How I was converted and called to the ministry
In the winter of 1964-65 a young woman traveled home on her motorbike, when she approached an icy lane. Having recently discovered she was pregnant with her 4th child, an unusual fear came upon her as to the safety of the child should she slip and fall. She turned to God in prayer vowing that should she be seen safely home, when the child was born she would give him up to God for His service. And so I was born at home in August 1965, in a little village in Oxfordshire called Eynsham.
Soon after we moved to Oxford, we were called upon by some Mormon missionaries and were persuaded to attend their place of worship for the next ten years. I was zealous for the faith and was ‘baptised’ at the age of 11 at 6 am on a cold January morning in the River Wolvecote, believing superstitiously that the act would somehow wash my sins away. A year later our family was excommunicated for questioning unfulfilled prophecy.
As a teenager I became interested in Science and began to develop an atheistic approach to life. Wanting to know how life began I studied Biochemistry at Swansea. Here I lived a carefree lifestyle, giving myself entirely to worldliness and all manner of sin. I was like the prodigal son wasting my life in vanity. At this time a close friend at home died of cancer and I began to question whether there was an afterlife. At the same time, my study of evolutionary theory was being shaken by the complex world of the cell and how all its wonderful machinery supposedly came about by chance. I was lost and I knew it, but where to turn? I turned to drink and drugs, trying to drown out the big questions of life and death. My studies dramatically suffered and I was almost kicked out of University.
I retook my first year exams and decided to stay in Hall of Residence with a new start. The Christian Union met a few doors down, but on the very first night I met up with friends down at the pub and began a similar life, even though it left me empty and miserable. It was then a fellow student, a bold Yorkshireman, invited me to a Bible study. The last thing I wanted to get involved with was the Bible. I made excuses, but was invited again and then again. About the same time I was given a Christian tract which spoke about being clean on the inside. I thought how wonderful that must feel. If I am invited again, I decided I would go to the Bible study held by the CU, but hoped the usual persistent knock at the door would not come. Unknown to me, this Yorkshireman had been praying for my soul and there was the knock at the door. Heavy-hearted I resigned to attend.
I didn’t understand most of what they were speaking about, but these people were quite different from anyone I had met. They had an inner peace that I lacked and they were confident about having Jesus Christ as their Saviour. I thought I would attend their main meeting and that is where I first heard preaching from the Bible. A number of questions arose and I began to seek answers. There were many differences from what I had been taught as a Mormon, particularly on how anyone could be saved. I had thought that a good life and good works would gain me acceptance with God, but these Christians spoke of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ. I was confused and didn’t know who to believe. So I decided to pray about it, probably the first real prayer I had ever made! “Lord, show me the truth”.
That same week I was in the city of Swansea on my bike and as I waited at a traffic light, I saw a Christian bookshop. I checked my pockets... just 9 pence. I’ll just browse for a few minutes. Very soon I came across a booklet by Leith Samuel entitled “The Truth about Mormonism”. It answered many of my questions and as I looked at the back, to my surprise the price was 9 pence!
Back in my room, I looked up the Bible references in the Gideons Bible put in my room. I came to Ephesians 2 v8: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” My heart pounded, not only were these Christian right, but I am not saved! I saw myself for the first time as a sinner and felt guilty before an all seeing God. I feared that should I die, I would go to hell because of my sin. I became all the more earnest in seeking how I could be saved.
On the evening of the 10th December 1985, the Christian Union were putting on a carol service. The preacher that night spoke in a way I had never heard before. The Son of God was born not in a palace or modern hospital, but in a dirty stinking stable. He went on to say how He went to the cross at Calvary to pay the price of sin. I had never understood the cross before and hadn’t thought it was for my sin He had died! I returned to my room and knelt beside my bed where I poured out my heart to God in prayer... “Lord Jesus save me from my sin, be my Saviour and make me a Christian.” I somehow remembered the words of a hymn: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling; naked come to Thee for dress, helpless look to Thee for grace; foul I to the fountain fly, wash me Saviour or I die.”
