“I’m a nobody.
But God and I and love will change our world.
You wait. You watch. You’ll see.”
Ann Kiemel spoke those words in 1970 while sitting on a stool
in the Sunday evening service at Bethany First Church of the
Nazarene in Bethany, Okla.
Susie Shellenberger was mesmerized. The junior-high girl sat
on the edge of her seat. The only female speakers she remembered
hearing were the occasional missionaries. Other than that, she’d
never seen a female grace the stage for an entire worship
service—much less while sitting on a stool.
Ann Kiemel’s message was simple:
“Will you and God change your world with me? If you’re willing
to be a part of God’s dream, stand up right now.”
Susie was a Christian.
She had asked Jesus into her heart during her fourth-grade
year. Her dad met her at the altar and had led her in prayer. She
wasn’t a stranger to prayer. Her dad had instituted “family altar” in the
home. Often they’d turn off the television and kneel in the den and
pray together. She had also been taught to have a personal quiet
time and enjoyed the children’s devotional books she read at night
before she prayed.
But Ann Kiemel was excited about following Jesus.
And Susie felt the excitement.
During Ann’s message, Susie began to realize that being a
Christian was actually having a genuine relationship with the Creator
of the universe—not simply asking to have her sins forgiven.
“I think what I had was ‘fire insurance,’ Susie laughs. “I knew
God lived in my heart, and I would go to heaven, but I’d missed the
personal aspect of an exciting relationship with Christ. Yes, I prayed
. . . but I wasn’t dynamic or excited or out to change my world.”
What Ann was talking about resonated in Susie’s heart.
Wow, she thought. I’m walking with the Creator of the universe
every single day! He knows my name. This is really personal. I want
all He has to give me.
So Susie stood to her feet.
From that night on, things were different.
All or Nothing
The next morning as she grabbed her books for school, Susie
added her “Reach Out” New Testament to the stack. The paperback
Bible had been a part of her exciting junior-high youth group
experience and several Scriptures were underlined. Susie knew that
God wanted her to take Him to school with her—that her commitment
to a deeper relationship meant “being Jesus” to those around her.
So she began speaking to her public school friends about the
Lord and inviting them to church. As her boldness grew, so did her
That same year, Susie began writing for her junior-high school
newspaper and submitted some things to our denominational teen
magazine, Conquest (later, Bread). To her excitement, her writing
was purchased and published.
She continued to grow spiritually in high school and was
discipled by her new youth pastor, Hal Perkins. He emphasized the
importance of spiritual growth and sharing her faith. Susie loved
hearing Hal speak. He made Sunday school and Wednesday nights
so exciting that you couldn’t have paid her to miss! Hal was articulate.
His heart was tender. He was a great communicator that immediately
drew Susie into each message.
“Each of Hal’s messages was filled with depth and boldness,
but his words were laced with love and gentleness,” Susie says. “I
couldn’t help but be impacted with his style of delivery—as well as his
She continued to write, was totally involved in everything her
youth group did (choir tours, retreats, mission trips, summer camp,
Bible studies) and grew deeper in her relationship with Christ.
Though Hal Perkins served three years as senior high youth
pastor at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene, Susie only had the
privilege of being under his ministry for one year. He left to continue
God’s call on his life after her sophomore year in high school. But his
imprint had clearly been made on her life.
The position for senior high youth pastor wasn’t vacant for long.
Gary Sivewright soon walked through the doors of the youth room
and right into Susie’s heart. He was creative, funny, and articulate.
Again, Susie was under the ministry of another master communicator.
His messages held her mesmerized. “They were filled with humor
and great story-telling, yet there was a depth that couldn’t be
ignored,” Susie remembers. “He made Scripture come to life.” Once
again Susie was greatly impacted with his style of delivery.
There was no need—or even interest—to be swayed by
drinking, smoking, or parties at school, because youth group was so
fun. “The World’s Largest Pie Fight,” fifth-quarter parties, and rafting
trips filled Susie’s calendar along with Bible studies, choir tours, and
the youth’s drama group.
She had been discipled by Hal Perkins.
She was blooming with Gary Sivewright.
God’s Audible Voice
The summer after high school graduation, Susie attended
Nazarene World Youth Congress in Fiesch, Switzerland (now known
as NYC: Nazarene Youth Conference). Surrounded by the Swiss
Alps, the group of high school Nazarenes from around the world
gathered in a giant outdoor arena.
