Category Archives: pastor
Andrae Brooks, 16, didn’t recognize the man at his door.
“I’m your father,” said the man, who had been in jail for trafficking drugs for most of Andrae’s childhood.
“What do you want?” Andrae retorted.
Awkwardly, Andrae’s father attempted to talk to his estranged son for about 10 minutes before he gave up, saying, “All right, I’m going to come back later.”
“You don’t need to,” Andrae replied, coldly.
Cagey and closed off, Andrae was incredibly gifted at cutting people off and shutting off his feelings toward them.
Born in New Jersey, Andrae never went to church. Because Dad wasn’t in his life, his mom had two jobs to carry the household and leaned heavily on Andrae to take care of his little sister, younger by nine years.
“I didn’t get to play on the basketball team because I always had to pick her up and watch over her. I was the free baby sister,” Andrae says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast. “I loved basketball.”
When Andrae was 14, Dad tried calling him from prison. At 16, Andrae rebuffed Dad at the door. At 18, he didn’t come to the door when his father knocked.
He was guarded, suspicious of others’ motives and ready to fight at the slightest misunderstanding. By choice, he limited his friendships to three all throughout high school.
There were brushes with the supernatural when he was young. On one occasion when walking alone on ice in 14-degree weather, he broke through and should have drowned. But he “popped up” and managed to pull himself out. On another occasion, he hit his head and went unconscious in the pool but miraculously regained consciousness when dragged from the pool, spitting up water and blood and asking what happened.
Andrae avoided drugs because an uncle died from abusing them, and he swore he would never use.
Once he graduated, Andrae was wondering what to do with his life. He was sleeping on his mother’s couch being a “bum.” When his close friend got married and moved to Virginia, he moved in with them. He would do chores to show his appreciation for the free living arrangement.
But when the wife got saved, she invited Andrae to church. He had no intention of going. “If you don’t go, you’ll be on the street,” she replied. Sometimes the harshest of evangelisms work. Thus under the threat of ultimatum, Andrae went to a New Year’s concert and drama activity.
Those Southern folks were strange. He was used to not talking to strangers, not even looking at strangers – the custom of New Jersey. But the church folk from Virginia came up and introduced themselves in a friendly manner. They wouldn’t even let Andrae alone when he got his food. It was awkward.
The Christian rap was corny. But the dramas… Read the rest: Reconciliation with Dad.
Everyone else he knew didn’t have a dad. So, the fact that he had a father should have been a blessing for Nathaniel Martinez, but he got picked on by envious boys and felt like an outsider. Still, he projected the proper pastor’s kid image until he could no longer stand it.
“When I was about 17 I just kind of blew up,” Nathaniel says on Testimony Stories YouTube channel. “I just was so angry. “I 100% rebelled against the church when I came of age.”
Today, Nathaniel is better known as Selah the Corner, a rising rapper on the God Over Money label.
Born in the rough South Side of Yonkers, New York City in 1985, Nathaniel had to wend his way through the warzone of rival gangs and drug deals. First his mom got saved, then his dad. His parents became pastors.
Again, the blessing turned into a curse.
“I thought my parents were taken away from me by the church,” he confesses. “At 3:00 in the morning when I had a nightmare and I wanted to talk to my mom and my dad, sometimes mom and dad were on the phone with somebody who was dying in the hospital. You understand as a young child the ministry comes first, and that stops you from even asking your parents to choose between you and the ministry because you love them. But doing that 20-30 times, and you’re a grown man and you’re like, yo, I let these people take my family away from me.
“That’s the negative way to look at it.”
When he got a car and didn’t have curfew anymore, he started indulging his flesh and only attended church on holidays.
At Stony Brook University where he always stayed on high honor roll, he took drugs and partied – in a highly “organized” way so that his parents wouldn’t find out.
“Being a pastor’s kid, you learn how to organize your sins because you realize how important it is that no one ever finds out anything,” he says. “I had everything on strict times. I was gonna be in the streets for this long. I was gonna do these amount of drugs and what time I would need to be sober. I had the Visine and the cologne.
“I just perfected my negative craft in that aspect.”
But behind the “organized” facade, his life was… Read the rest: Selah the Corner.
Isaac Perez descended into the inner regions of the earth, down a spiral staircase, through the forest, over a bridge to the place he had been told he would meet his animal spirit guide. Finally, a hawk with a penetrating gaze faced him.
