My name is Noel Walker and the church's name is the Tintern Church of Christ.
I came to Tintern when I was five years old. My family moved here from Hamilton. I became part of that congregation and grew up there. I was an active volunteer in the church’s education ministry. I was there for quite some time as a volunteer.
In 1989, I graduated from Great Lakes Christian High School here in Beamsville and went to Brock University to Teachers College. I got a degree in math and science, and a degree in education. At that time, there were no jobs available. But it just happened that Great Lakes was looking for a math teacher. It was a bit of a stretch for them at the time, financially speaking-- to add somebody to faculty. But they wanted me to start with them so I started in the fall of 1994 as a math and science teacher. I taught there for 11 years.
When I graduated from High School, I felt a call to ministry, and a call to teaching. I was trying to discern through the Spirit what the appropriate direction was, and the advice I was given at the time was to go get my degree, get my teaching certification, and if the call for ministry is still there, I could always change gears and go into that. One of my teachers at the time had said that the saddest thing he knows is people who are working in ministry in their mid-40s who feel like they can't do anything else. The not trained for anything else. They feel stuck. And that has turned out to be good advice.
So I taught for 11 years at Great Lakes, and then by about 2000 I started to feel a call to ministry and started looking at the possibilities of moving from teaching into a full-time ministry role. And about that time a position became available at Tintern. I applied, and through a long process, was hired to be an involvement minister at Tintern in 2005. That was the beginning of my full-time ministry at Tintern.
I continued to be involved at Great Lakes. I sat on the board of directors, did some coaching, and taught some Bible classes. I still do that, but just on the side a little bit.
2 What is your favourite pastime: reading, sports, outdoors, etc.
I like sailing. I had a sailboat for about five years. I sold the sailboat in order to pay for tuition for Liscomb University. It was kind of the sacrifice I was willing to make for the training. I had a little 22 foot Catalina. I had meetings there whenever I could. I had lots of fun with that. I miss it. I wish I still had a boat, but maybe someday I'll get back to it.
I enjoy reading and studying. That's something that I'm interested in. As far as sports go, I don't play a lot of sports, but I coached volleyball, and really enjoyed that. And that's something I've had to let go of too, and hopefully I can get back to. I enjoy hockey. There are a bunch of guys at Tintern that are season ticket holders for the Niagara Ice Dogs.
3 Favourite all time (or current) Bible book, Bible story, or Bible passage, and why
What comes to mind first, is the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 16 and 17, where he boldly takes on King Ahab and the prophets of Baal. There's a contest on the mountain, and Elijah prays and calls down fire. It's a pretty spectacular story. Love that story.
I find the contrasts fascinating. He wins in the victory, the prophets of Baal are killed in this story, and then he goes to the mountain and the rain’s finally coming. So his assistant goes and looks for the cloud. Then Elijah runs ahead of Ahab's chariot with this supernatural speed! It's just a hilarious image. But then right after this, Jezebel says, “by the end of tomorrow you're going to be dead”. And then he suddenly flips, and now he's terrified. And so there's this great boldness and confidence, then there's this great uncertainty and doubt. And God meets him at both ends. He meets him in spectacular fashion by sending the fire down, which burns the stones, the watcher, the dirt… everything at the altar is gone. And then in chapter 17 he meets him in the still small voice. So God is present in the big stuff, and he's present in the small stuff.
So, what part of that whole, spectacular scene, would not convince you that the queen’s threat is empty? But it just undoes him! It makes for a very interesting story, I don't know quite what to do with it.
As far as my favourite book, goes… I was reminded recently that when I was first baptized, the book of James just captured my attention. I was 13 years old. I thought that book was just amazing. I lived in that book for a little while. Then as I grew, I kinda moved on to other things.
We are preaching through Luke right now. I’m just loving the storytelling style of that book. I also enjoy Isaiah. I preached through that the couple of years ago and came to love that book, and the prophetic witness there.
As far as a favourite verse goes, I love Ephesians 2:8. It is by grace that we are saved, through faith, not of works less any man should boast. It is a gift from God. I have a blog, and that's the name of it.
