How time has flown since that first Sunday morning, back in December 1978 when a group of 6 people gathered in our home to study God's word, and it's so difficult to even think about that time without remembering the pain and heartache together with the misunderstanding that surrounded that little gathering.
You see, I was wonderfully converted to Jesus Christ through the preaching of Pastor Douglas Evans, the pastor of Sunbridge Road Mission, who was later to become my father-in-law. I didn't know what the name pastor meant because I had been brought up in the Catholic church, I was familiar with Priests, Cardinals, but not pastors, but evidently the title means a shepherd.
Pastor Evans' daughter Susan captured my heart, she was 15 years old and a committed Christian, which at that time didn't mean much to me, so if I wanted to see Susan I had to meet her at Sunbridge Road Mission. I was 17 years old and well on the way to being an alcoholic, one of those clever kids that knew they didn't need an education and so left school with nothing and at 18 years of age ended up in the prison cells of our city, situated then under Bradford town hall. I knew that my life was going nowhere but I just couldn't stop drinking and everything that went with it! It was during this time that I heard the gospel for the very first time in my life; the gospel means “good news” but I didn't know that, but when Pastor Evans preached that late November Sunday night telling me that Jesus loved me and had died for all my sins, and that He was just waiting to forgive me and the mess I was in at that time, it seemed too good to be true! So what was the catch?
There wasn't one! Because I just needed to admit that I needed God's forgiveness, and to ask Him to come into my life and be born again of His Spirit.
So why didn't I jump up straight away and do It? Because I was counting the cost, it seemed like my whole life had passed before me, there would have to be such a change in my life, the drink, the old friends, my catholic upbringing, my relations, my way of surviving on the streets, all this would have to go!
That night I prayed a simple prayer that in a moment changed my whole life, and for the next 13 years faithfully attended Sunbridge Mission, three services on Sunday and midweek bible studies. I felt a call to share my new found faith on the streets of my city, and so I started street witnessing, just simply stopping people and telling them that God loves them and that Jesus died for their sins. You can imagine some of the reactions I received, but the swearing and abuse did not bother me, I would have said the same things and in the same way before I knew Jesus Christ. So I returned to the night clubs and bars which I used to frequent to tell those that I used to drink with how much God loved them, and that Jesus died for their sins, and because that is where I grew up there was no fear of these places.
Sharing my new found faith (witnessing) became very much apart of my life, sharing the love of Jesus in the night clubs and on the streets were the happiest days of my Christian life. Then something happened. I could see that kids coming off the streets needed a service that was suited to their age, in music, worship and teaching. Free expression of worship! For three years we prayed over this, but without a solution emerging. Eventually I felt that God was moving us on but I didn't know where to, and I certainly had no thoughts of starting a church!
Leaving our family and home church was a most difficult and costly time for us. Some could not understand why we needed to move, but through it all God was in control and moving us to a place where He would use us for His glory. Looking back now as we see how Jesus took a couple of kids who loved and trusted Him with their lives and began to fulfil His plans and purposes we can say it has been worth all the difficulties and challenges along the way. As God established and built Church on the Way my father-in-law, Pastor Evans, became a great source of encouragement to Susan and me, and to our congregation.
We are now in the 31st year of the life of Church on The Way. The name is taken from John's Gospel chapter 14v6 "Jesus saith unto him,
"I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
John 14 verse 6 means so much to me personally.
Taking time to consider what the lord Jesus has done over those years through a small group of believers can only be truly explained as a wonderful miracle, and it continues to be so. I could talk about the land He told us to purchase, and the buildings He told us to build, but I would rather thank Jesus for the friends and families, the men and women who have trusted the leadership of our church with their loved ones. I would like to thank the Sunday School teachers who have faithfully taught the children, the home study leaders, the church cleaners, the maintenance team for their love and support over these 31 years whose servant spirit has kept the facilities looking so good!
Susan and I have always been blessed with godly men and women who have allowed both of us to make mistakes, and we are still together serving Jesus. I would especially like to thank the men and women of those early years who waited patiently for this man to become a pastor, some sadly no longer come to Church on the Way, but in those early years they were a great encouragement to both of us. Some have been gloriously taken home to be with Jesus. I’m thinking of a young man named Mark Higgins, and a prayer warrior Shirley Carr and two Elder Statesmen, Frank Birstall and Mr Arthur Hardiman and a young mum named Joy McKenzie, saints whose faith subdued kingdoms.
You may ask what makes us different from other churches? We are a non-denominational church that believes in the essential doctrines of the infallibility of God’s Word, His virgin birth and His sinless life, His death for our sins, and His resurrection to heaven, and we're looking forward to His return! We believe our services should reflect Hjs presence and so they should be "sane, sensible and sensitive" And that there is no greater miracle this side of the grave other than that of His Salvation; being born again of the Spirit of God, John 3 v 3-6 and over the last 31 years what a tremendous privilege it has been for me to see lives being transformed by the Lord Jesus and the grace of God. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
And now I must ask you a very personal question, " if you had died the minute you started to read this, do you have the assurance that you would be going to heaven ?"
The bible says there are four things a person must know to go to Heaven:
"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3v23
(This means we have all sinned and come short of God's glory)
"For the wages of sin is death" Romans 6v23
(Our sin has earned us a wage and that wage is death, or eternal separation from God in hell)
"But God commendeth His love towards us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" Romans 5v8
(Even in our sin God loved us and sent His Son Jesus 2000 years ago to die for us on the cross)
"That whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" Romans 10v13
So how can Jesus change your life? Simple: Just talk to Him and say this prayer.
Dear Jesus, please forgive me of my sins and save my soul. I repent of all my sins and ask You to come into my heart and be the Lord of my life. Take control of my life, for I give myself to You. Thank you for hearing my prayer and saving my soul. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
If you have just said this prayer, as I did 42 years ago Jesus will change your life! You are now forgiven of all your past mistakes and sins, you are as white as snow before God, you are born again of His Spirit.by, To go to the Big Question online form, click here
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" 2 Corinthians 5v17
Do you need to start going to church now? Not necessarily, but I recommend that you find a church that teaches the bible, God's word, where you will be fed and grow as a new Christian. Don't be too concerned at this time, trust the Holy Spirit to guide you, because you belong to Jesus now! My prayer for you is, may the Lord Jesus Christ keep you and richly bless your life from this moment on.
I would like to thank my loving wife Susan for her encouragement and support over the years and also my children Anthony; Clifford, Victoria, Claire, Caroline, Ian and Tracey who so lovingly did without their father's time during those essential and interesting early years.
"We'll praise Him for all that is past and trust Him for all that is to come".
May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you.
Pastor James King