“Take care of my grandson, he’s going to be a preacher some day!” That startling statement was made by my grandmother over thirty years ago, when I introduced to her my bride to be. Insofar as I can recall, the thought of being a minister had never crossed my mind up to that point. Little did we know what the Lord had in store.
I was born on January 25, 1957 in Portland, Oregon. Mine was a pristine childhood in many ways, growing up in the small town of St. Helens, Oregon, nestled just downriver from Portland on the mighty Columbia (with a view of Mt. St. Helens about 100 miles north in Washington; and yes, I saw it blow in 1980, and have climbed it since). Along with my three sisters, I was raised in a Christian home, instructed in the Scriptures by my parents and by a conservative Bible-preaching Baptist church, and by the grace of God have been a believer from a young age—a heritage for which I’m very grateful.
Having graduated from high school in 1975, I attended Portland Community College for two years before heading to Oregon State University and the School of Forestry. I loved the lab classes in the forest, but not the onset of environmentalism and its surrogate, the spotted owl. Not that I had anything against owls, but I did not agree with the scarcity of jobs which resulted in the forestry profession. I then decided to switch my major to business and finally graduated in 1980, embarking on a career in accounting. Go figure! I became a CPA (certified public accountant) and over the years worked in every sector—public accounting firms, governmental accounting, and private industry as a corporate controller.
Though a confessing Christian, it was in college that I strayed from the Lord and the Church, getting involved in a relationship with an unbeliever for over three years. This would have proven spiritually fatal were not for the Lord’s covenant love and loyalty, whereby He granted repentance and deliverance from my sinful folly. In time, he blessed me with Wendy, whom I met at a Baptist church in Portland, and married on September 16, 1983. While I was a recovered backslider, she was a new believer—and we were both on fire for the Lord, very active in the life of the church. After a few years we moved to my hometown and became members of my home church Grace Baptist, where in time I become an officer and taught adult Sunday School. Though my grandmother had since gone on to be with the Lord, I suppose that it was around that time when her foresight began to slowly materialize.
The Lord planted within me a seed for ministry that continued to grow. Not only did I personally desire to grow in the truth of God’s Word, coupled with this was a longing for the people of God to know and grow as well. But God had yet to deal with me in matters of biblical doctrine. I enrolled part-time in an evangelical seminary in Portland, where I took a course in biblical Greek, along with an audio correspondence course on the theology of Jonathan Edwards taught by John Gerstner. In this I was introduced to biblically Reformed doctrine, which set off a quake in my mind of such magnitude that would shatter my doctrinal fault lines and shift my theological paradigms.
Though I did not continue in that seminary, it was from there that the Lord sent me and my wife and family (blessed with four children) on a quest toward what we eventually discovered to be the rich biblical and confessional heritage of “the Reformed Faith.” Putting any ministry aspirations on hold, and after two years of floundering in various churches trying to figure out what we really believed, it dawned on me that we needed to be in a Reformed church. In the Pacific Northwest, Reformed churches are few and far between, and there were none in the area we lived. Through connections with some friends, we ended up relocating to the Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington to be part of an Orthodox Christian Reformed Church. God blessed me with a good job as a corporate controller, gave us a wonderful home, but especially a great church! There we grew in our understanding of God’s word, working through matters of doctrine that needed to be clarified (e.g. extent of the atonement, baptism, covenant theology). After three years, thoughts of the ministry resurfaced, for what lay dormant would not die.
But by this time I was nearly forty years old. Over the years my pastor and consistory and others had confirmed ministry gifts they observed in me, but I continued to wrestle with the practical implications of going to seminary at that time in my life. I pursued other options where perhaps I could use my accounting skills to serve in some ministry-related capacity (it even appeared that I might be the next accounting manager of the Banner of Truth Trust in Edinburgh, Scotland, but that’s another story). God used all of this to further define my heart toward the pastoral ministry. It all became clear when my wife and I went away to a Bed & Breakfast for our anniversary. As we were talking for the hundredth time or so about the possibility of going to seminary, she looked at me and said, “Jon, you’re 40 years old. It’s now or never!”
That was it. My grandmother was right, as was my wife, and the rest is history. Once the decision was made, the details became incidentals. It was not easy, but there were no doubts, and we never looked back. Through remarkable providence the Lord opened door after door, each a story of its own, which led to and through Mid-America Reformed Seminary, and beyond into the ministry of the Reformed Church in the United States. As an “old guy” at the age of 43, I graduated in Y2K (the year 2000), and was called to my first pastorate in Rock Springs, Wyoming. There I served for six years, so grateful to have lived and ministered among the saints at Providence Reformed Church. I am now presently in my ninth year of ministry at Grace Reformed Church in Greeley, Colorado, sincerely thankful as well for these brothers and sisters in Christ and the fellowship we enjoy together in the gospel ministry of our Lord and Savior. “Who am I, O LORD God? And what is my house, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18)
Perhaps “my story” will be used of the Lord to encourage other men (younger or older) who might be wondering about His will for them in relation to the gospel ministry. Brother, is God calling you to be a preacher some day? The Lord will make it clear in His time. So seek to be faithful in the place He has you right now. And as He leads, step out and press on by faith, trusting Him to provide every step of the way, for He most certainly will. Soli Deo Gloria!