Thank you for sharing your stories and this podcast. I believe that people are strengthened to to take steps of faith when they hear the stories of other peoples steps of faith. You are an encouragement to many people including myself.
As for my story, I would most definitely call it a step of faith. I was scared to death to take it. I was scared of the rejection, of the fallout, and scared I would never be in ministry again. But it was a step God was leading me in and I knew I had to follow God’s leading.
My story starts back in 1994. My family and I were invited to Yakima Bible Baptist Church by friends. We attended off and on. I was saved at the age of 13. The pastor of the church and youth pastor had a big influence in my own life. As I grew up physically and Spiritually in my teen years I never questioned the pastor, and I really did love my church. In our IFB circle in the Northwest, the pastor of the church I attended was a very prominent man. I wanted to be like him when I grew up. When I was 17, I sensed God’s leading me towards ministry and I guess you could say it was at this time that I “surrendered” to full time ministry. ( I don’t like the term surrender to God’s will) Since the pastor was also the vice president of Heartland Baptist Bible College, the only choice of college was HBBC. After graduating high school in 2002, off I went.
I met my beautiful wife Mandye while in bible college, and she had grown up in an IFB church her whole life. A dream I had was to be able to go back and work for my pastor as Youth Pastor and follow in his steps. After college, Mandye and I got married and I served as children’s pastor at her home church for a year before I got “the call.” ; ). My pastor asked if I would consider moving back to Yakima to be the youth pastor at my home church. My dream was coming true. So, we moved up to Yakima, Washington. It was a very hard move for Mandye moving 2000 miles away from her family but it was a move she also believed we were supposed to make. It was a great ministry and we really did love the youth that we got to reach out to and serve. But it was not always easy. I worked a full time job on top of being full time at the church. This put a large strain on my family at home. Mandye told me she felt like she was a single mom. My wife would often joke and say, “aren’t you glad you are living the dream.” But I was sacrificing for Jesus in ministry and that is what you are supposed to do right?!?! About 4 years in, I had some struggles with the way things were going at the church and began to question many of the legalistic separation’s that are in the IFB. The pastor also had some issues with my struggles and I saw the writing on the wall. He encouraged me to start taking the next step in looking for a church that needed a pastor. He also said he would start looking for a new youth guy and that we needed to make the church house that we were living in available for the next youth pastor. Probably a year later, a new youth guy was brought in as an intern. So when the new guy came, I found out that week that I would no longer be working with the youth. This was a really big blow to my wife and I to be able to be replaced so easily with very little warning. We did not get a chance to explain to the teens we would no longer be working with them. Although, I will say we developed a good relationship with the new couple and became good friends with them much to the Pastor’s dislike. They are recovering fundamentalist themselves. I had also taken over the bus ministry while I was the youth pastor and the pastor said I could still be the bus director. So I continued as bus director but my opportunities to preach were taken away. I had candidated at a church in Sutherlin OR. to be their pastor just before the new couple came to yakima to replace us. Everything went very well in Sutherlin. The pastor there was retiring and was planning to stay at the church as a member and it was very important that the new pastor was very solid on the KJV. At the time, I was very solid on this and had also taught why we stood on the KJV. So the church voted for me to come as their pastor. But I had a lot of questions in my heart about the issues I struggled with at Yakima Bible Baptist Church and I knew it would be the same struggle there. Even as I explained to the church in Sutherlin, my strong stand on the KJV, I began to question my own explanations. So my wife and I said no to going to Sutherlin Oregon after spending a few weeks in prayer. We stayed where we were at in Yakima. Soon after this, I led a 19 year old guy to the Lord named Francisco and was spending time with him in discipleship. Francisco was growing spiritually. During a Sunday evening service, I went forward with Francisco during the invitation, and he wanted to get baptized. So as was the custom, he was then presented in front of the church to be baptized and become a member of the church. The people all said yes. But then I met with the pastor later that week and he would not let him get baptized because the doctor had given Francisco a prescription for marijuana, for a condition he had. This was the tipping point for me where I stopped falling in line. I did not and could not see this in scripture, as the right practice, that a person needed to fix some external things in their life before they followed Jesus in Baptism. I thought Jesus was the one to fix all that. (not that the issue needed to be fixed) When I asked the pastor to show me the reasoning in scripture, he named scriptures off the top of his head but did not show me. We were supposed to meet again to talk about it but he never tried to, and I guess I never made a big effort to do so either. It was at this time that I decided to step down from staff at the church. We stayed at the church as members for awhile. Without naming me specifically, every message preached was about all the things I questioned the pastor on. The pastor told the church that I was going to focus on my family and business more. This was in February of 2013 I think. I started to go back and study everything I believed and had been taught. I wanted to know why and be able to explain to anyone why I believed what I did, including to myself, and it had to be based on scripture, not tradition. It was a difficult time for my wife and I, as we wrestled through this. Mandye was scared of some of the things I was questioning, because just as it had been engrained in me, it had all been engrained in her as well. She had been taught it was wrong to question these things or even have doubts about them. But the tipping point for her was when, she was talking with the pastors wife about my struggles about wanting to leave the IFB. She was told that she should stay at the church and not follow me. She knew this was wrong. That summer, we took a family road trip to southern California. We had a lot of time to talk about all the things we were wrestling with while driving. We got back home on a Saturday so we could make it to church on Sunday. But since people thought we were still on vacation, we visited another non IFB church for the first time that Sunday morning. Sunday evening, as I sat in the pew of our IFB church that I was saved in and sent out to Bible College from and served on staff at, I questioned myself,” why are we still here.” I told Mandye I was done with that church and could not go back again. Mandye went one more Wednesday night service there because she was supposed to serve in the nursery. But this was the last Sunday we attended Yakima Bible Baptist Church.
