Corban University’s Christian Ministry Award recipient for 2024, Chad Harms (‘05), always knew he wanted to be a pastor, but he had no idea how to get there. “It was baseball at first,” Harms says of why he chose to attend Corban (then Western Baptist College). “But looking back on my life, considering that calling, I know that God wanted me at Corban. I can’t imagine how my life would’ve gone if He hadn’t used baseball to get me there.”
Harms is the lead pastor of Pathway Church in Gresham, Oregon—a role he recently stepped into after 18 years of ministry at Creekside Bible Church in Wilsonville. He also holds the role of Second Vice President of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Harms began serving at Creekside Bible directly after his college graduation, starting as a youth pastor and progressing to the role of lead pastor. “I thought I would be there forever,” he says. “I wanted to be like a John Piper in the longevity of my ministry, but God had other plans for me. It took me a while to see that.”
Harms credits the influence of a strong Christian community of peers and mentors in his life for helping him to realize God’s new calling. “Two years ago, I had four or five people talk to me about the job that I am now in, but at the time, I didn’t have any interest,” he says. “I realized that I didn’t even want to pay attention to what God might be doing.” Now, Harms has the opportunity to lead a new congregation with the same fidelity he practiced and cultivated at Creekside Bible Church.
Harms is quick to note that it was at Corban where this strong Christian network began to take shape, molding him continually throughout the years. Many of the same professors he looked to during his college days remain critical to his ministry today. “Professors like Anderson, Trull, and Derickson gave me such a high view of Scripture and the tools to study it, and that laid the foundation for everything that I do,” he says.
Uniquely, Harms was recently able to call these mentors colleagues after adjunct teaching at Corban in the spring of 2023. “It might sound dramatic, but that was actually one of the highlights of my life,” he says. “It was so fun to interact with these guys that I had looked up to, to know that Dr. Anderson eats carrots after lunch to clear his palette before teaching, to call them friends. Corban laid such an incredible foundation for my life and my ministry and to feel even just a little bit like I was able to pass that down at the same place—it was special.”
It’s a full-circle moment that Harms is hopeful to one day rekindle after settling into his new role at Pathway Church. Whatever the future holds, the emphasis on the value of Scripture that he gained at Corban will remain core to his ministry. “One of the calls of my life is to help the American church take more seriously the commands that God has given to the Church through the Bible,” Harms says. “Jesus talks a lot about clothing the poor, feeding the hungry, being there for the orphan. We, the Church, should be the people within our culture who drive that more than anyone else.”
Harms has built a ministry philosophy around the idea that attendance numbers, business meetings, and even modes of service and ministry don’t define a church. “With any church I serve in, at the end of the day I want it to be true that if a church around us copied the things that we are focused on, not just the things we do or how we do them, but what we believe, then they would be living out the will of God,” he says. “I want us to be a church that is obedient to what the Scripture not just says, but commands.”
After 18 years of faithful service, Harms’ commute may look a bit different, the faces in his congregation new, but his passion and approach to ministry remains unchanged. It’s an approach that began in the heart of an 18-year-old kid who just wanted to play baseball, now realized in the actions of a pastor who is wholly dedicated to serving God.
Chad Harms always knew that he wanted to be a pastor, and Corban helped him get there. “It means a ton to me to receive this recognition because Corban has meant a ton to me in my life,” he says. “I tell everybody that I left Corban really prepared to do everything that I do in ministry. Anything I do as a pastor I can almost directly attribute to the work God did in my life at Corban.”