From the Pub to the Pulpit

As a new Christian, David Sorn S’07 found his calling to ministry in college while helping grow and lead a weekly Bible study at a pub. Knowing he wanted to forge a strong base in scripture and theology before launching a ministry career, Sorn was drawn to Bethel Seminary. After planting and growing Renovation Church in Blaine, Minnesota, Sorn strives to foster a community that delves deep into scripture and brings new people to Christ.

By Jason Schoonover ’09, content specialist

November 07, 2022 | 9:45 a.m.

David Sorn S’07

David Sorn S’07 gives a sermon at Renovation Church in Blaine, Minnesota.

David Sorn S’07 remembers a few weeks during his senior year of college when multiple people asked if he was considering a ministry career. “I felt like the Lord was just trying to get my attention pretty hard,” he says. Sorn was helping lead a large weekly Bible study, but he was still a young Christian. He felt he needed more training to pursue a calling to lead his own church. “The Lord called me into ministry,” Sorn says. “If I was going to be a pastor, I had to be trained to teach the Bible to people. I had to go to seminary.”

Sorn followed that call to Bethel Seminary, and it’s helped equip him to plant Renovation Church in Blaine, Minnesota. The church has grown from a hundred people in a school gym to more than 1,200 people each Sunday in a new church campus. “We’re running out of space in our building that we just opened a year ago,” says Sorn.

Though Sorn followed the call to ministry, he didn’t grow up a Christian. He came to Christ gradually in high school. One night, he came home and saw a Bible on his shelf. After opening it to Matthew, he was struck by Christ’s wisdom. “It absolutely blew me away; it wasn’t at all what I was expecting,” he recalls. When he started college, he encountered few believers and found few faith-based opportunities until he was invited to a new student-led Bible study called Magis, which later changed to Praise in the Pub. Starting with about 10 people, the group burgeoned to more than 200. Sorn started leading every few weeks and then started giving talks elsewhere. Still relatively new to his faith, Sorn wanted to build a firm foundation before leading a church and teaching the Bible. He was drawn to Bethel, where his wife earned an undergraduate degree. He moved to the Twin Cities, got married, and started at Bethel Seminary all in the same month.

He admits facing a few early challenges. Having not grown up in the church, he didn’t know a lot of theological terminology and concepts. And he laughs now as he remembers asking a few embarrassing questions. But Sorn came with a desire to study and caught up quickly. “I just learned a ton of great, biblical theology,” he says. “I learned how to handle the scriptures. I learned how to exposit and teach the scriptures to people. I just couldn’t imagine teaching all the people that I teach every weekend and not having gone to seminary.”

In the Master of Divinity program, Sorn was drawn to Bethel’s focus on leadership development, spiritual formation, and biblical theology. He loved learning from professors like Peter Vogt—now the dean of Bethel Seminary—and he appreciates the comradery he formed with his classmates. While in seminary, Sorn worked as a youth pastor at Constance Free Church, giving him opportunities to apply what he was learning each week. “That was really cool because I got to take all these things I was learning in the classroom and just go try it out on Wednesday nights,” he says. Sorn enjoyed the role, but he knew he wanted to be a senior pastor.

Sorn planted Renovation Church in Blaine in 2009 when he was 27. He calls the early days of church planting crazy and challenging, and it took a few years for Renovation’s size to surpass Praise in the Pub and the Constance youth group. But Sorn bears skills and traits that helped him as he grew his church. As he mentors church planters and aspiring pastors today, many are dreamers and visionaries with big hearts for shepherding their community. Sorn sees himself bringing different gifts to Renovation. He describes himself as an executive pastor that happens to be a lead pastor—he’s highly organized and detail-oriented. And he loves systems, schedules, and numbers. “I’m just an organized guy who also likes to preach,” he says with a laugh.

Sorn describes Renovation as a Bible-teaching church that also carries deep ties to evangelism. While Sorn often sees churches only focusing on one, Renovation strives to do both. Sorn and his church leaders even made up a word—"deepvangelistic”— to describe their model. Renovation does extensive series on the Book of Luke and another on Joshua. “We’re just basically teaching through the scriptures,” Sorn says. “That’s one of the things that’s pretty unique about our church, especially for a larger church nowadays.” But they’re also evangelistic, striving to bring people to Christ. “We really feel like the Lord’s called us to be ‘deepvangelistic,’ that is to deeply teach through the scriptures, disciple people, and yet we do a gospel invitation every single week,” he says.
David Sorn S’07

David Sorn S’07

Renovation is also dedicated to a community model with about 80% of adults participating in a house group of about 40 people. Similar to a house church, the groups share testimonies and faith stories, meet for accountability, and dive deep into the Word. And Sorn is still drawn to church planting. He mentors pastors who are planning to plant churches, and Renovation has helped plant six autonomous churches and supports them. Over 1,000 people meet each Sunday at the six plants.

As Renovation grew steadily, Sorn and church leaders started raising money for a building. Though Sorn envisioned a large groundbreaking celebration in 2020, COVID-19 hit. Just weeks into the pandemic, they launched the project with just 10 people socially distanced outside. But since opening the new building in 2021, Renovation has grown rapidly. “Since we’ve moved into our building, we’ve essentially exploded from 500 to 1,200 in a little over a year,” Sorn says. While many churches lost members during the pandemic, Renovation’s new campus drew members back and continues attracting new people. Each week, Sorn sees the fruits of his own growth at Bethel Seminary. Not only does he benefit, but he says the congregation benefits because he was rightly trained. “When I’m standing on stage in front of 1,200 people, every word that I say, it matters,” he says. “I’m thankful that I was taught how to rightly divide the Word of truth.”

Gain the skills and knowledge for ministry through a Master of Divinity.

Bethel's Master of Divinity program will equip you to make an impact in the world by helping you gain the knowledge and skills to lead as a teacher, pastor, or chaplain. You’ll study theology and Scripture, expand your Christian worldview, and develop personally and spiritually so that you’re prepared to follow your calling.

Learn more