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BCP Fall 2021 "Connect"

We were included in the Fall 2021 edition of "Connect" - a publication by Baptist Church Planters. We are introduced to the BCP family! You can view the article on BCP's website by clicking here.

Steve & Kristen's Testimonies

Steve's Testimony:

I grew up in the small town of Smyrna in Central New York. Some of my earliest memories are of my close-knit church family at West Smyrna Baptist Church. Both of my parents are believers and I was raised attending church regularly. Not only were my parents faithful, but I also came from a multi-generational family of faith. I still remember my great grandmother sharing her testimony during church on Sunday nights. My definition of “normal” was having a family that loved me and my church being a natural extension of that family.

It was at a fairly young age that I recognized the depths of my sinful state before an almighty and holy God and that Jesus died for me. It was the faithful preaching of the Word by my Pastor, Ted Lawrence, and the ministry of Camp Bayouca that resulted in me hearing the gospel and responding to it. Around the age of 12 I repented of my sins and asked for Christ to save me through His sacrificial atonement on the cross and through the hope of His resurrection. I understood that I did nothing to earn my salvation because my “good deeds” were like filthy rags. It was the grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone, that I am saved and now considered a child of God.

At the age of 14 I publicly professed my faith and was baptized. I became involved in my church’s youth group, began serving in my church, and continued attending Camp Bayouca each summer. It was through Camp that I dedicated my life to the Lord and began to obey His commandments, including pledging to remain pure until marriage.

As I approached my senior year in high school, I had a strong desire to grow more in my faith. I desired to attend a Christian university to receive a biblical education and training for my future vocation. I saw an advertisement for Cedarville University in the Baptist Bulletin at church, researched it more, and applied. Praise the Lord that I was accepted since I only applied to Cedarville.

I was the first in my family to go to college and the first to leave the state of New York. It was a time filled with a lot of uncertainty, but it was also filled with peace as I prayed and sought God’s wisdom and help throughout that time. I loved my time at Cedarville and appreciate all of the godly men and women who poured into me.

It was at Cedarville that I met my future wife, Kristen Wills. She and I became best friends and I proposed as soon as I could. We married on June 9, 2007, shortly after we both graduated. Kristen began teaching High School English at Emmanuel Christian Academy, a nearby Christian school in Springfield, Ohio. I finished my last semester of classes and then was blessed to also be hired at ECA as a second grade teacher.

Our marriage is great and God has blessed me incredibly with my wonderful wife. We definitely fell through hard times. We had financial difficulties while I finished my schooling, but God provided time and time again. For example, Kristen’s colleague anonymously gave us grocery money. We also faced other trials, such as having two miscarriages and Kristen suffering with depression. Once again, the grace of God was great to us - we received counseling, along with prayer and support from our church family and school family. Additionally, I was promoted at ECA and began serving in the administration. This met our needs financially and provided opportunities for me to meet incredible men and women in the faith, and be challenged to grow professionally and spiritually. Not too long after our second miscarriage, God provided us with a beautiful daughter, London. A few years later, we were blessed with our son, Calvin. Although our pregnancies were difficult, we were blessed to have both babies born healthy. 

God began working in both of our lives around this time. Whenever we would travel home to visit family in Central New York, our hearts became burdened with the state of the local church. Many churches were closing, dying, or not thriving. God began to loosen our ties to Ohio. We began to seriously pray about and consider moving our family to New York. I informed the school that I would be leaving in April and we put our house on the market. By the time my contract ended in late June, we had sold our home but had no word on employment. I had applied to a number of positions and still didn’t hear anything. We took a leap of faith and moved regardless. 

We moved from Ohio to New York in 2016. After a few months of searching, I began working at a local university in advancement and fundraising. We became members of Faith Baptist Tabernacle in Sherburne, NY and began serving alongside our incredible brothers and sisters in Christ. Kristen taught in the pre-primary Sunday school class and has discipled women in our church. I serve as the Christian Education Coordinator and oversee the teachers of our church, and disciple members in our church. 

In 2018, our church partnered with Jon Jenks of Baptist Church Planters and we began the Intentional Discipleship Ministry of Leadership Journey. Through Jon’s ministry, myself and three of our church leaders were discipled and grew in our walk with God.  God then guided us to cause the same in others in our church and begin to accomplish Christ’s gospel mission through His church. In a few years, our church family began to come alongside sister churches and partner with them to experience the same growth in discipleship.

