An Interview With Rev. Jerrold Lewis
Jerrold Lewis was recently installed as pastor of the Free Reformed Church of Lacombe, Alberta. He was received his ministerial training through the theological programme of the Associated Presbyterian Church of Scotland and Canada and was ordained a minister by that church denomination. Rev. Jack Schoeman conducted a personal interview with Pastor Lewis in order that we would get to know him better.
1. Please tell us something about your personal history: where you were born, where you grew up etc. Also, introduce us to your wife and family.
I was born in Lorrach, Germany (near Basel) in 1970. My natural father passed away months before my birth and my mother moved to Germany to be with his parents who were missionaries with the Janz Team. In 1971 we moved back to Canada.
I grew up in the country just outside of Lacombe along the C & E Trail (The old Calgary and Edmonton Trail). In 1990 I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, to begin training for the ministry. It was there that I met and married Catherine. Catherine was born in Toronto and spent her adolescent years in Guelph before moving to Vancouver in 1987. We have been married 11 years and have 8 covenant children: Jonathan (10), Jacob (9), Meghan (8), Isaac (7), Owen (6), Bethany (4), Daniel (2), and one on the way (due in November).
2. Tell us something about your church denominational background.
I grew up under the conservative evangelical umbrella (Mennonite/German Baptist) until I was in my early teens. My young adult years were spent in the charismatic church. When I moved to Vancouver I had intended on entering the ministry of the charismatic church, but was introduced to the Scottish Presbyterian Church by one of my professors, Rev. Douglas Beattie. In 1996 Catherine and I became members of the Associated Presbyterian Church of Scotland (APC) in Vancouver. The APC is a small Scottish Highland denomination with some congregations in Canada. Their emphasis is on confessional experiential Calvinism with strong ties to the Secessions of 1843 and 1893 in Scotland. There are 25 congregations in Scotland and 3 in Canada.
3. How did you come to an understanding and appreciation of the Reformed faith?
My first introduction to the Reformed faith came when I was taking a course on the Pentateuch at Pacific Bible College (PBC). Even though it was a charismatic college, it allowed for diversity in teaching. Rev. Beattie was a professor at this school. He considered his time at PBC as a mission field to serious-minded students, and would reform them as he was able. Over the course of several modules, Rev. Beattie introduced me to the sovereignty of God, the total depravity of man, and a gracious salvation by faith alone. Because I displayed an interest to know more, I was given extra reading in several classes including books by men such as Matthew Meade, John Calvin, and A. W. Pink. I was also given sermons to listen to by Al Martin, J. R. De Witt and D. M. Lloyd-Jones. Rev. Beattie became my spiritual mentor and eventually my pastor. Humanly speaking, he was the agent of my discovery of the Reformed faith. And not only myself; I can count several men who are now in Reformed churches because of his efforts. In 2002, Rev. Beattie passed away after 25 years in one pulpit. I became his successor in the Vancouver congregation.
4. Explain how the Lord called you to the ministry.
My calling to the ministry is as diverse as my background. I believed even as a young person that I was called to the ministry, yet I was not settled on many doctrinal matters. I found myself discouraged with what I saw in the modern church, but had no clear direction on where to go, or what was true. I was, like so many youths today, asking Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) Once I was introduced to the Reformed faith I knew I had found the truth. Not only because it was a consistent theological system, but because it answered the deep yearnings in my heart to be reconciled to God and to grow in grace. Yet as I looked for the first time at the nature of man, I now saw myself an unfit vessel for the Gospel ministry. Through the penetrating light of the Word, I felt very much like Isaiah, when he said, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips.” I had given up the thought of the ministry as too lofty for me. I continued to have a deep and abiding interest in the writings of the Puritans and Reformed Fathers, but I stumbled at the seriousness of the ministry. Yet Rev. Beattie spoke to me in a very serious ways and told me he believed I was called to the ministry. After numerous meetings with my pastor, and subsequently the Vancouver Session (Consistory), I became a divinity student under the care of the Canadian Presbytery of the APC.
5. Describe your educational background.
After graduating from Lacombe Composite High School, I spent some time in both road and building construction. Before I entered the training for the ministry I earned an Associates Degree in Computer Technology from VCC. In 2000 I became a student of the ministry with the Associated Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Historically, in this denomination the Tutor or Parish Church model is used for the training of divinity students. However, Rev. Beattie (my tutor) took ill and died in 2002. My training took an unconventional turn at that point and I was enrolled at Whitefield College and Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida, via Distance Education. Simultaneously, I earned a B.Th (Magna Cum Laude) at Whitefield and also completed the four-year divinity programme prescribed by the Church Order. Ministers were sent over twice a year from Scotland to aid in my education and oversee my presbyterial examinations. Every examination was a comprehensive oral exam that lasted three to four hours, with one exam per year. I was declared a candidate for the ministry after sitting my Final Trials for License before the Assembly in Inverness, Scotland, and was ordained to the Gospel Ministry in 2005.