“What are you doing here?” the hawk asked him. “You don’t belong here. They are coming after you.”
It was a strange message for Isaac, who sought to become a full-fledged shaman through practices he learned online, which resonated with his Mayan heritage.
It was strange for Isaac, the son of a pastor from a charismatic church, to be seeking supernatural experiences in the occult.
“The Holy Spirit worked somehow to tell me I didn’t belong and what I thought was my spirit animal was very much definitely the Holy Spirit telling me this isn’t it, you need to get out, this is not the place,” Isaac says on a Doreen Virtue video.
Isaac’s testimony shows you can’t blend New Age teachings and shamanism with Christianity and that Jesus Christ is the only way.
Isaac’s parents were both charismatic pastors. Isaac became a youth pastor, but when he began to have unanswered questions about the supernatural, he turned to shamans online.
“I thought that I really understood this,” he says. “God created nature, so why can’t I serve God but also you know just enjoy this, his natural beauty and all the work that he’s done and created.”
Isaac began to explore shamanism and thought that with his Mayan ancestry he could blend Christianity with shamanism.
At first, he got involved with drumming circles in nature, then he began using crystals and other New Age practices. He didn’t go to his parents for answers out of shame and guilt.
“It killed me,” he said. “I kept thinking am I failing God being in this charismatic church, or am I failing God being in shamanism? So, I could really never figure that out.”
While he was involved in shamanism, there were works, like a sun dance, which was a dance including fire and self-mutilation in order to be forgiven for his sins and for God to hear what he was saying.
“I sacrificed myself physically either by physical pain through burning, or through cutting,” he said. “There was supposed to be some sort of release. There was supposed to be some sort of… Read the rest: Shamanism vs Christianity
Without a father, Cuban-born Eddie Ramirez turned to fighting to vent his rage. He also sold drugs to high-net-worth clients.
“I was cheated. I was cheated because I needed a father in my life and he wasn’t there,” Eddie says on a CBN video. “People needed my merchandise, and I was ruthless, so I felt like I was in control.”
He not only sold cocaine, he also snorted it. It destroyed his nose and his life. He was so out of control that he got into a motorcycle accident and was run over by a truck.
Eddie Ramirez was part of the “Freedom Flights” rescuing people from communist Cuba in 1967. When his dad came to America a year later, the youngster hoped to enjoy his family and his new life in America, but it was not to be.
Dad was aggressive and angry, and Eddie never developed a close relationship with him. After a time, his parents divorced.
As an outlet for his resentments, he fought neighborhood kids. Older boys noticed his toughness and took him into their gang. He latched on the masculine approbation and began to thrive in the life of crime.
“I needed somebody to accept me because I was cheated. I needed somebody that was older than me to accept me and embrace me and say, ‘OK, you’re part of this.’”
The hole in his heart wasn’t filled by crime, however, so he sought satisfaction in drug use.
“What is the next thing? Well, let me get some drugs, let me start doing drugs,” he acknowledges.
He worked his way up in drug dealing and landed some high-profile clients. He felt an illusion of power. But he was helpless to stop his own spiraling addiction.
“You’re always chasing that first high,” he says. “It got me to the point of no return. I was like, I can’t stop. There’s no way of me stopping. I had power. I had money; people were looking for me.”
When he was almost killed by a truck it brought a wakeup call. When Eddie recovered, a friend who had become a Christian took him to church.
“Once I was there in church, I was like, ‘What’s here? There’s nothing here for me. I’m not making no money here. I need to go out there and make money.’”
His stubborn heart remained resistant. He didn’t get saved or repent.
After he survived gunshots to the head, he began to reexamine his lifestyle. “I felt disgusted the way that I would just stay up all night and do drugs,” he says. “My nose was like falling apart.”
“Cocaine is a drug that once you start doing it there’s no turning back,” Eddie says. “I was desperate for a way out of this addiction.”
At the urging of his mom, Eddie checked into a rehab facility where he had a life-changing encounter with the Lord.
“I remember one night I’m there in my room and I get a visitation from what I believe was the Lord Jesus,” he says.
In the vision, Jesus imparted to him: You really want to change your life, all you have to do is walk through this door and if you walk through the door, your life will be changed.
Eddie saw a very narrow door, through which shined a bright light. Read the rest: Cuban freed from communism.
As a child, Kalel Pratico yearned to know God but found little guidance at home.