In 2020, our church partnered with Baptist Church Planters’ Chip Wood and piloted a discipleship program at our church for our teachers called Teacher Journey Training. We equip teachers to be disciplers in their classrooms and help them disciple their students with a one-on-one mindset. After completing TJT ourselves, Kristen and I then led four of our teachers through TJT and are continuing to disciple others in our church.

It is our time serving in our local church that has led us to prayerfully consider God’s calling to full-time vocational ministry. Kristen and I have a heart and passion for the local church. We understand the importance of discipleship and its role in church restoration and revitalization. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 says “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” We understand the importance of passing down our faith, through discipleship, to the next generation with the mindset of multiplication. If the process stops along the way, we can see from this passage that our efforts were not true discipleship. We also understand that this is only possible through the Grace that is in Christ Jesus. Colossians 1:28 says “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” We, the body of Christ, are all charged to help one another grow in spiritual maturity as we look forward to the day when we will see Christ face to face. Finally, 2 Timothy 4:3-5 says “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” We have witnessed firsthand the tragedy of those we thought were in the faith walk away due to their own passions and itching ears taking them away from sound doctrine and true worship of God.

We have a passion for teaching, equipping, and training, especially teachers in the local church. We have a passion for coming alongside pastors and church leaders and helping them see what is critical to God in their ministries and being obedient to discipling their members. 

We have loved our ministry at Faith Baptist Tabernacle. It’s why we moved back and we are humbled by the grace of God and how He has blessed our church. There is excitement and spiritual growth and it is contagious. We desire for Central New York and beyond to be filled with churches that are healthy in worshipping God, being obedient to the Scriptures, discipling one another, and sharing the gospel with the lost. 

Kristen's Testimony:
I was (and still am!) blessed with very loving, dedicated, Christian parents who were always very involved in our local church. I can’t remember a morning when my Dad wasn’t studying the Word. Each day he would let me know how he prayed for me that morning, and he was always excited about teaching and discipleship at church. My Dad was in ministry when I was young, and though it wasn’t easy, the Lord always provided for our family.

My Mom was somewhat young in the faith when I was born, but I’ve witnessed her sanctification over the years, which has been a true blessing. She is a “doer”--she served at church teaching, helping at VBS, and working behind the scenes in many cases. She has also always enjoyed singing in the choir. She was extremely dedicated to our family and took care of all our needs at home, even while working a full time job as a teacher. She and Dad had a profound influence on my life and faith.

I was saved sometime around 9 years old during a church service (it could have been earlier, but that's when I proclaimed it to the church) and was baptized a year or so later. I had recognized the depths of my sin against God, and understood that there was no way I could get to Heaven on my own. I needed him to save me, by His grace and atoning work on the cross. I desired to follow and glorify him with my life and future.

When I was in junior high, I saw the Gospel lived out practically as my parents loved and dealt with my sister (Kim, who is 5 years older) and I as we faced the trials and stresses of our teenage years. Though we made many mistakes, Mom and Dad were not worried about their own reputations or shame on the family, but only how to help us learn from our decisions and for our spiritual health. My sister is now a pastor’s wife, teacher, and mom of three, and a great influence on me. These sometimes difficult years and my parents’ patient and loving response to us had a major impact on me and greatly influenced how I interacted with believers and non-believers.

In high school I developed an eating disorder due to untreated depression and anxiety and control issues. This is when I grew the most and God worked mightily in my life. I did not want this disorder but was completely powerless to get rid of it. At certain points there was nothing my family could do but pray. After a long road and lots of help and prayer and baby steps, I recovered well and have stayed healthy--praise the Lord because I am told this isn’t always the case!

I graduated high school early and began taking business classes at a local college, with an intent to major in Business/Marketing once at Cedarville. The Lord changed my heart before going to Cedarville and revealed a priority shift--I had a heart for kids and felt called to teach high school students so that I could both teach what I loved and minister to students' needs, even if that meant I wouldn’t make much money. Much of this revelation came because I was asked to teach small lessons in my youth group (as a senior) and loved doing it. (I had previously rejected teaching because it's what everyone in my family did and I wanted to be different. As it turns out, it’s in our blood!)

Cedarville University, by its very nature, cultivates a place for students to grow spiritually very quickly. I started to take my faith more seriously there and I’m so grateful for the chapels, Bible classes, Bible studies, friends, professors and mentors who challenged me to grow and encouraged me. I also met my husband, Steve, during my first year at Cedarville. We married about a month after our college graduation, excited for our future together and whatever the Lord had in store for us.