Photo by Nicole Tarpoff
When I was born and the doctor spanked me, he said I had the loudest set of lungs he had ever heard. He said, “He’s going to be a preacher!” My mom always took me to church growing up, and that was the greatest thing she could do as a parent. At 16, I received the Lord and was saved. For the next two years, I was a model young Christian man. I sang in the church choir and attended services regularly.
I always loved sports growing up. I was cut from the basketball team in high school but played baseball and was pretty good at it. I played baseball in college and also helped with the college basketball team. The head basketball coach was one of the youngest college coaches in the country and he became my best friend. He was one of the winningest coaches in the history of the college.
Unfortunately, I got hooked up with the wrong crowd. I started smoking and drinking. Sin is pleasurable for a season, but when the season is over it’s like gravel in your mouth. I quit going to church. I stopped seeking God’s will in my life, and I became my own god. Any time you take your life in your own hands, it’s going to lead to failure.
My dream was to be a head basketball coach. It was all about me. I wanted to build my name up. When I graduated college, I got hired as an assistant basketball coach at a high school. The drinking got worse and I missed a lot of work. I developed a gambling habit and missed almost every Friday to go to the racetrack. I was let go from this job and got a job at another high school as assistant coach and was there three years. My dream was still to become a head coach, and the opportunity presented itself when there was a head coaching positon open in the mountains of Kentucky.
I got recommendations from my college coaching friend and ended up getting the job. I thought my dreams had come true. I was finally a head coach. Everything went wrong, but it was all part of God bringing me back to Him. When the team started losing, I started cussing out the players because they were not fulfilling my dreams. I couldn’t move up in my career with a losing record, and I blamed the players for our losses. My drinking got worse. For three years, everything went downhill. I got a reputation in the community and there was a push to remove me as coach. Finally, the superintendent said, “There isn’t support for you. We are going to have to let you go.”
I was at rock bottom. I had been fired and had a bad reputation. I bought a 12-pack of beer and was going to drink my sorrows away. That night the Lord spoke to me and said, “Come on home. I love you.” I prayed, “Lord, I have made a mess of my life. Take my life and make something of it.” I recommitted my life right then and asked God to do whatever He wanted with my life.
I started going to church again and got very involved. God took drinking from me. I knew every time I took a drink it was breaking God’s heart, and finally I just threw it away. I was out of work for eight months after I got fired. I got a job sacking groceries. My first check was $60 from the A&P grocery, and I put $6 in the plate. God has truly blessed me. I eventually got a very good paying job. I got hired full-time by UPS as a 32-year-old, and that was such a miracle because at that time they were hiring people younger than me.
One year after I was fired, I married the librarian from the high school where I had been the basketball coach. I thank God for her. She is a wonderful woman and has been a true blessing to me.
God transformed me so much that the high school invited me to preach the baccalaureate service in the gym where I had been cussing the basketball players just two years before.
God also called me to preach. I realize now that He was preparing me to preach through all of my background. I had been a teacher for seven years at three different high schools. You must be a teacher to be a preacher. I was also a coach, and coaching a team is like pastoring. You want a team to play together in unity as one. A church is successful when everyone works in unity.
I was ready to preach but didn’t find a church for two years. In 1990, I accepted a short-term job at a Baptist church, filling their pulpit while they looked for an interim pastor. They liked me and asked me to also preach at their Mission Church, a very small church way out in the country with only 12 people attending. I accepted and was preaching two services on Sunday morning and two Sunday evening. My wife and I fell in love with that little mission church, and one day the parishioners asked if I would become their main pastor. I was still working at UPS when I became their pastor and kept my job at UPS, working as a bi-vocational pastor until I retired.
I have been at this church for 27 years. I’m the only pastor they have ever had. It has been amazing what God has done at that church. We now have over 200 attending. We started a Christian school in the building 15 years ago. Since I have retired from UPS, God has opened up many other ministries. We want to take God’s love beyond the walls of the church. We go to the homeless shelter in a bigger community nearby and have seen many come to Christ. We run a bus from this shelter to our church, welcoming our homeless friends to our church and showing them the love of Jesus. We have a prison ministry, a ministry at an assisted living facility, a high-rise complex ministry, and a ministry at a drug rehabilitation center.
There is nothing in our little town—even the post office got moved. But God is reaching many people through media. Our services are on the Internet, and we have two television programs airing in five states.
I still love sports, but God took that away as an idol. God has used my love of sports for good. Years ago, the radio station asked me if I would do some play-by-play on a radio sports program. I ended up doing a sports talk show as a hobby. Many people got to know me this way, and this helped when I began preaching and we began airing the services on television.
Now my life is about Him and not me. God took everything that I desired and gave it to me, but it was in His way and I had to surrender to Him first. It was kind of like the wrestling of Jacob with the Lord. I was totally broken that night, and God blessed me. What I thought was the worst night of my life, was really the greatest night of my life. He totally transformed me.
God is loving, gentle, restoring, and long-suffering. He is forgiving, forgiving, forgiving. He doesn’t look at our faults; He looks at our faith. He saw my heart even in my wild and undone times. He knew what He was going to make out of me even when I couldn’t see it. I cannot praise Him enough for everything He has done.
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Hebrews 12:11 KJV
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.