“My parents, you know, wanted me to find my own path,” he says on a CBN video. “I always wanted a connection with God. I was asking about angels, and so I was always hungry for God. I didn’t think that he was a personal God at all. I would pray for him to get me out of trouble. I would pray for, you know, a girl to like me. I would ask him for selfish things.”
Without any guidance he found liquor before the Lord.
“The first time i tried alcohol, I was in about sixth grade,” he says. “I remember the feeling that alcohol gave me and it was this peace that i was looking for.”
In high school, he discovered marijuana.
“I tried other drugs as well,” he says. “It hurt my parents that I was abusing substances. I would drive drunk. I was trying to numb this void I had in my life, this lack of connection that I was looking for.”
One night when he mixed up drugs in a hotel room, he felt he was dying.
“Everything else zoned out and all I was aware of was the presence of God,” Kalel says. “Every breath that I was breathing was given to me from God. I was aware that at any moment he could just stop what he was doing and I would have died.”
After surviving his brush with death, he vowed to never abuse again. Of course, he couldn’t keep that vow.
“I lived a very inconsistent life after high school,” he says. “I went to art college and was dating a girl at the time and she got me a Bible. Eventually I decided to go to church. I would sit in the pew and the message would completely go over my head.” Read the rest: kalel pratico was freed from drugs.
Harold Warner was driving back from a failed pastoral assignment when he hit a new patch of asphalt sprinkled with fresh rain, and his orange Dodge Colt spun out of control, went off the side of road and rolled down an embankment.
The car roof caved in, paralyzing him. Within nine months, the 23-year-old ex-hippie shifted into a new, dynamic pastoral assignment, this time in a wheelchair.
“Everything in my life was disrupted permanently. My world was turned upside down,” says Warner. “But my relationship with God didn’t change one bit. His grace, His presence never wavered. I had confidence that God was in control in my life.”
Today, Pastor Warner’s church, which he charged into as an idealistic young man, has grown to over 1,000. The Door Church in Tucson moved from a humble stucco and adobe building to a massive facility.
Affiliated with Christian Fellowship Ministries as a church planter, Warner and his leadership team have planted 750 churches worldwide.
How did he avoid the trap of blaming God for the inexplicable tragedy?
“A lot of things happen in life that you don’t have control over,” Warner says, as he considers the destiny he might have missed. “I kept going forward with a combination of faith, naiveté and confidence.”
When he was a young man, Warner liked hockey so much he went to the University of Connecticut specifically to play for the team. But, like so many other young people of the 1960s, alcohol and drugs beckoned, and he dropped out of school, grew his hair long, wore torn jeans and hitchhiked to Woodstock.
Being a hippie didn’t live up to “the propaganda of love,” he says. “The one thing that prevailed was the aimlessness.” Read the rest of Harold Warner The Door Church Tucson.
For seven years, Juan Pablo Cardo was stymied in his ministerial call by another pastor in Buenos Aires who envied his charisma.
“He felt like I was a threat and didn’t let me do anything,” the Argentinian says in a Bible conference video. During those years of imposed inactivity, “God taught me patience and humility, just being there, sit down and deal with my pride and many things in my life.”
He didn’t bolt, and his perseverance paid off. Unexpectedly one day, his pastor asked if he want to launch a startup church on his own in Munro, a suburb of Buenos Aires. He offered no financial support. He would get Juan Pablo out of his hair.
To weigh and consider this monumental life-altering decision, it took Juan Pablo a full fraction of a nano-second to say yes.
Juan Pablo started a house church with 17 people. They began to tithe and he rented a small store front 9’ by 51’ — all at the time of Argentina’s worse economic crunch.
The work grew, and they rented a bigger building for 120 people on the main avenue in the Munro neighborhood.
Juan Pablo’s story is one of flourishing under shortsighted leadership. You have to keep your heart from becoming bitter, he says.
“It was a difficult time because it was seven years practically not having a pastor, not having someone to go to who could guide you,” says his wife, Silvina. “I asked God, ‘How long? Where are You?’ I wasn’t complaining but asking God for help. I saw that everyone else had a pastor they could share with. And I didn’t have that for seven years.” Read more about surviving pastoral abuse.
This is about others. I’m the Valley Boy Pastor, but the church is about the members, and helping them to get into right relationship about God. They are Christ-followers, and He is the center of attention. My talents or lack thereof are immaterial. I dedicate myself to God’s people, not them to me.
