I don’t frequently dwell on my personal testimony because I believe that it is the word of God that has the ability to edify and sanctify, not my own history. I record this, though, in the recognition that a life has a context, and for the purposes of evaluation and verification, my background needs to be investigated.
I was born in Nipawin, Saskatchewan and I was baptized in the Emmanuel Baptist Church of Nipawin at the age of ten. My family then moved to a farm in the Peace River country of Alberta and we attended a local Canadian Sunday School Mission church. That church experienced a split over the charismatic issue, and I was confronted with the thought that I had not yet experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was familiar with some of the issues previously, as my maternal grandfather had worked as a Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada pastor. The idea was put to me, that the reason I had no ability to understand the word of God, or any desire to pray, was that I needed the second blessing which, I was told, was certified by speaking in tongues. I attended several charismatic services and was repulsed by what I regarded as madness. Yet the assertion that I could not properly understand Scripture, had no real desire to pray, and no sense of assurance over whether I was saved, and did not seem to have the Holy Spirit, dogged me.
My Time of Conversion
The church had a very confrontational meeting between the two factions eventually, and there was a great deal of ill-tempered shouting and accusations. In the middle of it, someone quoted Romans 8:9, “…anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” For the next few minutes, I lost track of what was being said in the meeting (I understand an offer to a fist fight was issued) and I just read that passage, and came back to verse 9. It dawned on me that the reason I had all of the perceived deficiencies was because I was a stranger to the Holy Spirit. I was not saved. I had “prayed the prayer” many times at the end of Billy Graham crusades on television or radio, and had “gone forward”, put up my hand, raised my head to make eye contact, and thrown sticks into fires at Bible camp. In that time, either I had not understood, or I had not been told that the object of my faith needed to be the finished work of Christ, not some religiously sincere action. We had been told all about the crucifixion and resurrection, but then the response recommended was always to do some religious act that became the focus of my faith and assurance. I had never made the connection that I needed to trust what Jesus had done, rather than what I was doing.
Graciously, that vital truth finally clicked, and I dismissed myself from the fray of the evening. I sat alone in the church furnace room and prayed, and asked that Jesus would be my Saviour and Lord. I was in a church that taught confessional non-lordship salvation, but I what I had read led me to understand that the key issue was whether the offering of Jesus was a sufficient sacrifice for sin, and whether or not I wanted to have God’s will take precedence over my own. Later, I was re-baptized.
Early years as a Disciple
I farmed in the Peace River area for a few years working oil rigs in the winter. During that time, I developed the practice and love of door to door evangelism, worked at Bible camps and helped at young people’s clubs. At the age of 20, I began to wonder if the Lord wanted me in full time missions work. I was deeply moved by the description of tribes in New Guinea that had never heard the gospel, or had the scriptures in their language. As I was on my twelve hour shift off, living in rig camps, I began to prepare for service of some kind by studying systematic theologies and learning the Greek alphabet and basic grammar.
Marriage and a year of Bible school
Shortly after this I met a young lady as I worked at Bible camp, whose parents had been accepted as missionaries to Kenya, East Africa with A.I.M. She could recite more Bible verses than anyone I had met. And she was cute! And astonishingly, she seemed to be willing to marry me. This gift from the Lord remains perhaps the most beautiful, wonderful, ministry-enabling gift I have ever received, apart from my salvation. At the age of 22, I sold off my farm and equipment, married that girl, and headed to Prairie Bible Institute by Christmas (I had to get the last crop off). At the end of one year I was part way through my sophomore year. I was attracted to what was being taught by particularly one professor named Dr. Wheatley; a pre-millennial, cessationist, five point Calvinist, with a high view of Scripture, who was rather alone amongst the other professors. I also was greatly encouraged to hear a man named Dr. John MacArthur speak at the conference at Prairie, a year earlier. What those men said made sense to me amid the clamour of conflicting voices.
