Midwestern Seminary seeks to provide theological education for students in a variety of Kingdom assignments, including those currently serving in ministry. Bryan Dermody, one such student pursuing his Doctor of Ministry degree, exemplifies the value of pursuing theological education while serving in full-time pastoral ministry. Bryan serves as the Community Pastor at Veritas Church in Iowa City, Iowa. Veritas is part of the Salt Network and hosts the Veritas School of Theology. In this edition’s student highlight, we asked Bryan about theological education, church planting, pastoral ministry, and more.
MBTS: Can you tell us more about your ministry at Veritas Church and how your church seeks to prioritize church planting?
Bryan Dermody: I currently serve as the Community Pastor at Veritas Church. I help facilitate small groups, lead men’s ministry, and teach equipping classes. My greatest passion is discipling men, whether that is coaching small group leaders, teaching Bible studies, or leading early morning coffee shop discipleship groups. A close second ministry passion is theological education. One of the ways I get to exercise those mental and spiritual muscles is by helping to teach at the Veritas School of Theology.
Although we consider church planting to be part of the DNA of Veritas Church, we have no pipeline or formal church planting program in place, and this is intentional. Two of the more conventional ways we prioritize church planting is by talking about it regularly from the pulpit and dedicating money to it in our yearly budget (whether or not a new church plant is on our horizon). We also prioritize church planting by discipling the people of our congregation. If consistent discipleship is happening, regardless of whether or not that discipleship is specifically focused on church planting, many of those disciples will inevitably make this part of their vocation and following of Jesus. Finally, we make a concerted effort to never allow our plans and strategy to trump the Holy Spirit’s leading. For example, we had no intention of planting a church this year in Dubuque, IA, but through the Holy Spirit’s leading we did!
MBTS: How does Veritas Church partner with the Salt Network? Can you share more about the Salt Network?
Bryan: The Salt Network is a family of churches that work together to plant churches in cities with major colleges and universities. We believe that one of the keys to Christian revival across the United States (and beyond) is reaching the next generation with the gospel. There are currently 24 churches in the network, with five upcoming plants to come in the near future. Veritas Church was the original church planted by Cornerstone Church (Ames, IA) on September 10, 2010. We have continued to partner with the Salt Network by sharing financial resources, raising up church planting candidates, and sending existing staff and community members to join new church plants.
MBTS: How do you balance theological education with full-time ministry? What advice would you give to ministry leaders with a desire to pursue more theological education?
Bryan: Doing theological education and full-time ministry requires sacrifice. To balance the two, you must understand where this sacrifice is to come from and then settle it in your heart to live that out. The sacrifice is not to come from time in God’s Word every day (abiding in Christ), shepherding your family well, or doing your job with excellence and integrity. It comes mostly from your “free time,” the time that we often think we are entitled to use in whatever way we choose (i.e. watching TV, scrolling through social media, etc.).
I was told by many professors up front that my theological education would be a failure if I did not become a better disciple, spouse, and parent as a result of it. Therefore, I would tell those seeking to pursue more theological education to do it with three goals in this order: (1) grow to better love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), (2) grow as a spouse and parent, and (3) grow in theological knowledge. Of course, I would also tell them to, in fact, get the education. It will be worth it!
MBTS: How have you seen church planting change over the past 10 years? What do future church planters need to know about ministry today?
Bryan: Church planting has only increased over the last 10 years. With this increase has come a rise in both church “networks,” such as the Salt Network, and multi-site churches (planters are going into their first plant with the vision of future multi-sites). Maybe the most marked change, in terms of church planting strategy, has been that church planters are going into new plants with a missionary mindset in the United States. Secularism currently dominates American culture—churches and Christianity are an afterthought at best—resulting in church planters going into new plants with a mindset not all that different from planting a church in a foreign culture.
Future church planters need to know that slower is better when being raised up and sent out to plant. The consequences of planting a church before the necessary spiritual maturity has developed can be devastating. It’s better to take more time to be discipled by older, wiser Christian men and women who have followed Christ for a long time, endured trials, and been faithful to serve God’s church. Future planters also need to know that this is God’s church, not theirs (Matt. 16:18). The goal is not to build your own little “kingdom” in the form of a local church. God’s Kingdom does not need another Tower of Babel. Finally, future planters need to be cautious of sacrificing their family for the church. God’s church is a beautiful gift, but the most important people we need to shepherd are our spouses and children.