Vision for discipleship

By Rev. Ethan Linder

An Indiana eye doctor realized it was time to make having an impact for Jesus more of a priority.

Dr. Nathan Hoover was born into a rich heritage of discipleship. His father -- Rev. Stan Hoover -- retired in June of 2018 from his role as district superintendent of the Chesapeake District, and Nathan's grandfather and great-grandfather were pastors in The Wesleyan Church.

But at some point, Hoover reflects, “I had to realize this is a decision I make.”

Hoover grew up in Marion, Indiana, attended Indiana Wesleyan University, and went on to earn his doctorate at Indiana University School of Optometry, after which he used his degree to practice optometry, especially focusing on serious eye problems. He grew up in environments that fostered spiritual growth, he graduated with a terminal degree in medicine and was experiencing success in his practice; but the undercurrents of his spiritual life were not yet fully aligned with God’s activity. A moment of conviction and response helped him lean more fully into God’s work.

“There was a moment in my relationship with Christ where there was a radical transformation in my life.” said Hoover. “I was at the top of my game professionally, and he broke through and helped me realize that it isn’t about me. Success isn’t just defined by what car you buy or what house you live in.

It’s all about how you influence the people around you for Jesus Christ.”

“I ask, ‘How can I make people’s lives better by them seeing Jesus Christ in me?’ I am not ashamed of where I go to church and what I believe as I go into my exam room or talk with my team. I invite people to church from work on a regular basis; I don’t shove it down people’s throats, but I do work to connect with people and get to that question: ‘How’s your relationship with Christ?’”

Combining spiritual attentiveness with their existing focus on patient care, Hoover’s already-thriving practice experienced accelerated growth and began expanding to multiple locations around Indiana. Hoover now sees between 30 to 50 patients every day at three different office locations — generally traveling from one office to another between morning and afternoon.

Deeply involved in Expansion Church as an advisory team member and small group leader, Hoover is applying his business acumen to strategize around how the church can partner with God in making disciples. He also has words of advice for career-driven laity who are on the periphery of their congregations.

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“When you’re at the top, you’re only halfway there—it has to be about more than just you…look at all the free time you have. What are you using it for? Ask, ‘What am I filling my life with?’ and ‘How can I use my gifts and influence at church or in a service organization?’”

This effort requires cooperation between laity and clergy, so if pastors want to engage laity in the work of the church, Hoover advises them to ask for more than financial contributions. Ask them to think about how their gifts might benefit the church, community and world—and how their leadership might make their church more harmonious with God’s call.

If Hoover could sit down over coffee with every Wesleyan pastor, he would offer this advice: “There are people waiting in the wings to see vision and to see if there’s something truly of depth there. Many entrepreneurs have been around the block and want to see what the vision is; if that’s laid out nicely, many will think it’s worth their time and resources to get involved.”