Examining my life over the past seventy plus years, the one thing that made the most difference is when I was introduced to Jesus Christ while in the military. The early years of my life began in a dysfunctional home. When my parents divorced, there was a feud in the family with my siblings and me taken from our mother and trucked across the country to our father, from the Midwest to the northwest. Eventually all three of us ended up in the foster care system and subsequently separated. My memory of this time in my life is one of being passed along from one foster home to another until I was eight years old and my name was changed to Jerry Back.
The first year with the Backs seemed like paradise. We lived on a large farm with constant activity. However, after the first year—a trial year—when my adoption became final, life changed dramatically. Both parents became abusive. Life on the farm became drudgery. Instead of playing and exploring the area around our home, it was working long hours every day of the week. When I was sixteen, because of an especially brutal beating by my father, the juvenile judge of the county set me free to live with a family of my choice. Immediately following high school graduation, I entered the service.
Following my discharge, I wanted to study architecture. As I approached the fourth year of study for my BA, I sensed a strong desire to study theology and become a missionary. I switched my major to education and upon graduation, entered the Master of Divinity program at Western Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon. I finished and graduated in three years.
During the time at Western, several events took place in my life that changed my thinking from missions abroad to pastoring churches in the United States. One of those events was the downfall of my pastor and the devastation it brought to the church and many of the families. For the first time in my walk with the Lord, I saw how important an effective church is to a community of God’s people.
The pastoral ministry was a shock to me. While I had been prepared academically, there was little training in pastoral theology. When I was called to a church, instead of feeling like coming home, I felt like I was in a war zone. There was one conflict after another throughout my time there. I was discouraged and questioned my call to the ministry.
Subsequently I was approached to start a new church. Again, there was little preparation and guidance as the flock started with five adults. We organized, bought property, and finished the first phase of a building program. I had never seen a building built before, so I had to learn as I went along. Ultimately God blessed, the little church grew, and I began to grow spiritually. During this time, the pastor of my home church suggested I needed to be ordained. From the time my path changed from architecture to ministry I sensed a definite call to the ministry—though my first church experience left me wondering. I believe that a call to ministry, to be valid, must be recognized by others. My home church invited pastors in our association as well as some of my professors from seminary to examine me. The ordination council lasted a full day. When it was over, the council unanimously voted to recognize my call to ministry.
During my first two ministries, I sensed a need to help others who were new to the ministry by sharing what I had learned. This desire grew until the board of my church also sensed my growing burden for helping other men and churches. We all agreed I should enter the doctoral program at Western Seminary. Upon graduating, the Lord opened doors for me to begin writing and counseling other young pastors as well as churches struggling through conflicts. God also opened doors for me to teach part time at three different Christian colleges.
Picture a child growing up in difficult home situations now earning a doctoral degree. In fact, when I first thought of going to college, my parents told me I did not have what it takes to finish a degree and refused to assist me in any way. Some say there are no miracles today. I know there are and have experienced many in my life.
After a few more years of ministry, the Lord laid on my heart to seek additional training in conflict management. I found a program that considered my experiences and education and granted me permission to begin working on a PhD in conflict management. The course work was exhilarating and challenging. I continued in my church ministry of serving as interim pastor in various churches, served as part time adjunct professor at Moody Bible Institute in Spokane, Washington and Trinity Bible College and Seminary in Newberg, Indiana—the school where I was working toward a PhD.
As I began working on my dissertation, I experienced a serious health event that forced me to drop out of the PhD program. I figured my days of teaching and working on my degree program were over. I no longer had the stamina to engage in conflict management. The Lord provided a job in secular employment that met the needs of my family and still allowed for some classroom teaching. The last few years I have served as the interim pastor of a small struggling church and now have the pleasure of sitting under the ministry of the man whom God led to be our pastor.
Through the years, my passion to assist others in ministry has led me into research and writing. God has made this all possible. Beginning as a young waif with a difficult childhood, God has provided many opportunities to learn, to teach, and to encourage others. I am asking God to give me a new ministry through this website to use the gifts His grace has given to me to reach out and assist, strengthen, and encourage others in ministry. I will be uploading articles on various topics as the Holy Spirit leads. It is my prayer that through this website, many will interact with me, ask questions and give feedback so that together we use our spiritual gifts to edify the body of Christ. “And this we shall do, if God permits.” (Heb 6:3 NASB)
There is a song we sing in church that tells of how God blesses. It is ringing in my mind and heart right now:
I can tell the world about this,
I can tell the nations I’m blessed
Tell them that Jesus made me whole
And He brought joy, joy to my soul!
He took my feet from the miry clay, Yes, He did! Yes, He did!
And placed them on the rock to stay, Yes, He did! Yes, He did!
Traditional Spiritual, Hymns for the Living Church, (Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1974) page 243
BA - Eastern Washington University, Cheney, WA (1967)
M Div - Western Seminary, Portland, OR (1970)
D Min - Western Seminary, Portland, OR (1983)
D Min - Trinity Seminary, Newburg, IN (2003)
National Omicron-PSI Honor Society (2003)