Dr. Mike Sproul

Pastor, Chaplain, and Brigadier General Mike Sproul speaks with Pastor Walton about our missions conference and personal growth through the seasons of ministry.

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Episode transcript:

Chris Harper: Welcome to Harvest Time. My name is Chris Harper, and our host on this program is pastor Gary Walton, the lead pastor at Harvest Baptist Church. Every week, we spend these 25 minutes together telling you the stories of our church by interviewing our members and other friends in the ministry. We’d like to invite you to join us at Harvest Baptist Church this week. There are 2 services every Sunday, 8:45 AM and 10:45 AM.

We offer Spanish translation during the 8:45 AM service, Japanese and Korean translation during the 10:45 AM service, and that’s also when we live stream at hbcguam.org, hbcguam.org. This week, pastor Mike Sproul is our special guest speaker for our missions conference, and there will be more throughout the week for missions conference 20 24. We’ll talk a little bit about that today. Let’s begin today’s harvest time by welcoming pastor Gary Walton. Hi, pastor.

Gary Walton: Hey, Hafa adai Chris. This is a big week for us, on our Harvest Campus. Every year, the admissions conference week, we see it as the highlight of the entire year. And so we’re looking forward to the time, that begins Sunday, so this coming Sunday through Wednesday where we have, keynote speaker that I’m gonna introduce you to introduce to you in just a minute. And then a number of our missionaries that Harvest has supported over the years, we’ve invited them to come back and they’re going to give us some reports of what God’s doing in some places, around this region, and, actually, around the world.

And so, if you would come and be with us, we’re gonna have a great time together. 2 services Sunday morning. We have an international dinner that’s gonna happen Sunday night, 5 o’clock, and then, services at 7 o’clock on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday night. Each one is gonna be full of just a vision for the world and asking ourselves from God’s word, what does God have us to do, for the calling that he’s given us of taking the gospel around the world. So we’d love to invite you to come and be a part of, you know, what we see as our calling as a church for, for missions and, carrying the gospel to regions that have not heard of Christ.

We’re talking about being on the front lines, which is actually the connection that we have today with our guest, doctor Mike Sproul, is with us. And, doctor Sproul has a very interesting background, including military. In fact, this is, brigadier general Mike Sproul, chaplain in the, US Air Force and has, served on a number of different, areas. I’ll ask you about that in just a minute. But first of all, I wanna welcome you, doctor Sproul.

Thanks for being with us for this week and then being with us on harvest time.

Dr. Mike Sproul: Well, thank you so much. It’s just an honor to be here. Back in the nineties, I was stationed at Anderson Air Force Base as a young captain who was a chaplain, and our kids loved it here. They were in elementary school and my wife taught at Upi Elementary. My kids went to Upi Elementary.

So it was kind of, driving around the island today was kind of like it’s been 30 years since I was here, and it was just great to be back.

Gary Walton: Well, you have a fascinating background. You pastored a church in Chandler, Arizona, actually a large church, Tri City Baptist Church, for 20 some years. It’s a church in some ways very similar to Harvest, a large church at a Christian school, a Bible college that’s connected with it, just a lot of variety of things, a mission board that actually comes out of church, and so you were responsible for leading all of that. So, pastor that leading that. And then this military part, this chaplaincy, which I’m very interested in, has brought you around the world.

And as you said, you spent 2 years here, right, up at Anderson as a chaplain.

Dr. Mike Sproul: Correct. So, actually left here, having just loved 5 years on active duty. Great great ministry. Loved airmen. Loved loved people.

We had a great time at Anderson, and it was my home church where my wife and I had met in a Christian school. We were high school sweethearts, and my pastor was getting ready to retire. And the church asked me to come back and and pastor, probably the only church in America I would have left the military for, to be honest. And my wife loved serving so much so that my son eventually, went to the Air Force Academy, and my son is a pilot, just left active duty. And I’ve been guard and reserve for most of those many of those years, last, 27.

And, so my son is actually flying now in the guard unit that I that he came out to family day, you know, when I was pastoring there in Arizona. So that kind of comes full circle as well. But I’ve had the privilege to deploy 4 times. I’m old enough to be a Desert Storm vet and just came back from a 5 month deployment. This time last year I was at, in Qatar on my 4th deployment.

So, pastoring, going I had the best of both worlds.

Gary Walton: I’ve had the best of both worlds, I think. Mentioned your wife, Alma, been married how long?

Dr. Mike Sproul: So it’ll be 39 years in, in June. I tease and say, I found a girl when I was 14 that was willing to laugh at all my bad jokes, and I was never going to let her go, hold on to her like grim death. And we have 2 wonderful kids. My son is almost 35 and, a tanker pilot. My daughter’s a nurse practitioner, and my daughter is married.

