I met Jesus and was saved on November 18, 1979 in Gresham Oregon. I was a rebellious teenager who was called in those days a stoner. I was involved with and embraced the rock and roll lifestyle. I was in a band that played all over our local area. I got interested in a Christian girl who broke the rules and said that she would date me if I went to church with her. I figured that was no problem. The churches I had attended in the past had just been religious exercises and had no spirituality. They prayed and acted like no one was listening except one another.
Her church was different. When they prayed they acted as if God actually cared and was listening. This bothered me tremendously. I could not sleep that night, so at about 3 am I finally bowed my knees and said a simple prayer. “God if you are real, do something with me.” He did! I was changed, transformed, and instantly knew that Jesus had come to live in me. I was set free from addictions to drugs, and instantly changed my personality from one of negativity and rejection to one that drew people to me and Jesus. I was called the miracle of Barlow High School, and was used to start a morning prayer group and was part of a series of events that caused a revival to happen within my school where we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 teens attending Christian concerts and events.
Spiritual journeys are filled with mountaintops and valleys. I will try to give you a balance of both. I have been a truck driver for most of my life, including while pastoring. I was always bi-vocational. So I will call my highlights mile markers.
The first mile marker happened about 2 weeks after my conversion. I immediately had a voracious appetite for anything to do with spirituality and the Christian faith. One of the first books I read was by Hal Lindsey, called Satan is alive and well on planet earth. It is amazing how God will use whatever tool he wants to accomplish His purposes. In the book, Hal gets on a soapbox about the “Tongues Movement”.
Being so new in the faith, I had no clue what the heck he was talking about. So I asked a friend at school who I knew was a Christian and who’s dad was a pastor, “What is tongues?” He explained to me that it was a prayer language that God gives those who ask. So I went back to my bedroom, where at that point, I figured was where I needed to get stuff from God since that is where I met Him and asked for this prayer language.
He honored that simple prayer of faith and I received it. I was ecstatic! I couldn’t wait to tell people what God had done again. Just like in bible days! Well I went to the youth pastor of the church I had started to attend. The one the Christian girl had went to and the one that acted like Jesus was real. I told him my great news. He looked at me like I had just swallowed a devil.
I didn’t realize that many churches did not believe the gifts were for today. I didn’t understand. But God was faithful and I went and found out which church my friend who told me about this gift, attended. It was Easthill Foursquare Church. Jerry Cook was the pastor. I believe you probably know him. He has authored the book, Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness. He regularly speaks at ministers conventions, including those of the Vineyard.
The next mile marker in my journey was the passing of my father. He was not a believer. Unfortunately due to an addiction to morphine he obtained while having surgery on his leg, he turned from being a hard but good man, to being a drug dealer, womanizer, and involved on the fringe of some pretty dark criminal elements. He committed suicide and most of us in the family believe he did so because he had been diagnosed with AIDS. This is when AIDS had just came out in the public eye.
I had witnessed to my father on more than 1 occasion. I had visited his place and cleaned it and tried to serve and be a witness to him. Unfortunately our last conversation, we had had some pretty strong and tough words to one another. Because of this and then his passing without any evidence of his repentance and salvation, this caused a wound in my heart that would effect me for years.
I felt guilty and let the enemy whisper condemnation in to my ears. If I had only loved better, served more, and not have gotten angry with him that last time, he would have been saved. This seed had long lasting and nearly catastrophic results in my spiritual life. It was the beginning of a vow that could not be fulfilled. It produced a performance mentality.
During this same time I was playing in Christian rock bands. I was with a group that did a tour of all the minimum security prisons in Oregon and Washington. We opened for such groups and performers as Larry Norman, Darrel Mansfield, Servant, and Rez Band. I thought for sure that God had called me to be a full time Christian rock performer. Ah the follies of youth!
However people would keep coming up to me and telling me that God was calling me to leadership and to get trained in the Word. Finally I listened and at first tried to go to a local Bible college, called Multnomah school of the Bible, now called Multnomah biblical seminary. It was so dry and lifeless I was dying there. So after 1 semester I quit. The next year I went to L.I.F.E. Bible college, now called Pacific Life College. It was the Foursquare Bible college and that is where God started changing my heart in what my calling was.
The next mile marker was meeting my kid’s mom. I was in my sophomore year of Bible college. It is a dangerous year. In the Greek language the word sophomore comes from two Greek words meaning wise and moron. Sophomores are wise morons! This described me to a tee!
I was attending and leading the youth in my uncles church that he pastored. He was mentoring me for ministry. A new family came in to the church with a cute little redheaded girl that immediately targeted me. I did not realize that even though people might be Christians, and have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, does not mean they are functional or are healthy mentally or spiritually. The signs were there, I was just ignorant and didn’t know they were signs. I ended up marrying a woman who was a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and who did not know who she was, let alone have a healthy spirit. We were both young and dumb.
