Four Grace Graduates Labor Together for the Gospel at Gateway Church
Gateway Church in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania is home to four Grace College graduates: Dan O’Deens, E.Scott Feather, Jonathan Damon, and Jonny Damon. Originally this church planting began in 1997 by Dan O’Deens, the church has grown as they’ve transitioned from meeting in a basement, to a school gym, and finally to the building they meet in today. As the church grew over time, so did their team. Through family and ministry connections, these four Grace graduates now use teamwork in minstry to further the gospel through Gateway Church.
Gateway’s vision is simple: “For the one God, one church, one lost person.” They are committed to working under Christ and staying on the same page. Their individual stories of pursuing ministry and committing to advance God’s kingdom demonstrate how each one plays a unique role in the mission of the church.
When did you study at Grace and what led you to a career in ministry?
Dan O’Deens: I got my Masters in Ministry from Grace Seminary in 1995. God called me to ministry in ninth grade. From there, I pursued student ministry and have been able to really use my gifts.
E.Scott Feather: I graduated from Grace with my undergrad in Biblical Studies and a Biblical Language minor in 1991. I got my MDiv in 2001. In junior high, I started to feel the call to ministry on my life, and I’ve pursued it ever since.
Jonathan Damon: I received my BA in Biblical Studies and Behavioral Science in 1988, and then got my MDiv in 1998. I’ve been open to serving in ministry since high school. God has continually opened doors for me to continue to pursue ministry.
Jonny Damon: In 2010, I got my bachelor’s in Biblical Studies and Business Administration. Right after college, I began climbing the ladder in the corporate world. This was fun for a while, but I began to see that I had empty friendships and that my work was not advancing God’s kingdom. The door to ministry work opened when I surrendered my will to God.
What was your most valuable take away from your time at Grace?
Dan O’Deens: I was really impacted by the emphasis on family and lifelong learning. Relationships matter a lot in ministry, and we can learn a lot through those relationships.
E.Scott Feather: The professors and my peers did a fantastic job of modeling authentic, vulnerable, and Christlike relationships. I was poured into and got to see what it looks like to genuinely care for another person.
Jonathan Damon: I learned that honoring God’s Word provides the foundation for all that happens in ministry. We teach and learn from the Bible in every ministry situation, so it’s vital to treat the Scriptures properly and use it to support ministry.
Jonny Damon: Ministry is a difficult thing to do alone. These solo efforts can often hinder and even hurt your ministry. I learned this looking back at my college experience and how much ministry I tried to do by myself.
What is your current role at Gateway and how have you seen yourself grow in this role over the years?
Dan O’Deens: The Lord called me into church planting, and so in 1995 my family and I moved to Pennsylvania. We didn’t know anyone nor did we bring anyone with us. We met people by joining the YMCA and talking to people in the local mall. We launched Gateway in September of 1997 first in a basement, then the Firehall. Next, we rented a Christian school before finally being able to purchase land to build our own building. My current role is Pastor of Mobilization. Both church planting and my current role have caused me to grow in so many areas.
E.Scott Feather: I am the lead pastor at Gateway. Over the years, I’ve seen God deepen my dependence on him. This has allowed me to recognize how deep His love for me is. Although I do a lot of leading, it is really Christ who is the head of our church.
Jonathan Damon: I am the Pastor of Care and Engagement. This involves welcoming new people, performing marriage ceremonies, speaking at funerals, and conducting counseling. I think that my people skills have improved over the years as I interact with a lot of people on a daily basis.
Jonny Damon: I am the Chief Operating Officer. I’ve seen growth in my responses to what happens day to day. Left to myself, I would be all over the place in my responses, but in Christ I’m gaining stability and consistency.
What do you enjoy most about working in ministry?
Dan O’Deens: Seeing people come to know Jesus is so amazing. The power of the gospel never fails to bring me joy in my work.
E.Scott Feather: I most enjoy seeing the moment when people start to “get it” and then take their faith as their own. They rest in God’s love and providence, which produces great spiritual growth and a continuing desire to learn.
Jonathan Damon: My favorite part of ministry is seeing people listen to what the Bible says, follow it, and respond to the Holy Spirit’s leadings. Also, we have such a great team here that I know supports me and makes doing work together so much easier.
Jonny Damon: I love how God reminds me of His purposes and the fulfillment that He gives me in doing ministry work. Doing my part to help people rely on God is incredible, and I can’t picture myself doing anything else.
What challenges have you faced?
Dan O’Deens: My least favorite part is having to let go of staff, because you really form bonds with your teammates in ministry. Also, watching people walk away from their faith is very difficult. You want so much for people to continue holding onto Christ, but you can’t force them to.
E.Scott Feather: A challenge has been not knowing exactly how to move forward on certain issues or projects. The other side of that is knowing exactly what to do, but having to muster up the courage to actually do it.
Jonathan Damon: The hardest part is seeing people who are not following the Bible and knowing that they’re not honoring God. Another challenge I face is not letting the to-do list get in the way of interacting with people.
Jonny Damon: When you’re in your classes in college, no one prepares you for all the time that goes into caring for those who are hurting. Those times of sitting with people can feel like a lot, and if I’m not careful, it can start to weigh me down.
What does teamwork in ministry look like?
Dan O’Deens: Teamwork in ministry is grounded on a “we not me” mindset, which I think helps our team stay on the same page. It’s not about how much I can get credit for or do on my own. We work together to accomplish the greatest good for God. Individually, I have to decide each day whether to prioritize working with the team or focus on urgent matters by myself.
E.Scott Feather: Christ prayed for “oneness” in the body, and so teamwork in ministry means living out that prayer everyday. We also have to trust each other and let people use their God-given gifts. Individually, there is a level of self-motivation that you must have. Viewing every assignment as from the Lord and for the Lord is something that every pastor needs to learn to do.
Jonathan Damon: Our staff is a very encouraging group, and we do a lot of creative projects that make the work fun. We don’t necessarily have a lot of “for fun” time, but the team environment is very upbeat. Each of us has a very clear job description, but a lot of our tasks line up. We avoid a silo system by bringing each other into our tasks and supporting one another.
Jonny Damon: A big part of team work is trusting each other and knowing that we are working towards the same goal. We have to trust that the other person will do their part and that all of our efforts will accumulate towards the goal. Individually, I do what I can and end each day knowing that I did my best work for the Lord.
What would you say to a student desiring to go into your area of ministry?
Dan O’Deens: Rely on the Spirit to help you do your work. You can gain experience by having the posture of a servant leader and someone who is open to following God’s call. Most importantly, have fun with your work and what God will teach you.
E.Scott Feather: I would say that if you feel the desire for any other area of work, follow that path, but if ministry is where you feel called to, jump in with both feet. Start serving where you are and gain experience.
Jonathan Damon: Gain team experience through working at your local church. Develop your skills by joining in and learning under experienced ministry professionals.
Jonny Damon: God can and has used people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Don’t disqualify yourself from ministry because God hasn’t. He can use you despite your past or the shortcomings you feel you have.
Grace College and Seminary exists to develop ministry leaders who are passionate about advancing the local church.