I was raised in a Christian home, attending church every Sunday. My family attended St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wichita Falls, Texas, which was my hometown before I moved to Springfield, Missouri in 1980. When I reached school age, I attended the St. Paul Lutheran School, where I attended through the 6th grade. I always excelled in my studies, and memorizing and studying the Bible was no exception. My father was an elder and Sunday school superintendent at the church. We attended services every time the doors were open. My parents might be considered “pillars of the church” and the four of us kids were all active in Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, choir, and every other activity of the church as we grew older. My mother was involved in the Mary Martha group (ladies group) at church.
During my junior high years (7th and 8th grade) I attended weekly catechism classes on Saturdays at the church to study some of the doctrines of the Bible in more detail. This also involved memorizing the Lord's Prayer, the 10 Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, quite a few Scriptures, and other important axioms of the Church. Most of the teachings centered around Luther’s Small Catechism.
I always had a head knowledge of who Christ was and knew all about the plan of salvation. I was taught that since I had been baptized (sprinkled) and prayed over as an infant, that I was a Christian. I fully believed this, was sorry for sin in my life, and pretty much was a model child. I do remember that when catechism classes were over, this was followed by a special church ceremony called confirmation. Basically, those who had attended the instructional classes had to make a vow before the church that they believed the Bible and the teachings about salvation (and other teachings of the Lutheran Church), and that they would not depart from this faith.
I remember that when confirmation day arrived, I struggled with the concepts and practices involved. It seemed more like a “graduation” or “diploma” when the certificate of confirmation was given and photographs were taken. I did not see this as a spiritual milestone in my life, for I already knew the important teachings that were studied in the catechism classes. (Remember, I already knew the Scriptures and had attended church and Sunday school every week of my life and also attended a Lutheran school where Christian doctrine was taught.)
I did not see that this ceremony was a confirmation of anything new, and I wondered about the vow to never forsake the teachings I had been taught (this was a vow to never leave the Lutheran faith—not a vow to never leave the Christian faith). Only those children who were slack in their studies and who did not attend church regularly would fail to go through the confirmation ceremony. I did not fall into that category. Besides my parents were upstanding members of the congregation, my dad being the head elder of the church and one-time Sunday school superintendent. There was no question but what I would have to participate in the confirmation ceremony, but it seemed like this was adding some sort of man-made regulation to the salvation message and the commitment we should make to God when we become Christians.
I did participate in the confirmation ceremony, and this granted me the right to take communion in church and be counted as a full adult member of the congregation (although not able to vote in business meetings until I would arrive at the age of 18). I remember taking communion in the Lutheran Church. The prevailing belief was that Christ's body and blood were somehow spiritually present in the bread and wine which were given to the participants. Also, because of this “real presence” of Christ in communion, if a person was repentant of their sins, they would receive forgiveness at the hands of the pastor through this taking of communion.
I was sorrowful over any sin in my life, but I began to wonder how a pastor could have the power to forgive sins. I believe that God alone has the power to forgive from sin. Anyway, at this point in my life I took an active part in the youth group in the Lutheran Church, which that summer included a weekly Bible study. I am thankful that our Bible study leader was open-minded. At the beginning of the school year, there was a revival team that was featured in an assembly at the local high school (I don't suppose that would happen in the public schools today.). I remember listening to them at the assembly, and I was intrigued by their name—SPIRENO, which stood for “Spiritual Renewal Now.” The leader of the group was Richard Hogue. (From what I gather his background is Southern Baptist and in recent years he has appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, so he must be a Pentecostal).
Our Bible study leader at that time (Richard Wiseman) thought it would be good for our group to attend this revival which was being held at the Municipal Auditorium. (I've never heard of any other Missouri Synod Lutheran youth group attending a revival crusade such as this, but our group did.) So one week we all attended the revival crusade instead of holding our Bible study. This was to be the major turning point in my life.
At the Wichita Falls Municipal Auditorium (and at the all-school assembly earlier that week) I remember singing the song, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noon time. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus when the sun goes down.” The simple message of this song has meant a lot to me over the years because of what it says and also because I first heard it at the SPIRENO meetings when I gave my heart to Christ.
I remember sitting near the back of the auditorium with the rest of the boys and girls from our church group. The main thrust of the altar call was that it wasn't enough to know who Jesus was and that he died on the cross for our sins. We needed to make him the Lord of our life. He needed to be number 1. This really made a lot of sense to me. I'd gone to church all my life. I had all the head knowledge about Jesus that anyone could ask for with all my church training, going to a Christian school, etc., but I'd never made a commitment to SERVE Jesus and to give my whole heart and life to him. I felt this really needed to be done. Head knowledge was no longer good enough. A heart faith in Jesus and a total commitment were necessary.
Those who wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior and make him Lord of their life were asked to walk to the front of the auditorium where altar workers would pray with them. I felt a tug in my conscience to go forward. At that same time I wondered what others in my group would think. As a 14-year old (soon to be 15-year-old) with not a lot of self confidence, it was a little bit of a struggle to know what to do. But I knew what was right, and I wanted to go forward and make that commitment. Then I saw someone else from our group go forward. There was nothing holding me back now.
As I arose from my seat, I felt a holy feeling, as if angels were surrounding me and almost pushing me (but gently) to the altar. It was like walking on air to go up to the front. I knelt in prayer as I made my commitment to God. The altar worker asked if I had come forward for salvation or for a recommitment. I decided that it would be best to put me down for full salvation. I wanted to be sure! Whether I was saved before that time I really couldn't say. But from that point on I have made the total commitment to follow Jesus. This is a daily commitment that must be made and followed through. We cannot coast along or be slack in our Christian walk. We are either committed to Christ or we are not.
That entire night I felt total peace and love and holiness with God. It was hard to go to sleep as I just wanted to commune and talk with God all night. That was a blessed day, September 7, 1972.
Not too many years ago, Christians were taking up the idea of “What Would Jesus Do?” and wear bracelets and carry key chains, etc. with “WWJD” on them to remind them of that thought. This is not a new idea, for immediately upon committing my life to Christ, each morning and each moment of the day I have prayed and asked God in every decision and situation that I am in. I do my best to ask God, “What would you want me to do?” In other words, as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before his crucifixion, I pray, “Not my will, but thine.” This same thought is also found in the Lord's Prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ...”
After that point, I began to “search the Scriptures” and try to understand what various church groups believed in. It is important to “know what you believe.” Being raised in Texas, I was very much exposed to the Southern Baptist churches which regularly hold revival services and are very evangelistic-minded. I also visited some other churches—United Methodist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ, Roman Catholic, Assemblies of God, Pentecostal Holiness, and non-denominational churches (Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal).
I was also the main leader of a Bible study group that met after hours in a classroom at our local high school. It was called “S.O.S.” which stood for “Study Our Savior.” This was an interdenominational group of students. I remember there being Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, and Pentecostal Holiness represented. Basically we would read a passage or chapter of Scripture and take it at face value, each discussing every aspect. It is amazing that when you take the Scriptures at face value (without a lot of predisposed ideas or commentary) that it will make sense to all believers—no matter what their denominational preference. We all studied and prayed together, and it was a holy time of joining together to study God’s Word.
I remember once during my high school years that I had a long talk with the Lutheran pastor (a different one from the one I took Catechism classes with) in his office and questioned him on various beliefs of the Lutheran Church. He was not able to satisfy me with Scriptural answers—he mostly just repeated from rote memory things that the Lutheran Church has taught for years. One of the big issues for me was water baptism. Having talked things over with the Lutheran pastor, studying the Scriptures on my own, and praying about many important Spiritual matters and beliefs, I felt like I had done all that was necessary to safeguard myself from going in a wrong direction. I felt led of the Lord to move forward in my spiritual walk and activities.