It was an extremely scary decision for me because I was turning my back on everything that had shaped my life for the last 15 years. I was afraid of the rejection and fallout that would come, and I believed that maybe God was done with me in ministry. The rejection and fallout did come. The pastor, from the pulpit, told people they should not associate with me and should pray for my family because I was leading them down a dangerous path. He also shared this at the monthly pastors meeting for Washington State. But I knew in my own heart, that God led me to this decision. Once I took that step of faith, it was one of the most liberating events in my life. Not because I could do whatever I wanted, but because I could strip away all the tradition and legalism that was built around my faith and just follow Jesus according to scripture. Too often we choose the box we want to put God in when He does not belong in a box at all.
I remember telling Mandye at this time, that I believed in a year or two, we were going to look back and see God’s hand all over our lives. And that is exactly true. After checking out a few churches that we agreed with and liked, we landed at West Side Church. It is a larger church and that is probably one of the reasons we chose it because we wanted to sink into the background and not be noticed. Looking back now, this time of rest was the best thing for our family. It took some adjustment to really get used to a different kind of ministry. Music was a lot different. There was not an alter call after every message. They didn’t try to fill every extra minute of your week with a service. After a few months of being there, we thought we would try out a small group. I began to really enjoy this ministry because it was a place we could study scripture and apply and question why, and challenge the why’s without being told to “check your heart.” It was also a place that we could find some real friendships. The following year, the leader of the group, who is also one of the pastors, asked me if I would consider leading our own small group. So he split the group and sent a couple families with us. We call these groups at our church life groups and it has become our primary mode of discipleship. I fell in love with this ministry.
About three years later, I still struggled with not being in ministry full time. My business was doing well and financially we were fine. Our family was in a great place spiritually and emotionally. I was finally not sacrificing my family on the alter of ministry. We had/ still have three beautiful daughters. Brookelyn, Julianna, and Macie. Brookelyn wanted to make sure I mentioned her in this story. But it was at this point, I became okay with not being a pastor. God had blessed us in so many ways. We could look back and see God’s hand at work in our lives. But it only got better.
In January of the 2017, the administration pastor at our church announced that he was retiring and when the job description was posted, it was like God had handcrafted this for me as an opportunity to get back into ministry. I had lost much of my confidence when it came to preaching and teaching but because of my experience in construction and running my own landscape and construction business, I had the confidence that God had equipped me to do this well. I applied and was hired by the church in June of 2017. I sold my half of the business to my business partner and have been serving full time at West Side for almost four years now. I would say, God has taught me confidence in Him in the last four years and expanded our ministry here at West Side. He has placed the desire in my heart to preach and teach and disciple others again. God has been so so good to me and even as I write this now, I am tearing up thinking about all the things God has done in the life of my family.
As I look back, it was not all rosy and I learned through a lot of mistakes. There was a time when I was angry with those that led me down the IFB path. But I am not angry anymore. I am actually grateful. There were a lot of good things that came from that part of our lives, and it was part of God’s plan. My experience has given me, I believe, a deeper understanding into the spiritual battles going on in the lives of people, and we have been able to help a few people that have gone through the same struggles. There is a lot more to each part of our story that I could share but that would be a much longer story. But in the big Picture, all I can say is God is a good God and he is still working in the lives of all his people.