The Shepherd-Planter

September 30, 2013

Rev. Mark Hallock, D.Min. Student

Mark Hallock is pastor of Calvary Church in Englewood, CO, outside of Denver.  Currently, he is working on a Doctor of Ministry degree from Westminster Theological Seminary.  We talked to Rev. Hallock about his project, his vision for the city of Denver, and how Westminster has shaped his ministry.

Following completion of a M.Div. degree from Denver Seminary, Mark served as a youth pastor for roughly 13 years in the suburbs of Denver.  Towards the end of that time, he began to sense a call to revitalize a church in one of the poorer sections of Denver.  God provided him with an avenue to do just that at a small church of about 30 in Englewood. The church had been dying in many ways but over the last four years “by God’s grace the Lord has just brought these dead bones back to life. Now we’re sitting here, a church of about 700, and we have young guys coming up who are just passionate about being what we’re about here at Calvary, which is simple, old-school ministry.”

After serving at Calvary for a few years, Mark realized that he wanted to gain more knowledge and more wisdom through an academic program. “I know that the Lord has called me to pastor in a local church. As a pastor, I know that I have so much to learn. Once you get your M.Div. and get into the church, you really realize how much you don’t know… I looked at Ph.D. programs, but I quickly realized that, I love academia and theology, but I’m not going to be a professor. I’m a pastor. I need to learn how do I practically apply the Word of God to the lives of God’s people here in my context. So, a D.Min. program like Westminster’s is perfectly suited to equip men in that situation.”

Several things drew Mark to Westminster for his Doctor of Ministry degree. “I was really drawn to the history and tradition of Westminster, and I wanted to study in a more historically Reformed institution. I think the Lord, over the years, has been working in my own heart in sanctification and being drawn to the Reformed tradition. I was really shaped by Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism and several of the current faculty. I visited Westminster before enrolling and was so impressed, not only with the admissions staff, but with Dave Garner, John Currie, Tim Witmer, and others. I felt like Westminster was really the center of the mark in terms of great doctrine, taking the Bible seriously, taking Christ and the gospels seriously, but also applying that practically in pastoral ministry with a ‘shepherding’ philosophy.”

The D.Min. program is designed for men and women currently serving in some capacity in ministry.  As a result, they are required to attend “modules” at the start of the program in the place of semester-long classes.  Mark found the modules to be extremely helpful, especially as they related to one another. “What I love about how Westminster’s D.Min. works is that the modules connect with one another in different ways. They’re not just stand-alone, there are the same themes of a solidly Reformed theology throughout, and how that connects to preaching, mission, counseling. You’re getting a similar voice theologically, and yet a different voice because of different personalities. I’ve felt like all of the courses in this program have overlapped and connected in a way that has been so helpful in the development of my own pastoral theology and practice of that theology.”

Mark’s D.Min project focuses on the intersection between pastoral theology and church-planting.  Specifically, he is seeking to explore how a shepherding model of pastoral ministry affects the way a pastor leads the flock in church-planting. “The project focuses on what I would say are three or four key areas for a shepherd-planter: 1) What is preaching going to look like in this church? We want to make sure there’s a certain standard for expositional, Christ-centered preaching. 2) Shepherding and pastoral care.  We want to be churches that love people well. What does it mean to really love people, pastor people, and to shepherd peoples’ souls? 3) Leadership, which is really the practical one. Am I able to gather people and lead a new church from scratch? What does it look like to lead well? 4) Mission: developing a solid theology of mission and engaging the culture that God’s called me to with the gospel and penetrate that culture in a biblical way as we build relationships with folks, as we train up other church plants to engage their lost neighbors.”

The D.Min. program has been a help spiritually for Mark on a number of different levels. “I’ve had enough education, I’ve been in enough places where I know you can have classes about the Bible in a way that it’s just a dead book we’re studying academically, instead of in a way to set your heart on fire for Jesus.  The professors I’ve had at Westminster are passionate about the Lord, and it flows out of their heart! There’s a culture there at Westminster, and in the D.Min. program specifically, where it’s set up in a way that the students are able to encourage one another in the Lord. My experience from David Garner, Dr. Lillback, Carl Trueman, John Leonard, everybody I’ve interacted with—it’s more than just a motto or phrase or saying: to love Christ with all that you are, to glorify God that we might enjoy him forever. It’s more than just a Westminster Catechism, ‘This is our heartbeat, we want to love and enjoy God, and we want to glorify God, with all of our lives.’ You can’t fake that, and I felt that from the first time I came.”

“I think something that flows out of [the professors’] hearts is that there seems to be a real recognition that they’re dealing with seasoned pastors who are probably tired and discouraged.  Most of us were tired, we’re in the race, and week in, week out we’re preaching and serving our people. I have sensed [at Westminster] there’s been a recognition of that; there’s been so much grace and love and really pastoral care for us.”

Mark hopes to graduate in 2014 or 2015 and hopes to use his Doctor of Ministry to better grow the church in the city of Denver. 

Please pray for Mark as he trains to serve his church as a pastor for the glory of God.