When Keith attended college, he felt comfortable teaching and preaching about Jesus from the stage, but when it came to a one-on-one conversation with someone who didn’t know Jesus, he had no idea what to do.
“In an audience, everyone is there to hear the gospel,” Keith explains. “I felt terrified to share the gospel with one person.”
Keith Flanagan served as part of the 2017 GenSend team in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time, he was in college at Liberty University and knew that God was calling him to full-time ministry, but he felt unprepared to share the gospel with the lost off the stage.
During the summer, Keith worked with various churches in the inner city of Atlanta and the Send Relief team in Clarkston, Georgia, learning to serve the lost and share the gospel in hard-to-reach places. Through this time, God worked in his heart and called him into pastoral ministry.
“I felt called to ministry. My dad served as a pastor, but I never felt called to be a pastor in the capacity I had seen,” Keith shared.
Keith describes how God slowly revealed His calling to him to pastor as he traveled on public transit in the city.
“I remember sitting on a bus in Atlanta with my team praying and thought, ‘If I shared the gospel with every person I came in contact with for the rest of the summer, I still wouldn’t make a dent in the lostness in Atlanta.’”
Keith’s understanding of the world’s vast lostness led him to consider the potential impact of mobilizing the church to share the gospel with their neighbors, in their workplaces and the nations.
“I realized the best thing I could do with my life was to remain a constant voice to call believers out of where they’re at, out of the pews, to leverage their lives for the gospel,” Keith explained.
Keith did not return to Atlanta full-time, but he did go on to full-time pastoral ministry in various places, calling believers to live on mission in their communities.
He served as a former pastor in Augusta, Georgia, and still partners with GenSend by mobilizing current college students to spend their summers on mission—especially those students considering a call to ministry.
“Students who feel called to ministry and do GenSend first are better prepared for church ministry afterward,” he said. “I would much rather take a GenSend student and train them to do pastoral ministry or serve as a leader than someone who only has the linear view of their church or ministry.”
Keith is a living example of this testimony.
A few months ago, Keith and his wife moved from Georgia to begin preparing to plant a church in Montana. As an overflow of God’s call on his life to mobilize the church, he and his wife are now part of planting a mission-minded church in an area of the country with a great need for the gospel. He hopes to raise church members to feel passionate about the gospel and to serve as missionaries in their city, state and to the ends of the earth.
“I don’t know what the next 40 years holds for us,” Keith reflects, “but if I could get to the end of my life and have a reputation of constantly challenging believers to leverage their lives for the sake of the gospel, then I would consider that a success.”
Published October 27, 2023