On a hot summer day in 1975, God answered my mom’s prayers, and my dad was saved from a life of alcohol addiction. At a service station, my parents picked up a church tract which resulted in our family attending Fairfax Baptist Temple. After hearing Pastor Bud Calvert preach the gospel, I received the Lord as my Saviour. Under his preaching, I surrendered my life to do whatever God would have me to do. Instead of pursuing a boyhood dream to become a pilot, I became a preacher! At this time in my life, my two biggest fears were snakes and public speaking. Snakes could easily be avoided, but not public speaking. Many preaching opportunities brought on symptoms similar to panic attacks. It was through these hundreds of experiences I discovered that God is greater than my weaknesses.
Following Bible college and an internship, my home church sent me to the Philadelphia area to begin Valley Forge Baptist Temple in 1984. My wife and I came to Philadephia not knowing a soul. After six months we organized with twenty-one people, while meeting in a public school. After five years, we had grown to an average attendance of ninety. Our first of four buildings was constructed in 1989. God blessed the growth of VFBT in an unusual way, doubling the attendance the first year in the new building. We currently average just over one thousand in double services.
Deep Waters for a Young Pastor
God showed Himself faithful to our family through our deepest trial. My first wife passed away of cancer in 1993. As a single father of two young boys, I found myself receiving much help from a very loving church family. Through the deep waters, God continued to bless the growth of the church. I learned three powerful lessons about God during this time: God’s way is perfect and He makes no mistakes. God loves us with an everlasting love. God is all-powerful to fulfill His love in our lives.
This is true of the Lord, no matter what the trial. Then the Lord brought “a princess from Canada” into my life to become my new bride—Jodie Friesen, a pastor’s daughter. We were married in 1996 in Ontario, Canada. God has blessed our family with a total of five children—Matthew, Jeremy, Megan, Scotty, and Amber.
Many Hooks in the Sea
The Lord Jesus called us to “fish for men,” not “guard the pond.” As the church family matures in their faith, they become witnesses wherever they are. To that end, we have many of the normal outreach ministries—bus ministry, VBS, camps, Reformers Unanimous, etc. But we also have some “unusual ministries”—Chosen 300 (a ministry to preach the gospel and feed the homeless), Community Outreach days, and even a Rugby Team. The Valley Forge Baptist Patriots are the first church rugby team in America registered with USA Rugby. The main purpose of having a Rugby team is outreach—to share the gospel.
The two foundational pillars of our church are: the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31) and the Great Commission (Mark 16:15). These verses are etched in granite in the first two cornerstones of our church building to be a constant reminder of the reason for our existence.
“A Church Crazy about Missions”
At our 2013 mission’s conference, one of our missionaries pointed out that “Valley Forge Baptist Temple is a church crazy about missions.” I learned from my pastor that the Great Commission is for every church. The Lord Jesus said that we are to be witnesses “BOTH in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The command is to reach BOTH our local community and the world—at the very same time! This can only be accomplished by partnering with missionaries who will go to the ends of the earth.
Through the years, the Lord has used specific passages to teach me key lessons regarding the ministry:
Philippians 4:19—Missions. If we take care of God’s business, He will take care of our business. God blesses a church that is committed to the Great Commission. We began supporting missionaries before we even chartered the church. God has honored His promise to meet the needs of a missionary supporting church.
Acts 4:31—Prayer. “And when they prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” Beginning a prayer partner program was one of the best decisions I ever made as a pastor. Men and women commit to praying with a prayer partner for one year. Upon inaugurating this ministry, God blessed us with three consecutive years of either someone being saved, baptized, or joining the church every Sunday. This is all to God’s glory! He seemed to be placing His stamp of approval on a ministry bathed in prayer.
Matthew 6:33—Holiness. God first! Early in ministry, I was challenged by the “Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.” As a 19-year-old man, Edwards wrote down nineteen resolutions to order his life. As a result, God used him to spark the Great Awakening, prepare the colonies to establish a government based on biblical principles, and change the world. With that inspiration, I wrote down thirty-one personal life goals and principles to live by. Here are the first five:
- Give glory to God by maintaining a daily walk with Christ (Matthew 6:33).
- Surrender my will to Christ and desire His likeness (Romans 8:29; 12:1–2).
- Love my wife as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:2).
- Raise my children to love God (Ephesians 6:1–2; 3 John 4).
- Serve the Lord with excellence in our church family (Colossians 3:23; 1 Timothy 1:12).
Ephesians 5:16–17—Balance. Effective and Spirit-filled ministry needs constant attention and care. More time with the family; more time in counseling; more time in soulwinning. Without balance in life, you will fall and fail. If you lose your wife and children, you lose your ministry. Satan is very effective at removing men from the ministry. Some “foul out,” some “rust out,” and others “burn out.” There is one thing they all have in common—they are out!
Nehemiah 6:3—Focus. “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it and come down to you?” No one ever built a statue to a critic! Today is the day to love and serve God! Nehemiah refused to come down off the walls and “discuss” the petty objections of his critics.
John 21:22—Accountability. It is a great day when you discover that you will give an account to the Lord for your life. Peter asked the Lord, “What’s going to happen to John?” I love Jesus’ answer—“If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me!” Daniel Webster said, “My greatest thought is my accountability to God.” I couldn’t agree more! Serving Jesus Christ in the ministry with my family is the greatest joy of my life!