I Was Saved in a Living Room
by Miller, Les
My name is Les Miller, and I’ve been a Seventh-day Adventist Christian since 1988. I live in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada. I came to know Jesus for the first time when I was ten years old. Having been raised in the United Church of Canada, a union of the Methodist, Congregationalist, and Presbyterian churches that formed in the 1920s, I had a basic knowledge of the Bible. However, to say the least, I was a nominal Christian.
At the age of ten I went to a nearby Bible camp run by the Baptists. It was there I learned for the first time that I was a sinner with no hope of salvation except for a born-again relationship with the Lord. I saw from the Bible that I had no power on my own to be good and that Jesus’ death and resurrection were the only way to pay for my sins. My heavenly hopes were only possible by accepting Him into my heart, so I gave my heart to God. But I didn’t fully understand what it was I had done by accepting Him. I certainly was not on fire for God, but something was different. I did have a basic desire to be good instead of bad. This, of course, caused me problems.
As I grew older the weight of the world with all its temptations, especially from peer pressure, made me give up trying over time. My Sunday School class gave me a Bible when I was fifteen, and I decided to read it for myself. Over the course of seven years, I read approximately one page per night. But I tried the way of the world as well. By age twenty-two, I came to realize I had become a bad person by my wrong choices. I was scarred and changed, and there was nothing I could do about it.
My darkest hour was when I moved out on my own at the age of nineteen. Living about five hours from my family, I experienced firsthand the life of the prodigal son. Still Jesus helped me. I went to some meetings with a Pentecostal coworker and stood again to give my heart to the Lord. However, in the follow-up literature they gave me, something didn’t seem right. By this time I had almost finished reading the entire Bible. I couldn’t quite put into words exactly what I was thinking, but somehow I could poke holes in their doctrinal beliefs.
Then I found what I was looking for. God brought a Seventh-day Adventist woman into my life. What I saw in Melissa Ryane, the woman whom I later married, was a peace and a strength I had never seen in anyone else. No Christian from any faith I’d encountered had the peace she had. They all spoke words. With Melissa, I saw the gospel in action. She was living proof there is power in the blood of Jesus.
I set out to win her heart, and on May 17, 1987, we were married. The marriage preparation class with her pastor, Richard Warman, turned into a Bible study for me. Although I learned anew that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I learned it in a deeper and much more meaningful way than I had as a child. I saw it as more than a covering of the individual wrong things I had done. I saw it as a total and complete restoration to innocence, which is what it really is.
Along with the hope of being made new by the Holy Spirit, I also learned pure doctrine for the first time. The doctrines he shared with me formed a complete circle of truth so pure it was obvious. Each individual truth was clearly related to all the others. I could not poke any holes in the logic of what was presented to me as I had been able to three years earlier. It wasn’t just ‘doctrine,’ it was truth. The Holy Spirit weighed down on me my need of Jesus, and for the first time in my life, I knew what being a born-again Christian really was. I had found a truth as big as all of world history, which at the same time applied to my own life. In this new relationship with the Savior, I knew what it meant to say, “He died for me,” and I knew the day would come when He would return to claim me as His own.
“All who are pursuing the onward Christian course should have, and will have, an experience that is living, that is new and interesting” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, p. 579). As a child, I had considered ministry in the United Church as a career, and I brought these aspirations with me into my newfound faith. Three times in four years the Lord made it obvious He wanted me in the ministry. By saying I didn’t have enough money to afford college, what I was really saying was that I didn’t have enough faith to go.
So instead, in His mercy the Lord led me to a trade. I became a painter and later a painting contractor. Now I am an industrial painter. This was something I fought the whole time because, despite my lack of faith, I still wanted to serve God through ministry. Actually, I wanted to be an evangelist. In 1995, after turning down the Lord’s calling three times, I tried to make it happen my way. First, I took a three-week training seminar for lay evangelists in South Dakota from Pastor Louis and Carol Torres, who were at the time with Amazing Facts. The seminar was titled “Send Forth Reapers.” That course later evolved into the course they now teach at Mission College of Evangelism in Gaston, Oregon. Around that time the Alberta Conference of Seventh-day Adventists was instituting a new part-time lay pastor program.
Beginning in April 1996, Pastor Kelly Schultz and I spoke at a crusade in the town of Canmore, Alberta. Along with my wife’s help, we planted the Mountain Sanctuary Seventh-day Adventist Church that resulted from those meetings. I hoped this would lead directly into a full-time call to the ministry. I was bitterly disappointed when, fourteen months later, the conference secretary said, “Thank you, but we’re going to go in another direction.” So it was back to painting full time.
In the next chapter I’ll be defining what I call “the sleeping church mentality.” Though I was very enthusiastic in my approach to the work in Canmore, you could say I was still a sleeping Christian in some sense because I thought that if I couldn’t have the actual job of pastor I couldn’t do very much in the way of outreach. All the work I did as a paid missionary was driven by public sermons and crusades. I wanted to reach as many people as possible and didn’t see the value in working with one person at a time. Upon pondering the situation in the next few years, I saw for the first time that despite fighting Him the Lord was still working out His plan for my life. Painting is a very transient profession. When the season is over and work slows down, layoffs come. In moving between various painting employers, I learned many different tricks of the trade they don’t teach in the apprenticeship classes. Although I tried to get out of painting so that I could be in the ministry, I became a skilled painter.