The first Sunday morning service featured General
Superintendent, Dr. Edward Lawlor. Susie will never forget the words
from his sermon. “They etched themselves within my heart,” she
“Don’t go home with only memories of a beautiful country. Go
home mastered by God’s vision for your life.”
Yes! That’s what I want, God, Susie prayed Show me Your
vision for me. What do You want me to do?
Throughout the week she continued to seek God’s will. Deep
inside her heart—much deeper than she could articulate or even form
into conscious thought—was the feeling that she wanted to be a
communicator for Christ. Being from a church of 2,000 members with
separate junior high and senior high youth groups, Susie had heard
the best speakers, best musicians, best evangelists. She had been
influenced by quality messengers and godly servants.
There was a yearning deep inside to be God’s verbal and
written voice. Yet it was a yearning that she dared not speak
about—and dared not even truly consciously think about. She just
knew it was there.
During the week, the small group studies were about being
“foot-washers,” being servants and learning fulfillment behind the
scenes. “There was a battle inside of me,” Susie says. “I couldn’t
reconcile being behind the scenes with the deep desire in my heart to
grab a microphone and bring Jesus to life. Surely being behind the
scenes was what God wanted. Why did I want to walk on stage and
start speaking? Why couldn’t I rid myself of this desire?”
Though the week featured a variety of excellent preachers, the
final Sunday morning service ended with Dr. Edward Lawlor again. In
his booming British brogue, he said, “You’ve had a week. Last
Sunday morning you were challenged not to return home with simply
wonderful memories of a beautiful country. You are to return with
God’s vision for your life! What is it?”
I don’t understand, God! Susie prayed. I’ve asked You all week,
and I’ve desperately sought Your will. I want Your vision. Why haven’t
You given it to me?
“As brightly as the sun shines on a summer day,” Susie says, “I
heard God’s voice.
“It was undeniable.
Audible . . . yet inside my mind.”
“’I’ve already given you my vision, Susie.
You know what it is.
I want you to communicate Me through speaking and writing.’”
“I couldn’t believe it,” Susie says.
“God would choose to give me what I wanted most?”
So she immediately answered Him with: “Oh, Father! I could
never be as compelling as Hal Perkins.
Or as dynamic as Gary Sivewright.
Or as mezmerizing as Ann Kiemel.
Or as articulate as Josh McDowell.
Or as captivating as Glaphre Gilliland.”
And just as clearly, God answered:
“I don’t need another Hal or Gary or Ann or Josh or Glaphre. I
need a Susie Shellenberger.”
Oh, YES, Lord!
And Susie made that her commitment:
“Yes, Lord. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere. Yes, Lord.”
The Dream Takes Shape
Susie entered Bethany Nazarene College (now Southern
Nazarene University) as a freshman speech major. She honed her
writing skills with a double minor in English and creative writing. She
participated in Student Mission Corps to the Dominican Republic
during the summer between her sophomore and junior years,
became the first female elected student body president, and
continued to grow spiritually through college revivals and in her
“I was fortunate to hear Dr. Stephen Manley, Dr. Chuck Milhuff,
Dr. Paul Cunningham—people I consider great evangelists—in
revival on our campus. They communicated with depth, enthusiasm,
After graduation, she became the youth pastor at First Church
of the Nazarene in Conway, Ark.
The week her pastor resigned, she received a call to be youth
pastor in Longmont, Colo.
When that pastor resigned, she received a call to be youth
pastor at First Nazarene in San Antonio. Eventually, she was called
to be senior high youth pastor in her home church: Bethany First
Church of the Nazarene in Bethany, Okla.
During her time as youth pastor, Susie wrote her own Sunday
school curriculum and was eventually asked to write that curriculum
for the general Church of the Nazarene. She also took on other
writing assignments for the general church.
“I loved being a youth pastor,” Susie says. “Besides the great
relationships with students, what I loved most was the speaking
aspect. God was honing and directing my style and delivery.”
After being a youth pastor for eight years, Susie felt God’s
direction to begin graduate work. “God impressed this on me in a
major way,” she says. “It was so strong, that I knew I’d be out of His
will if I didn’t pursue a master’s degree. I couldn’t figure it out! Why in
the world did I need a master’s degree? But I obeyed and began a
master’s in English with the emphasis on creative writing.”
