Jeff Lacine: An Autobiographical Sketch
As with every Christian biography, this brief autobiographical sketch is a testimony to the amazing grace of God in Jesus. He has taken me, a sinful man, and he has loved me, given me new life, and called me to ministry. Undeserved grace in Christ is the theme of my life. Even when I was dead in my sin and under God’s great displeasure, he was weaving me into the tapestry of redemption to the praise of his awesome grace.
Birth to Conversion
I was born into a newly evangelical household. My parents were young in faith and barely able to sustain their very rocky marriage in the earliest years of my life. But God was at work, and it was evident to me that my parent’s experience of the gospel was real. I watched as they regularly went to God in repentance and moved toward one another with tears of regret and forgiveness, resolving to look to God for help. God was preserving a marriage that by all indications had no hope of survival. Since those early years I have had the privilege of seeing the gospel continue to work its way out in the life of my parents. Today they are deeply in love and an example of a whole, happy, Christian marriage.
Though I witnessed this amazing power of the gospel and was raised in the faith, deep down I didn’t really believe that Christ would make me whole. I affirmed that Christ died for the sins of sinners, but I did not personally entrust myself fully to him for life and salvation.
By my early teen years many different aspects of the world captured my curiosities, and my sin nature began to show itself in more and more obvious ways. I became a daily marijuana smoker in high school, and by my freshman year of college I was regularly experimenting with other drugs, walking deeper into the epidemic of college immorality. My loneliness and emotional anguish quickly became sharp and deep.
This deep pain drove me to try and change my life a number of times. Each time I failed and ended up deeper in the pit I was trying to climb out of. My failed attempts of self-improvement revealed the grip that sin had on my life. I knew I was in need of a miracle. In some of my darkest moments I cried out to God, asking him to deliver me from my bondage. I cried out to him from the emergency room after an overdose. I cried out to him when a close friend was badly beaten after a drug deal gone wrong. I cried out to him in the midst of the pain and confusion of immoral relationships. Yet, a love for the things of the world still poisoned me, and I could not find any lasting love for God in my heart.
There were a handful of Christian men in my life who faithfully presented the gospel to me, seeking to persuade me to give myself to Jesus for life and salvation. But even though I knew my eternal salvation was on the line I could not find the willingness to give my life over to Christ. My love for the world was far greater than my desire to trust and follow Jesus.
On April 20th 2000, at a psychedelic rock concert and in the midst of my sin, God captured my heart by grace. I suddenly found the ability to trust Christ and desired more than anything to be made obedient to him. My heart embraced the gospel with a new love for God and his ways. I joyfully resolved to give all I had to know and follow Christ. The atoning work of Jesus became real to me as never before and I could no longer live without trusting him. I was baptized on October 15, 2000 and by his grace I have not returned to the lifestyle of sin that I once knew. Instead, I have enjoyed a life of growing in the knowledge and grace of God.
As in all cases of conversion, sanctification has been a process, an upward trajectory towards Christ-likeness with spikes and setbacks. Yet, since that wonderful April day, “Set free in Christ for the glory of God!” has been the song of my heart. I am confident that God will preserve me in faith until my final breath.
My Life Partner and Family
In 2001 I met Chelsi Williamson at a church in McMinnville, OR. She was serving in the youth ministry of that church and preparing to move to New Mexico for a yearlong internship with Lifeline Missions. After her internship she returned to Oregon, and in 2004 we married. Other than Christ, Chelsi has been the greatest gift God has given me. Chelsi has been used of God to anchor me in the gospel and cause me to focus my life for the glory of God.
Because she believed in my call to the ministry, she was enthusiastic about my pursuit of academic and practical training, even though it made for financially difficult seasons. Her desire to serve God in the ministry of hospitality has made our home a haven for discipleship, and her giftedness in this area has been evident to the churches we have served.
God has given us four wonderful children (Hosanna, 9; Hope, 7; Abraham, 3; Haven, 1). Chelsi joyfully takes on the task of managing the home, being fully committed to labor with me in raising our children up in the Lord.
Together we have weathered the loss of a child through miscarriage, the death of her father, and the apostasy of close friends and family members. We have experienced the trial of Chelsi’s unexpected near death health complication with the birth of our second daughter. We have walked through numerous very painful ministry situations. By grace we have encouraged each other towards Jesus through it all. I am confident that God will give us the strength to joyfully endure trials that are still ahead, together.
Call to the Ministry
Since my conversion I have had an insatiable desire to know God in his word, and I have had an ever-increasing burden to preach the gospel and care for God's people. In this way my call to the ministry started with my conversion. As soon as I began to understand God's word I had an appetite not only to experience it myself, but also to preach it and labor to see others grow by it. Within three years after conversion opportunities began to open up for me to teach, lead people in evangelism, preach, counsel, and mentor men. With every added ministry responsibility the message of the local church was clear: “God is helping us grow through your ministry.”
In 2005 my wife and I decided that I should pursue formal training for the ministry at Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon. I aspired to read the bible in the original language and gave much of my time to the study of Greek. Over the next three years my eyes were opened to the bigness of God and his plans to glorify Christ through existence. I was especially influenced by the ministry of Dr. John Piper who mentored me from afar through his sermons and books. When it came time to choose a seminary, the newly formed Bethlehem Seminary under the leadership of Dr. Piper was an obvious choice. It was at Bethlehem Seminary that I first studied the writings of Jonathan Edwards and was captivated by a God-entranced vision of all things.
As my mind was being nurtured in this incubator of robust theology I was also given an opportunity to live it out in ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church, working with the families of senior high students for their joy in Christ. In addition to serving at Bethlehem as part of the pastoral team for family discipleship, I was also privileged to serve in many other ministry capacities as a seminary apprentice under the mentorship of Pastor David Livingston (south campus lead pastor). During those years of joyful service, my call to pastoral ministry was further confirmed by the church.
Back to Oregon
In October of 2012 I connected with Michael Lawrence of Hinson Baptist Church. Just before our connection, Michael Lawrence was approached by Sellwood Baptist Church for help with a transition to a new pastor. After graduating from seminary in May of 2013, my family and I moved back to Portland so that I could participate in a semester long Pastoral Residency at Hinson Baptist Church, in the hopes of becoming the new pastor of Sellwood Baptist Church. On November 24th, Sellwood Baptist Church voted unanimously to call me as their next pastor. By God's grace I hope to faithfully love this congregation by passionately and accurately preaching the word of God, by faithfully imparting pastoral counsel, and by soberly calling unbelievers to faith and wholeness in Christ, all for the building up of the church. I want to grow with Sellwood Baptist Church in grace and truth as a servant-leader, and I want see my wife and children prosper in growing as members of this body, all to the glory of God.
When anyone shares his or her testimony it can be a temptation to paint an idealistic picture that isn’t true to the reality of progressive sanctification. I have appended this endnote in the hopes of being crystal clear: God has done a marvelous work in my life, and his work is perfect, but his work has not yet perfected me. I know this is true of every Christian, and it should be assumed without a direct statement. However, I think it is important to clearly articulate the reality of progressive sanctification when we share our testimony of God’s work.
- The work of God in my life has not made me perfect, but it has made me real.
- The work of God in my life has not perfectly sanctified me, but it is perfectly sanctifying me.
- The work of God in my life has not perfected my righteousness, but it has given me a hunger and thirst for the perfect righteousness embodied in Jesus Christ.
- The work of God in my life has not made me the perfect pastor, but it has qualified me for pastoral ministry.
- The work of God in my life has not given me a perfect track record, but it has given me a perfect account before God in Christ.
Praise be to God who has promised to finish the work he has begun in all of his people!