They both attend the church that they grew up in.

Gary Walton: Yeah. That’s

Dr. Mike Sproul: great. My daughter-in-law teaches in the school there. My, my son she’s a teacher. My son is a pilot, of course. My son-in-law is an engineer, and my daughter’s a nurse practitioner.

So my daughter has a 5 and a 3 year old, and my son has a 4 and a 2 year old. So So I got 4 grandkids, 5, 4, 3, 2. And if you wanna know who the greatest grandkids in the world are, just ask me and I’ll tell you all about them. So

Gary Walton: That’s great. So, you grew up in a Christian home. Your father was an evangelist. I’m sure there’s a lot of parts to that. I wanna fast forward a little bit though to your conversation about the military and your chaplaincy.

If I remember right, you, came out of college, did a couple stints pastor

Dr. Mike Sproul: Mhmm.

Gary Walton: And then, and then into the chaplaincy. And that brought you, I think, in California?

Dr. Mike Sproul: Yes. My first my first base was Beal. Beal.

Gary Walton: Okay. Air Force Base.

Dr. Mike Sproul: If you think of if if you know anything about the military, Blackbirds, t Dragon Lady, Spy Planes, that kind of stuff. Very interesting. I was a direct commission. I was the youngest chaplain on active duty in the Department of Defense. Well, I was 27 and on active duty, just an unheard of early young age, but did seminary in 3 years, did 3 years in the pastorate, which at the time was the minimum to get in.

And, God just worked in an amazing way. I I’d always heard about the chaplaincy, loved the military, but I’ve been told things that weren’t true about the chaplaincy. And I ended up being on a college music team in California, and there was an army base nearby. And the guy who volunteered for me to stay the night was an army chaplain. And we stayed up till, like, 3 o’clock in the morning, him refuting all my ideas about the chaplaincy.

I came back to see my wife after that trip, and I said, I think God’s called us to go into the chaplaincy. And then it was just really miraculous how God opened the doors for us to do that. So I’ve been doing that as either full time or a second job. It’ll be 33 years of commission service in July for me.

Gary Walton: Thank you for your service. Multiple levels. We honor that. You know, of course, many, we have military here, a church, of course, all across Guam. Beale Air Force Base and then to Guam and I actually want to come back to that and stop for just a minute.

Tell us a little bit more about that time. Tell us about being up at Anderson. You’d mentioned to me earlier just some ways that God really blessed the ministry during that.

Dr. Mike Sproul: It was pretty remarkable. It was a pretty remarkable period of 2 year years. You know, you have seasons in ministry, pastor.

Gary Walton: Yeah.

Dr. Mike Sproul: You know, that sometimes it seems like we would use the term blessings are falling so fast you can hardly pick them all up. And then then some days, it seems like the heavens are like brass and it’s like and Oswald Chambers tells us in my utmost for his highest. He says, God uses the periods of quiet to remind us to be faithful in the periods of blessing, but that they’re all really periods of blessing. Wow. So our 2 years here on Guam were just amazing.

I had the privilege of of being the lead chaplain for the gospel service, which is primarily African Americans. Of course, I’m not. My wife’s not. You know, our kids aren’t. But it was just what a great time.

We started with about 90. And 2 years later when I left, we were running between 404150. And we just saw, every quarter we did a big cookout on the beach and I would baptize 10, 15, 20, 25 every quarter. And started a singles group that had no nobody in it and just in the dorm area. And by the time we were done, we had taken over the community center.

We had 50 coming to our discussion group every Friday night. We’d had attempted suicides repeatedly when I first got there. I think 8 in the 1st 6 months. And once our singles group really took off, we didn’t have another attempted suicide for the next 18 months. And, some people weren’t so sure that we should do a a bible group on Friday night because, you know, normally that’s when you go to the club or or anything.

And I I my comment back was, no. I I want to do it at that time because I we are we are going to make Christ so wonderful that that won’t be interesting anymore. And, Jesus became really wonderful. In that group, there’s, I think, 3 men in the ministry today that that one is a pastor and an Air National Guard chaplain, as well, and he was in that group. So just some amazing times.

Just it was it was it’s hard to even put it into words.

Gary Walton: You told me something about you used to tell the soldiers about their Friday night. What’s that quote?

Dr. Mike Sproul: Yeah. So I used to say when I would go out visiting the flight line and I would say, hey, come to my my discussion group. And they’re like, no. You know, we’re gonna go to the club or whatever. I’d say, oh, we’ll have more fun, and you’ll actually remember it tomorrow morning.

