A Very Distinct Work Christianity in the Ordinary Business of Life

June 01, 2005 | Judy Thomsen

Dan Ross is in the business of building. He owns and operates DRE Design and Drafting, Inc., a firm specializing in the development of residential architectural plans in Eagle, Idaho.

Though raised in an Adventist family, Dan drifted away from God in his late teens and wasn’t excited about coming back. In 1992, he married Dene Sue who had sporadically attended the Lutheran Church. She was seeking a closer relationship with Jesus. When they discussed religious topics, Dan says, “My Adventist upbringing came back, and I started sharing my beliefs straight from the Bible.” Theologically, they got off to a rocky start, but during the next four years, the Lord was working in their lives. In 1996, Dan was re-baptized and Dene Sue was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

As they left Boise’s Cloverdale Church one Sabbath, Dan said, “I have the strongest conviction that God wants me to work for Him, but I’m not sure how—maybe as a teacher or preacher?” Dene Sue confessed that she shared the same conviction but hadn’t known how to approach the subject. Following Christ in this way would radically impact their world.

Besides Dan’s well-established business, Dene Sue owns and operates her own corporation called Write Way, Inc., which develops documentation and training programs for technology firms.

At the urging of his pastor, Dan decided to check out Andrews University. Wanting to know what preparation might be necessary before he could begin seminary, Dan and Dene Sue visited Michigan in October 1997 for an interview. In December, Andrews called. Dan’s scores on the GRE and the ministry profile allowed him to be admitted to the Master of Divinity program without further study. It looked like the door was opening wide.

In January 1998, a For Sale sign appeared in front of their home. Immediately Dan’s clients reacted with disbelief: “What are you doing?” they asked.

Dan had unprecedented opportunities to witness for Christ. Day after day, he shared his faith with a stream of secular business associates and employees. During this time, they had no serious offers on their home. Friends suggested that perhaps the Lord had a lay work for Dan. Nevertheless, they prayerfully stepped out in faith, and 30 days before Dan was to begin classes, Dene Sue gave her clients notice. “We still recall the relief of letting everything go!” she said.

The acceptance letter from Andrews was on the desk—but there were no offers on the house. After weeks of earnest prayer, they decided that abandoning both incomes, entering a study program 1,700 miles away, and maintaining an acreage in Idaho was not an option. Wondering about the Lord’s leading them to a seemingly closed door, they removed the sign and continued their careers.

Roger and Nancy Essink, Dan and Dene Sue's friends, had attended the1998 Adventist-laymen's Services and Industries (ASI) convention in Palm Springs and were enthusiastic. “You gotta go,” they said. So Dan and Dene Sue attended the next ASI Northwest Chapter meeting and caught their friends' enthusiasm. At the 2000 Grand Rapids, Michigan, convention, they heard a lot of talk about church planting. Both couples felt inspired and decided to plant a church in Garden Valley, Idaho, located in a county with no Adventist presence.

“If we’re going to be involved with this, we need to move,” Dan thought. Though November seemed like a bad month to sell, and remembering the previous lack of activity, they put up a For Sale by Owner sign. In January, the Lord brought a full-price buyer, enabling them to relocate both businesses to Eagle, a suburb of Boise and an easy commute to Garden Valley.

A church was planted in 2000 with 13 members meeting as a branch Sabbath School in a mobile home. The group became a company that same year and an organized church in 2002. Today a small church has been built to house the nearly 65 members. Some of the original group have already moved and started another church plant. Where there were no Adventist churches, now there are two.

Ellen White wrote, “A distinct work is assigned to every Christian” (Christian Service, p. 9). Dan says, “I had to allow God to lead in my life and change my thinking. Sometimes God calls us to ministry in a different direction than we would have gone on our own. I was surely called into business, not for selfish purposes, but for ministry. I have learned that my first priority is to spread the gospel, and my second is to make a living. I have opportunities to witness to both old and new clients.” Dan is fulfilling the commission to share the gospel story.

In addition to his full-time career and church responsibilities, Dan now serves as president of the ASI Northwest Chapter. He says, “ASI changed our lives. We heard stories of people in action, serving wherever they were. It helped me to believe that wherever I am, I’m a minister. God wanted me here; He wanted me to prioritize my spiritual life and use my business in sharing Christ where a preacher cannot go.”