Church Planter - Zurich, Switzerland
After leading a wreckless hippy life as a young, Martin was shown mercy by the Lord and was brought to the saving knowledge of the truth in Christ Jesus. Having a sense of a call to ministry, he studied at the European Bible Training Center (EBTS) in Berlin and graduated in 2001. He spent many years serving in the local church alongside a pastor in Germany, and on early 2015, Martin was sent out by his home church to begin a church plant in Zurich, Switzerland.
Testimony of Conversion
I was born and raised in a non-Christian home in Switzerland. Attending a preparatory high school helped me to get a good education, but it also raised a lot of questions. The world seemed to be a pretty unfair place and life seemed to play its tricks on people – at least that’s how I perceived it. Already as a young man, there were many things troubling my heart deep inside.
While having all the opportunities at hand to lead a “successful” life (health, good education, active in sports, etc.), I was well aware that I could loose all of that in an instant. Things, and life in particular, seemed to be so insecure, like sand in my hands, and the thought of dying and being eaten by worms was unbearable and unacceptable to me. If that is all there is to life, then life is nothing more than a bad joke, and a very sarcastic and cynical one at that.
I must have been about fifteen or sixteen years of age when I grew more and more aware of the fact that there had to be more to life. I didn’t have a clue what it was, but I was certain that I was going to find out – I had to!
During my quest to find the meaning of life, I tried to make the world a better place, sought fulfillment in relationships, and tried all different kinds of drugs. I ended up as a love, peace, and happiness hippy. At that time, I thought drugs would help me escape the madness and emptiness of life.
Then at the age of eighteen, God decided to save me – that was just after I had gotten back from spending a year as an exchange student in the U.S. I happened to run into an old buddy of mine and wanted to go do drugs with him. He said he didn’t do that anymore, which was really a surprise to me. At first he didn’t want to tell me what this whole thing was all about, but after a while he “confessed” that he had become a Christian. I laughed. But I wanted to know more, so I questioned him about what he meant by that. At first I thought I would just make fun of him; ‘I mean come on, who wants to be a Christian?’ was my attitude.
As he explained to me what had happened in his life, I found out that I didn’t have a clue what Christianity was all about until that day. This friend of mine was the first person that ever told me what the gospel was all about. Sin, Jesus’ vicarious death for sinners like me, repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation with God – that’s what the Bible is all about. What a discovery that was to me.
While listening to him, I got the impression that he had found what I had been looking for all this time. So, after “interrogating” my friend for seven hours, I was convinced that I was a lost sinner in dire need of a savior. Just to make sure, I asked him one more time if I could come to the Lord Jesus Christ just as I was without having to improve my life in order to be worthy to be saved. He said: “No, you cannot earn salvation. Come as you are, confess your sins, accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and you will be saved.” So I did, and by the grace of God I was born again that night and got saved by our gracious Lord Jesus Christ.
My friends at school couldn’t relate to what had happened to me. One day I was a long-haired hippy, the next day I came and todl everybody about Jesus and the Bible. They thought I had gone nuts. Yes, my life changed drastically. I was very eager to learn about the Bible and to get to know Jesus Christ better and better. I turned out to be one of those born-again Christians that churches like to present, because of the radical and obvious changes that took place in my life.
Everything went really fast and some vital things got neglected along the way. I was very enthusiastic, but lacking a firm foundation in the faith as well as sound biblical doctrine. Unfortunately, the church I attended at that time taught that one could loose his salvation. After about a year and a half some serious doubts crept into my mind and I had to fight hideous temptations. I thought: “Maybe you are taking this whole thing a little bit too serious. I mean, you’re only twenty years old, and there is a lot to life.” While wrestling with those kinds of thoughts, I ran into an old friend, who invited me to go and do drugs, which I did. After that, my whole Christian world crumbled. I was convinced that I had forfeited my salvation. In my eyes I was like the dog that returned to its vomit. So I didn’t go to church anymore and avoided all my Christian friends; I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and act holy after being convinced that I lost my salvation.
