Testimony of Conversion
In many ways I experienced the blessing of what Paul described in 1 Corinthians 7:14, which to be holy by the means of my parents faith in Jesus Christ. That is not to say I am saved by way of their profession, but rather that I heard the gospel while even in the womb of my mother and the sounds of the saints singing hymns and songs of praise and I heard prayers offered up to the Lord, and so in that sense these precious means of grace were present and God mercifully used them to call me to Himself.
My father served, and still does, as a bi-vocational pastor of a Baptist Church in Northern Alberta. He also farms with his brother. So I learned the importance of hard work and also the importance of faithfully gathering with the saints week by week. As a child I took these things for granted, but as I grow older I realize how rare it is to grow up in a Christian home and hear of Christ and see covenant faithfulness in marriage and in the fellowship of the saints. I thank the Lord for these things. There was a time when I felt that I lacked a real testimony because of my Christian upbringing, but now I would say it is because of God’s kindness that I didn’t experience much of the pain and brokenness that is so common today.
Of course we had our share of struggles and deficiencies. The Canadian Southern Baptist Convention (now the Canadian National Baptist Convention), is connected to the Southern Baptist convention in the States, but really does’t have the Reformed Baptist influence in the same way that our Southern brothers and sisters have. As a result I didn’t get a lot of teaching on the history of Baptists and it wan’t until I was in my 20’s that I even heard of a confession like the 1689 London Baptist Confession. And so I struggled with many of the issues that come with a low view of God and a high view of man.
Around the age of four I made a public profession of faith and was shortly baptized. I actually don’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of God’s existence and the truth that Christ came into the world to die for sinners and that we each personally needed to repent of our sin and trust in what Christ has done for us in His death and resurrection. As I said these truths were part of the air I breathed. But my overall understanding of the gospel and of God’s work in history was generally man centered.
I went through a season of doubt as a young man and really struggled to have a true sense of assurance. I remember being encouraged to pray the sinners pray for the hundredth time when talking to a so called youth leader about it, but found no comfort in that and had heard it so many times that I became numb to the method. Thankfully my Dad encouraged me to see God’s work throughout my life and the fact that I desired deeper assurance was indication His Spirit was at work in me. But I still lacked the theological groundings to make sense of it all. I heard of the “security of the believer” but never really understood why we were secure.
I grew more confused on various issues as I looked to popular teachers like John Eldridge, and really knew the plot of many Veggie Tale episodes better then I knew the Scripture, and was also unsure of how it is that God even speaks to us, having gone through “Experiencing God” many times I found little help. I tried to read the Bible, but it seemed that the more spiritual people I knew would get direct words from God and personal messages apart from the Scripture and I thought I should be getting those too if I am truly His child.
Well, I continued to struggle and was unsure of what I wanted to do with my life and so I decided to sign up for Bible School in my final year of High School. Peace River Bible Institute was only an hour from home and they emphasized learning and knowing the Scripture so I thought it would be a good place for me to spend some time.
Call to Ministry
As I started my first year of Bible School I was like many other young folks there. Not really sure what I was doing, I had more questions then answers and in many ways had one foot in the thinking and priorities of this world and one foot in the things of God and His Word. I wasted time on video games, watching movies and was in many ways more interested in sports than true Bible study. I ended up failing a class, my girl friend broke up with me, and I still remained unsure of my place in this world.
Looking back now I realize that God in his goodness was chastising me and bringing me to see many of the dry and cracked cisterns that I had dug. They promised joy and life, but in the end produced nothing but stagnant mud. I began to pray that God would help me, that he would transform my life and my desires.
I returned to Bible school for a second year with a new hunger for God, a desire to use my time wisely and truly apply myself to the study of His Word. A roommate of mine gave me some sermons by John Piper who I had never heard of, and I began to devour his teaching through books of the Bible. I had a renewed appetite for the Scripture and began to serve more consistently in a local church in Grande Prairie called Ivy Lake Baptist (Now Coram Deo Baptist). I served in the church with anything from cleaning bathrooms to playing guitar or helping with a class, and the more I served the more my heart began to care for the church and the people of God.