I continued to attend Bible college until the birth of my son James. At that point I had to make a decision as to where my responsibilities lie and where my priorities had to be. My family took precedence over Bible College. I do not regret my decision. My son is an awesome man today and served faithfully his country in the air force and is one of my closest friends as well. He is living with me now and helps me with all the audio visual stuff we do at the church.
When I was 28 came another mile marker. The burden on my heart to please the Lord with my life and call came to a head. Time after time I had went to the senior pastor of the church I was attending and shared my burden and call to pastor. I kept hearing the same thing. You are too young. No one will respect or follow you.
It came to a point that I could not continue to sit. So I rented a warehouse, called all my friends and family, sent press releases to the newspapers and radio stations, and started having church in a warehouse! Our first service we had over 40 and I thought I had arrived! God was faithful to me in these times and although I am sure that I had a mixture of holy ambition and wholly ambitious, there was awesome fruit that came out of this time. It was during this time that I had the privilege and honor of leading my mother to the Lord during one of our services. She had started coming to support her son and Jesus used it to win her heart.
After having 3 years of fruitful ministry here and establishing a new church that we brought under the Foursquare covering, God started dealing with my heart to go where no one wanted to go. It was out of this leading that we ended up in Pioche. If you have ever been to Pioche, you would understand that anyone with any desires to be recognized or move up the ministerial pecking order would never go to Pioche. It may not be the end of the earth, but you can see it from there!
Yet God was dealing with me about serving without recognition or any advancement other than what He advances. The people there loved us and we were well liked, unfortunately we were having such good success that the Mormon leadership there, especially in the school district where I was working, got threatened. They ended up starving us out. No employment. It was at this time that we were asked to come and establish a church in Ely. And that we did for another 5 years.
I was asked to be the Secretary Treasurer of the White Pine Ministerial Association and to be the keynote speaker at the baccalaureate for the high school. We bought a building that seated 100 and established good fruit in the community. However it was also during this time that the sacrifices and demands of being in ministry and especially as a bi-vocational pastor, took their toll on my wife.
She had always struggled with depression and she went off the deep end and started seeking information on other religions and alternative lifestyles. It was due to this and knowing that she was seeking a way out of the marriage, that I resigned my last pastorate in 1998. We ended up seeking divorce in 2000.
It was after this that my performance mentality almost killed me. How could I, a man of God, be divorced? God hates divorce! Pastors are supposed to be examples! I will never pastor again! My life is ruined! I spent a year and a half totally angry with God. He was supposed to cover my back. I felt like He had totally let me down, yet at the same time my heart and performance mentality thought I had let Him down.
I literally came to the point that I considered driving my truck off the edge of a cliff one snowy day in the winter of 2001. I was a total mess. God graciously sent to me a Southern Baptist pastor named Tim Shields. Only God would take a SBC pastor and send him to a broken pentecostal pastor. He has such a sense of humor! Pastor Tim ministered grace to me, and showed me the unconditional love of God, the acceptance of the Lord, and the path of restoration.
I remember during this time, driving on the road, God speaking to me. “Duke, how much do I love you?” Unconditionally Lord. “Then if I have chosen to do so, why do you chose to do the opposite of me and hate yourself?” I was stunned! Then He asked. “Duke, how much do I accept you?” I am accepted in the Beloved Lord. “Then why do you reject yourself and call what I have called clean, unclean?” This moment was an epiphany and the moment my doctrine changed from leaning to Arminianism to more Calvanistic. I am neither one, but I know this. What God says and what God has promised, our performance or lack thereof, cannot cancel.
Over the course of the next 8 years God has restored me to whom He has called me to be. I would shepherd people all the time even even before He restored me to a pulpit. I have been the pastor to a bunch of unchurched and unsaved people that are the rough and tumble crowd.
I have been broken and shattered only to have the master potter water me and remold me into a vessel of honor. My pride and performance mentality have been purified by the fire. The only reason I even seek to be in leadership anymore is because the gifts and callings of God are without repentance. He knew when He called me all those years ago, I would be here in this situation yet He still chose to call and gift me.
I had 3 prophetic words, given 8 years ago about a return to ministry shortly after He started the restoration process, and then 3 more in 2010 saying it is going to happen soon. My heart’s position was that it was in His hands. He had my address and I was submitted to doing His will knowing it is Him and not me. In my weakness and in my seemingly impossible situation, having not pastored for 10 years and having been faithful to be just the pastor to my family, He was made strong and was more than capable of accomplishing His will.
In May of 2010 I was asked by the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Pine Haven Wyoming to come and be the shepherd to a bunch of awesome believers in Jesus. To them, the things I had gone through did not disqualify me but instead qualified me to be the type of Pastor that this community needed. One that had gone through the fire, had suffered what many others had suffered but yet was still standing for Jesus. God was able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that I asked or thought! I give Him all the glory.
If God will do it for me, He will do it for You! Start the process today.