An inside look at Carsten Kates, and his surrender, service and satisfaction in the Lord.
Steps of Surrender
Reflecting on his youth, Carsten Kates recalls his world revolving around playing baseball. He first picked up a bat and ball at the age of three and throughout the following years, he found fulfillment in this all-American sport.
As a pitcher, Kates practiced and played baseball year-round through school, tournaments and competitive leagues. His dream was to attend college on a baseball scholarship and to continue his heartfelt passion and pursuit of a world with homeruns and grand slams. Yet, what happened next was a game changer.
Kates grew up in a Christian family and is thankful for the legacy of faith and emphasis on scripture instilled in him. While at Falls Creek camp in 2017, Kates felt the Lord’s call to ministry. A few years later while visiting OBU and making plans for his post-high school journey, Kates felt the Lord asking him to hang up his baseball cleats. Life was about to launch into a different type of inning.
“The Lord spoke to my heart saying, ‘Carsten, your love for baseball is a misdirected devotion. I want to be first in your life, before baseball, and for you to follow the path I have for you.’” Kates said.
He now sees that this act of surrender and trust has brought more blessing and growth than he could have realized.
Currently an OBU senior, Kates will soon earn his Bachelor of Arts in pastoral ministry through the Hobbs School of Theology and Ministry and will complete his minor in biblical and theological studies.
“OBU is a perfect fit for me,” he said. “I knew when I visited campus, that the Lord was calling me to Bison Hill. He continues to prepare me for ministry through excellent academics, growth in leadership, and valuable spiritual formation. I give all thanks to God for redirecting my life.”
A Multitude of Mentors
Continuing to prepare for pastoral ministry and having a deep passion for the local church, Kates credits OBU faculty who invest in him personally. It’s a takeaway from OBU that far exceeds what he could have imagined.
“When I began my college journey, I had prayed for a mentor who would help me grow in my faith and develop as a man of God,” Kates said. “Well, the Lord answered that prayer exceedingly by offering me a multitude of mentors. It is so encouraging to be surrounded by such godly and intentional adults. I have several professors who pour into my life and help me become a better man, a successful student, a stronger Christian and an equipped minister.”
According to Kates, the professors in Hobbs School take a personal interest in his life and serve not only as faculty, but as friends. Dr. David Gambo, Hughes Chair/Assistant Professor of Christian Ministry, is one professor with whom Kates has developed a deep connection. Kates describes Gambo as a man who is passionate, inspiring, and full of joy and peace.
“He is serious about helping me in my walk with the Lord and models that graciously,” Kates said. “I have a deep respect for Dr. Gambo. I have learned immensely through his teaching and there is no doubt he cares about me and my relationship with God. I have spent many hours in Stubblefield Chapel practicing my preaching and being sharpened by his instruction.
“Dr. Bobby Kelly instills a great amount of truth in me through biblical studies of the New Testament and instruction in Greek. I can’t believe how much I am learning. However, Dr. Kelly is the first to team up with us in a fantasy football league and to enjoy this pastime with students. These men are authentic and demonstrate how to live out biblical truths in all facets of life. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive and caring environment,” he said.
In addition to a rigorous academic load, Kates has enjoyed a rich and vibrant campus experience. As a member of the Student Government Association, a small group leader for Welcome Week, a member of Salt and Light Leadership, and other areas of involvement, Kates has developed solid friendships, “the type that help me live in a worthy manner,” he said.
During his freshman year, Kates met his future wife, Kate Abbe, who is now completing her degree in nursing. They were married in January of 2023.
Pathway to Pastor
Kates values the practical experiences he has gained thus far in his ministerial journey. One opportunity was to serve as a team chaplain for the Oklahoma City Ambassadors Baseball program during the summer of 2020.
“I was initially a player, then a coach/chaplain,” he said. “Baseball had been my passion my whole life up until the summer of 2019. It was then that God showed me that he was molding my heart and desires towards ministry. I became less excited about what was happening on the diamond and more excited about ministry off of it.”
Kates spent the summer of 2021 as an intern at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. The following summer, Kates interned at First Baptist Church in McKinney, Texas.
During Kates’ junior year, Dr. Gambo presented an opportunity for supply preaching at Pleasant Home Baptist Church in Prague, a town 25 miles northeast of OBU. Kates took that opportunity while also concentrating on the rigorous demands required of a college student.
In the latter part of 2022, and with additional encouragement by Dr. Gambo, Kates accepted the role as full-time pastor at that church. Members of the congregation fondly refer to him as “Brother Kates.”
In his new pastoral role, Kates preaches two services on Sunday, again on Wednesday nights, and visits members when needed. He invests nearly 20 hours a week in personal preparation to teach.
“I am enjoying getting to know the congregation of people and how I can care for and encourage them,” he said. “I love preaching the word of God and sharing truths from scripture.”
Shawnee to Seminary
Looking ahead to the fall of 2023, Kates and his wife, Kate Kates, will leave Shawnee and move to Kansas City, Missouri, where he will be a student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“At Midwestern, I am planning to pursue my Master of Divinity with an emphasis in biblical counseling. As a couple, we are so excited to see what the Lord has in store for us there,” Kates said.
As a pastoral ministry student, Kates was able to earn 27 credit hours at OBU that will be counted toward his M.Div. at Midwestern cutting his course requirements, time investment and tuition costs at seminary by 25%. OBU has B.A. to M.Div. agreements such as this with eight seminaries including each of the six Baptist seminaries.
Kates’ deep faith, maturity, strong work ethic, service to others, and desire to honor God is the very essence of what defines an OBU future shaper. The passion and pursuit he once held in earlier years for baseball is now manifested on a new field.
Kates is called to the field of faith, equipped by God, sent out as a minister of the gospel, and prepared to continue on God’s path. ο