So why do I show up at member’s softball game? Because this is about them. They are important (not me). They are the center of attention.
2 Cor. 10:8 says that pastors are supposed to “build up,” not tear down, their congregants. So I strive to show them how special they are to Christ. And in 1 Chron 14:2, David understands that God raised him up for the good of the people, not for the good of David.
Pastor, get off your pride trip. You are just a facilitator to help men get to God. You are tool the toolbox of the Master Fixer, Jesus. When does the tool brag about the fix the Master does. God is moving in the Lighthouse Church in Van Nuys, part of the Christian Fellowship Ministries.
For the upside down pastor, the church is there to serve him, not he the church. And not only serve him, they must admire him. He alone does everything right. He alone hears from God. He alone tells everyone what to do. He gets all the credit and doesn’t credit others.
I think I was an upside down pastor when I started 20 years ago. Success bolstered my fragile ego. Being a pastor provided me with the affirmation I so often lacked in life. The incredible thing is that God used me despite being upside down.
Now I’m starting a new church, and I hope to get it right. The people are the focus, not me. I’m there to serve them, to help them realize their destiny in God. It’s not about me. It’s about them, and it’s about Jesus.
The upside down pastor gets mad easily when things don’t go his way. He prays for people to do what he thinks they should do. He alone hears from God. Praise time is showmanship.
If you’re an upside down pastor, you can put things right side up. 2 Cor. 10:8 says God has given the pastor authority to build up his congregants, not tear them down. 2 Sam. 5:12 says that David perceived that God had established him, not because he was better than others, but “for his people Israel’s sake.” Your existence is for them.
You can turn things right side up.
I’m Mr. Toad. The first time, I whirled my wife, Dianna, off to Guatemala for a crazy adventure of lurches and swerves called being a missionary for almost 16 years. There were thrills and discomforts. It was definitely not a luxury and leisurely tooling through the park.
Gear up for Ride #2. We just got re-ordained for another mission, this time in Van Nuys, which I kind of already started with a Bible study. I’m calling myself the Valley Boy Pastor, a gimmick to remind myself to not take myself so seriously. The 6-year break between gigs was boring. Rest made me restless.
Dianna has supported me 100% through poverty and privation. There was abundant danger and betrayals. At the same time, we saw emotionally-rewarding turnarounds as gang-bangers, alcoholics, fornicators and others straightened up in Jesus.
Are you ready, Dianna, for another adventure, careening recklessly through whatever may come in the unpaid, unappreciated job of
pastoring pioneering a new church?
Even as I became a youth, I always found Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland to be charming and delightful. If you haven’t gone on the 1955-original ride at the theme park, a car turns abruptly through apparent crashes and narrow escapes. By today’s standards, the special effects are quaint at best. For some reason, I loved it as a kid. For some reason, I lived it as an adult.
It seemed like I teetered on burn out for many years in Guatemala. I always asked God to take me home before I burned out. I think that’s what happened.
But now that I have been serving in the mother church for six years, I’m bored to tears. I’m aching to get out on the field and play (and not sit on the bench). Maybe you can relate:
Then I said, I will not make mention of Him nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not hold my tongue. — Jeremiah 20:9
He who is called can’t escape the call. Any other life will only reap frustration and misery. Are you tired of ministry? Consider the alternative. Are you running from your calling? You’ll only be miserable.
My recent trip to Guatemala only confirms the urging in my heart.
There wasn’t a good time to come to Guatemala. First we determined Hosea would come with me, so we had to renew his passport. Then we looked for cheap tickets. The result? We are missing Dianna’s birthday?
We celebrated it early. Di likes Chinese, Rebekah Japanese, I Mexican, Rob red meat and Hosea Idk. So we opted for middle ground: Italian. That’s how we celebrate at the Ashcraft house.
I am currently in Guatemala, preaching the gospel. There are sacrifices for serving God. But these sacrifices are better than the sacrifices in the world: parents who sacrifice their kids for money, for example.
Still, I’m missing her.
Then I said, I won’t talk about God anymore. But His word was in my heart burning like a fire in my bones, and I couldn’t bear it. — Jeremiah 20:9
I don’t know how people get out of ministry and manage to forget it. They move on to making money. They compromise their morals. I got a good look at this sort of thing when I rested from being a pastor for six years. I left the mission field and haven’t started a new church. Hopefully I will soon. It has been a more or less miserable time.
