There are decisions that we can make that will have a huge impact on the trajectory of our lives - whether to take the job, make the move, accept the invitation. James Shank, like most of us, has faced a few of those decisions. The most recent one landed him in Gothenburg, hundreds of miles from where he grew up and in a different culture than he has ever experienced.
In July 2019, James and his family relocated to Gothenburg when he accepted a position as Associate Pastor of Family Ministries at Evangelical Free Church. A native of Orange County, California, Shank was accustomed to life in a very big city. Nearly nine years ago he and his wife, Beth, made the move from California to Colorado Springs, Colorado where he worked for The Navigators. They made the adjustment from an area of millions of people to a city of just under a half million. So when he got the call to move to Nebraska, his friends and family had one question. Why?
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I really, really enjoy Gothenburg and this pace of life,” said Shank, now completely settled in to his new surroundings. “It allows me to spend more time with people rather than time getting someplace to be with people. That’s one of the things I’ve really enjoyed.”
Shank said the nudge, or call, into full-time ministry began when he lived in California. “In a nutshell, I had two opportunities in front of me, either of which I could choose. 1. A management position with The Cheesecake Factory making $100k a year, a new BMW, and 10,000 shares of the company. 2. Work for The Navigators in Colorado Springs raising all our support. Through prayer, God said, “I will provide for you, will you trust Me?” It was clear that I was called to serve in ministry full-time. From there I continued to grow in my walk and love of serving God,” he explained.
Though this is his first official pastoral opportunity, Shank said with The Navigators his job was to work with other churches training pastors in discipleship and community. “A lot of that deals with how we invest in people; how we reach out to people Monday - Saturday, not just on Sunday,” he said. “Part of what we try to do here is to reach out to people, because the most important thing you can do for others is just show up. Just be there - and hopefully they will see the love of Jesus through you.”
He said his primary responsibility in his new role is leading the junior high and senior high Rooted groups. He meets with both youth groups each Wednesday evening, and teaches all youth on Sunday mornings. He also oversees the families in the church, disciples, leads Bible studies, and is preparing to teach a Greek class in the near future.
“My main focus is where is your relationship with Christ, and how are you grounded in the Word?” said Shank. “Affirming and teaching for growth is what I do.”
He has earned a bachelor of science degree in Organizational Leadership from Biola University in Mirada, California; a master of divinity degree in Church and Discipleship Ministries from Liberty University; a ThM (master of theology) degree in Christian Apologetics from Liberty University; and is in the process of obtaining his Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Skills from Denver Seminary.
“I completed both Masters degrees while working for The Navigators and I also taught various Bible classes at a local private Christian school,” Shank said. “My love for God, His Word, and others became the platform to make the transition to the pastorate.”
He and Beth have been married for 17 years and are the parents of four children: Matthew, 15, is a freshman; Zachary, 12, in 7th grade; Eliana, 11, in 5th grade; and Jeremiah, 8, in 2nd grade. Gothenburg is the smallest town any of them have ever lived in.
“I am very grateful God has called our family to Gothenburg and to Cornerstone Bible Church (Evangelical Free Church at Gothenburg),” said Shank. “I consider it a great joy to serve the people of Gothenburg.”