Pastor Peter Atkin’s Testimony
I came to faith in Christ when I was quite young, maybe 6 or 7. I do not remember my particular age, but I remember the circumstances like they were yesterday. At the Sunday school that I attended, the teacher emphasized the importance of believing in Jesus in order to go to heaven. That afternoon I went to my mom and asked her how to do that. She said that Jesus died on the cross for our sins so God could forgive us. She went on to explain that we must accept His sacrifice by believing that we need it and receiving it as our own. It was at that point that I prayed to accept Jesus as my Savior, believing that He died on the cross for me.
Growing in Christ:
From that time on, my thoughts and faith have always been oriented to the Lord. When I was quite young, I can remember the Lord deepening my understanding of Him. Even as I went through rebellious spurts in my teenage years, I continued to seek Christ. As I entered college and adulthood, I became aware of three principles of the Christian life that would change the way I live for God and sharpen my awareness of how He seeks to live through me. (See below)
My Call to Ministry:
In the same way that my coming to Jesus is not very “flashy,” my call to the pastorate is not either. There were no visions from heaven or God speaking to me from a young age or from burning bushes. My call to the pastorate is based on convictions of my own and others that I have the gift of Pastor/Teacher as outlined in Ephesians 4:11. While serving as a deacon in the church that I was attending, I was given opportunity to teach the Word. Through this experience, I learned of my love for teaching. I noticed my increased desire to study the Word, and was inspired by the insight God gave me into the Scriptures, as well as the response others gave to my teaching. As I taught more and more, it became clear that I at least had the gift of teaching. When I also considered the love I had for God’s people and my desire to minister to their needs, it became evident that I also had the gift of Pastor/Teacher.
My Education and Experience:
At that point, I started attending a satellite seminary program through Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. After I was awarded my Master of Divinity from that school, I became the Assistant Pastor at New Hope Christian Church in Swansea, MA. I also received a BA in political science and economics from Brandeis University. At the beginning of 1999, 40 others and myself were sent out from New Hope to establish Living Hope in North Kingstown. You can learn more about that in the “History” section of the website.
The Three Principles That Have Become Hallmarks Of My Pastoral Ministry:
1 – The importance of living by the power of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who has been involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, which I was, learns the importance of the filling of the Holy Spirit. As Acts 1:8 tells us, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to become witnesses or representatives of God. What allows us to be filled with the Spirit is confessing our sins to Him. By our confession and repentance, we turn our hearts back to God and open ourselves once again to the filling of the Spirit. As I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (Since John is writing to believers, he is not referring here to the forgiveness afforded at our salvation, but the application of that forgiveness to the sins that we commit after salvation.)
2 – The transforming power of the Word of God. When I was growing up, I understood the Bible as a written code, something outside of myself that I strove to live by. Yet, as I grew in Christ, I realized through Scripture that God clearly desires to work from the inside out, as He “writes His law on our hearts.” With the Word inside us, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can test and approve God’s will (Romans 12:2). As we undergo this transformation the renewing power of the Word strengthens us from within so that, when we are faced with life choices, we are able to make decisions that become more and more pleasing to God.
3 – The understanding and acceptance of God’s continuing grace. When I believed on Jesus, I understood the grace that was in salvation, but I didn’t understand that grace continued in the Christian life. My life became a constant pursuit of God’s love and acceptance. Sins would be followed by guilt and condemnation and efforts to “be good” so I would maintain a right standing before God. Then I learned that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, that I am positionally secure in Him and that nothing can separate me from the love of God or change the righteousness that is mine in Jesus (see Romans 8:39).
Of course, that doesn’t mean it is okay to become familiar with sin or that we shouldn’t have a godly sorrow in response to it. But because of God’s grace, I live for Him because I am accepted, not to gain acceptance. And beyond that, every tool we need to live the Christian life is provided by God’s grace, so that grace is not just something we receive, but that also continues within every believer.