Eventually, during my senior year in high school, I felt led to be baptized in water by immersion as a sign to the world that I had committed my entire life to Christ, and I joined First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls, Texas at the same time (September 29, 1975). At the time, I knew in my spirit that I would only be Baptist for a short period of time and that God had further plans for my life. I was an active part of First Baptist for the next two years. During that time I sang in the choir, was active in the youth group and a drama group, and also went on mission trips to Madison, Wisconsin and San Jose, Costa Rica. Although I had been baptized as an infant in the Lutheran Church, as I grew older, it seemed that that was not the way the Bible presented water baptism. It is an ordinance of the church that is intended for believers (those who have accepted Christ into their hearts as Savior) and as a sign to the world of this full commitment to Christ. The method used in Scripture is full immersion, and it does not “work salvation” into a person—which is a belief held by Catholics and Lutherans. If it was that simple to save people through baptism, it seems the Catholic Church or someone would have required baptism of all persons at some point in their history (although in a similar way of thinking, the Latter Day Saints or Mormons practice baptism for the dead, that all may have a better opportunity to be saved). I wanted to be baptized by immersion as a profession of my faith in Jesus and to follow his commandment to do so.
Another red-letter day to me is December 6, 1975. I was a senior in high school, and I had been studying about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit for about 6 months or so. I had come to a realization that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gift or promise to all believers—not just a special few. And the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to all believers who are willing to be used of God in the spiritual gifts promised in the Bible.
Although I had visited one Assemblies of God congregation in Wichita Falls (Evangel Temple), it was a charismatic Catholic group called “Shalom” that helped to open my eyes, ears, and spirit to the reality of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was a faithful attendee of Shalom during the summer of 1975, and I continued attending for the next two years (even while I was a member of First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls). I was invited to this group by Lisa Young, a classmate. (In later years she married another friend of mine—Omar Montemayor.) The gifts of the spirit were manifest in this group, and the prayer meetings included singing with a guitar, and times of waiting on the Lord. There was a close bond of love shared between all who participated.
A close friend in high school (who was United Methodist at the time, but later converted to be Roman Catholic), Omar Montemayor, shared with me that he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, but soon after receiving this blessing, he had some doubts and quit speaking in the prayer language of tongues. Then around the first of December of 1975 he had a spiritual dream/vision where he saw an evangelist pray for him and in the dream he was slain in the Spirit and began speaking in tongues again as he was rebaptized in the Holy Spirit. Omar said that his dream really happened. There was an evangelist in town (David Alsobrook) who had prayed for him the night before, and the evangelist blew on him, and he was slain in the Spirit and began speaking in tongues.
I told Omar that I would like to come to the revival meetings. They were held at the old Faith City Mission in downtown Wichita Falls, Texas, where I grew up. (This small auditorium is no longer standing.) I went to the service that night, and there was a wonderful presence of God. When it came time for the altar call for anyone to come forward and be saved or filled with the Holy Spirit, I knew this was my night. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit very strongly. My knees were shaking, and my whole body was shaking. I went forward to receive all that God had for me.
This was a brand new experience for me. The evangelist had me raise my hands up to God and to expect God to move. I stood in prayerful anticipation, but nothing extraordinary was happening. What else could I do? I opened my mouth so God could fill it. Still nothing. What else? I decided to just make some sounds with my voice, and see what would happened. I wasn’t very sure of myself. I said a couple of syllables and quit. I thought that this was just me talking gibberish. This was not God. Then the evangelist told me to continue, so I did as requested. While I was talking gibberish, just for a few phrases, the evangelist touched me on the top of my head with his finger in prayer, then he let go and blew on my forehead. Immediately the power of God came all over me, and I was slain in the Spirit. I began speaking in tongues easily, and this was spirit-directed. As the Scriptures say, the rivers of living water began to flow from my belly.
I lay on the floor for what could have been a half hour or longer just basking in God’s presence, worshiping God with my hands upraised and my tongue speaking a beautiful prayer language. I was baptized in the spirit, and I was still shaking all over.