In the years that followed I never doubted that the Bible was true. I knew it was true and I was absolutely sure that I would get one of the lowest spots in hell, figuratively speaking, since I was one of the fools that knew the truth, but blew it. Needless to mention, the life I lived from that day on was not much to the glory of God. I did not consider myself a Christian anymore at that time. Since I was convinced that I would go to hell, I thought I might as well live it up. Without going into too much detail, my life was characterized by extreme worldliness. What’s really interesting though is the fact, that there was not a single day during that period, when I was not reminded of the fact, that I was the stupidest person on this planet because I knew the truth and lived a totally rotten and wasteful life. I assume it must have been the Holy Spirit reminding me and drawing me back into the arms of the Father, slowly but surely.
It was the grace of God that brought me back to my senses and refreshed my faith in the loving and forgiving Father. I can’t explain what it was that enabled me to believe in the forgiveness of God again after being astray for about five years, but I guess there is always a mysterious and inexplicable dimension to God’s salvation. Since my turnaround at the age of twenty-five God has established me on a firm foundation, his Word. and his grace has enabled me to experience ongoing growth – spiritually, personally, and doctrinally – and He has helped me lead a godly life.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36
Call to the Ministry
As you have seen in my testimony, I experienced a big crisis in my faith at the age of twenty. A few months prior to that sad and tragic moment of my life, I spent a few weeks in the U.S. checking out Wheaton College, Moody, and Deerfield Trinity School because I wanted to study and be a youth pastor.
You must know that I am a rather simple man; if I think something is a good thing, then I pursue it with all my heart. If the object of pursuit is a truly worthy one, then that’s good; if it is a bad one, then everything goes south. By the way, I did get accepted at Deerfield and they even offered me a full-ride scholarship if I would have played American Football for them. But that is another story.
The fact is, I was off the map for five years until God brought me back on track by His grace. Then I got married at the age of 29 and God blessed us with children. I pursued a regular job, but still dreamed of full-time ministry; rather, I had a strong desire towards it. Having been married for a few years, someone gave me three books, which made me rethink my whole Christian life and duty. One of them was “The Gospel According to Jesus.” That was the first time I came into contact with John MacArthur, and it was also the first time that I came across someone who explained the Bible in a way that made absolute sense and challenged me to the core.
So I started to read more of John Macarthur’s books, listened to his sermons, and contemplated going to The Master’s Seminary (TMS). I just had no clue how that would work with a family of several kids. Then I found out about the European Bible Training Center (EBTC) opening up in Berlin and saw that they were connected to TMS and John MacArthur. I assumed their theology would be okay and not liberal like many other schools in Europe. I didn’t have to think twice. I got on a plane and attended their first Pastors’ Conference. There I got to know Christian Andresen who encouraged me to start studying at EBTC, which I did. I was part of the first class in 2001.
Each time I traveled to Berlin to study I stayed at Christian’s. Over dinner we talked about many things and I found that we were wired quite alike. I also found out that Christian had many plans and visions, but I thought to myself, “No way can he do all of that by himself.” So one night we were driving down the road and I told Christian: “Listen, Christian, I want you to know something. Just listen. I don’t expect an answer right now, and I wont be offended if the answer will be ‘no’, but I just want to let you know that… if you ever think you need help, and if you think that I could be of help to you, let’s talk.”
Well, Christian called me about two weeks later and wanted to talk. At that time I had no clue as to where this whole thing was going to go. To make a long story short, the following month my wife and I spent a week in Berlin to check things out and to get to know Christian and Sheryl better. Another few months later I gave notice at my job, we packed our things, left Switzerland, and moved to Berlin. My job or ministry description was rather simple, just like me – it was “Help Pastor Christian”.
We left Switzerland and went to Berlin because we wanted to be trained, spending time with and learning from people who have shown themselves approved, so that in return we could minister to people again and be multipliers just like our examples. That was in 2002.
Honestly, at first I could not believe that God would grant me a second chance to enter into full-time ministry; but God is good and faithful, and his timing is way better than ours. By his faithfulness and grace he brought us a long way; and it was a good way, way better then I could have ever imagined or planned.
I resonate with Paul when he raises the question:
“And who is adequate for these things?... Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 2:16; 3:4-6