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1659 Shady Hollow Way
Manteca, CA 95336
433 North 1200 East
Pleasant Grove, UT 84062
I was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan on July 14, 1953. When I was three we we moved out of the cold of the midwest to the warmth and sunshine of sunny Southern California, where I was raised by my parents with my four siblings... one sister and three brothers. This was a huge change for my parents, whose whole lives had been spent in or near “Ypsi” (pronounced “Ip’-see), save for my father’s time away serving our country in WWII. I was second in the birth order.
My main childhood years were spent in Santa Ana and Tustin, in Orange County. Back then, Orange County was a great place to live. Tustin—where we lived from 1962 on—currently has a population of almost 71,000, but in the early 60’s was somewhere around 10,000, and climbed to only 32,000 by the time I graduated from high school in 1971.
I have to say ... I had a great childhood. There were abundant orange groves (orange fights were common: the only rules were that you could only throw fallen oranges, and they could not be green), there were lots of same-aged kids in our neighborhood, along with plenty of swimming pools and baseball fields… and we were relatively close to the beach. I can remember my friends and I riding our bicycles to either Corona Del Mar or Newport so we could body surf. What a life!
Other days were spent playing long ball or some other baseball related game. Sometimes we’d challenge the neighborhood next to ours to a full-on tackle football game. We’d plan neighborhood circuses for charity, conduct mini-Olympic games, hold huge marathon ping-pong tournaments, and would also have nighttime kick-the-can and capture the flag contests. There was literally never a dull moment. We had a blast.
We fished, we played, we had boxing tournaments, we built things, and we raced slot cars. You name it, we did it. I loved and lived for sports, and like many kids, wanted to become a pro athlete. Baseball was my favorite sport, but I liked playing everything.
In school, I attended Catholic schools from grades 1-6, with the exception of part of my 2nd grade year when we tried living on Long Island, NY. In the parochial schools we had to wear a uniform to school every day, and could not wear what other kids wore. Because of that I had a very strong desire to dress “normally.” Since the only way that could happen were if I attended a public school, I begged, cajoled, and pleaded to transfer to a regular junior high school. My mother relented, and that decision meant that my life would never be the same.
Very quickly upon my first exposure to the culture and environment of junior high, I could see that in order to make the most of things I’d have to become popular. Thus began my earnest elevation of self, as I lived my life in order to be liked and accepted by as many as possible. That world led me into behaviors that I’m not at all proud of. I hurt many people and used them for my own advantage. Over a period of time, I deteriorated as a person. Outwardly, I was often the life of the party and viewed as successful, but when alone, I was insecure and fearful.
I did achieve my goal of popularity, but for what end?
Jesus asked a very searching question which would later factor into my decision to follow Him. “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24). I’d “gained” much (popularity), but lost much at the same time.
As far as my spiritual or religious background is concerned, I was raised as a Roman Catholic. I was regular in church attendance and tried to keep the sacraments of the church. I do not remember hearing the gospel of grace through faith in Jesus Christ during those years. I do specifically remember having the concept in my mind that I needed to be a good Catholic. That way, (I thought) I would possess enough grace to eventually get to heaven. I had no actual hope of getting into heaven directly—I thought that I would first be required to suffer in purgatory for hundreds of years. My main goal was to keep so-called mortal sins out of my soul. Then at least I’d be assured of purgatory, and I would avoid hell. I realize that in some places these doctrines are not currently taught by the Catholic church, but they were definitely taught to us back then.
In November of 1969, while a junior in high school, I heard the good news that salvation is a free gift from God, and not as the result of human works or performance. Prior to that moment, I don't believe I'd ever heard that the cross of Christ was intentional, planned by God Himself as the payment for our sins, and that Jesus Christ "bore our sins in His body on the tree [cross]."
It was at a little but growing and exciting church called Calvary Chapel that this gospel came to my heart. I immediately responded to this good news by accepting Jesus’ offer to come to Him. Instantly, I had a sense of relief; my sins had been paid for at the cross—in the finished work of Christ. I was forgiven.
It was an incredible experience for me. On the strength of that initial faith commitment, I lasted several months before worldly pressures gripped my heart again. The busyness of my high school life and my involvement with my peers kept from really getting grounded in the faith. I never learned to become a Bible reader during those months; therefore there was no power in my life to avoid evil. Later, when a recommitment to Christ took place, I would not make the same mistake. I would become a Bible reading Christian.
Filled with the Holy Spirit
In the two years following high school, I went to junior college, played baseball, worked part-time jobs, and partied. You would not have seen any evidence of Jesus Christ in my life during those years. But the Lord was faithful, and He patiently pursued me and drew me back to Himself. Finally, I gave up and surrendered my life completely and totally to Him, with no conditions. That is when I was filled with the Holy Spirit. The date was August 5, 1973.
My life completely and totally changed. I began telling everyone I knew about the incredible plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Soon I was called by God into the ministry, although I didn’t know how or when. I just knew that God had a specific plan for me (as He does for all of us).
After being baptized with the Holy Spirit, a friend of mine and I went on a three-week hitchhiking trip through the Pacific Northwest. Because of that trip, we both decided to move to Boise, Idaho. Very soon after the move to Boise we joined the Shiloh house in the downtown area.
Shiloh was a Christian commune with strict discipline and a highly focused spiritual agenda. It was perfect for me in those first few months. I very hungrily got grounded in the Word as I quickly read through the entire Bible.
Entering Into the Ministry
After that brief time in Shiloh, I was ready to head back to Orange County. I wanted to move forward with my life as God would have it. At first, I had no idea what to do once I moved back, but eventually things started becoming clear to me. I enrolled in a Bible college, got a great job at the Tustin Lumber Company to support myself through school, joined a home fellowship connected to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, made Calvary Chapel my home church, and just continued growing and learning to follow Jesus. I eventually acquired a Bachelor’s degree in Ministry from Melodyland School of Theology in Anaheim, CA.