I also saw that the Lord had done the same for me in ministry as well. I never went to school to learn hermeneutics, but after giving more than 160 sermons at Mountain Sanctuary and elsewhere, I knew how to preach. I never studied eschatology, but after interacting with people from many faiths at these various painting companies, I was led to study my Bible quite a lot to find answers to all the doctrinal challenges they gave me, especially on questions about end-time events.
In Canmore, Pastor Schultz allowed Melissa and I to prayerfully make a lot of the decisions ourselves. Serving on the board in what later became our home church taught me how to interact within the church leadership structure. I never studied European history, Seventh-day Adventist church history, or any of the other required courses for a theology degree. However, now I know what it takes to see a soul come to Christ, which is the real work of a pastor. Pastor Schultz and I did one crusade together, and a year later I did another as sole speaker. I never got a permanent job out of it, but I am an evangelist. I am a one-on-one evangelist.
The most gratifying experience the Lord gave me came in 1999 when Adrian, an employee of mine who was searching for the truth, began studying the Bible with me. I had previously had little interest in one-on-one outreach methods, but it was evidence that the Lord was working on my heart and was still willing to use me. Over the course of almost two years, off and on, Adrian and I studied together. I drew from the studies Pastor Warman gave me, and by watching his reactions, adapted them to meet his needs. In July 2001 he took a stand for Jesus, got baptized, and is now on fire for God. What I learned from the experience of winning him to Christ is what this book is about.
I was reading an Amazing Facts pamphlet by Joe Crews called The High Cost of the Cross where I learned the value of one person: “Christ’s love for people is repeatedly dramatized in the Bible. We see it in His time-consuming, one-person interviews. Some of His most significant discourses were delivered to single individuals. We see it also in the dangerous voyage He made across the sea to deliver the Gadarene demoniac. It occupied fully two days of His precious time to cross that stormy water and return. Only one man was directly contacted during that unpleasant excursion, but that man, later turned the whole countryside toward the Savior.… Is one soul worth such an infinite price? In the light of eternity the answer is yes. Consider the amazing fact that one redeemed soul will outlive all the combined years of earth’s total population: Eventually, in eternity, the life of that one person will outstrip by a million times all the life spans of all the inhabitants of this world put together” (pp. 27–29).
This book was written by a layperson for laypeople. My experience as a publicly oriented, paid worker does not in any way compare to the joy I felt in successfully reaching one friend. You can have that experience too. And you can experience this before you become perfect. God forgives us of our sins every day, so why do we think we need to be free of sin before He can use us? Too many times we hear of stories with the underlying message that the church members aren’t good enough and that’s why we don’t see more success reaching others.
“In the last solemn work few great men will be engaged.… God will work a work in our day that but few anticipate. He will raise up and exalt among us those who are taught rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the outward training of scientific institutions. These facilities are not to be despised or condemned; they are ordained of God, but they can furnish only the exterior qualifications. God will manifest that He is not dependent on learned, self-important mortals” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 80, 82, emphasis mine).
“The laborers will be qualified rather by the unction of His Spirit than by the training of literary institutions” (The Great Controversy, p. 606). Think about that. A college degree will not give you the fire of the Holy Spirit; it will only help to properly direct the fire you already have.
By God’s grace we are doing many wonderful things in our public work. However, as we so often hear, we could do better. Church leaders tell us that when a church works to prepare a territory first by sending out people to give Bible studies in the community they get more results from the Revelation seminar. That is exactly what we need—more church members giving Bible studies in their own homes. Would you like to learn what it takes to be used by God to do that? Do you have a hope in your heart that He will give you success from your outreach efforts on this side of heaven?
This book is the result of the initial studies given to me in 1987 and 1988. This book also provides information about how I applied them over the years. As the Lord has brought me into situations with believers and non-believers, I have observed the process of change the Holy Spirit makes in someone’s life using the truth. I have also learned why some don’t accept the truth no matter how hard we try. These observations are contained here for your benefit. They are intended to help you as you “fight the good fight of faith.” I have also included suggestions as to how we as Adventists can improve our outreach efforts.
Throughout this book are “Words of Advice” sidebars. They contain tidbits of useful information, most of which I have received from interacting with various church leaders over time. These lessons I consider to be essential for anyone wanting to learn to win souls. I have already mentioned the impact that Richard Warman, Kelly Schultz, and the Torres family had on me. Now I would like to introduce a few others who have influenced me. These include Randy Barber, current senior pastor of Calgary Central Seventh-day Adventist Church; Ken Eirich, a previous pastor of what is now my home church in Airdrie, Alberta, Canada, and his wife Nancy; and Lester and Bernice Carney who came to Mountain Sanctuary soon after it was established upon their retirement from conference leadership. A few others round out the list, some of whom I met only once. I hope their words will impact you as they have me.
End of preview.
Here is the Table of Contents of the complete book:
Chapter 1 — My Story
Chapter 2 — How to be an On-Fire Christian
Chapter 3 — How to Find Interests
Chapter 4 — The Psychology of Giving Bible Studies
Chapter 5 — The Long Program
Chapter 6 — The Short Program
Chapter 7 — Topics to Cover as the Need Arises
Chapter 8 — Mentoring New Converts
Chapter 9 — Understanding Evangelicals
Chapter 10 — The Three Angels’ Messages in One, Easy Five-Minute Lesson
Appendix A — Understanding Temptation
Appendix B — Dimensions of the Cross