It’s official! On Sunday, November 3, the Congregation voted to call Rev. Dr. M. Barnabas Sprinkle as Lead Pastor of Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church, following a special combined worship service and congregational meeting. Barnabas will begin his ministry with us on December 15.
Barnabas is the son and grandson of pastors and God called him to preach anyway. His name means “son of encouragement,” and he strives to live up to it. His passion is helping people experience eternal and abundant life in Jesus Christ. He has lived out this passion at three churches before Liberty Corner, in Texas, Georgia, and most recently in Medford, Oregon where he has served for eight years.
Barnabas earned degrees in physics and communication before getting a Master of Divinity degree and Spiritual Formation Certificate at Columbia Seminary as well as a Doctorate in Ministry from Fuller Seminary emphasizing missional leadership. He enjoys woodworking and has recently tried his hand at wood turning.
His partner in marriage and ministry is Emi, a professional counselor who has started both counseling centers and wholeness ministries. She grew up in Romania (attending the Hungarian Reformed Church) and came to the U.S. as a political refugee before the fall of communism. She has two master’s degrees in counseling and public administration, and a spiritual formation certificate. Emi is the musical one, playing piano and hammered dulcimer.
The Sprinkles have three children: Joshua in ninth grade, Matthew in seventh, and Hannah who started first grade this year. All three enjoy scouts and piano. Hannah is a delightful dancer, although they’re not sure it should be called ballet yet! Together, the family enjoys camping and hiking in God’s creation.
I received God’s amazing gift of salvation as a young teen. My father was a minister and church planter, and our family experienced both grace-filled moments and also deep pain. I knew all the answers in Sunday school, but I experienced hypocrisy, gossip, and rejection from many Christians. At one particularly low point, I found myself praying, “God, if you are real, you have to show me Yourself, because I hate your people, and they hate me, too.” At that moment, I heard the Spirit speak into my heart, “But I love you.” I felt a sense of peace and wholeness wash over me, and truly felt beloved. Since that time, I have learned a lot of theology, but the core of my faith is this: God is real, and God loves us!
When I graduated college (with degrees in both Physics and Communication) I was not ready for seminary. I took two years to earn a master’s in organizational communication, while working as a youth coordinator at a church. I also fell in love with a youth advisor, Emi, and we married before heading off to seminary.
Seminary was a time of stimulation and challenge. Columbia was a place of strong academics, and sometimes unbiblically liberal scholarship. My advisor, Darrell Guder, recommended that I balance the liberal slant by reading books by N. T. Wright and other biblical scholars. Because I was reading both the requirements and my own program, while working in a church, I obtained a terrific education there.
In my senior year I became a student pastor at a tiny country church. We started some active outreach, and it was clear that God was moving among those people, so I accepted a call to stay as their first installed pastor. The church grew and thrived—as did our family when our two sons were born. Fatherhood itself has been a spiritual journey, as I have grown to appreciate God’s fatherhood, and taken on the essential role of discipling my children.
Participating in the New Church Development commission and global mission teams opened my eyes to the ways the Spirit is at work in unlikely places. Perhaps the most spiritually significant element was joining a pastor covenant group with other evangelical pastors—first one led by Keith Hill and Joan Gray, and later one led by Steve Hayner. These experienced pastors mentored and discipled me. In time, I enrolled in a D.Min. program at Fuller to enhance my leadership. It was also a deeply formative experience, as I studied under Dallas Willard, Mark Lau Branson, and others. After six years in my first church, I was invited to join the staff of a large congregation as an associate for mission and evangelism—which included preaching weekly at their outreach service. The position fit my gifts and passions for several years. I was thrilled to lead evangelistic outreach, community service, and over a dozen mission trips.
I was with a mission team in Haiti during the 2010 earthquake—and that sure developed both my faith and my family’s, as we were out of contact for several days after the quake. While that work was meaningful, I was not fully using my gifts in discipleship and organizational leadership. I felt led to stretch my wings as a lead pastor.
I have served Westminster for eight years now along with the elders, two associate pastors, and staff. It has been a time of challenge and great joy—including adding a delightful daughter to our family.
Emi and I have prayed together to carefully discern God’s plan and God’s timing. We are clinging to Jeremiah 29:11: “I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans to shalom you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”