So we would go to the after the discussion group, you know, we would go to the beach. We would cook out, have steaks on the beach, play volleyball on the beach. I mean, it wasn’t one of these stay dried, boring. We had we had a lot of fun. Great, great fun.

And I think I was telling a story when I was deployed in 2013. So fast forward 20 years to the Harvest connection. When I left, I found out in 2013 that one of the men in my group that had gotten to lead to Christ came to Harvest. And, so in 2013, I get a note from a woman that I don’t know anything. She found me on Facebook, and she said, I just wanna thank you for leading my husband to Christ.

And she said, here’s a picture of our 3 kids. And she said, I’ve never had a chance to thank you, but she said the reason I have this great family and a great husband is because of what you did for my my husband when he was 18 and 19 at Andersen Air Force Base. And I was deployed at the time kinda lonely, the middle of nowhere Asia. And I and I got this, you know, Facebook direct mess you know, direct message. It wasn’t on my wall.

Sure. And, I was like, lord, that was just so wonderful to encourage me. We had just been going through some very difficult things on that deployment. And and just out of the blue, thank you for investing in my my my husband.

Gary Walton: Your ministry in the church in Chandler, you know, is significant, and god gave you the opportunity over those 20 plus years of the senior leadership, and I know you were there longer than that, just influencing a lot of people. The chaplain ministry, the military ministry, how many years total?

Dr. Mike Sproul: It’ll be 33 in July.

Gary Walton: Okay. Tell me again about just the burden for our soldiers and their families. I mean, here on Guam, of course, it’s a, you know, big part of our culture. And tell me, you know, why it matters, why the chaplaincy matters. You know, just talk about that a little bit.

Dr. Mike Sproul: So there’s so many issues there. Wow. To unroll that. So I think I shared with you when we left Guam after 5 years, my my wife, we were in our late twenties early thirties in that season of our life. And, my wife really we fed 500 singles at our table at one time or another in those 5 years.

And, we just did so man so much for our our singles in the dorms, got wing commanders involved in that, got senior enlisted involved, going and cooking steaks and having the ladies of the chapel make side dishes and all that kind of stuff. And the statistic I use is when we got done with that, I came from a my dad was a minister. Right? And, I mean, I loved each other, parents that loved each other. Both sets of grandparents were married.

They loved each other. I I and all of a sudden, I’m now thrown into this environment where almost every young person I was working with was from a completely dysfunctional home. I mean, they didn’t know their dad or the parents yelled and cussed at each other. And and so my wife really put her arms around these young people because she was from that home. Mhmm.

And and Christ had Christ had changed her life, and and she just wanted to share that. So it was feeding and doing all that kind of stuff. And when we were leaving active duty, I asked her. I said, how many how many of those 500 ish do you think had biological parents that loved each other? And we started trying to find the number and we came to about 5 out of 500.

Mhmm. And so, you know, the chaplain in that in that environment and the chaplain’s wife become almost surrogate parents, sometimes modeling what love in a marriage even looks like because a lot of these young people never saw sacrificial love in a marriage. So it’s not just a pulpit ministry or visiting through their through their cubicles or on the flight line, but it’s having them in your home, letting them see your kids, you know, letting them see you and your spouse interact with each other. It’s just the whole gamut of probably what a 150 years ago in our country, every family pretty much had normally. And and chaplains, because so many of these young people go into the military trying to find a place to feed them, educate them, and they’re they’re running away from something.

K. And they’re very open to the influence of Jesus Christ. They really are. They really are.

Gary Walton: You talked earlier about, the experience that you had, you know, going back all the way to Desert Storm, several other deployments. And you’ve been talking about the backgrounds that will be very familiar to, you know, many of our listeners that might have a military background. Guam in general not just, you know, stateside that are come here for deployments, but Guam has a high percentage of you know our local people that join the military and so there’s just a lot of experience there. What else would you say are particular challenges for not from their past but current? I mean, it’s it’s not easy to, you know, serve in our military.

So current, singles, families, what are some of the challenges that they’re facing

Dr. Mike Sproul: right now? So well, the the number is so high. Let me see if I can do my own anecdotal evidence and pull up 2 or 3. I think, our our deployment and readiness issues are are significant. We’re still so when I deployed last year as being a senior pastor of a church, I had one member that wrote me and said because I’d said, you know, as a guardsman to the militia, there were pastors that preached in the pulpit, took their unit their collar off and went to be with general Washington as a chaplain.

