Michigan pastor Scott Blanchard is not an ordinary church leader.
Although he had a strong desire as a kid to become a minister after accepting Christ at the age of 7, the obstacles he faced along the way were unlike those faced by the average pastor.
Sharing his dream with his friends in school, they doubted his abilities to be able to proclaim the Gospel to an audience. Blanchard was born with 80 percent hearing loss and speaks with a noticeable speech impediment.
Although his handicap gave him low self-esteem and made him lack confidence as a kid, Blanchard learned to face his obstacles and doubts head-on as he climbed his way to becoming a successful Detroit-area church plant leader.
Since its launch in 2010, the Blanchard-founded Lakepointe Church in Macomb has baptized over 150 people. In addition, it has launched a food pantry that provides a week's worth of groceries to about 30 to 45 local struggling families each month.
But after eight years of holding services in a local high school, Blanchard's Lakepointe Church congregation is now searching for a permanent home — one to call its own — and has raised upwards of $450,000 toward that effort.
"For me, there is a constant reminder that I am fulfilling God's word and I am reminding myself that in Christ, all things are possible," Blanchard told The Christian Post in an interview Friday.
Where did it all begin?
Blanchard grew up in Troy, a town that lies north of Detroit. He said that it wasn't until he was about two years old that he realized that there was something wrong with his hearing. As a young child, he fell behind in school and struggled with his speaking skills.
He attended a special program early on in his school years before he was sent to a private Christian institution. He said that from about fifth grade on, he knew that he wanted to spend his life preaching and be involved in ministry.
"I had a bunch of friends who told me, 'Scott, you can't preach ... You probably shouldn't. It is not for you,'" the 43-year-old Blanchard recalled. "I had this conflict with my hearing loss and low self-esteem and people telling me that I probably shouldn't. I wrestled with all of that through my middle school and high school years."
Blanchard attended Rochester Hills Christian School, a high school where students attend chapel. Once a month, Blanchard explained, the school would post a sign-up sheet to allow students to participate in the chapel services. Students could sign up to do things like sing, play music or even give a sermon.
Blanchard always wanted to sign up to preach, but his low self esteem kept him from doing so. He said that through ninth, 10th and 11th grade, he was too afraid to get up in front of his school and preach. Instead, he signed up to play Trumpet.
"I was afraid of people laughing at me, people making fun of me or people just not understanding me. I had all this doubt going on and all this fear," he said. "I can play the Trumpet. No one makes fun of a trumpet sound. I was hiding my voice behind a trumpet sound. I wasn't afraid of being in front of people. It was opening my mouth where I was a little nervous."
However, that all ended senior year when he finally worked up enough courage to sign up to preach. He knew going into the senior year that he wanted to go off to Bible college but knew that he had to get over his fear of speaking in front of his own peers.
Although he signed up to preach, he wrote his scribbled his name on the sign-up sheet so that no one could read it.
"The day came to preach. I had a sermon done for three years. I was ready to open my mouth and give it. My first sermon was about Moses telling God that he can't [speak to Pharaoh]. God told Moses that 'I made you the way you are and I will speak for you.' I was preaching to myself. It was a sermon that I needed to hear but I was preaching it."
Afterwards, Blanchard said that his friends who originally warned him not to preach congratulated him and encouraged him for giving such a powerful sermon. Some even told him not to let anyone tell him that he can't be a preacher.
Blanchard said that experience propelled him to more confidence in who he was and how God made him.
"That was a huge milestone in my calling," Blanchard asserts.