Rolla Bible Baptist Church
At Christmas of 1987, I received a phone call from my home church pastor. He said he needed help in the church for a bit. My original game plan was to help out there as an associate pastor for a few months, and return to school. As it turned out, I never made it back to school. I was an associate pastor of that church and did regularized preaching, teaching Sunday school, youth group, counselling and evangelistic work as I supported myself at a full time job.
Foothills Hospital and Calgary
I left the work in order to live close to Calgary’s Nuclear Medicine Center (the Baker Cancer Clinic) at the Foothills Hospital for treatments of a medical condition. While there, I worked as a heavy equipment operator, and helped out in a Baptist church in their Stockades boy’s program, as well as the youth group. I also did some evangelism and a little preaching.
Buick Gospel Mission; Buick, British Columbia
Within a year and a half, my health was better and we were a family of four. We headed to Buick, British Columbia where I served as the pastor of Buick Gospel Mission. They paid me $540.00 / month so I worked in the logging and oilfield industry and preached or taught two or three times on Sunday, conducted a mid-week Bible study/prayer meeting, and held other Bible studies every week. The sheer volume of work forcibly taught me to multi-task, redeem the time, and start in on one book and just teach my way through it verse by verse, phrase by phrase, using every preaching/teaching slot as a Bible book series. The various homiletic instructors I had in my life, would have described this as very inferior in method to a more spontaneous, reactive, sermon topic selection process. With a heavy heart, I adopted this method because I did not have the time “luxury” of spending hours searching my soul for what topic I “sensed that the Spirit might lead me” this week, for a given study group or preaching slot.
In retrospect, I am so thankful for God’s wonderful Providence in this necessity, because it very much forced me to be very Scripture focused, and to systematically study the entirety of the books of the New Testament before I could teach them. It also required me to produce a certain kind of sermon – one that preached an exegesis of the passage and then the application, rather than a topical treatment of current issues, with a sprinkling of Scripture as may be found to back up my topic thesis.
The work at Buick was culturally diverse, with two native reserves, two huge end-times cult farms, a major linguistically and culturally segregated community of old colony Mennonites, a sprinkling of folks with a political or military past they were hiding from in the seclusion of the north, and oilfield ranchers and tradesmen, all with whom I worked and logged. At Buick, therefore, there was a heavy load of counselling as well. Thankfully, I had received very little instruction from Prairie on a syncretic philosophy of Bible-plus-secular, humanistic psychology, the eclectic approach taught at many Bible schools. By God’s grace, I found a copy of Jay Adam’s book, Competent To Counsel, and that became the formation of my counselling presuppositions, and began to fill that instructional void.
The board of elders I served under in this congregational rule church, was all of one family. It became necessary to begin a process of church discipline on a serving elder, over an issue of a physical altercation with a member of a local aboriginal group. As the issue developed, my wife and I decided that I would step down as the viability of Biblical follow through and continued ministry, became unworkable in my judgment at the time.
Upper Pine Gospel Chapel, Rose Prairie, B.C.
I then accepted a call to ministry with Village Missions of Canada, in a church forty minutes away, that served roughly the same area and community profile. Here I was fully financially supported, and I had a vigorous schedule of formal ministry, as well as personal work. Personal work usually involved being out in the calving pens pulling calves, doing work as a farrier, driving log truck, welding, or helping fix machinery, as I taught house to house, or counselled about wayward children, husbands, or wives. I endeavoured to cover every house in a 18 mile radius, once a year. Once again, the sheer volume of work forced me to teach exegetically; verse by verse. I developed an increasing respect for men like Feinberg, MacArthur, Sproul and Adams.
