Skyler Wittman is a humble man.
This is a statement he would probably not have written about himself. He surely will sit there, devotedly reading this article, characteristically giving it his truest attention. He would pause thoughtfully after that first sentence, though, and he would object to the initial portrayal. Skyler Wittman is a humble man.
Many moments during his interview he’d look down at the table and cautiously laugh to himself, because he had been asked another personal question. Many moments it was apparent he was more engaged in answering questions about his family, his role at the school, the team around him in that role, or his faith and his devotion to Christ. But the questions about himself? He’d smile and attempt to redirect the focus.
“I like to think I’m very lighthearted, and maybe I am, but I’m also a very intense person,” he offered.
And Skyler is lighthearted; a spirited personality whose pursuit of humorous remarks is near constant and devotional. However, he is as well very intense; an intensity that reflects the seriousness with which he takes his faith and the uncertain course that faith has directed him toward.
He arrived on the campus of Oklahoma Wesleyan University three and a half years ago very interested in the relationship between the school and Voice of the Martyrs. “I had developed a huge love for Voice of the Martyrs and the persecuted church, and once I heard that they had a program here at OKWU, I came and visited and knew this was where I wanted to go.”
However, the Skyler that arrived is a striking reflection of growth and maturity, “When I [first] walked on this campus I was a small, terrified, arrogant, young child.” He laughed uncomfortably as he revealed his younger self. The moment was a reminder of how people change and grow, a notion he indicated himself keenly aware of throughout the conversation. It was a belief he did not consider he got to on his own, though. Christ is ever working redemptively in lives, and Skyler preaches this constantly. “There have been many cases of Christ reaching into my life, both on things that were a result of my own actions and also times that were things outside of my control, and redeeming situations.”
This is the soil that allows growth, Skyler says, and he continued: “In Romans, it says, ‘God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose.’ I have really learned what that verse means. When you’re pursuing Christ, when you’re actually pursuing Him He works redemptively in your life. In my own mistakes and when life happens, Christ can use both good and bad situations to grow us, to change us, to give us opportunities to yield to him and serve him in ways we couldn’t accomplish on our own.”
The question is then, how did Skyler mature from self-proclaimed arrogance and youthful pride into the man he is now? A man who is leading two communities towards God, first in his role as Spiritual Life Director at OKWU, and also as interim pastor at New Life Wesleyan in Copan, Oklahoma, a position he accepted in mid-September of this past year. For Skyler, it was primarily Christ’s leading toward these positions. Although, it also started at home:
“I have… and I know a lot of people say this, but in my case it really is true… just the two best parents in the world,” he said.
Skyler’s father, a hard-woking, blue-collar grocery store manager, taught his son selflessness through his devotion to the family even after long, daunting days of work. “Being selfless means not focusing on self, and that has taken me a long time to understand. [My father] personified that selflessness. He was not thinking about himself at all, but always looking to do things for others, because he felt that was his role.”
Likewise, his mother was a reflection of devotional selflessness, often times purchasing unplanned gifts for loved-ones because she knew it would bring them joy. “She’s always thinking about other people. Her mind is always, ‘How can I love people, how can I love people, how can I love people?’”
“It’s just the way they are. It was always for them, ‘this is the best way to live… to work hard and care for people, and for that to be your focus, your priority.’” Within this philosophy, Skyler was raised, and his parent’s example was foundational for him. “It’s always a work in progress. I’m by no means selfless, and thinking about others is a struggle sometimes, but my parent’s example has definitely impacted me.”
Skyler grew in understanding and humility from the eighteen-year-old self; cultivating submissiveness to the mission God was calling him toward. It was a painful and humbling labor at times, as it often came by the Spirit’s guidance and correction. Asked how he found himself in the two leadership roles he now fills, Skyler replied starkly: “I wish it was some big event, or some revelation, but it just kind of happened. Things were in place for it to happen… Both opportunities were not really sought out. They were not things I was looking for or really even anticipated doing.”
