A pastor in Columbus, Ohio, recently opened up about how God strengthened his faith after he was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumor at 18 years old.
The Rev. TJ Lynch, who has been leading Gethsemane Lutheran Church since January, shared that he was diagnosed with an inoperable cancerous brain tumor at just 18 years old.
Lynch, now 31 and cancer-free, told The Columbus Dispatch that he learned to understand the power of community while battling cancer.
"This was just part of life, and yet God was there — through people," Lynch said, noting that his childhood church in Springfield prayed for him after the tumor diagnosis.
"God, the Holy Spirit, was at work through it all. You're 18, and you almost die. It kind of changes your perspective on life," he continued.
Lynch, who no longer has cancer thanks to chemotherapy and a shunt, also shared that the experience prompted him to reevaluate his career. At the time, he was studying business and marketing in college before ultimately being called to ministry.
"I just had that call," Lynch said, noting that he felt God tap him on the shoulder during an Easter Sunday service at his uncle's church in 2015.
Lynch shared that as a pastor, his experience in ministry has allowed him to build relationships.
"For me, pastoral ministry is about the people, the relationships," he said.
He added that the cancer diagnosis informs his preaching because he realizes "each day is a gift."
The Rev. Steve Wachtman of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Upper Arlington said that Lynch's experience allows him to be vulnerable and relatable to his congregation.
"He speaks with a common language that is accessible and appreciated by all those that are in his midst as he's preaching," Wachtman said.
Joy McLemore, a 76-year-old congregant at Gethsemane, shared that she and Lynch often get together for ice cream and talk about a variety of topics, including her daughter-in-law's brain cancer.
"I've never been one to seek out pastors for counseling," McLemore, who's been attending the church for 11 years, noted. "But I seek him out for ice cream."
"TJ is just a blessing that appeared right when my family needed it," she added. "He's fun and funny."
McLemore also shared that Lynch's preaching leaves her feeling encouraged and hopeful.
"He feeds my faith. He's open-minded, open-hearted," she said. "What he says to us at the end of every sermon is, 'God loves you, and so do I,' and you feel it."
Photo courtesy: ©Ben White/Unsplash
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.