Something Better

I wanted to be the next Jim Dutcher. Growing up, my favorite animal was and still is, the wolf. They are an extremely misunderstood species, and in my youth, I empathized with them. Jim is a naturalist and cinematographer who shared the true story of wolves. I wanted to be just like him. So I began pursuing a forestry degree at a school in very Northern Wisconsin. I enjoyed my studies and the friends I made.

So why am I NOT a naturalist today? What kept me from pursuing this career? God did… because He had something better for me. Let me tell you how God moved in my life and the role community played in it.

Over 20 years ago, our country was attacked by a group of terrorists. They flew commercial airliners into the Pentagon, The World Trade Center, and they had other targets they wanted to hit as well. The scenes from that day and the emotions it stirred within me are still fresh whenever I think about it. As a nation, we responded to these attacks by formally engaging in armed conflict in 2003. I wanted to be a part of our response to the terrorists, so I enlisted as an infantryman in the United States Army while at college in WI.

Two days before I was scheduled to go to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), I received a call from a friend I had attended church with. She shared that she had prayed for me and only me for the entirety of her drive from Cedar Rapids to Minneapolis. I was stunned because I had never prayed for four hours straight in my life. She then proceeded to share with me details about my life that I had not shared with anyone else. This led to her dramatic culmination of what she wanted to reveal to me. She shared that she had a message from the Lord to share with me… but she could not tell me. I had to confirm the message she was to tell me by having me tell her what she was supposed to tell me. In my heart, I knew it but was reluctant to say it. Almost begrudgingly, I said with a questioning voice, “Am I supposed to be a pastor?” To which an ear-deafening exclamation crackled back through the phone, “Yes!”

At that moment I sensed and knew the Lord was leading and I needed to follow. Even though He spoke clearly to my heart, my mind was still struggling to accept this change in direction. I took time to pray about this revelation and calling to ministry. After more prayer and seeking counsel from others, I moved from Wisconsin, changed my school, and changed my major to Biblical Studies. After completing my degree I was given the opportunity to pursue my desire to serve in the U.S. Army. Not as an infantryman as I had originally intended, but as a Chaplain Assistant.

Looking back, my life would have been completely different had I not been part of a close Christian community. When I left home to attend college in WI, one friend was researching churches and giving me suggestions on where I should attend. Another completely changed the course of my life because of our relationship and her willingness to be obedient to God’s leading. Another friend, who was a high-ranking officer in the Army, called to get the WI recruiters to stop leaning on me to enlist with them. Others provided me with Scriptural counsel and wisdom as I navigated this significant life change. Others helped me make the move from WI to MO. Without a Christian community surrounding me, my life would look drastically different today.

This brings me to a question for you, the reader. When you are in a position where you are not sure what to do, where do you turn? I hope your answer is not Google! Do you have a community you can share your heavenly petitions with? Who will you permit to speak biblically based life-giving correction into your life? What environment are you in that will hold you accountable for spiritual growth? Who do you ask if you have questions about the Bible? In Small Groups, these and so many more things are lived out. Small Groups are a great place to commit to other believers, engage the Scriptures, encounter spiritual friendships, and experience movement in your life.

New Covenant has Small Groups that meet throughout the summer. Just because it is warmer outside, does not mean that our need for community or discipleship takes a break. God has created us to live in meaningful community. Don’t fight upstream by doing everything on your own. I’m here to testify that community and small groups can change your life! It did for me, and I want to help you find your community here at New Covenant!

Questions? Need help finding a place to get connected? Contact me at


Ryan Eckhoff
Groups Pastor