Not Who I Used to Be


Blasphemer. Persecutor. Insolent opponent of the gospel.

These are words used by the Apostle Paul to describe himself. While nobody at Northwestern called me those names during my years at NWC, they certainly could have.

One of my most vivid memories from my time at NWC was a conversation I had with one of my baseball coaches. Mark Bloemendaal ’81 sat me down near the end of my college days and pointedly asked, “How do you want to be remembered around here?” He proceeded to tell me how people saw me. While he didn’t use Paul’s words, I knew they were true of me. While not great to hear at the time, Mark’s words made a significant impact on me.

My years at NWC were spent unaware of the grace of God that was available for me to claim in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I lived out of a false version of myself that I created in order to feel safe in the world. The true version of the person who God created me to be would be discovered (and is still being discovered) later in life.

Men like Cory Brandt ’92, Bob De Boer ’91, Kurt Erickson ’92 and Kris Korver ’92—among others—were the poster boys for NWC in those years; I was anything but. I enjoyed my time at NWC but drank and played my way through school, missing out on most of what God had for me … or so one might think.

Reflecting on those years, I am mindful of the ways coaches Korver, Brandt and Meyer impacted my life, scattering seeds that germinated years later. I am aware of how many teammates influenced me too. And though I’m not proud of the life I lived then, I am acutely aware of the impact those experiences had on the truer version of the life I now live.

I was ordained in September—28 years after graduating from Northwestern—as a minister of word and sacrament in the Reformed Church in America. It is my pleasure to serve the East and West Sioux classes as classis leader, acting as a catalyst for church health and multiplication. I minister to pastors, work with pastoral search teams, and lean into conflict within churches in healthy and redemptive ways. My life experience enables me to serve in hard places like prisons and to walk with people in the darkest moments of the human experience. I also have the privilege of journeying with people through an ongoing process of spiritual formation known as Faithwalking.

As Paul wrote, “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (I Timothy 1:12-14, NRSV)

My call includes helping people understand they have God-given gifts, skills, talents and passions and that God wants them to use those to join him in restoring all things—including individuals, families, churches, communities and social systems—to God’s intended design.

This is God’s work, and we get to play a part. For me, it’s been a long and winding road. After graduating from NWC, I ran small-town newspapers (Marion, Pocahontas, Sibley and Rock Valley, Iowa) in pursuit of the American dream. God had other plans and called me to ministry—a call I fought for some time. Eventually giving in, I engaged a commissioned pastor process and was the pastor of a second-campus ministry in Rock Valley. I transitioned to become the classis leader in 2012 and graduated with a Master of Divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary in May.

I am grateful for the life God has given me. By the grace of God, that life is enhanced by my wife, Kathy, who still loves me 28 years later. We have four kids (three daughters and a son) who we think are pretty great, a son-in-law who is an exceptional human being, and two beautiful granddaughters whom we adore.

Chris Godfredsen is the classis leader for the East and West Sioux classes of the Synod of the Heartland (Reformed Church in America). He is a pastor to pastors, a catalyst for church health and church multiplication, and a Faithwalking facilitator and coach.

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