I’m a businessman, elder in one of the more conservative mega churches in Grand Rapids, Michigan and for over 25 years a full time spiritual mentor of men. I love introducing people to Jesus and truth from God’s perspective. I’m also an NPR listener and student of our culture because I want to understand how the world and a younger generation think, so I’m prepared to engage in conversations which are true to the Bible, intellectually honest and gracious.
Following Jesus is the only hope I have of living this life with purpose, energy and expectation. I hope to end my days on earth still meeting young men at Starbucks who have no interest in God, being the patriarch of my family, cheering them on to godliness, making sad people smile and the lonely – laugh, giving the poor hope, pointing wayward men back to their families, teaching the whole counsel of God and keeping myself unstained – God’s reputation and mine intact.
If you want more, here are the top ten things you may find helpful.
1. Most days I’m flat out in love with Jesus – but not every day. It’s a mystery to me exactly why that happens, but it shouldn’t be. I see-saw between what God wants and what I want and I’ve been on that playground forever. I know that “if any man’s in Christ, he’s a new creation the old has gone and the new has come.” The new has come for sure, but the old man still wants me to come out and play.
2. I have a family most people can only dream of. My wife, Susan, was my high school sweetheart and we’ve been married for 48 years. We have six children, eighteen grandchildren and all of them, with the exception of one daughter and her husband, live right here in Grand Rapids. We see each other all the time. More importantly, we really love and enjoy each other and they too love God. (More about my family on my Facebook page. I’d love to show you our grandchildren.)
3. We’re not the Cleaver’s. Like any family, we have issues. (I don’t, but they do.) On the road to spiritual maturity, a couple of them spent a few years “working on their testimony”. Apparently they wanted to have a good one. The rest of us didn’t always react all that well either. But there’s almost no real preparation for these things except to pray, immerse yourself in Scripture, and trust them and ourselves to God.
4. I’m still a little stunned I could have grown up in such a wonderful Christian home, attended Christian schools, Calvin College, gone to church twice on Sundays, believed every word of the Bible to be true, and still have been spiritually lost. The real goals of my life back then were making lots of money and having a great family. I managed both, but not always well.
5 Then at age 31, an encounter with cancer triggered a crisis’ of faith. God used this to bring me to my senses and to himself. I fell in love with Jesus and out of love with my “mistress” – my business. At that time, I owned a company that manufactured metal products for office chairs – the mechanisms underneath that make office chairs tilt. Our family had grown the business from almost nothing fifteen years before to being the industry leader. But I loved my business too much. God knew it and I knew it and he was calling me to something more. So in 1984, at age 35, I sold my company to dedicate the balance of my life serving the Kingdom. I really didn’t know what that meant, but I knew God wanted all of me, so I went all in.
6. In the mid 80’s I had the privilege of serving as the President of the John Guest Evangelistic Team. For five years, we conducted large evangelistic meetings in major U.S. cities and in Romania, Russia, Ukraine, and Uganda. A few years later, Susan and I were introduced to the horrific needs of orphans and lack of basic medical care in Albania, which turned into several years of organizing efforts to rehab hospitals and orphanages in that country.
Just as that work was winding down, I became aware of the spiritual needs of the world’s 50 – 100 million Deaf and try as I might, I couldn’t say “no”. Serving with an amazing leadership team for almost fifteen years, I’ve been the Chairman of DOOR International (Deaf Opportunity Out Reach), a church planting and Bible translation ministry in partnership with Wycliffe, bringing the Bible in Sign Language to the Deaf of the world.
7. Through all of this my first love has always been evangelism and the spiritual mentoring of men. (That’s what I call discipleship.) I’m energized by working with high school and college students and educated skeptics. I’m intellectually curious myself, so I can identify with their doubts and questions as they sort out what they’re going to do “about religion”. The good news is, very few have actually rejected Jesus. He still has a better reputation in the marketplace than many of his followers.
I meet regularly with all kinds of men from bi-polar, semi-homeless men to corporate and college Presidents. I meet with broken men, proud men, men in the middle of terrible sin or the victim of other people’s bad choices. I’m a volunteer and I’ve found when you work for free, you get plenty of work.
8. I’m also absolutely committed to the local church in general, and my church, Calvary Church of Grand Rapids Michigan, in particular. I’ve been the church planting coach or consultant for three local churches. For over ten years I’ve been engaged in developing young leaders at Calvary in what we call the Leadership Development Forum, a two year program exposing men and women to godly people and biblical teachings, inspiring them to active leadership in our church and the kingdom.
9. I enjoy writing and speaking and I’ve taught extensively for many years on a wide variety of subjects, from leadership to theology for layman. I’ve developed a framework for a biblical worldview titled Meta Concepts. I’ve also created a seminar called, Discovering Your Life’s Purpose that encourages believers to live more purposeful lives and develop lifelong accountability partners and relationships. I have five accountability partners who I’ve met with every Monday morning for almost 18 years. They’re the guys who watch my life and my back and speak truth to me when I need it.
10. My latest project is my book The 10 Second Rule. It is published by Simon and Schuster (Howard Books) and available on this site on our Store page, or in bookstores everywhere in hardcover, softcover and as an e-book.
I’m still amazed at what I don’t know about life, Jesus, and the ways of God. I hope to be his student and follower until I see him face-to-face. In the meantime, my passion is to live my life fully devoted to loving and serving the people and work God has given me. My life’s mission is to make God look good. I pray every day that by his grace, I do.
“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
"Around the world, within most churches resides a godly-wise person. I believe that because of what the Apostle Paul implies in I Corinthians 6:5. He assumes there is a godly individual in Corinth, capable of giving counsel to others. Clare De Graaf is that kind of person in Grand Rapids, Michigan. People turn to him when concerns arise that call for Christ-centered insight.
Over the years, he is one of those "go to" guys. A man's man who loves God. In fact, when I read James 3:13, Clare qualifies. "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom" (NIV). Clare is that kind of person to me and many others."
Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect
The Vision and the Vow, Peter Greig
The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard
The Epic, John Eldredge
The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren