Thrive

Last updated: July 7, 2023

Sam Gindlesberger’s grandfather was a lifelong dairy farmer who had always wanted to be a woodworker. He even had a woodworking shop and tools he planned to use someday. Yet time got away from him, and before he could retire from dairy farming, he became ill then passed away while Sam was in seminary.

His grandfather’s passing made Sam realize, “Don’t wait to do the things that you want to do. Don’t wait until it’s too late.” Sam, who had learned construction and cabinet-making in his youth through summer jobs and mission projects, inherited his grandfather’s tools. They were the very tools he needed to begin nurturing his own lifelong affinity for woodworking.

Asbury Seminary was just the environment to grow the business aspect of his woodworking. Between constructing a tree house at the Red River Gorge with a Seminary team to competing (and winning prize money) in the Asbury Marketplace Summit, Sam began formulating a business plan. Asbury Seminary was in the midst of a “budding entrepreneurial spirit” during Sam’s time as a student from 2015 to 2019. The Seminary’s Office of Faith, Work, and Economics, as well as the local student-led group The Foundry, helped Christians integrate their faith with their roles in the marketplace.

Upon graduation in 2019 with his M.Div., Sam and his wife Taylor moved to Selma, Alabama, to join several other Asbury Seminary graduates in a church plant initiative. With no paid staff, the church plant leaders had to support themselves. This was just the occasion for Sam’s woodworking business to flourish. During their years in Selma, Sam operated his first official business: Live Oaks Woodworking. Whether wood construction, restoration, repair, or creative pieces, Sam learned that his woodworking business was a “hub of ministry.”

“Through business, God opened doors to quality ministry interactions. People would invite me into their homes and say, “I have this problem. Can you fix it?” People will invite a woodworker into their house and really, in a sense, into their lives, a lot more readily than they will go into a church. They give you the keys to their house and say, “I need someone that I can trust to do the work.””

Sam lived from job to job, without knowing where next week’s work would come from. But whenever he finished a project, the Lord would open up another door. People would call him for work, and Sam would say, “I’ll be there later today.” Weeks turned into months and then years as his woodworking business continued growing in the Selma community.

Sam built a relationship with a non-Christian artist while doing work for him in his home. They had many great conversations on prayer and life. After suffering from a heart attack, the artist went into a period of depression and stopped producing art. One day, he lost his heart medication while swimming in a river, and then a vial floated up to him containing the same medicine he had just lost. Sam, hearing this story, helped his artist friend understand that this was a sign the Lord was going to take care of him. The artist wept and said to God, “I’m so sorry if I’ve missed You.” After this breakthrough, he began painting again.

“This all started with a guy saying, “Hey, can you build me some bookshelves?”” Sam says.

Sam believes God would go ahead of him and his interactions with woodworking clients. He explains that God is “looking for faithful people willing to witness the work” that He is already doing.

Yet another of Sam’s favorite stories is when a man he was working for asked Sam to please pray for a family member’s cancer diagnosis. “I know you’re a person of faith. Would you be willing to pray for him?” this man asked while they were in his basement. Sam prayed with him, and they were both weeping by the end of the prayer.

Asbury Seminary was a massive part of Sam’s faith formation. Courses on ethics and community, scripture, and missions, to name just a few, were hugely important in giving him lenses through which to understand his faith. This, in addition to a community that encouraged Christians in the marketplace, made Asbury Seminary pivotal in his journey.  “Asbury is all around us, a huge formative part of our lives and ministry,” Sam says. “I just can’t recommend it enough.”

After working in Selma for three and a half years, Sam was offered a discipleship role at a church in Marietta, GA. Seeing an opportunity to equip the church on a higher level, Sam accepted the job. “My passions are certainly with preaching and teaching and discipling people in a way that says, “All of your life needs to be fair game for God to move.” When we open ourselves up to that, we see God move in ways that only He can. It’s beautiful and sometimes weird.”

Sam and Taylor have two small children. In addition to facilitating discipleship at Due West UM in Marietta, Sam is helping Taylor get her pottery business going. Sam says he will always have woodworking to fall back on and that, in the meantime, he is available for volunteer woodworking projects.

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