Finally I sensed that the service was almost over and everyone else but the evangelist had left the front area and gone back to their seats. I did my best to get up off the floor and return to my seat. I was wobbling very bad as I walked because the power of God was all over me. My friend Omar said it looked like I was “drunk in the Spirit,” and I’m sure I was. I made it back to my seat, but I was still shaking in the power of God. It was a beautiful time of closeness to God as I was filled to overflowing with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
About a year and a half later I decided to leave the First Baptist Church to join a Pentecostal church, which was Northwest Christian Center (Assembly of God) in Wichita Falls, Texas. This church was just a few blocks from Sheppard Air Force Base, and I had many times of fellowship with the airmen from the base who attended the services there. I remember some wonderful times at the altar, participating in Jericho marches, and seeing the wonders of God through healings and answered prayer, etc. I remember attending special services in the chapel on the base (with my airman church friends) on a number of occasions as well as participating in an evangelistic march on the base. (At one point I considered becoming an Air Force Chaplain, but I don’t have what it takes to do that kind of ministry on a regular basis). During this time, I also frequently visited a Pentecostal church called the Open Door Revival Center, a few blocks from my house (I could walk there) that was affiliated with the Open Door Fellowship, with headquarters in Oregon. I remember many times of wonderful communion with this group of Pentecostal believers—once being anointed with oil from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet—once being a true “holy roller” as in rolling around on the floor in the power of the Holy Spirit—several times participating in Spirit-led Jericho marches—and preaching under the anointing—and praying for the sick who were slain in the Spirit, etc. My good friends there, in charge of the revival center, were Glenn and Belinda Roloff. Tom and Cindy Sweet also assisted them. Prior to that, there had been two other Pentecostal churches (short-lived) located in that same building, and before that, it was a nursing home. I was involved in that building during all 4 of those aspects of its existence. But the best times were at the Open Door Revival Center.
I mostly quit attending the Catholic charismatic group after joining Northwest Christian Center, although I maintained contact with my friend Lisa and a few others who were part of that group. But in the fall of 1979, before leaving Wichita Falls, I decided to take the “Life in the Spirit” seminar offered by the Catholic charismatics. It was a worthwhile course of study, and I appreciated the prayers they prayed at the close of the class to “send me off” to the Lord’s work (seminary) in Springfield, Missouri. I have a great love for charismatic Catholics to this day.
After completing college at Midwestern State University in December 1979, I went to Christ For the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas (a really on-fire school that teaches the fullness of the Holy Spirit) before coming to Springfield, Missouri to attend the Assemblies of God Graduate School (now called the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary). I graduated in June 1984 with a Master of Divinity degree and was licensed as an Assemblies of God minister earlier that year. I received ordination on April 15, 1993. Upon arriving in Springfield in the fall of 1980, I joined Praise Assembly of God, and that is where my wife and I were married in June of 1984.
My current ministry is working as Assistant Archivist in the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center for the Assemblies of God and writing religious articles for a number of publications, including Assemblies of God Heritage magazine, which is published by the office where I work. My duties include cataloging and overseeing the photograph and audiovisual collection at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center as well as copy editing and proofreading items for our office and magazine and the many web pages for our site: www.ifphc.org I also answer research questions and conduct tours of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center museum.
Over the years I have been involved in teaching Sunday school (all age levels), assisting with Children’s Church, leading a Singles Group (at Praise Assembly of God in Springfield, MO) for a short time, conducting nursing home services, playing the piano for a home missions church (for about a year), preaching occasionally at various churches—Missouri, Louisiana, Colorado, directing youth services and Bible studies as needed, leading Royal Rangers, etc., etc. I also have written a couple of local church histories, formulated constitution and bylaws for a local congregation, and served as a church webmaster for several years.
In addition to a few different preaching engagements, the closest I've come to pastoring are:
1) In 1980 and 1982 I was a park chaplain for A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. These were short-term assignments in the summer months. In 1980 I was at Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood in Oregon (although I don't ski) from the end of May until Labor Day. In 1982 I was at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado from the end of May until the end of October. At Mount Hood I preached & conducted services each Sunday morning in a loft area that doubled as a bar area on Saturday nights in the main ski lodge. The attendance varied, but the average attendance was about 2 people each service (a small group, wouldn't you say?). A few times no one showed up and other times we had a few more come. Most of the people were more interested in skiing on Sunday morning, and I don't blame them if they paid big bucks to stay at a ski lodge, they should spend their time skiing.
At Mesa Verde I conducted services in a campground setting. Each Saturday 2 or 3 of us would go campsite to campsite talking to people and inviting them to services the next day. We had a big outdoor amphitheater. Sometimes deer would even come into view. I was the only one there for Sunday morning services which were at 9:30 or 10 a.m. The attendance was much better. Usually 20 or more people would come. Then around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. we had another service in the amphitheater and 2 other guys assisted with music and different things. But many times I would end up preaching twice on a Sunday. The other 2 guys--one was Presbyterian and the other was United Church of Christ--conducted a service of their own on Sunday mornings at one of the buildings further into the park.
