Rex was my first pastor after coming to Christ. My first visit to the State College Assembly of God, where he pastored, came a week after I marched the aisle and was subsequently baptized at a Southern Baptist Church in Harrisburg, PA (my home town). I totally freaked out--the place was positively spooky, but even though it scared the bejeebers out of me, I felt a strange compulsion to go back to that place, where the people responded to God in a way that made sense (if one truly believed in hell and salvation, that is).
As I devoured the Word and talked with God, the Lord would instruct and illumine me. Sunday after Sunday, Rex would preach (in his own flamboyant style), and repeat almost verbatim what God had been speaking to me in my “prayer closet.” Talk about being pumped! I learned what God sounded like through that ongoing experience and developed sensitivity to and trust in the voice of the Holy Spirit. You’ll not likely ever read this Rex, but thanks. You’re the best in my book, and still the most effective preacher I have ever had the pleasure to see or hear. I trust the work at Christlife in Charlotte will go well.
The first time I heard Steve preach was on the street outside Schwab Auditorium on the campus of Penn State. Generally, I did not like street preachers: they were nothing but clanging cymbals playing for shock value to get an audience. Not Steve, he spoke with passion, but logically, sensibly, persuasively.
A couple of years later, Rex introduced him as the new campus pastor for the Chi Alpha chapter the State College A/G was sponsoring at Penn State. Steve cleaned up real well! In my first conversation with him, I slightly hinted (and I do mean just slightly!) that I was intrigued by the Holy Spirit. Steve told me he’d be at my room at 5pm, and gave me little chance to object.
With Bible in hand he began going through the scriptures concerning the Holy Ghost. I was getting excited, and after about ten minutes of his presentation, I knew God wanted to baptize me in the Holy Ghost and would. Steve went on for about another 20 minutes or so, while I was chomping at the bit. He laid hands on my head, I felt overwhelmed and overflowing, and started speaking in heavenly language I did not know.
From that time until I left college (I hung around for a short while after graduation) Steve was a friend and counselor, discipler and example. Thank you Steve, for the much good you did for me. Incidentally, he now leads an astounding XA chapter at UFla (rotten Gators!). If you ever wanted to support a campus ministry, support his!
I started Bible college in January of 1984, 1100 miles away from home, in a town I’d never been at before, knowing no one but my poor wife, who got dragged along with me into the frozen tundra (sweet thing, she came along cheerfully). We began searching for a church family. In the process, one Sunday morning, we got on a schoolbus that had come to North Central and off we went to who knows where.
We ended up in White Bear Lake, MN at Calvary A/G. They worshipped there, it was refreshing. Then, Mike Smith got up to preach. He was a rugged looking fellow, with a kind voice, and light in his eyes. He was refreshing. A couple of years later, he gave me my first job in ministry. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met. To this day, I don’t think I have met a better example of kindness and grace. Thank you Mike, for the start and for the example, may God bless the work at Redeeming Love.
When I was a home missions pastor in Pittsburgh, one of the Sectional Committeemen was assigned by the presbyter to be my mentor and treasurer. He was a doctoral candidate at Fuller, attempting to lead an old A/G church stuck in the 50’s into the 80’s. He had flaming red hair! He was patient and smart, and knew more about the nuts and bolts of church life than anyone I ever met. He poured knowledge liberally upon my hardened head—some of it seeped in!
I learned more about human nature and how it effects ministry and church life, and how leaders need to work with it realistically in a few months with Paul than in years of Bible College. I thank God for the gift of time and the abundance of knowledge I received from Paul. In a strange twist of fate, Paul pastored that very same State College Assembly of God mentioned above (as well as serving as the Asst. Supt. of the Penn-Del District), and from which he went on to his eternal reward August 11, 2011.
My wife grew up going to church. She was saved when only four years old! When she was 12, her family started attending South Hills A/G in Pittsburgh, pastored by Robert Owen. He’s a Welshman, which means he loves to sing and has a great accent! The first time I sat in his church, I was visiting my new fiancée’s family. In a sanctuary filled to capacity, he looked right at me from the pulpit, and told me to take the gum out of my mouth (evidently, he didn’t want to look out and see a bunch of cows chewing their cud). Talk about seeker sensitivity! I don’t remember when, exactly, I got over it. ;-)
For years his church was the largest congregation in the Penn-Del District, yet no matter how large it got, he and Miriam would stand at the back door greeting everyone by name when they left the service. Even in a room packed with hundreds and hundreds of people, the place still felt like a familiar place, like family. He’s taught me so many valuable lessons about call, ministry, commitment, integrity, and generosity, I wouldn’t know where to begin enumerating them. Thank you, Pastor Owen, you served the cause of Christ until the end of your days (November 19, 2012) and planted seeds in the hearts of men.
There you have it: the ministers that have meant so much to me. Their service was of benefit to thousands, I’m just grateful I was one of them. So, props to the preachers, may blessing continue to pour forth from you even long after you're gone.