And his response to me was, when he wrote me objecting to me going on a deployment, he said, well, we’re not at war so I don’t think this qualifies. And I thought about that for a couple days and I I wrote back and I said, well, just because the media doesn’t tell you about all the deployments and all the stresses on families and being away from families, just because the media doesn’t highlight that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. And what I found having had 10 years between deployments is the stressors on our families are every bit as high as they were after 911. We are still deploying. You’re still having long stretches away from each other.

So my my uncle was in World War 2 and went away for 3 years and came back. Mhmm. What our folks do is they go away for 6 months and they’re home for 18 months and then they’re away for 4 months and then they’re home for 18 months and then they’re away for 6 months. And it’s hard on the kids. It is.

It’s hard on relationships. Yeah. It’s hard. That that’s just the way it is. And, there is no easy way to there there is no easy answer to that.

Gary Walton: Yeah. I appreciate that. That’s really good and really helpful. And I know we’ve got people listening right now that they’re gonna relate to that. They’re gonna feel that.

You and I talked earlier. I’ve told a lot of people this over the years. I don’t have any military background, but, have a chance to interact with a lot of people, of course, that that do. And one of the things I love about Guam is that there is a place for a reset when you come here and we watch that happen over and over.

Dr. Mike Sproul: We talked about that last night.

Gary Walton: Yeah. Spiritual reset, sometimes family reset, just some of the distractions of life are no longer there and something about being on the the island. For some people, they get a little island crazy. For a lot of people, it allows you to focus and reconsider. And so, you know, there might be somebody listening too that’s like, hey, that’s it.

And I just want to encourage you, man, find some of that focus and that direction in God’s church and in the word. And if we can help you, we’d love to do that. You mentioned earlier that there’s seasons of life, and something I’ve been thinking about more over the last few years. I can look back, you know, now I’ve got a few seasons of my adult life. If you were to look back and kinda target, I don’t know, in your adult life a few seasons, could you describe the big takeaway from each of them?

Maybe, a significant, regret, something you’d like to do over, maybe a big challenge or a lesson. So for your listeners, I just turned 60 and, a

Dr. Mike Sproul: lot like Harvest, pastored a church. We we moved an existing church 9 miles down the road, so that our college could grow. Built a $40,000,000 campus out in the middle of the desert. Praise the Lord. You know, the my successor pastor has they’ve been able to get completely out of debt.

When we moved into that facility, we had 9 days of cash and 11,000,000 of debt. And, you know, but it’s exactly what god wanted for that. So that was a season. But I think it’s interesting. I think each season has if you live for the Lord, each season has great victories.

And I think, you know, as you look back on it, when you get to be 60 and your your dad dies, you do naturally start to think, okay. You know, my turn is next. I mean, you don’t do that in a morbid way, but that’s just that’s just how it is. And I think it does cause you to be somewhat reflective, not to slow down per se in serving the Lord. But okay.

So I would say they probably similar to, decades, I guess, I accepted Christ at an early age, but really gave my life to the Lord when I was 14, 15. And, served the Lord, went to college, graduated, got married just a few days out of college to my high school sweetheart, went to seminary, did 96 hours of seminary in 3 years, Very driven. Paid. I wanted to serve the Lord. My wife wanted to serve the Lord.

You know, no debt. Paid for it all. Three jobs, full time, all that kind of stuff. I I think maybe in my twenties, I would say the lesson I learned is and I learned it from my parents, you know, don’t be lazy in serving the Lord. It’s good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth, Lamentations 327 says.

And and I I sometimes worry, I think all older generations do. Are are young people as energized by the gospel and worldwide evangelism? Are they really energized by that? Or is it a kuna matata? You know?

And and not to be negative, I think on the flip side of that, my regret might be, I was so driven that that did I smell any roses in my twenties? You know? Yeah. And I think there’s that probably a happy medium between those 2.

Gary Walton: Yep.

Dr. Mike Sproul: Late twenties, we started having kids. I have no regrets about that. None none whatsoever. So I would say moving into our thirties, we were doing the military, and then then we moved back and took over us from a was a successor of a founding pastor. Mhmm.

That’s a challenge.

Gary Walton: Yeah.

Dr. Mike Sproul: And a great man, a truly great man, but 30 years planning and founding a church, it’s hard for that person to give that up. So that that’s I think the lesson for me was, in my thirties, was how to manage my own desire to lead with paying deference and homage to an older brother who had been my mentor. Yeah. And and it taught me so much. And not to push him out of the way, but let’s give this space and time and let him make those decisions.

And and god still has it. I I think if there’s any regret, probably in my thirties, it it was I didn’t smell the roses. The forties was, I think, learning how to love your wife and love your kids.

Gary Walton: Mhmm.