Right now I’m ministering in my old haunts. I had been a missionary/pastor/founder of a Christian school for 16 years. I’m visiting once again. My three kids were born here, but only Hosea, my youngest, is with me, seeing his childhood buddies. It is a blessing to see everyone again. There is no greater life to live than to speak God’s word and help people come to Him.
As Peyton Manning was winning his second Super Bowl, the cameras panned his family. A grim-faced Eli Manning, who quarterbacks for the New York Giants, just got his record (two Super Bowls) equaled. The media speculated wildly: He was mad that his brother and rival tied him. He was no longer the favored child. Etc. and nauseating etc.
It turns out the wild imaginations were all projecting their own evil thoughts on poor Eli. Yes, he had a grim face, but not because he had a rivalry with his brother. He was thinking, he came forward to clear up the record, about strategy. What would the Broncos do next to guarantee the win? Deep in playroom cogitations, he didn’t show on his face the rejoicing of the rest of the family.
No, you’re not “hearing” the Holy Spirit guessing what a brother or sister is thinking. If you suspect evil in his heart, maybe it’s your own evil. Maybe, if YOU had that face it would be because of some bad thoughts. But maybe the other person not so.
Pentecostal Christians make a mess of church ministry by confusing psychological projection with Holy Spirit thinking. Don’t pay attention to the face. Just preach the word and love people. Don’t judge them based on their face.
The pungent and sweet taste of orange marmalade is one I missed as a missionary in Guatemala. So when we got back to the U.S. a few years ago after 16 years abroad, I got it, and I shared it with my youngest son. To put it mildly, Hosea didn’t like it.
“Dad! It tastes like it has wires!” He was somewhere between aghast and livid. He believed it was his duty to inform me what I didn’t know. The rind gratings — um — were grating to his palate.
Of course, I cracked up. For his ingenuousness, thinking I didn’t know it had rind gratings. For his descriptiveness.
This is how I feel when newbie leaders want to give me a lecture on spirituality. When does the senior ever let the freshman tell him how to play varsity football? You have to take things with humor or it can be a discouraging thing coming back into your mother church. And you gotta enjoy the orange marmalade despite what people say.
Sometimes I tune out the movie-maker’s message and get my own. Such was the case of Star Wars. I’m a middle-aged pastor, who’s between churches right now. I’ve gone through some tough experiences, disillusions, etc. I can see how it would be easy to grow bitter, to rack up the negatives experiences and to snipe. So God spoke to me about the danger of passing over to the dark side of the force, as the movie says. It would be easy. I could be very effective. BUT, I would be in darkness.
This post goes out to all the aging pastors who have lost of the sense of romance when you’re young and starting ministry. Maybe you’ve been removed from ministry, suffered financial hardships, gone through unfair circumstances. Don’t pass over to the dark side. Renew yourself in the Lord, rejuvenate, refresh. Let waters flow into the desert and make it a lush garden again.
A pastor holds a delicate position in society. His job is to get his people into right relationship with God. He must not confuse his will with God’s will. Because he speaks the word of God in the name of God, he can mistakenly think everything he says is of God. He can abuse the trust given him by insisting on his way, by wanting always to get the credit, by injecting self into ministry.
If you love others selflessly, you’ll do well in the pastorate. If you love God above all else, you’ll do well. Beware if you love self intensely. You are going to hurt the flock of God.
“Don’t mess with the gospel,” growled Oto, who, despite being backslidden himself, respected the truth profoundly. “Men make mistakes. But the gospel is something that God has given and is perfect.”
The argument grew heated, and he and his boss fell to blows. The police came, and Oto punched a cop. They wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him. If it weren’t for a friend who just happened to be a friend of the cop, he would have been carted off to jail.
Whew! What a way to come back to Jesus – by way of a beer brawl!
The next day he woke up hung-over and spied a dirty Bible in the corner of his ramshackle sheet metal and wooden post house in the poorest neighborhood of Guatemala, only four blocks away from the city’s dump. Over time, he managed to block out the repulsive stench wafting from the dump, he says.
All he got out of the Bible that day was more condemnation for his sin. He cried out to God. For two and a half years, he’d gone from being a respected church leader to a heavy drinker and womanizer.
“God, I don’t want to go to Hell,” he cried. “If You can give me a chance, do it.” Read the rest of the amazing testimony.