2) The other experience that came close to pastoring was 2 years that I worked with Souls Harbor Assembly of God here in Springfield. This was mostly a ministry to inner-city kids. A friend of mine, Paul O’Neil, was the pastor. His wife assisted, and also another man, Ed Roffo. The kids ministry was on Saturday mornings (which is the part I helped out with). They also had a Bible study on Sunday evenings. But the main pastor and his wife attended Central Assembly on Sunday mornings, and I was attending Glad Tidings Assembly of God at the time. We took the kids on a number of field trips, and had puppet shows, skits, etc. It was kind of like a Kids Crusade atmosphere. For awhile we met in the pastor's home and yard. Later we were given permission to meet in an A.M.E. church (African Methodist Episcopal)--a black church. Almost none of the childrens' parents went to church anywhere, so it was a needed ministry. My friend Paul took on this church/kids ministry to meet his 2-year requirement for pastoring a church before going into the military chaplaincy. He called me his assistant pastor, and I was listed as a staff member on the official church records. When he left town, he offered me the position of pastor, but I did not wish to take on that big of a responsibility. The church folded up after he left. But still I know that many young lives were changed through that inner-city kids ministry.
A year or so later, Glad Tidings Assembly started up a Saturday kids ministry. I worked with that group as well and helped to canvas some of the government housing areas to locate children who might wish to attend this outreach ministry. I spent one Saturday going to each of the homes that I remembered from the Souls Harbor church, and several of the children from the earlier ministry decided to come to the Saturday program that Glad Tidings was offering. The Saturday program at Glad Tidings lasted a couple of years before the person directing it moved on. A few of the kids began coming to Sunday morning services at Glad Tidings and I continued helping out by driving the church bus on a rotation basis for a couple of years.
My family next attended North Side Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri for 8 years, where I was the church webmaster and also helped to draft their church constitution. I sang in the choir and helped out in the Royal Rangers program. I enjoy working with the younger boys. They were called Straight Arrows, but the new Royal Rangers curriculum calls this age group the Ranger Kids (Kindergarten-2nd Grade). Since January 2007 I have been working with Discovery Rangers (Grades 3-4-5). Children’s ministry is a very needed outreach, and I’m glad that I have been involved in kids ministries for about 25 years now.
Since May of 2004 our family has been attending Faith Assembly in Springfield, Missouri. It is a smaller church, but it has a vibrant ministry to its members (prayer meetings on Tuesday morning and evening) and fellowship times. It also has a strong outreach ministry to the community. Best of all, there is balanced teaching in Sunday school and church. This is evidenced by gifts of the spirit being manifest frequently in the services. It is important to be FULL of the Holy Spirit. I am currently in charge of the Discovery Rangers (Grades 3-4-5) group at Faith. I also teach a Sunday school class, help out with the church youth group as needed, and help out at church in other ways as needed.
But probably my biggest ministry is research and writing. God has blessed me with many opportunities to write, and I have tried to complete every writing or editing project that I have been involved with. I have contributed articles to several magazines and contributed to several dictionaries relating to the Pentecostal movement, etc. I’m also amazed at how many books written on some aspect of the Pentecostal movement give me credit for assistance I have offered. Much of this has been all in the line of duty with my job at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, which many say is the premier Pentecostal archives in North America and very probably the world.
My favorite Scripture verse is: “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31). I try every day to do my best for God. I hope and pray that I might live up to the focus of this Bible verse. We all need to strive to “do all to the glory of God.”
I have a great love for people, and I have a desire “that all men should be saved.” (2 Peter 3:9). Heaven is a real place, and hell is real also. There is only one way to heaven, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ as our personal Savior from sin. He is God’s son and was without sin. As a perfect man (he was fully man and fully God at the same time), he died on the cross for our sins that we might be saved. And the Bible says “there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved” (Acts 4:12).
If you are reading this narrative, and are not a Christian, please take a moment to ask Christ to forgive you of your sins, to live in your heart, and then commit yourself to live every day for Christ. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And to use a familiar phrase, “This life will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
(To be continued)