It was in the home fellowship environment where I began to discover the spiritual gifts the Lord had given me. I discovered a heart for people’s spiritual growth and development, as well as an aptitude and love for teaching the Bible. When I took over the home fellowship as its leader, I began my ministry as a pastor-teacher.
Jesus’ call upon my life is to feed and pastor His flock, as He allows it. He has asked, and continues to ask me this question... “Bill, do you love Me? Then feed My sheep, tend My lambs.”
My First Church
It was during that time period that I met my wife, and after seven months we were married. During that first year of marriage, I continued to lead the home fellowship, but also was fervently praying about where the Lord would have us go. I believed strongly that the Lord wanted me to teach His Word, but I didn’t feel at all inclined to continue doing that in southern California. I reasoned: what could I possibly say or teach here that isn’t already being taught incredibly well by so many others? Through a number of interesting circumstances and the invitation of an older couple who were familiar with Calvary Chapels, we relocated to the Monterey Peninsula.
As God is my witness, I did not know anything about the area—especially that it is a world class, incredibly beautiful area, coveted as a place to live by many. All I knew was that I wanted God to use my life, and this was an open door to do it. So we moved with no job, $125 in the bank, two VW bugs, some furniture and clothing, and the confidence that God was leading us.
During that first year on the Monterey Peninsula we were brought to a place of brokenness, as nothing that we attempted produced real and lasting fruit. Discouraged and disheartened, we were ready to head back to Southern California, but almost out of nowhere we received an invitation to help a small group of believers become a Calvary Chapel. Amazingly, that group had previously been connected with Shiloh, the very communal ministry I’d been part of in Boise.
Very quickly we were asked to assume the leadership of that fellowship and that’s how I became the Senior Pastor. My first official Sunday was March 1, 1979. We met at the Seventh Day Adventist church facility in Pacific Grove.
Backing up… five months after our arrival on the Peninsula, our son Nathan was born. Three years and 1 month after that, our daughter Bryna was born. The addition of these two awesome children introduced us to the world of child-raising. Baseball games, softball games, basketball games, volleyball games, soccer games—school work, Bible studies, family vacations, church life—it all went by so fast. Now they’re grown and married, with families of their own. They’ve been awesome kids, and I’m very blessed by them.
The church grew steadily so that fairly soon, facilities became an issue for us. Using rented facilities, we were able—by the grace of God—to continue the ministry of the Word and discipleship for 17 years before moving into a permanent facility of our own in July of 1996. By that time, the Lord had brought many into our fellowship that were of tremendous help to the work. I thank God for each and every one of them.
Throughout the 27 years at Calvary Chapel Monterey Bay I was privileged to pastor many precious saints. Looking back, it seems like the years were fruitful ones. Honestly, I’m probably the worst person in the world to evaluate such things, but many had said as much. All glory goes to God for everything good.
Leading Up To the Present
Unfortunately my first marriage ended in 2006, and I experienced the horrible reality of divorce. This is not the place to go into details; it was not something I wanted. It was the most painful period of my life. Yet in the midst of that pain I experienced deeper grace from Jesus than I’d ever experienced. That grace has not ever stopped. Because of it I regard each opportunity He gives me as His kiss on my cheek. I know I’m a loved man, albeit an unworthy one. His love is not because of anything in me, but rather because that is exactly what He is like.
Associated with the events leading to the divorce was my resignation from the pastorate of Calvary Chapel. That, too, was incredibly painful. But in the aftermath of that resignation, the Lord opened up my heart, thinking, and vision in brand new ways. I have been able to view ministry from a different perspective, much more through the “lens” of the Savior. He is the Good Shepherd (“Pastor”), and all ministry should flow from Him and be directed by Him.
So in February of 2006 I completed my time with the church, and almost 27 years of wonderful ministry there. I was privileged to grow as a minister as the years went by; it was sort of an on-the-job training. I learned much over the years—but probably more from my mistakes than from my successes. They were certainly not perfect years, but they were good years. Some of those years, I’d like to do over. But the next best thing to doing them over is to learn deeply from them. That’s what’s happening inside of me in this most recent season of my life.
My current season of life and ministry began when I met my wife Sheri. We entered into marriage standing firm on a powerful truth. That truth is that if God’s “Plan A” for each of our lives didn’t work out the way it was designed (due to other's choices), He would make another Plan A. He cannot be stopped from completing His purposes.
Sheri has been God's gift to me. She loves Jesus and loves serving Him with the gifts God has given her. We have been to many places in the U.S. and abroad, an in many different contexts. We feel like every new adventure is training and preparation for the next one. We’re excited to see what’s next. Our future is in His hands, and we are very confident that our best years in ministry are ahead of us.
The ministry I started in 2008 (Poimen Ministries or “Shepherd” Ministries) is expanding. Poimen Ministries is a ministry to pastors and churches in the U.S. and abroad (www.poimenministries.com). Poimen Ministries offers a wide range of relationally-based helps to pastors, depending upon their particular needs. Poimen Ministries connects seasoned senior pastors with current pastors in order to provide the kind of support that all pastors need.
As we continually wait upon the Lord for His direction, we have seen God's hand of faithfulness upon our lives. Together, Sheri and I have three married children and nine grandchildren. We’re so blessed.
My testimony is a story that speaks of God’s faithfulness, spoken about in my favorite hymn:Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father; There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
The Lord assured my heart back in 1973 when I was baptized with the Holy Spirit, that He would keep me if I surrendered fully to Him. He has done just that! I praise His name for it, believe me.
Jude 1:24 “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy…”
God bless you! Thanks for reading.