I continued in prayer until a weight fell from my shoulders and peace flooded into my heart. I knew God had heard me and I was born again! I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew that I believed the Lord had saved me by His grace. I couldn’t get over why God should save a sinner like me, but He had. Now I wanted to know His Word. I needed to find a church that preached the Bible.
Some of the students were going to Townhill Baptist Church. Here I came under faithful exposition of God’s Word. I trembled under what I believe to be Spirit-filled preaching. The Lord’s Day had become a foretaste of heaven. The church took students to their homes for lunch and in the evening the Pastor would have us to his house and lead discussions and answer questions. Here I was introduced to the ministry of Dr Martin Lloyd Jones, the Puritans and the sermons of Jonathan Edwards.
One evening I accompanied the man who led me to Christ to an outreach begun among oversea students. Little did I know he was praying for someone to take over the ministry and the Lord burdened my heart, even though I had never taken a Bible study before. He also recommended that I went on Beach Mission, so in the Summer of 1986 I signed up for UBM, thinking New Quay was in Cornwall. It turned out to be on the West Coast of Wales. Here I came across a very young 16-year-old girl called Becky, who the Lord was later to put upon my heart and later still, after years of Christian friendship, stir up my affections to eventually become my wife.
Back at University, I began leading Bible studies to the oversea students. The work grew and I was spending three evenings a week explaining God’s Word. I went to speak to my Pastor and he recognised what he believed to be the Lord’s calling into the ministry.
Upon graduation, I joined the London City Mission and began to preach the Word for the first time, both in the Open Air and in the Mission Hall at Forest Gate and Lewisham. A number were led to know the Lord. It was here I came across the Metropolitan Tabernacle and the sermons of CH Spurgeon. The Sword & Trowel articles were extremely helpful and I grew in grace.
In 1989 having returned home to Oxford for a year, I began to pursue what I believed to be my calling and started attending the London Reformed Baptist Seminary. I was involved in leading a youth work and what was a potential church planting work.
The young girl I had begun courting had her first nursing job in Folkestone where she came to find Grace Chapel. Upon hearing Peter Howell, she told me I must come down to hear this man. The following Lord’s Day I came and decided there and then to be a part of this church. Nowhere had I found warm Gospel preaching with solid Calvinistic belief and a warm fellowship that were eager to serve the Lord. Peter told me of the needs of Dover and I thought perhaps the Lord might be calling me to plant a church there. However, I soon realised that I lacked the necessary gifts and there was so much to do in Folkestone.
So in 1992 having married Becky, we settled in Grace Chapel, taking up membership the following year. We greatly loved the church and our Pastor. I joined in the youth work and in 1994 Chris Thomas and I led our first camp. I believe the Lord united our hearts together in the work and I joined the Deaconate serving with Chris under Peter’s leadership. There is no better training for the ministry than a working church and a godly example set.
When our Pastor stepped down from the ministry in 2002, it became necessary for the church officers to lead the church and preserve its integrity by passing on the work to another faithful man. We decided to use the modest gifts we had and joined by Tom Drion, held the preaching ministry between the three of us. Later we were called to be Elders and the church began to see some small blessing among the young people, a number of whom were saved and baptised, five becoming members.
After seven years of preaching and seeing some conversions, I felt the church was in a position to assess whether I had the gifts for Pastoral ministry. Although I had felt an inward call for more than 20 years, what I inwardly felt may have been mere godly enthusiasm which can easily be mistaken for a call. The church however felt they could commend me to Pastoral ministry and some even suggested the Lord might be raising me up to be the Pastor at Grace Chapel. We spoke to an experienced Pastor, David Steere, who spoke to the members and confirmed that he believed the Lord may well be raising me up. On the 3rd of March 2010, the church issued an unanimous call for me to be their Pastor. I feel greatly humbled and wonderfully privileged at being able to serve God and the very people the Lord has laid upon my heart. May He be pleased to use me for His glory.