Pastor Brett Dinger: Innovative Thinking In A Small Community

[caption id=\“attachment_4361\“ align=\“aligncenter\“ width=\“500\“]Raised In A Gideon Environment Growing up in Pennsylvania, Brett Dinger was no stranger to church. His parents made sure they were in church every Sunday, even if they were out of town. His dad also served as a Gideon and his mother in the Auxiliary. Brett recalls seeing different colored New Testaments around the house, as his parents were very active in their Gideon camp.

He gave his life to Christ in high school. After graduation, he attended Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. Like many young Christians, he quickly discovered that living out his faith in a secular college environment was challenging to say the least.

“I wasn’t living the life that a follower of Jesus should,” says Dinger.

By his junior year of college, Brett was starting to take a more serious look at his life. He was growing discouraged about his educational path. And his father was battling cancer. Brett says that during that time, the witness of his parents and their involvement in The Gideons International was a strong reminder of what it meant to truly walk as a follower of Christ. “I was bound to know that I’m never alone and that God’s Word has the chance to reach me wherever I am.”

Brett then entered into a serious season of prayer. “I had never prayed that way before.” One evening, he had a dream in which he experienced God calling him again, specifically through a passage in the book of Joel:

And rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. – Joel 2:13 (ESV)

Brett awoke and immediately gave himself fully to the Lord. “That was one of the key transforming moments in my faith,” he says.

Entering Into The Ministry

Brett soon began to feel the Lord was calling him into full-time ministry. “I started praying for opportunities to preach, and for people with whom I could share the Gospel.” A pastor began to mentor Brett, which led to events transpiring that would confirm the calling Brett felt the Lord was placing on his life.

After graduating from Slippery Rock, he entered Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. That led to Brett interning with an innovative church plant in a new shopping mall. “That was a formative time for me and gave me a heart and a burden to thank God for churches that are traditional, but also thanking Him for those who reach out and worship in non-traditional ways.”

Upon graduation from seminary about six years ago, Brett accepted an opportunity to serve as the pastor for a group of three very established churches in rural western Pennsylvania’s Black Lick Circuit of the Methodist denomination. It was a huge step of faith for the young pastor. After experiencing the freedom of being a church planter, he was now returning to a more traditional church model, serving in congregations that had been around for many decades. He knew it would be a challenge to gain trust and find a willingness among church members to experiment with innovative approaches for building God’s Kingdom.

“What I couldn’t see at the time was that it was going to be a good fit for me and an exciting challenge,” says Dinger.

Seeking Gods Preferred Future

Two years ago, the Black Lick Circuit began to seek a new vision for impacting its communities. The church leaders began to ask, “What is God’s preferred future for us?”

And that’s when the meetings at the pizza shop began. “We wanted to open our eyes to new and creative ideas, to help produce results that would be different than what we had experienced in the past,” says Pastor Brett.

“We met monthly and we started asking simple questions like: ‘Who is Jesus’ and ‘why do people need Jesus?’ Sometimes, we forget the reason we gather is ‘Jesus.’ As much as we like to fellowship with people, at our core, God has called us to be the body of Christ because people need Jesus.”

Through the prayer, Bible study and discussion at those meetings, Brett and the rest of the ministry team began to catch a vision for what God wanted to do through their congregations.

The heartbeat of the mission statement that resulted was “to ignite a movement of fully devoted followers of Jesus.” To help the rest of the congregants catch that vision, Brett preached a sermon on what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Jesus. It was in this sermon that he shared the vision of “igniting” a movement.

His congregants caught the vision.

Today, Black Lick Circuit churches are reaching out to the community in ways they haven’t before. They are partnering with a local campus ministry to reach out to students at a technical college. The hope is that as they minister to the students who move into the area to attend school, they can ignite faith into those students’ lives. Then, as those students move on, they will carry the mission with them to the communities where they eventually settle.

They are also reaching out to provide for the homeless and others who are in need. From donating items to preparing free meals, the members are serving as the hands of feet of Jesus, all the while loving others into a saving relationship with the Lord.

Partnering With Gideons

“I just got a call from a local Gideon who wants to come speak at one of our church services, and I’m looking forward to setting that up,” says Brett. “I’ve tried my best to let the Gideons know how much we appreciate them. We are partners in ministry.”

Brett is accompanied in ministry and in life by his wife Joanna and their daughter Reagan. His father passed into the presence of the Lord in 2010 after a ten-year battle with cancer. However, his mother continues to be active as an Auxiliary Area Director.

We praise God for how He is using Pastor Brett to reach the lost for Christ. We also thank the pastor for his desire to see people come to know Christ and for partnering with The Gideons International.

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