4 Briefly describe the series of events that brought you to your church, your current role, ministry in general
I felt a real calling to ministry through high school; I felt that this was for me. So I can't point to a "moment on the mountain" where I hear the thunderous voice of God directing me in my path, but I do remember little signs along the way, starting with God preparing a place for me at Great Lakes to grow and mature. When you couldn't get a job teaching anywhere, God made this opportunity happen that I was very grateful for. And then likewise, this ministry role kinda appears at a church that I'm very familiar with.
Not that this is for everybody; I wouldn't recommend going into full-time ministry in the church you grew up in. It's not for everybody, but it's worked for me so far. It's really been a blessing. I started there and immediately, the honeymoon was over. In fact, that's part of the reason why it took so long for the hiring committee to hire me. It's because they were looking for the perfect guy that was going to come and fix everything. And then when I applied, it was like, "oh, we know Noel. He's not the perfect guy! He doesn't walk on water!" So there was definitely a season of settling. But it's been a good process. And I have felt, getting back to the 1 Kings story, that still small voice, the voice you hear in ministry. It's a hard job, and the people that are in ministry get that. You can work for years in a context or a particular aspect of your ministry without having any feedback that this is working. You just don't know. You may ask, is this truly where I should be? There is a faith component to it that says that you just gotta stick to it.
The guys on ministry that I really respect are people that were in for the long haul. It's a long game, it's not a short game. They were in ministry for 30 years. I've got great respect for people that can stand in the fire for 30 years and do this job. It's not an easy job to do. But there’s little moments when you see glimpses of where you're having an impact, and God is gracious that way.
5 Briefly describe how you met Jesus
I met Jesus in a number of phases and a number of places, so my story would probably be similar to the stories of those people who grew up in church. I grew up in a Christian home, so in that respect, I probably first met Jesus in my parents. They are both people of faith, and they love Jesus and know Jesus. They value God's word and Christian community. So I grew up in church, going to church three times a week— Sunday morning, Sunday night, and then we had midweek Bible studies. That was part of my experiences as a child.
My dad is an image of what it means to be a Christian man, but personality wise, he and I are wired very differently. We just do things differently. And so, it was very helpful for me to be part of a Christian community like church where, as I grew older, I began seeing other men that are different. They’re Christians, they’re people that have put their faith in Jesus, that demonstrate signs and fruits of the Spirit, but they are wired differently. Dad is very type B, very easy-going. I'm more tightly wound, (I'm much more type A, I'm much more like my mom.) My dad's pretty emotionally solid, very steady.
There are men who are just openly emotive about their faith, who would speak and would shed a tear when they talked about how meaningful Jesus was to them. So I was seeing a whole different way of embodying Christ validated before me. So I met Jesus in other men at my church, and the way they expressed their faith, because it was different than my dad, but it was the same.
When I was 12 years old, I went up to Camp Omagh summer camp. I met a guy out there who was from Niagara Falls. He was this high energy, type A, expressive, boisterous, energetic, joy filled guy who just adored Jesus. I met Jesus in a very real way when I met him, and got to sit in Bible classes with him when I was in my preteens and early teens. And that just resonated with me, seeing this guy that was just electric with his faith. And when I saw Jesus lived like that, I realized, this is for me. But that's not to say that I didn't hear it all along. My dad and the ministers at my church had been saying these things that were important to being a disciple, but when I saw it to being lived, all those things gelled and connected. So I met Jesus that way, through the people that I grew up with in the community that I was a part of. It was an apologetic of authenticity, of faith lived well, and it was very convicting for me. When I saw that I was like, this is the life. I want to follow this Jesus because I saw this guy do it, and I saw what it did to him.
I don't have the skid row story with a 180° turn kind of thing. My story isn't one of God delivering me from all kinds of things, from addictions and destructive patterns of life. I was saved from those things before I even got to there. And for that I'm really grateful. But it doesn't mean that Jesus is less powerful my life. He's broken me of selfishness. He's broken me of other addictions and other kinds of things that are destructive. So in some respects, I kinda have a boring testimony-- I don't have a train wreck to say that I walked away from, but I hear people say that I have the kind of testimony they want their kids to have. They want their kids to be able to say that they never struggled, or had difficulties, because faith came early to them. I wish that for everybody.