Soon after she began this degree, Susie felt God’s nudge to
resign her position as youth pastor. A few months later, she was
asked by the local high school principal to take over for a teacher who
had recently retired her position in teaching speech, English, drama,
and creative writing. Susie took it . . . and stayed for four and a half
“God assured me that I was still fulfilling His call on my life. I
was still communicating Him through speaking and writing. I saw
myself as an undercover missionary in this public high school.”
Susie was speaking several weekends, and when she spoke
anywhere near Okla. City, the principal allowed her to take a bus of
students with her. “It was amazing,” she says. “I’d pass out a sign-up
sheet in my classes for anyone who wanted to come with me on
Friday and Saturday nights. And they could mark a special place if
they wanted to sing or be in a skit. A few of these students were
Christians; others weren’t. But some were saved during these special
revivals I was doing at other churches. After the service, we’d go out
for pizza then drive back to OKC. All the while, God was tightening
my delivery, giving me new messages, and showing Himself to my
Almost as soon as Susie had completed her master’s degree,
she was invited by Focus on the Family to create a magazine for teen
girls. “Now I understood why God had so strongly impressed on me
to pursue that graduate degree in creative writing,” she says. “When
they asked me to be editor, I explained that I had several weekend
speaking engagements, and I really wanted to keep them. They said
they liked the idea that I’d be speaking and thought it would be good
public relations. So I was excited that I didn’t have to cancel
Susie moved from Oklahoma to Pomona, Calif., where Focus
on the Family was located. She created Brio magazine, and a year-
and-a-half later, the ministry moved its headquarters to Colorado
Springs, Colo. “I was happy about the move, because it put me closer
to Oklahoma and family. And I’d always loved Colorado,” she says.
While Susie served as editor of Brio at Focus on the Family,
she launched Brio & Beyond—a spin-off magazine for older teen girls
and developed mother/daughter cruises. She also continued
speaking and writing books.
Focus began a weekly live talk-radio show for teens called “Life
on the Edge,” that aired around the nation and asked Susie to be a
weekly co-host. “It was such a fun ministry,” she says. “Teens called
asking questions about anything and everything, and I simply had to
be ready to give a solid answer mixed with fun and depth. I constantly
referred to my Bible and saw immediately how teaching improv came
During her time at Focus, she became an ordained elder in the
Church of the Nazarene, taught an adult Sunday school class, and
served on the board at Colorado Springs First Church. Her pastor’s
wife, Cheryl Stevens, poured into Susie’s life and helped her
establish a beautiful accountability and friendship that continues to
In 2003, Susie spoke at Nazarene Youth Conference in
Houston. She gave a message on holiness and watched as
thousands of teens came forward for sanctification. Afterward, Dr.
Chuck Milhuff asked her to speak at the annual Evangelist’s
Gathering. While there, Chuck asked her why she wasn’t a registered
“I’ve always admired Chuck,” Susie says. “So I didn’t take his
question lightly. I guess the word evangelist simply hadn’t entered my
thinking. I knew I was in the center of God’s will, because I was doing
what He called me to do—communicate Him through speaking and
writing—but Chuck had certainly given me something to think and
God showed her that as an ordained minister speaking about
20 weekends a year, she was already an evangelist. “Because I was
regularly speaking in churches, I realized it only made sense to make
it official and become accountable to the Church as a whole by
becoming a registered evangelist,” she says.
“During my time at Focus, I put the money I received from
speaking into missions. I started annual two-week mission trips
through Brio magazine and helped scholarship students as well as
subsidize some of the expenses of the trip. I also used that money to
send myself to Third-world countries and hold retreats for MKs. When
I got a letter from a Brio girl in another country, I’d ask her if she
attended a Christian school for MKs. When she would respond that
she did, I asked her to put me in contact with the school chaplain or
principal. Then I’d volunteer to fly myself over and speak in chapel
services, hold a retreat or youth revival, and interview several
students and put them in the magazine. It helped give Brio a global
outreach, and I was honored to meet so many amazing missionaries
and their children.”
Just in Time
Within a few years, Susie became a tenured evangelist, and
just in time. At the beginning of 2009, Focus on the Family
experienced a financial drop due to the dip in the economy and had
to discontinue several things within the ministry. One of those things
was the teen publications. As a result, the youth staff was released.
“Three years prior to this,” Susie says, “I’d been praying about
being a fulltime evangelist. Chuck Milhuff had really planted a big
seed in my heart at the Evangelist’s Gathering, and I realized that
what I’d always loved more than anything was simply speaking about
Jesus. Sure, I enjoy writing—and seeing a new book birthed—but
what truly fulfills me is simply opening the Word and bringing
Scripture to life through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Now was the time.
