After retiring from the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, I wanted to go and get equipped so that God could use me in ministry. Although, I didn’t really know what that meant, or where or how God could use a guy like me. So, I went back to San Diego State to finish my undergrad studies and worked with Youth For Christ while there. And, while God was using us to do some great things during that time, I realized that the depth of my Biblical knowledge wasn’t where it needed to be, so I enrolled at Talbot Theological Seminary in Los Angeles and started my way toward a Master of Divinity degree.
It was while I was working my way through seminary that I started dating Jan – the amazing girl who would become my wife. Now, Jan’s brother Ryan and his friend Dennis had both just become Christians and had a ton of questions and a zeal for learning what the Bible had to say about what God wanted for their lives. And, since I was studying the Bible at school, we decided to start a Bible study on Sunday nights.
The Bible study exploded. More and more people started showing up each week and we quickly outgrew each home we tried to meet at. We wound up at an old chicken farm in Alta Loma, CA that belonged to some Christian friends who were excited about what God seemed to be doing with our little group. It was there that we realized that we were no longer just a Bible study, but a small church. We became known as Life Bible Fellowship. But, before we knew it, we outgrew the chicken coop and moved to an old condemned school/community center/bar named Sweeten Hall in Rancho Cucamonga. The “new” facility had classrooms that we could transform into Sunday school rooms for the kids, and God continued to add to our numbers constantly and more and more people were excited about Christ.
It was so much fun to watch God do His thing and draw so many people to Him.
In just a short time, we were able to buy our own property in Upland, CA, where Life Bible Fellowship Community Church still meets today. I never thought that I would end up as a pastor, but that’s where God put me, and I had the honor of pastoring there for over 19 years. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of and there are people all over the world today doing God’s work whose spiritual foundations came out of that body of believers in the 70’s and 80’s. It was so incredible to easily and obviously see God’s presence moving through the lives of people all around us.
Now, if you haven’t learned this lesson yet, learn it from me. There are going to be good seasons in your life and there are going to be bad seasons. The reality, for me, was that after my time at Life Bible Fellowship came to an end, I went to work for a church in Irvine, CA. Like most new ministries and jobs, things started out really well. But, where I was gifted as a pastoral and evangelical leader, the church needed much more of an administrator; and they fired me after three years.
I had never been fired before. This was humbling to say the least, and it sent me into an emotional downward spiral as I wondered what God wanted to do with me.
I ended up getting a job at a local hardware store selling tools while I continued that God would help me put the pieces to the puzzle back together again.
Then I received a call from a friend who was the area director for the Evangelical Free Church. He told me that there was a body of believers in Huntington Beach that needed an interim pastor and was wondering if I was willing to step in temporarily. It was a church that had gone through a lot of recent struggles and was having a hard time getting things moving again. In my pursuit of how I could minister to the community, even temporarily, I learned that there were a lot of people living within the Huntington Beach area who once attended this church, but for various reasons stopped coming. I discussed this with the church’s elders and we came up with the idea of taking some time to prayerfully seek ways to clear our conscience as a church. This required a huge effort on all our behalves to seek God and ask Him to reveal how we may have offended these people and what sin may have crept into our congregation over the years. Then came the real tough part – we all went out and face-to-face apologized to the people who the church had done wrong. We owned up to our failures and sought forgiveness for falling short of our mission as a church.
It was incredible! It was like a revival to see restoration amongst God’s people. When the elders asked if I would be interested in removing the “interim” from my title and pastor the church full-time, Jan and I prayed about it and felt like this was, in fact the ministry that God had prepared us for and wanted to use us in. It was while serving there that we continued to help with the healing of the people living in Huntington Beach while we all continued to learn more and more about God’s love for us and His desires and plans for us as His people.
For more information about Ray and Jan’s ministry, check out their page at cadence.org