Dr. Mike Sproul: And I thought I did in my twenties thirties, but when you hit your forties and you have teenagers, I jokingly tell my son that he owes me his life because I took sharp objects out of his mother’s hands many nights while he was sleeping as she was going into his room. So I I jest a little bit about that as well. But I mean, it was it was really learning how to self to be sacrificial for your family, I think, is the lesson of my forties. And I have to be honest, I I was so sacrificial for the Lord, but being sacrificial for your family is a different animal.

Gary Walton: Right on.

Dr. Mike Sproul: Yeah. It is a completely different animal. And I don’t think you get that in your twenties thirties. Mhmm. I I and I and I think if there’s any regret in the forties, it’s saying, did I sacrifice enough?

Mhmm. I think in my fifties, it was learning to discern God’s will for a later in life change of ministry. Mhmm. So we left a very successful church after 20 plus years and took a role as the senior air national guard chaplain in DC. And then after that was done in 2 years, we took as you know, because your daughter is in our church, you know, we took a role of a small church, 35 elderly people, that 20 years ago was 350.

And it really is, to my way of thinking, the call of the younger generation must be to replant America. Mhmm. And and there are churches that have buildings and facilities that are closing all over America today because they don’t have young pastors. And that’s a generation 2 generations to build those facilities, and they’re being sold and plowed under and turned into apartments

Gary Walton: Yeah.

Dr. Mike Sproul: All across America. So we really took that vision on to say, okay. And God’s been really gracious to us. Your daughter’s been a huge part of that and your son-in-law. But, I mean, we’ve just added 3 families in the last 2 weeks, and the attendance has nearly tripled in the last 3 years.

And God’s doing great things. And and, I think learning to discern God’s will that even later in your ministry life, you can change directions

Gary Walton: Yeah. Thank you for opening that up. It’s actually helpful to kind of think through through your eyes and learn and listen to that. We’re out of time. Let me ask you one more question.

We love discipleship around here. I think God’s church does. So just one 32nd answer. Who changed you? Who invested in your life in such a way that it had a radical made a radical difference in you?

And then what was it about them that so impacted you?

Dr. Mike Sproul: So there’ll be 3 people. I’ll do 10 seconds on each one. First, we’ve only seen your pastor. Mhmm. The pulpit ministry and his private, what I would call professional shepherd chats.

Mhmm. My dad, I I really learned listening to him preach night after night as an evangelist kid. I I learned how to preach with a passion and a heart for souls. Mhmm. But probably the person that really impacted me so much was my youth pastor.

Gary Walton: Mhmm.

Dr. Mike Sproul: And, he was just a pipe fitter that had gotten say accepted Christ in his thirties, gone to Bible college with a full family. He was a union guy. His forearms looked like Popeye. He was from Michigan. He was rough and tumble and mean almost, and and yet he just had a heart for everybody.

And and, he would he would call me up and say, hey, Sproul. He said, hey. I’m I’m doing some work on the church. Why don’t you? I’ll come and pick you up and I need some help.

Well, I was incompetent. I I didn’t know how to do a pipe or anything. And all he wanted to do was have me hand him tools Yeah. So he could talk to me. Yeah.

And he did that over and over and over. He’d say, hey. I’m going out to call on somebody. These kids haven’t been to church. I’m gonna pick you up in 10 minutes.

You’re gonna go call in with me. I’m like, mommy says he’s coming in 10 minutes. Well, you better get dressed. And he he did work with me so that he could talk to me. Mhmm.

He found reasons, and I have modeled that all across my ministry. My youth pastor died of COVID 2 years ago in his eighties. Wow. But he really impacted my life.

Gary Walton: Love that. That’s helpful for us. The time invested, somebody that genuinely cares and and, then willing to, you know, as much as possible transmit my passion for God, my care for people to somebody else. That’s great. Thank you very much.

We’re looking forward to this week together, praying that God would use you in your preaching and teaching ministry at each of these sessions. Chaplain Sproul, doctor Mike Sproul, brigadier general, Mike Sproul, thank you for being here, and, we’re looking forward to god’s work.

Dr. Mike Sproul: The best title is pop up. That’s what my grandkids call me.

Gary Walton: There you go. Thanks, Mike.

Dr. Mike Sproul: Thank you.

Chris Harper: And thank you for listening to Harvest Time. Of course, at this point in the program, we always want to personally invite you again, this week to our Missions Conference 2024. We have services this Sunday at 8:45 AM and 10:45 AM. We do broadcast those services live here on 88.1 FM and khmg.org, and our missions conference services Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will be broadcast live here on 88.1 FM and khmg.org as well. We hope to see you this Sunday and through our missions conference, and thanks for listening to Harvest Time.

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