By Scott Morris

Meet Ed Bowman, who is beginning his second year at RTS. When asked to describe what is unusual about him, he chuckles and declares without hesitation, "I'm old!"

      Actually Bowman is only forty-six. In today's youth obsessed culture, however, Bowman's entry into formal ministry studies is considered "late in life." It should come as no surprise, however, that God takes a different view.

      After all, from a biblical perspective, Ed is just a youngster. Abraham didn't father Isaac until he was a hundred years old. Moses wasn't called to lead the children of Israel from bondage until he was forty. And Caleb and Joshua were well into their shuffleboard years when they took the Promised Land by force.

      There's no rushing a timeless God.

      And, in fact, numbers of seminary students in the United States are second- or third career people. The average age of a man entering the masters of divinity track at RTS, Jackson, is 31, and it is not uncommon for numerous men over 40 to enroll each year.

      Bowman has a ways to go before the shuffleboard courts beckon. Today, he types his term papers on a laptop versus an electric typewriter. And rather than changing his children's diapers while studying Greek, he is offering his grown son business advice over the phone.

       Bowman's pastor from Houston, Ron Horgan, is emphatic: "Ed's passionate. He's on fire for the Lord. And he has a real pastor's heart."

      Horgan, himself, became a pastor after experiencing another career. "I was an attorney for fifteen years before entering the ministry, so I know that the outside experience Ed has had will help him."

      God calls men in His own time for His own purposes. When God called Ed, he answered.

       Bowman was born in 1955 in Elizabethton, a hamlet in the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee. "We attended an old PCUSA church. My grandfather was an elder;" he explains. Elizabethton was a lovely place where everyone knew everybody else. But that didn't mean that it lacked for excitement.

       "The Moody Bible Institute put their aviation training facility in Elizabethton. The missionaries would come down from Chicago to enter a four-year program. They'd learn to land on a tiny strip in the middle of nowhere. Plus, they'd have to tear the engine down and rebuild it from scratch," Bowman explains enthusiastically.

      In another town, a boy might have to get his dose of the exotic from a comic book, but Bowman had the opportunity to know real-life heroes who were preparing to fly to the far stretches of the earth to deliver the gospel.

      "Oh yeah. They definitely affected me," he says. "They were going off to have adventures and to do God's work. As a young man, I was very impressed."

      Standing six-foot four; with brown hair and a Beard that's in dispute (Bowman's wife believes he has a "Van Dyke," while Bowman himself is convinced he has a "goatee"), Bowman is one of those gentle-giant types who is quick with a smile. He gives the impression of someone not easily deterred from a goal.

       Early in life, Bowman felt the pull to go into the ministry After high school, he joined the army and became a chaplain's assistant in Fort Riley, Kansas. It was also during this time - 1975, to be exact - that he married his high-school sweetheart, Pamela. He entered East Tennessee State University, and, within three years, the Bowmans had their first son, Joshua.

      With the pressures of a new family to support, Bowman quit college before he graduated and went into business. "I thought about the ministry a lot, sure, but I remembered that quotation of Spurgeon's: 'If you can do anything else, do it!' So I did something else."

      For the next seven years, Bowman was an insurance agent in East Tennessee, rearing children and enjoying family life. "All of a sudden - it just seemed like overnight! - we had three children. After Joshua came Michael Aaron and Hoyle Edgar Bowman the third."

       In December of 1986, he moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, to help expand a friend's business. "Things were going very well," Bowman reflects. "The company was growing. Pamela and I and the children loved Charlotte. Everything was great." At the time, it looked as if they'd found a place to settle down.

       A year later, Bowman's oldest sister and brother-in-law, Carolyn and Bob Thomas, were serving as missionaries in Papua, New Guinea for Mission to the World and Wycliffe when both contracted hepatitis B and malaria, and were forced to return to the United States.

      "They were very disappointed," Bowman shares. "They ended up in Houston. Bob began trading bonds. The trading was going so well, he started calling me up all the time, telling me I should come to Houston. He kept saying, 'Wouldn't it be great if we could make some money to help missionaries?'"

      "I wasn't going to move us out to Houston unless Pamela and the kids agreed to it, though. So I just committed it to prayer."

       A year later, in 1991, he brought the subject up again. To his surprise, his family was ready. Two years later, the bond market went sour. "In April of 1994, I was cut loose. They wanted me to push some bonds that I thought were too risky. I wouldn't do it. It was devastating," he admits.

       God, however, was still working out a bigger plan for Ed's life. Slowly, God was edging Ed nearer to formal ministry. As it turned out, two members of Bowman's small group Bible study had just returned from Cuba where they were visiting a seminary. On their flight back, they sat next to an executive with Overseas Council International (OCI), an organization that works with seminaries in foreign countries providing, among other things, student scholarships and building funds. "OCI needed a fund raiser, which was something I knew how to do. And it was directly related to ministry."

       Ed started with an eleven-state territory in 1996. The job seemed perfect. With time, Bowman began to see it as another step toward something that had long been in his heart. "During this time, I was constantly traveling, visiting churches in our fund-raising efforts. I noticed that I was beginning to hear watered-down, psychobabble sermons," Bowman recalls.

       "There was nothing about the offensiveness of the cross - nothing about repentance. I began praying for preachers who would preach the gospel."

       Bowman prayed and prayed. He prayed for more preachers to deliver the undiluted gospel. He read Ed Clowney's Call To Ministry and Os Guinness's The Call. He was hungry; convicted. Finally; he could deny it no longer. Ed Bowman was being called to preach.

       "There I was, forty-five years old. It seemed like it was too late to do something like go to seminary. But it just got to the point where I couldn't stand it. Finally, I went to the church session and asked the church elders." Bowman chuckles warily at the thought. "There were two of them that I knew would grill me. One was Charlie Haydon and the other was Ed Wedin."

      On December 6,1999, Bowman met with the church elders. Charlie Haydon got right to the point: "Ed, I've seen you here for eight years. I know you and your family. You need to go."

       Ed Wedin pushed even harder: "I have one question: Why are you waiting until the summer?"

       All the elders told Bowman to go. "Either they knew I had been called, or they were sick of having me around," Bowman says, laughing.

       There was to he one more twist before he finally found his way to RTS, however. Bowman was all set to begin classes at another seminary in the fall of 2000. But that spring, a friend begged him to visit Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson. He was hesitant, but decided it hurt just to have a visit.

      Once they visited the Jackson area, Bowmans knew they'd found their next home. He and Pamela couldn't get over how friendly everyone in Jackson was. "People would actually talk to you," Bowman says. "Even at gas stations. "We felt this was where God wanted us."

       When Ed completes his degree, he hopes to head straight to the pulpit. While in school, he's also serving as an intern for missions and outreach ministry at First Presbyterian, Jackson.

      Dr. James Stewart, who directs this program, thinks Bowman has a bright future precisely because of his varied past. "Ed has a lot of experience. He can identify with business people and their problems. He's also very committed," Dr. Stewart proudly shares.

      And, of course, from a biblical perspective, Ed Bowman is just a youngster.

Reformed Quarterly, Volume 19, Number 2/3
© 2001 Reformed Theological Seminary
Articles may not be reprinted without permission.

Last updated 12-8-2001.