When Mark McGranahan was finally done with high school, he was ready to be done.
“After high school, I said, ‘Thank God I’m done with school. I am never going back again,’” said McGranahan, who grew up in northwest Chicago, the third eldest of 12 children whose parents believed in home-schooling.
With his book learning behind him, or so he thought, he was ready to go to work. And work he did.
Over the course of a few years, he was employed in a number of jobs. He worked in printing, then at a machine shop. He fixed appliances, installed burglar and fire alarms, and even sold vacuums.
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But then one day, McGranahan said a new employer came calling. The Lord need him for a different a purpose, and that purpose was ministry.
“The strange thing was, I knew God was calling me to ministry, but he didn’t open any doors,” he said.
His epiphany made him overlook his previous disdain for the classroom.
He applied to multiple seminaries, and got accepted to all of them. But he found out he could not afford to attend any of them.
He thought, perhaps, he had misinterpreted his path, so he set out on another one. He would pursue a secular education at Eastern Illinois University. He graduated in May 1999 with a bachelor’s degree in history and a teaching certification.
But after graduation, he could not find a teaching position.
“We’d knocked on a bunch of doors that He had very clearly closed,” McGranahan said.
He was at a loss of what to do next. He decided he needed a vacation.
He drove west, looking for a respite. But soon after his trip began, McGranahan said God would give him another push in the right direction. God sent him to grandma.
McGranahan’s grandmother lived in Topeka, Kansas.
“And grandma was a very godly woman,” he said.
But she had never known of his one-time intentions of joining the ministry. His parents and a close friend were the only people who had ever known of his plan.
“With God as my witness, I had never told my grandma, and neither had my mom or my dad,” McGranahan said.
It was at 3 a.m. one night when McGranahan’s grandmother said that she was awakened -- by God. He was telling her that her grandson needed to attend the seminary. The episode kept her up all night.
“It was God reconfirming that, yes, indeed, it was a long winding path. But, He did still want me to be a pastor one day,” McGranahan said.
That winter, McGranahan applied to Moody Bible Institute, and almost two years later, he graduated with a master’s of spiritual formation and discipleship.
Fast-forward 16 years, and three separate churches in three different states, and McGranahan now finds himself in Highland as the senior pastor of Highland Community Church.
McGranahan started preaching to the non-denominational church, located at 2307 Broadway, in February. He and his family are enjoying it, he said.
“I’ve noticed this church is a very loving place,” McGranahan said.
McGranahan calls his sermon style “exegetical preaching.”
Instead of building sermons off of specific topics, he chooses a specific book in the Bible and teaches each of its chapters over the course of several months. He said that his style is a way to give balance to preaching, without the risk of his own biases overwhelming his sermons.
“You let God kind of be the one who programs the service and the content,” he said.
With his specific way of preaching, McGranahan said he can also harness his background in history, as exegetical preaching allows him to delve into the scriptures and interpret ancient meanings to modern day teachings.
At times, McGranahan said that following the Bible so closely can be difficult, but it provides an excellent challenge for anyone who wants to work on their faith. For those who are up for that challenge, McGranahan said he would like to extend and open invitation to attend worship at Highland Community Church on Sundays; one is at 9 a.m. and the other at 10:30 a.m.
Or, you can watch McGranahan’s sermons on his YouTube channel—pastormarkm.
“We, as a church very much value the word of God and want it to be taught, and want to invite our community to come and share in our fellowship together,” he said.