It has been my privilege to pastor the Coral Coast Church since its beginnings on 5 November 1995. During this time, I have seen the goodness of God on so many occasions and been reminded that a faith relationship with God really makes a difference.
I grew up knowing nothing of God. My family consistently ridiculed any religious belief, replacing it with an ardent faith in politics. My grandfather frequently told me that religion was “the opiate of the masses”, quoting Karl Marx, and insisted that no one in the family should have anything to do with church. I can remember being invited to a Sunday School by a friend when I was seven or eight years of age, and only attending for three weeks just to collect a book award at the end of the year. That was my only contact with ‘religion’ during my entire childhood.
My ambition in life was to become a politician and to help change the world for the better – and make a name for myself in the process. I had intended to study Law or Economics or Political Science at university so that I would have a launching point for a political career. However, the tumultuous events in Australian politics at the end of 1975 with the fall of the Federal Labor Government had a profound affect upon my family. I was about to enter my final year of secondary schooling, and the whole foundation and purpose of my life had been completely shaken. I suddenly realised that politics was not the answer and that there had to be something else to life.
I began 1976 as a committed atheist, believing in no God and mocking anyone who did believe. I laughed at the mere suggestion of any spiritual reality. I had all the standard argument winners – at least then, in my ignorance, I thought that they were argument winners. I used to say, “The Bible is full of contradictions”, even though I had never read it. I used to say, “Science has proven the Bible wrong”, even though I did not stop to think that true empirical science cannot prove anything about the past, only suggest theories based on data observed in the present. I used to say, “You can’t prove that God exists’, not realising that you can’t prove that He does not exist either. I used to say, “Believing in God is just a crutch for weak people”, not recognising that everyone believes in something. I used to say, “Christians are just parasites on society”, not knowing that almost everything that is good about our society has been initiated by people motivated by a Christian faith.
In April 1976, through the example and encouragement of some schoolmates, I came to the point of realising that I had been wrong. All of the arguments that I had raised against God were shallow and inaccurate. In fact, there was a God, and I could come to know Him through His Son. Much to my family’s disbelief, I committed myself to Jesus Christ and I had found the most meaningful purpose to life.
In 1977, I began studying at the University of Queensland. My ambition was no longer to be a politician, but to do something with my life that would be of benefit to people. I was accepted to study medicine, but, within a couple of years, God produced a desire in me to serve Him and minister among His people as a pastor. So, I left university in early 1979 and worked for a couple of years in a clerical position in the Public Service. Then, just after Caroline and I were married in early 1981, I began my studies at the Baptist Theological College of Queensland.
Since then, I have pastored in four churches in Queensland. I served for three years at our home church, Windsor Road Baptist Church (Red Hill, Brisbane), as a pastor to youth and university students. In 1986, I had the privilege and challenge of beginning a new church in Tully in Far North Queensland. In 1992, I accepted a call to the Bundaberg Baptist Church to work among the youth and children’s ministries. Then, at the end of 1995, the Bundaberg Church released a group of people to begin a new church at Coral Coast, and I was responsible for this new work.
Pastoring is a calling that has both highs and lows, but Caroline and I have been continually aware of the strength that comes from a close relationship with Jesus Christ. God is always faithful, and we can always depend on His amazing grace.