This biography is submitted in honor of the late Reverend Peter Grossmann. As editor of the Reformed Herald in the early 90’s, Rev. Grossmannrequested that I provide a biography of my journey from the Assemblies of God denomination into the Reformed Church RCUS for publication. This overdue biography of my thirty-eight year journey is now provided in keeping with the Reformed Herald biography project.
In 1948, I was born in Los Angeles, CA, to a Roman Catholic family. My given name that was placed on my birth certificate is omitted from this writing. As the story goes, after my birth a nurse entered the hospital room and informed my parents that I should be called “Gary,” and without further comment she left the room. Since then, my first name has only been “Gary.” Being raised in California among five older brothers and sisters, our upbringing was not a stable one. My father was a migrant farming contractor, which required moving with the change of seasonal crops; but for the most part, I was raised in Santa Maria, CA. An education and spiritual guidance for my siblings and me was not of primary importance to my parents; however, the value of a strong work ethic was ingrained in us. At a young age, influenced by catechetical instructions in the Roman Catholic faith, I realized an awareness of a deep desire for a spiritual relationship with God, which I have pursued from my youth.
In 1966, at age seventeen, an employment opportunity opened for me with the Santa Maria School District. I accepted a classified position and continued fundamental academic training as time permitted. That year, a friend introduced me to Gloria, my wife, whose father was a minister of a small congregation in the Assemblies of God (AG) denomination in Nipomo, CA. During that time, my connection to the church was strictly social, and Gloria and I began dating. In 1967, while studying the Word and under the preaching of the gospel, I came to a saving knowledge of Christ and became a member of the church. Gloria became my young bride at the age of sixteen; and by 1969, we had two children, Gary and Melanie.
In 1969, I began personal witnessing of the glorious saving work of Christ, first to my family and then to my friends; thereafter, I went from door to door urging people to hear the gospel. Progressively, under the tutelage of my father-in-law, I served the church as a teacher, evangelist, deacon, youth director, and assistant pastor. With an emphasis on church evangelism, I organized instructional classes in training church members in personal evangelism. I was presented with an opportunity to work with Roman Catholics during the charismatic movement, which was a highlight of my evangelistic work. During this time, I organized a trained team to meet with groups of people in a home setting to present the gospel. Many accepted Christ and were converted to the protestant faith. As a result, many of those who were converted came to the Sunday church worship services; by word of mouth, others attended the group meetings and church worship services; and the church grew in membership. Upon the resignation of my father-in law in 1974, I received a call to pastor the church. I obtained my credentials with the AG and accepted the call. By 1976, I had increasingly become greatly conflicted with the AG theology and disillusioned with the Pentecostal evangelical doctrines that I had been taught and resigned my charge. I felt that I was walking away from God’s call to the ministry of the gospel. In retrospect, I believe that my fundamental ministerial training to use Charles H. Spurgeon’s sermons for my sermon preparations and Matthew Henry’s Bible Commentary for my systematics brought about a growing tension within me, thereby causing a conflict of faith and a questioning of my spiritual understanding of the Scriptures, rendering me unable, in good conscience, to continue preaching the AG doctrines and the health and wealth prosperity gospel.
In 1976, I purchased a dry cleaning plant and operated it until 1986. During those ten years, while praying and searching the Scriptures for the truth, God sent a man who assisted me in perfecting my understanding of the doctrines of Calvinism, by introducing me to the Five Points of Calvinism. In light of my knowledge, I felt compelled to teach these doctrines of grace that profoundly convicted my heart and soul. At the time, there were no Reformed or Calvinistic churches in the area. In the course of time, I became acquainted with a pastor of the Pentecostal Church of God (PCG) and discussed the doctrine of Calvinism with him. He became convinced of the doctrine and invited me to teach Calvinism to a selected group of members in the congregation. Under pressure from his denomination, the pastor soon recanted his belief in Calvinism, resigned his charge, and relocated. Consequently, four families, who had sat under the teaching, left the PCG and requested that I organize a Calvinistic church and that I be their pastor. Ignorant of Reformed Presbyterian government, the church was organized with a congregational form of government. I accepted the call, with the understanding that I would temporarily serve as pastor.
In 1986, I sold my business. By 1989, my understanding of Reformed thought had developed through countless hours of reading Reformed works. By now, our children were grown and pursuing their own lives, and Gloria and I together had a strong desire to pursue new goals in life. Having the opportunity to relocate, we were open and available to the leading providence of God. One Sunday, while listening to the radio in Santa Maria, I heard a broadcast from Shafter, CA. The Reverend Vernon Pollema’s message validated our understanding of the Reformed faith. A telephone call to Rev. Pollema confirmed our understanding, and I was informed that there were several Reformed Churches in the Bakersfield area. This information confirmed God’s call to us; and within a few months, the Lord opened up employment for me at the Kern County Environmental Health Department in Bakersfield, CA. By October 1989, we had settled in Bakersfield and had begun attending Grace Reformed Church, RCUS. Words cannot explain how joyful my heart was to hear the truth of God’s Word proclaimed each Lord’s Day and to be under the oversight of the Spiritual Council. Certainly, I grew in knowledge and faith under the preaching of our pastors and the teaching of our elders. I became confessionally Reformed in theology and ecclesiology. After becoming acquainted with us, and our becoming members, the Consistory called on me to teach personal evangelism to the congregation; and from these instructions resulted a manual for church evangelism, which is a Reformed approach to evangelism. Shortly thereafter, the Spiritual Council recognized my ministerial gifts and encouraged me to pursue ordination for the gospel ministry.
In 1994, at age 46, I came under care of the Western Classis and entered into informal training under the tutelage of the Reverend Lloyd Gross, the Reverend Frank Walker, the elders, and the instructions of other RCUS ministers. While there were voices of concern in our denomination regarding my not receiving Reformed seminary training, I rested on the counsel of our Classis to direct me. During this time, I completed my formal college requirement studies for seminary.
In April of 1997, during the interim of my preparations for ordination, the Classis sustained my licensure exam; and as an ordained elder, I was appointed pulpit supply for Grace Reformed Church in Lancaster, CA. Consequently, I received a proper call to pastor Grace RCUS, and on April 18, 1999, I was ordained with Rev. Walker giving the charge to the pastor-elect and Rev. Pollema giving the charge to the congregation. There at Grace, I served God’s people for 5 years.
On November 21, 2001, I accepted the call to pastor the congregation of Covenant Reformed Chapel, Chico, CA. The chapel had become an RCUS mission work under the oversight of Grace Reformed Church in Willows, CA, in 1986. Effective February 1, 2002, I assumed the charge; thereafter, it was a privilege to take on the administrative responsibility for the church’s organization. On April 13, 2003, Covenant Reformed Church was organized as an organic member of the Reformed Church in the United States, and I was unanimously elected and installed as pastor.
At this 2014 writing, I have pastored Covenant Reformed Church in Chico for 12 years. The congregation and I are committed to, and actively involved in, evangelism and have a passion to communicate the message of the Reformed Faith to the non-Reformed community and those who sit in darkness.