Northern Oilfield and Goodlow Evangelical Free Church
I worked in the Buick/Rose Prairie area north of Fort St. John for about six years. I was a bit exhausted in the ministry, and I longed for more formal instruction. After conferral with the board of elders; the supervisors at Village Missions, and the securing of a man I felt was an excellent replacement at my post as pastor of Upper Pine Gospel Chapel, I resigned. I first took an agri-business job as a high clearance sprayer operator, then various oilfield construction jobs, with a view to earning the money to return to a Bible college. As I did various jobs, including heavy equipment operation, oilfield environmental soils reclamation, equipment supervision, and contract gas plant operation; I preached Sundays at an Evangelical Free church in Goodlow, British Columbia. They had recently lost their pastor, and a portion of their congregation, in a split. I also worked as a camp speaker at Camp Sagitawa Trail Rides, which was in the area.
Avonglen Gospel Mission
In 1999, Avonglen Gospel Mission, a church that my brother-in-law served as elder in, had lost their pastor and eventually asked me to consider filling the position, at least on a temporary basis. I served there for 8 years. I first concentrated on establishing a qualified, theologically equipped elder’s board in the environment of a congregational-rule church. I continued a practice of working through books of the Bible as a pulpit strategy, by now convinced that this was a better method of declaring the whole council of God.
I preached a morning and evening service, a midweek Bible study, a kid’s club (grades 1 to 6), and, occasionally Sunday school and youth group. During this time, a severe drought hit our area, followed by an agricultural disaster related to the discovery of B. S. E. in Alberta cattle, so I took a reduced salary and drove truck or helped the family oilfield service company to partially support my family.
In an effort to fill a need of the congregation, Kelly and I acted as assistants to another couple (Wayne and Tammy Younker) who wanted to establish a home school co-operative where the parents established a central location to teach a Christian curriculum and hire a tutor to assist with more advanced mathematics and science subjects, and pool resources for grammar and literature instruction. Kelly helped as a monitor often focusing on grammar, and I conducted school chapels.
I spoke every year at the local Bible camp for the teen-age group, but had a growing concern about the quality of counselling being conducted in the cabins, and the general approach to evangelism. I was especially concerned about what the directorship accepted as a salvation experience, and whether it was proper to have those who could not correctly articulate the gospel, or whose testimony was suspect or compromised, or, in cases, the unsaved, counselling in the cabins. A fellow pastor from Elk Point, Jason Goulet; my brother-in-law, Wayne Younker, and I, began running a wilderness discipleship training camp that was specific for teens.
In my time at Avonglen, I taught verse by verse through Genesis, select portions of Exodus and Numbers, Judges, the life of David and Solomon, Elisha and Elijah, Daniel and Zechariah in the Old Testament (and other passages used as illustrations in New Testament teaching etc.) When I resigned, I was in series on each of the four gospels, and Hebrews. I had done verse by verse exposition of the rest of the New Testament.
In 2007, my son became aware of the fact that he was not saved and was not at that time, interested in altering that issue. On the basis of Titus 1: 6, I quickly resigned. By God’s abundant grace and mercy, my son came to faith in Christ about three months later.
Reformed By Grace Baptist Church
Nine months subsequent to my resignation from Avonglen, in the early summer of 2008, two elders I had worked with at Avonglen, were in a doctrinal conflict with the rest of the board about an issue that came up under my ministry there, but did not come to the flower of extreme contention until after my resignation. The issue of Calvinism was the battleground, but what constituted salvation – confession of a deficient gospel or repentant faith and submission to Christ, was, in our view, the real issue. Wayne Younker and Tony Zlot resigned as elders at Avonglen at the pressure of the rest of the board, and the three of us began a church plant in the little building that was operating as a Christian school.
The church plant, Reformed By Grace Baptist Church was established with a doctrinal stance that was five point Calvinist, pre-millennial, complimentarian, and cessationist with a high view of Scripture in all areas, including counselling. Church governance was established as elder rule, with a multiplicity of elders sharing the shepherding tasks, and working with their hands to supply financial needs. The church began with these three elder families, the school teacher, Sarah Kinter, Jenn Brown, the Burton family and Emily Ford. The church today is composed of that which the Lord has added to it since that time. It is a wonderful, vibrant, zealous, loving group that I am both bound and privileged to serve.