6. What churches have you served?
In my first year as a student minister, I was invited by the Free Church of Scotland to become Stated Pulpit Supply for their congregation in Edmonton. This was in 2001. I spent one year serving the Free Church in that city. After the death of Rev. Beattie, my home congregation in Vancouver asked me to come back to Vancouver and become Stated Supply for them while I completed my divinity training. I served from June 2002 until June 2005 in Vancouver as supply, preaching twice per Lord’s Day, catechizing, conducting visits, as well as midweek Bible studies. I became their minister in July 2005. I have been preaching full time for just over five years, in two Reformed denominations.
7. How did you come into contact with the Free Reformed Church of Lacombe?
I came into contact with the Free Reformed Church of Lacombe through Mr Garrett Pikkert, who was an elder in Lacombe at that time. I had known Mr Pikkert for several years and went to school with one of his children. If memory serves, Mr Pikkert saw my name in the Trinitarian Bible Society magazine and phoned me. He told me that a new work had begun in Lacombe and perhaps we could visit the next time I was in Lacombe. In 2004, we spent some time in Lacombe with my parents and I was invited to lead a midweek study on the visible and invisible church. Our hearts were knit together even then, I believe. There was a unity in doctrine, and a warmth in fellowship with this fledgling congregation. I will never forget that first meeting.
8. You have an interesting blog (www.kerugma.solideogloria.com). Describe it for us.
My blog (“web log”) is an online journal called KERUGMA, which means “to preach” in koine Greek. I think the Internet can be compared to the Reformation’s Gutenberg Press. It’s a new and innovative way of proclaiming the message of Christ to untold multitudes. I believe that the Christian should take advantage of the Internet as a tool for promoting the truth. My desire is to advance the precious doctrines of our Reformed heritage on the net. My focus will be the preached Word as it relates to the pulpit and the pew. It will have a distinctly Puritan emphasis.
9. Who are your favourite authors?
In no specific order they would be: Samuel Rutherford, David Dickson, Ralph Erskine, Thomas Watson, Wilhelmus à Brakel, William Jay, Andrew Bonar, Octavius Winslow, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, John Murray, Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
10. What are your thoughts about being a minister in the Free Reformed Churches?
Quite frankly, before I met the brethren in the Free Reformed Churches (FRC), I had no idea there was a continental Reformed federation that appreciated the experiential nature of Calvinism. Growing up in Lacombe (where the Christian Reformed Church was dominant), I thought anything Reformed would be in the presumptive vein. However the more I investigated the FRC, the more I saw that they were saying the same thing as the Scottish, just with different words. The Secession history of 1834 is very similar to the Scottish Secession of 1843. To be an under-shepherd of Christ in this federation is a true blessing. The emphasis of knowledge with piety strikes a note with my wife and I. It is a place where we feel we can learn and contribute to the advancement of the Gospel.
11. From what you have seen so far, what do you appreciate about the Free Reformed Churches?
I’m most impressed by the doctrinal balance I find within the Free Reformed Churches. Often in our day a denomination is known for what it is not rather than what it is. In the FRC, I see more of what we are, and what we wish to become. I see a federation that is confessional; I see a federation that is experiential; I see a federation trying to bring forward the “old paths” in a complex new world. But most importantly, I see a federation that desires to see (as Rutherford would say), “Christ dying, and drawing sinners to himself.” To this I say, “Thank you Lord”!
12. How is the work going in Lacombe?
We are generally encouraged. Being a congregation made up of at least five “kinds” of Reformed backgrounds, there are some challenges, to be sure. We need to focus more on the future than the past. Lord willing, that will come in time as we forge a new way together in the FRC. At the same time this diversity has its blessings. There are good ideas and gifts coming from many areas of the congregation. This can only help if we keep Christ in view. We need to keep in mind that there are “diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord” (1 Cor. 12:4, 5).
I am burdened for our youth, as most are. I see many of our young people standing with one foot in the world and one foot in the church – torn between two wills and worlds. The modern church says that we need to be more relevant to our young people to keep them, but I wonder if we don’t need more prayer, a lively faith, and a pleading of the promises.
We continue to grow in size. Will it be sustained growth? The Lord knows. More importantly, will it be spiritual growth? This is our prayer as a congregation. We will look to the Lord as the builder and sustainer of His Church.
Rev. Jack Schoeman is the pastor of the Free Reformed Church of Monarch, Alberta, Canada. This interview is taken with permission from the October 2006 edition of The Messenger.
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