“Dr. Mike Mawhorter…” – It draws a smile and a hearty chuckle as I begin my conversation with Mike. Perhaps it is the newness of the title “Doctor,” or the humility of the man behind the title who still seems slightly uncomfortable with his new moniker. But for a man who is used to being called simply Mike, Pastor Mike, Dad, or Grandpa, it does draw attention to his latest achievement. Mike Mawhorter graduated from the Doctor of Ministry program at Northwest Baptist Seminary in April, 2015. At 63 years of age, it is significant as a personal achievement, but also as a reflection of one of the values that characterizes his life.
I met with Mike on a damp morning, in his simply designed and uncluttered office. Mike is a career Pastor, ministering at Fellowship Baptist Markham for 10 years, Central Fellowship Prince George for 12 years, and now Ladner Baptist Church for the last 12 years. He has been married to his wife Kathy for 41 years, has 4 children, 3 of whom currently live close by in Ladner, and proudly announces that he has 13.5 grandchildren! I asked what he did for fun. He replied that spending time with the grandchildren, and cycling around Ladner were high on the priority list. He mentioned horseback riding as an enjoyable past time, but one he doesn’t have enough time to pursue anymore. I asked him to give me an interesting fact about Mike Mawhorter that most people don’t know. His response: “When I was younger one of my life goals was to be a cowboy!”
My interest was in one of Mike’s recently completed goals. What motivates a man, later in a successful ministry career, to pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree? Mike began the DMin program in 2008, after completing two prerequisite courses to gain entry into the program. His short answer to my question was to keep growing and learning. I didn’t ask a follow up question, but Mike continued with an animated response: lifelong learning has always been a personal value, most people’s tendency is to find a comfort zone and stay there, and he wanted to be intentional about stretching out of any comfort zone that he might find himself in.
Northwest’s Doctor of Ministry program caught his attention because of its focus on two broad areas of interest: leadership and spiritual formation. His specific focus evolved, eventually narrowing in on understanding organizational culture as it relates to the church.
I asked him to explain further. He continued by stating that most discussions on culture in an organization are focused either on how the culture has changed, or how it needs to change. He then very clearly articulated the questions that directed his research and dissertation – “What if a culture was a gift from God to make you effective at your place of ministry for this time and in this place? Is it possible to understand your culture, not for the purpose of changing it, but to allow you to be more strategic and effective in using the culture you have to effectively focus your ministry efforts?” His research focused his attention on the Ladner congregation, and the specific tool he utilized convinced him that a church’s culture can be a powerful tool as a means of directing effective ministry.
Mike then summarized some significant discoveries he made in the educational journey. He was at first concerned about whether he would be able to handle the level of academics that would be required. “Pleasantly surprised” was his conclusion. Secondly, he enjoyed the engagement of in-class learning, and especially the preparation for the classes and the projects to follow up the class time.
As Mike reflected on how this training has shaped his ministry at Ladner, he drew three positive conclusions. First, it required that he be more sensitive to ministering within the cultural framework of the church. Second, it provided insight in to how to bring about change in a way that doesn’t disrupt who we are. Third, it provided a fresh appreciation of the people who make up God’s church in Ladner.
As we began wrapping up our conversation, I asked, “What are the current challenges facing you as a pastor? What potential are you seeing? What gets you excited?” Mike responded slowly and thoughtfully, making sure that I understood that he needed to choose his words carefully. “My challenge is knowing that we need to address the church facility, and that it will require all of the energy, money and work that goes into a building project. Yet this also excites me. It stretches my faith; it is an opportunity to realize potential that is yet untapped; and it requires God to accomplish.” Perhaps without even knowing it, he answered all three of the diverse questions that I thought I was asking with one answer. As I look back, I couldn’t help but notice the direct correlation between what we had just been speaking of in his dissertation – the sensitivity towards his congregation and not wanting to be offensive, but not wanting to stay comfortable when God is at work either. His learning has obviously shaped his thinking in ministry.
I asked three quick questions to conclude.
What is most important to Mike Mawhorter?
“Being a faithful, growing follower of Jesus for the rest of my life. Being a student. Being a teacher. Giving glory to God.”
What do you want to be known for at the end of your life?
“For modelling what it means to be a godly husband, father, and grandfather. To give people a love for God and His Word by ministering in a way that attracts them to Jesus.”
What would you say is uniquely significant about your life and ministry?
“I’m an early adopter, constantly looking for new and better ways of thinking and doing ministry. I like change and exploring new ways of doing old things. But I want to balance that with a perspective that leading people to change takes time, sensitivity, gentleness and respect.”
I gave Mike the opportunity for the last word. He framed it this way. “For pastors who have thought of pursuing a DMin, you’re going to be living those years anyway. This is an opportunity to push yourself and grow. I would encourage you to take the opportunity to do it!”
Mike has offered to share his dissertation with those who are interested. NBS can help you get in contact with him.
Two books were primary resources in his research: “What is Your Church’s Personality? Discovering and Developing the Ministry Style of Your Church” by Philip Douglas; and “The Character of Organizations: Using Personality Type in Organizational Development” by William Bridges.