PASTORING IN CALIFORNIA

Mill Valley is in Marin and Marin is one of the counties included in what is traditionally referred to as the San Francisco Bay Area. Mill Valley is in the southern end of Marin County and on Easter Sunday somewhat less than 3% of the population turns out for a church service. As far as I know there is not a Reformed congregation in Marin apart from Miller Avenue Baptist Church, Mill Valley, of which I am pastor.

During the 1970's I served as founding and senior pastor of an independent church in central Marin. This was during the Jesus People Movement. We grew so large so quickly we were forced to begin five churches all at once. Less than a month from the dispersal, our numbers were back up to where they had been. As a pastor, it was all I could do to keep tract of the people coming into the church.

In Mill Valley, said to be the New Age capital of the world, if we grow by one or two a year we get quite excited. Here is the story of two people, one of whom was the only new convert in1998.

Gino, his real name, attended A.A. meetings for over a decade in the building owned by Miller Avenue Baptist Church. For many years he hoped to improve his 'conscious contact' with God and one Sunday in June of 1998 he showed up for a Sunday morning worship service. He quietly sat through many sermons and began asking questions of some of the members after the service was over. I did not speak to him except for the casual greetings for several months. In November he called me for an appointment. He related that he had come to Jesus and now wanted to start attending a Bible study. He wanted to learn how to pray and expressed interest in joining cell to cell witnessing ministry at San Quentin. Gino, as far as I can see, has experienced a genuine conversion. The only one for 1998.

Ted, not his real name, has been a part of the church for at least ten years. He had been a Jehovah's Witness before and was disfellowshipped for some reason. A big strong man and good with fixing up things, he has helped out on dozens of work projects at our building and parsonage. However, he never came to a prayer meeting or Bible study. I had always assumed he was a believer but had never asked him for his testimony. For several years now, his attendance had been irregular. Eighteen months ago he called me from jail--he had been arrested on a drug charge.

Ted had been living a secret life. After his expulsion from the Watchtower Society he had started using drugs and frequenting a gay bar. Though he had been married he became a transvestite. Three years ago he had quit the homosexuality but continued using drugs, mainly powered cocaine. Then came the arrest. Still it took him well over a year to come to the place where he would confide in me. But the real reason for his coming to me was that he had discovered that he had never been converted.

His irregular church attendance had begun at the point that I had started preaching strongly for genuine conversion. Ted said he could not stand to listen to those sermons. He had, however, dropped by the church building from time to time to secure a sermon tape or two. It was listening to the tapes that brought him to see his unconverted state.

Ted is yet unconverted but at least now he knows that is the case. As pastor I can now pray that God's Holy Spirit would reveal Jesus to him that he might know the fullness of His grace.

Perhaps many will be converted in the upcoming years, maybe there will be but a few, perhaps there will be none at all. Whatever God gives we will be content with that and meanwhile, for my part, I will preach and pray and wait for God to move.

Kent Philpott

 

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