I graduated with a two year degree and took a job for local carpenter that summer. Over the summer I realized more and more than I wanted to see healthy and strong churches, I wanted to help people understand who God is and preach the truth of the Scriptures. Several people and leaders in the churches around me began to also affirm that they saw God building gifts of leadership and teaching in my life. And so I signed up for two more years at PRBI, planning to finish with a Bachelor of Religious Education with a Pastoral Major.
So my call into the ministry really came as I began to immerse myself in His Word and prayer and as I sought opportunity to serve in the church. God began to mould and shape my desires and gave me a desire to shepherd and teach. I firmly believe that God equips and calls his undershepherds in the context of the local church.
In my fourth year of Bible school I met the young woman who would become my wife. Her dad actually came from Mississippi to pastor Ivy Lake Baptist where I had continued to serve and help. It was as though God answered my many prayers for the right wife by literally bringing her to me! Christine Waits and I were married in the fall of 2007, the year I graduated, and I took a job as a Carpenter again to provide for my new bride. I signed up for the Carpentry apprenticeship as I thought I might as well use my hours towards a ticket.
It was Ivy Lake where I was licensed for the gospel ministry under the leadership of my Father in Law and several other leaders that knew me with the CNBC including my own Dad. Though I didn’t know when I would officially enter into pastoral work, I knew that God had put that desire in me and that my life would be focused upon the care of His sheep.
While I continued to learn and grow, I often felt like I was missing something in regards to God and the gospel. While I loved the gospel and evangelism in so far as I understood it, it seemed like something was missing in my understanding of God. My theology was still largely man-centered, and my view of conversion depended more upon the will of man than God.
We continued to serve at Ivy Lake while I finished my carpentry ticket, and then shortly after received an opportunity to serve as pastor in a church in Vanderhoof British Columbia. And after we had been affirmed to go, I was at a meeting with other pastors from British Columbia and a dear brother handed me some sermons by a man I had never heard of named Paul Washer. The sermon was titled “10 Incitements Against the Modern Church” and as I drove the 8 hour drive from Vanderhoof to Grande Prairie and listened to this sermon my heart began to melt. For the first time, I began to truly understand that at the center of the Gospel and the Church and the Scripture is a Sovereign God who alone can change the heart of man. A God who has given us a sufficient and perfect Word which we are to use as the means He uses to accomplish this miraculous work of salvation and sanctification. I repented of my man-centered view of the Gospel and the Scriptures and it was as though I began to read the Bible through a new set of eyes.
As I returned home and talked with my wife, she also began to see some of the same things and we must have listened to that sermon 20 times. And I realize now that in my zeal during that time I was also obnoxious at times in trying to explain what had happened, and I had to apologize for that. Since then, I have heard others describe this season as “the cage stage,” which was certainly part of what I experienced. And yet, my view of God and His Word was forever expanded and changed, and in many ways, it set a course for the rest of my life in regards to ministry and my view of God and His Word. People said I am one of those Calvinists, and I didn’t even fully know what that meant. But I thank God that He brought me to these things as I entered into pastoral ministry, for the Sovereignty of God in all things has been a bedrock for my feet, and the truth that His Word does not return to Him void is a precious truth for every minister of the Gospel.
Now, 13 years later, I am so grateful to serve as Pastor of Redeeming Grace Bible Church in Fairview, AB. Ministry has had its shares of struggles and joys, but as I consider that I am part of a church plant of Coram Deo and now also connected to Heart Cry, I marvel at the ways of God and testify that He is faithful and wise. My wife Christine and I have five boys now, and I thank God for my wife and friend. It is such a joy to now be in full-time pastoral ministry, through the support of our church and Heart Cry. May God use me to help spread a passion for His supremacy and glory in all things, through Christ our Lord.
As John joyfully said, so I continue to say by the grace of God. “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:27-30.