Skyler is attentive enough to his faith to appreciate when God is moving and shifting his direction. As mentioned earlier he believes firmly that those who seek God will find Him, and that often those moments of discovery lend to a common notion of redemption. It is exemplified in his own life, over and over again. He comments that God redeemed his selfishness and turned it back toward ministry. How? “Through a lot of doing what I want, and things not working out the way I had anticipated. Then having to turn back to listening to Spirit.”
Like a child disciplined by a loving father, Skyler has returned again and again to God and the redemptive work He has done in his life, searching for further instruction and direction. “It’s about following Him and kind of knowing what His voice sounds like in my life. Knowing when He is nudging me towards something and trusting that… listening to the Spirit over doing what I want to do… And understanding that it is possible to not feel comfortable, and to not feel ready, and to trust still that it is the best option.”
The best options presented to Skyler were not exactly best options, as he had understood them. “Pastoring is not my angle… and it wasn’t my original goal either. At first I was kind of resistant to the idea [of being pastor]. But it’s developed into a really exciting experience at New Life Wesleyan.”
New Life Wesleyan has grown, but the learning curve to lead such growth has challenged Skyler personally. “How do I use the platform that I’ve been given to motivate people, to lead people to a further relationship with Christ? …I think there have been a lot of times the way I produce sermons has not been conducive to the body at the time. And then I have seen how a church can come together for a purpose of loving others, bringing others into relationship. That has been incredible… It’s just a growing process. And I think that’s the beauty of it.”
The method has been reciprocated in his leadership of Spiritual Life on campus. “Truth be told there are people at our school who are more qualified than me to fulfill this role as spiritual life director. There is a lot of peace in knowing that I am following God and simply doing the work He has set before me.”
The function as Spiritual Life head is not one that Skyler views with power or privilege, however. This understanding is truly resonant through the language he uses; never once referring to himself as The Director of Spiritual Life, but always as A director of the student led office. For him, any success he has seen has been because of the people around him; in the university, in his spiritual life team, his family, his friends, and his peers. “The school, the people here… they care and they really want to see us succeed. And it is truly cultural. That comes from following God. It is the mission,” he said.
As for what he hopes the rest of the semester will yield on campus and in the community, Skyler said, “We have been emphasizing prayer. That’s one of our goals. I’d like to see people sowing, in small acts, in their hearts, where we may not see the changes necessarily. But I want to see them nonetheless growing. And I think we’re doing our part in what God has called us to do through spiritual life.”
He continued, “A lot of what our school is about is preparing students for lives of ministry. I hope students begin to adopt a strong desire to pray and to pray earnestly.”
The role of spiritual life director is not ultimately his to dictate, Skyler says: “Seeing that it is His ministry and that there is a reason to be a part of it, then it becomes much less about self and much more about helping people get to a place where they are closer to God.”
What is next for Skyler is what is immediate. His focus is almost exclusively his placed position, a notion that is typically uncommon for a Senior three months away from graduation. But Skyler has that option because outside of pursuing a Master’s of Business Administration in the fall, he is unsure of what is next for him and is refreshingly content with the unspecified path. It’s about God’s direction, as has been the faith that has led him to this point.
“For me right now, following Christ is helping out at New Life Wesleyan and being a spiritual life director. Maybe in ten years me following Christ will be working for a business somewhere in New York City, or going overseas to Africa. It’s a day-by-day process if we allow Him to live through us. That is where it starts: with following Christ. It’s not us doing things, it’s us allowing Christ to live through us, and that is the only way it is possible to truly follow Christ.”
In the end, whatever Skyler pursues is whatever Christ leads him to. “Really the only way to truly be successful in leading people is to lead them to a deeper understanding of their relationship with Christ. You get there by focusing on God, and to really rely on him… Eventually – and I’m working on it each day – this becomes my nature, as much of who I am as anything else, that I consider other people above my self.”
In the end, whatever Skyler pursues will be impactful.
Because Skyler Wittman is a Godly man.