As a graduating college senior, I am faced with the question of ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ For some, the answer may seem clear and everything is falling into place; for others it can seem as if the future is too far away to even start thinking about. I am stepping into a role of ministry, something I never would have expected for myself. It felt like I was talking to a mirror when I sat down with Matthew Young and he described the future that he imagined for himself when he was in high school. He hoped to achieve the “American dream”: he planned to get a degree, get a job, and live comfortably. These are hopes that I held onto as well, but God has shown us both that He has different plans.

If you know Matthew now, you know that he is the pastor of Resonate Church at the University of Idaho. Becoming a pastor was not always the plan for Matthew. He grew up in a family where church was a regular rhythm and he had a firm grasp on who God was.

“Accepting Jesus was a decision I made when I was 10 years old, but I didn’t know what it meant to follow Jesus.”

He would go to church camps and experience God, but it would turn back to seeking the approval of others and in the end, he did not fully experience the true joy of a relationship with Jesus.

“I would do what the cool kids were doing and found my identity in what other people thought of me.”

As Matthew finished up high school and prepared for college, he knew he had a decision to make. Was he going to be the Matthew that everyone knew on Fridays or on Sundays?

At the beginning of freshman year, he met students that invited him to be involved in a Christian organization on campus. This helped him solidify his decision to follow after Jesus. He got involved in a small group where he was challenged by a leader to dig deeper into why he believed what he believed. Was it his own faith, or merely the beliefs of his parents? This created a curiosity to really discover God and understand His love.

He decided he wanted to be all in.

The process in which Matthew grew in his faith is very similar to many students who are a part of Resonate Church, myself included. There came a time in my life where I had to come face to face with God and understand that I needed a Savior. There was hesitation and a lot of questions that I had about who God was and what following Jesus meant for my eternity. I learned that a life chasing after Jesus is a life that is dedicated to showing others who Christ is and why they need Him. As Matthew began to chase after Jesus and live on mission, he began to realize that this life was much more fulfilling than anything he could have pictured for himself.

The more Matthew got to know Jesus in college and understand how much God loved him, the more his capacity to love others grew. Motivations for his life began to grow, moving away from his previous aspirations for the American dream and instead toward wanting to see similar spiritual transformation in other people’s lives.

As he approached graduation, he realized that he wanted to pursue ministry on college campuses. So much so that he was willing to do whatever it took to pursue ministry, even moving across the country to Portland, Oregon. His time there gave him invaluable ministry experience and helped solidify God’s call on his life to reach the college campus. But he never expected to be in the role of a pastor.

After moving to the University of Idaho, the opportunity arose to start up Resonate Church. This was better than anything he could have done on his own, and it sparked a passion in him. Eventually, reality set in that being part of this church made him a pastor, a position he had never aspired to be because of the negative connotation that comes with that title in our culture. But God began to reveal to him the joy in doing what he was created to do; the joy that comes when you are seeing people influenced by the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.

After ministering as a pastor for nine years, he can still sense the desire for comfort and approval from the world. The enemy keeps coming back with the same temptations. There are moments when the life of stability and comfort seem like a good option. But there is always something that centers him, and reminds him of why living missionally is more beneficial than anything this world can give him. What keeps Matthew passionate about sharing the gospel with college students is that the world does not have an answer to the “why.”

“As a pastor, you hear stories of some of the horrible things that have happened in people’s lives, and the world doesn’t have an answer to that. But the gospel does.”

The gospel reminds him that financial stability and investment in worldly things are temporary. Being a part of what God is doing on college campuses is eternal and greater than any rewards from society. There are times when we feel unprepared to make an impact in the kingdom, but in those moments, Matthew looks at Ephesians 2:10:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

This verse restores his hope in the eternity that is promised in following Jesus, and that we are created to lead others to Him as well. He has learned to trust God’s plan for his future, even if it does not check the boxes of a comfortable life. Matthew seeks to know God and chase after His desires instead of the acceptance of the people around him.

I can find myself reverting back, trying to attain the American dream with a comfortable job and independent lifestyle that others would only dream of. I can almost expect this year to be full of challenges and new experiences that test my faith in the plan God has for me. Listening to Matthew’s story I am reminded to seek the Lord’s voice, exclaiming that I can’t qualify myself any more than He already has. It may not be the American dream, but as Matthew described, guiding people to know Jesus is really the most extraordinary job we could ever have.