(Senior Pastor, Great Eccleston, Lancashire)
My name is Chris Kelsall, I am married to Sue and we have two children, Liam and Joel.
My earliest memories of church are of going along on a Sunday afternoon to Sunday School in a village chapel, after which I would sit (patiently?) through an hour long service. I was brought up in a family where being a Christian was important in all areas of life, with my parents being very active in the local fellowship.
I enjoyed those times and lived what appeared to be a normal Christian life as a young person. I was in no hurry to reveal that it was nothing more than "playing the part" - it was how I felt secure. At the age of eleven I had responded to an altar call at a tent mission, mainly out of fear after hearing the preaching about Hell. I think it was being compared to the "burnt sausages on a barbecue" that swayed me!
Yet increasingly, as I met with other young people I discovered that Jesus Christ meant far more to them than He did to me. He was their life, a life I knew nothing of. I am thankful for the testimony of those young Christians as they were the instruments by which I came to know Jesus as my own Lord and Saviour. How gracious God is, for how many of us can so easily hide behind a mask on a Sunday - but not before God!
As I yielded my life life to God I became increasingly aware of the need to serve Him. In my early twenties I attended a series of meetings on the Holy Spirit and was challenged to ask for prayer. During the laying on of hands, I clearly remember the feeling of being cleansed and filled with the Holy Spirit as if I was being physically baptised in water. In the following weeks, God gave me clear instructions from Scripture for the way forward, (1 Tim 4:11-16), from which I still continue to be challenged as I seek to serve Him.
Even before I knew the call to serve in the role of a pastor, God was nurturing my future course. At the age of about twenty, as the eldest son, my father asked me if I wanted to go into partnership in the family business on the farm. As I considered the offer I just knew it was not the right move. It was as if God was closing the door on that part of my life. At that time I did not know why - I could not give a reason.
Sue and I married in 1994, but it wasn't until 1999 that we felt the call to "full-time" Christian work. Up to then I had worked and lived as a farmer. It was very much a part of my life from childhood. In September of that year I became church worker in Garstang where I have served for seven years and now take up the pastorate at the Great Eccleston church.
The church is the Body of Christ, the holy presence of God in our communities. As with Jesus, we are to share His passion to save the lost. Our call is also to "make disciples," equipping believers to grow in maturity, so enabling them to live their faith in every aspect of life.