She was an ordained elder.
She was now an evangelist under the authority of the General
And she was ready.
“After I was released from Focus, I heard God say, ‘Now’s the
season for fulltime speaking.’ But when I looked at my calendar I
realized I only had five speaking engagements scheduled for the
entire year! How in the world would I make it?”
Following God’s direction, she created a full-color brochure and
began mailing it to a variety of Nazarene churches around the nation.
“God blessed,” she says. “My calendar began to fill.”
Susie now speaks 43 weeks/weekends a year and is still writing
books. “I moved from Colorado Springs back to Bethany, Okla.,” she
says. “I knew I needed the emotional support of family, the prayers of
friends I’ve had for a lifetime, and I just wanted to be home. My mom
died several years ago, and my dad is now 94. I want to be home for
his last season. It’s so nice to be able to visit him in his assisted living
apartment, read the Bible to him, pray for him, kiss his precious
forehead. I cherish these times with him.”
In May of 2016, Susie received an honorary Doctorate of
Divinity degree from Southern Nazarene University. She still runs the
two-week annual missions trip to South America that she began 17
years ago, and loves being in her home church when she’s not on the
Susie lives with her two mini-Schnauzers Obie and Amos.
“Obie is short for Obadiah,” she says. “I jokingly refer to them as my
two Old Testament prophets.”
Is Revival Still Relevant?
In a day when many churches aren’t scheduling revival, Susie
still believes in the need. “The churches I see who are truly
experiencing revival are the churches who are regularly scheduling
revival,” Susie says.
“I realize our culture has changed; people are busier now than
ever before. But we need revival more now than ever.
“And when I see God minister through His Word and bring
people forward for a deeper, more intimate relationship with Him, I
know He’s still using revival as a method to reach people.
“I’m passionate about the message of holiness. I meet many
people in the church who don’t truly understand sanctification. I have
a burden to help lead others into radical obedience to the LORDSHIP of
Jesus Christ. How can that ever get old? How could that ever be
irrelevant? It’s essential! That makes revival necessary.
“Again—the churches who make time to have revival—are the
churches who are experiencing revival.”
One Final Thing
Sometimes Susie is asked why she refers to herself as a
speaker when she’s ordained and is preaching in a church almost
every Sunday during the year. “Because I speak in so many different
avenues, I simply title myself a speaker,” she says.
“I realize when I’m speaking at a revival, spiritual renewal
weekend, chapel services, etc., I’m actually preaching,” she says,
“but because I also mix teaching into my preaching—and because of
my speech degree—I simply resonate with the term speaker.
“When God called me to communicate for Him through
speaking and writing, I knew that if I communicated effectively,
preaching would happen naturally. There’s nothing more important
than being saturated and empowered by the Holy Spirit—He’s who
really does the job! But as a faithful servant, I need to place a high
priority on the elements of quality speaking: vocal variety, body
movement, facial expression, volume, pace, etc.
“I don’t simply want to present a message. I want to deliver with
excellence. As I depend TOTALLY on His power and submit to Him,
He uses the training provided me as a speech major. I never want to
put the qualities of dynamic speaking that I’ve heard from the great
people listed in this article on the back burner. I highly value what
God has taught me about delivery, intention, and dependence on His
Spirit to settle for anything less.
“If I speak effectively, preaching happens. My goal, therefore, is
to speak in a dynamic, enthusiastic, fast-paced manner that allows
me to dive deeply into Scripture and—through the Holy Spirit—lead
people into intimacy with Christ.”
To learn more about Susie Shellenberger’s ministry, the Bible
study series she has available for churches, and the books she has
written, check out her Website: SusieShellenberger.com and sign up
for her free weekly e-mail devotional.
Currently reading: The Calvary Road by Roy Hession; True
Discipleship by William MacDonald; There Is More by Randy Clark;
Angels Walking by Karen Kingsbury.
Favorite place traveled: Antarctica
Most loved athletic team: OKC Thunder pro basketball team
Books written: 57
TV shows regularly watched: “Shark Tank”; “Alaskan Bush People”
Favorite book: The Singer by Calvin Miller
Currently writing: An adult devotional book; a book for teen girls
Favorite color: Orange
• There was a yearning deep inside to be God’s verbal and written
• “His words etched themselves into my heart.”
• “I don’t simply want to present a message. I want to deliver with
• “The churches who make time to have revival—are the churches
who are experiencing revival.”