When he was in his early 40s, the Rev. Loren Shellabarger III took a leap of faith in 2009 by leaving the information technology profession.
He and his wife, Becky, and their twin sons moved from Houston, Texas, to Dubuque so that he could attend the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. After graduating with a Masters of Divinity in 2012, he preached in rural Iowa, before coming to Dubuque this winter.
Here is a visit with Shellabarger III:
Hometown/church: Dubuque, Westminster Presbyterian Church.
Family: Married; Becky; twin 22-year-old boys, Loren IV and David.
How long have you been a clergy leader? I’ve been a Pastor since 2012.
How long at present church? 6 months.
Where else have you pastored? Kossuth County, Iowa (First Presbyterian Church, of Algona, and First Presbyterian Church of Irvington).
How would you describe your preaching style?
It is Biblically-based and informal. I like to describe what is happening within the Scripture and then apply those lessons to our lives. I usually speak without notes and sometimes even ask questions or look for feedback from the congregation.
I usually preach a sermon series and am currently preaching on “The Story of Scripture.” This series looks at all of Scripture as a single story that shares God’s plan for each of us.
What is your favorite book in the Bible and why?
So many. I love Genesis as it sets the stage for God’s amazing story so well. Jonah is such a wonderful story reminding us that anyone can (and should be) saved. Nehemiah is a great book on leadership. Matthew’s gospel does an excellent job at being both beautiful and in your face. First Corinthians is a fascinating glimpse at what life was like in the early church. Romans has some great theology.
I guess my favorite would have to be the one that I’m reading when you ask!
Describe a time when your faith might have been tested.
I probably failed the biggest test of faith that God gave me. When I graduated high school and went to college, I didn’t attend church or otherwise express my faith. However, God introduced me to my wife, Becky, who brought me back and reminded me of the faith that God had given me. Sometimes, we don’t pass the tests God gives us, but God ensures that things work out anyway.
Describe a time when your faith seemed to be rewarded or enhanced?
My family and I took a leap of faith in 2009 when we decided to leave my career in information technology, and we moved to Dubuque to go to Seminary. Surprisingly, we never felt overly concerned that things wouldn’t work out well, even though I was quitting my job and career in my early 40s, selling our house and moving halfway across the country with 12-year-old sons.
God gave us an extra dose of faith for that transition and it has worked out wonderfully. I’m excited to be able to lead worship, to be a part of people’s lives and to share God’s Word and love.
What would you say to someone who is wondering whether God is real or not in their life?
God gives us options in life. God primarily allows us to work and live in faith. Because we have options in life and because God allows us to live in faith, we don’t see God as clearly or obviously as we otherwise might. God allows us to believe or not.
However, just because you don’t believe something is there doesn’t mean that it has to go away. I’m firmly convinced that God is real and very present in our lives. God is not, however, usually in the business of convincing us that God is ‘real’. God loves us enough to allow us to make our own decisions, even after doing everything necessary for us to return to God’s side.
Thus, sometimes when times are tough, it does feel as though God isn’t there, and sometimes when times are good, we are apt to forget that God is there. In the end, God is always present and loves us dearly. We are blessed.