Pastor Will’s Testimony
I grew up attending Sunday School and church services at a community church, so I learned about God and Jesus at an early age.
My first actual encounter with Jesus happened at a boy’s summer camp when I was 9 years old. Around the campfire each night, the gospel was presented and an opportunity given to “accept Jesus.” Near the end of camp, I committed my life to the Lord, and received the gift of salvation. At that time I also received a call to the ministry. I was baptized that December.
Things went along pretty well for several years. I was involved in youth activities and helped with Vacation Bible School.
When I was 15, my family moved from southern California to Oregon, where I met Linda, my first wife, during my senior year in high school. It was shortly before I graduated from High School that I started to go astray. Even though I continued to attend church with my mother and Linda, I developed a fascination with magic, fortune telling, astrology, and a lot of other stuff that we now call “New Age.” I began to study all of these things and to teach them to others.
The New Age appeals to one’s pride in a powerful way. If you consider yourself a Christian, you are told that in the New Age you are still a Christian; and not merely a Christian, but a Christian adept, who has access to information that the “young souls” around you are not spiritually advanced enough to know about. You are continually told that you are someone special, and at that time in my life, this message really appealed to me.
I married Linda, and we moved to Vancouver, Washington. Shortly thereafter I got a job with the Federal Aviation Administration. This whole time I was getting deeper and deeper into the New Age. When Christians in my family would try to caution me about the road I was taking, I would give them a pitying smile and tell them that one day they would be an “old soul” like me, and then they would understand. Thankfully, their response was to pray that God would reassert Himself in my life.
That reassertion happened in Bozeman, Montana, one cold winter night in January 1985. I had picked up Hal Lindsey’s book “There’s a New World Coming,” in which he details all of the trials that Christians are likely to go through during the “end times.” I was deeply moved by his description of these trials and, since I considered myself to be a super Christian, I figured that I would be just fine. I looked inside myself to find the strength that I would need to face these kinds of trials, but instead I found only a black emptiness. It scared me to death, because the façade I had been holding onto for years suddenly crumbled away and I truly realized how lost and totally alone I was.
That night, lying in bed, I was so scared that I couldn’t sleep. I knew that I had separated myself from God, and that I was doomed. But in the back of my mind I remembered what I had learned in those early years in church, and what was reinforced in Hal Lindsey’s book: I needed to repent and to turn to Jesus for salvation. I prayed what is probably the shortest sinner’s prayer in history: “Lord, save me!” And He did. Not only did Jesus come into my heart anew, making many immediate changes in my life and habits, He also renewed my call to the ministry.
It took me three days to get up the nerve to tell my wife that I had become a Christian (and that I had been called to the ministry), but she had already figured out that her prayers had been answered by the changes in my behavior that she had seen.
Shortly after this, the FAA moved us to Coos Bay, Oregon, where I began studying for the ministry in a non-holiness denomination. The more I studied, the more I felt that there was something missing in my walk with the Lord. Two years later, while attending a Church of the Nazarene, I found out what that “something” was: Entire Sanctification – God’s action to change a heart in such a way as to make a person actually holy!
We made the move to the Church of the Nazarene, where I got my first Local Minister’s License and enrolled in the Ministerial Course of Study. I worked in the area of Small Groups and Discipleship, and I began seeking the Lord for Entire Sanctification. After 9 months of gradual consecration, the last stronghold of my life was fully given over to the Lord, and he sanctified me completely.
A year later, the FAA moved us to McMinnville, Oregon, where I continued my work in Small Groups and Discipleship as volunteer staff at the McMinnville Church of the Nazarene. Six years later we moved to Newberg where I found a niche as Associate Pastor of Spiritual Formation. I completed the Course of Study and was ordained in 2000.
In the spring of 2005 God called me to my first senior pastorate at Soul’s Harbor Church of the Nazarene in Woodburn. My time in Woodburn has been full of God’s blessing and a few challenges. My biggest challenge of all came in October 2007 when my wife, Linda, passed away suddenly while on a trip with my daughter. But even in that God has been faithful and very present in so many ways. He provided healing and wholeness for me in response to the prayers of His people, and even brought me a new spouse to share my life and ministry. Sharla Ann and I were married in November of 2008, and we are both moving forward into God’s exciting future as we pursue the life and ministry that He has prepared for us.
From the time of my conversion in Bozeman to the present, God has been the predominant force in my life, the center of gravity around which everything else in my life revolves. One of my life verses is John 5:19: “Jesus gave them this answer: ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’” I have found this to be the key to success in my own life and ministry as well: Find out what God is doing and join Him in that work. In response, God has led me strongly in the ways that He wants me to go, and has given me the strength and ability necessary to accomplish everything He has directed me to do.
The most important thing to me is to help people to become true disciples of Jesus, not just converts, and I enjoy every aspect of this process. I am always filled with joy and awe whenever I pray with a person to receive Jesus as their Savior, and get to see a new person looking out at me through their eyes after the “Amen.” I get totally energized whenever I help someone gain new insight into the things of God. My heart fills with joy every time I see a person take a step of faith and come away with a testimony to God’s faithfulness. And I love to see people become soul winners, experiencing the thrill of harvest for themselves.