed to be able to serve them.”
“I have no idea where the Lord will lead me and my family in the years to come,” he says. But he eagerly anticipates the Lord’s leading, believing that “this is only the beginning.”
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 9 & 10 of the March 5, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal. (Photos by Dexter Lo.)