Free College Courses
My name is John Marlar and I am excited to receive free college courses in ministry training at Christian Leaders Institute. I am married to my beautiful wife Renee. I am 57 years old, soon to be 58. I am a follower of Jesus Christ and have a mission to expand my knowledge to serve Him better. We live in Hickory, NC, USA and attend and serve Day 3 Church in Granite Falls, NC.
I was born and raised in northern New York State. I did not go to church when I was a child. I grew up thinking that churchgoers were hypocrites as I saw them attend church on Sunday and sin all week long. I felt churches were all about the money and my parents did not discourage me from thinking that way.
The best way to describe me before Salvation is “driven by self”. I spent most of my life trying to achieve the things I wanted and to live the American Dream. The problem with that was I never was able to fill the hole in my soul. I started drinking and this led to alcoholism and recovery from that disease. I was able to stay sober on coming to know God as a singular Godhead in 1987 (no Trinity). I prayed and many of my prayers were answered, but I was still empty. After 16 years of sobriety, the disease (and my ego) took charge again. I spent another 4 years of insanity trying to get sober again. After hitting bottom in 2007, I found myself in AA again and this time I understood that I could not stay sober on self-propulsion. I came to a new level of faith and of open-mindedness. I think this was the beginning of my journey to salvation.
In the summer of 2012, my fiancé asked me if I would like to attend church with her. My answer to the question was that she would never catch me in one of “those” places. I later told her I would go to church with her, but it would only be to support her. Needless to say, we did not start attending church together and life went on.
In July of 2013, my fiancé and I were sitting in a restaurant having dinner. I told her that I thought we should check out Freedom Biker Church. That thought had a source outside of me as it would not have been in my nature to think about going to church. My fiancé thought I was kidding. But that Sunday, we went to Freedom Biker Church in Hickory for the very first time. I remember that I felt drawn there. During the first service, the Pastor did a great job of explaining the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I had an emotional upheaval at this first service and I felt I had been “touched” by God. It was amazing and welcoming. I had to come back and see if that happened again.
On my second visit to Freedom Biker Church, I had another emotional upheaval during the service and I was convinced that I needed Jesus in my life. At the invitation at the end of the service, I went to the altar and asked Jesus to enter my life as my personal Lord and Savior. It was July 14, 2013. My life has not been the same since. My fiancé and I got married at the end of August that year.
During the weeks following my salvation, I was baptized and I started becoming involved in the church. After a short time, I felt called to do something more for the church and I talked to our Pastor about that. At first, it was unclear what I was being called to do. My wife and I attended church every week as well as Bible study on Tuesday nights. I began reading the Bible with purpose. I wanted to understand God’s Word.
Over the following year, I was given the opportunity to do many things inside the church including going on a mission trip to York, PA where Freedom Biker Church was trying to plant a church. Also, during that year, my wife and I were led to facilitate a ministry. Both my wife and I had prior experience with recovery from alcoholism, so it was natural for us to want to help others with that. About that same time, our Pastor came to us to discuss the possibility of bringing a ministry called 1stGear to Hickory. 1stGear is a ministry targeted at helping people to be healed through Christ in the areas of addiction and emotional stress. 1stGear began meeting weekly at our church on October 16, 2014. The ministry grew over the next 3 years and real healing has been experienced there. Only God made this ministry start and become effective so quickly.
In addition to 1stGear, another call was placed on my heart. In November 2014, I was given a message by God, that I needed to share. That message was “Come as You Are.” That message was strong and persistent and I sat down with our Pastor in November and let him know what I was feeling led to do. Our Pastor was going to be out of town on the 30th of November, so he gave me the opportunity to give the message to the church that day. That was a wonderful and exhilarating moment for me. Since then, I have felt the call to do more of the same.
At the same time, I was led to get more education in the area of Christian Ministry. As I did not know about the free college courses at CLI yet, I enrolled at Fruitland Baptist Bible College, attending classes online since March of 2015. In November of 2015, I was ordained as a pastor at our church. I preached regularly as a lay pastor and supported the church in every way I could.
In February of 2017, a detour was placed in my life with the untimely death of my mentor and pastor. God knew that I needed to change locations to become more effective. So, my wife and I were led to seek another church where we could serve. We are now at Day 3 Church in Granite Falls, NC and we are serving in Celebrate Recovery as small group leaders. I get the occasional opportunity to preach. We also lead a life group in our home on Wednesday nights. We are trying to build other leaders through that. We attend our church and worship just as we are. We want to provide that environment for more people. We believe our future is to lead a church in God’s timing as we take free college courses at CLI.
I am a new creation in Christ. My wife and I are followers of Christ. Wherever He leads, we will go. We are not concerned about finances today and we do what we think is best for fellow believers and for the expansion of the Kingdom. Today, although I make mistakes, I am trying to live a life that honors God and makes me more like his son. My wife is doing the same. Together as a team, we honor Him. Christian Leaders Institute’s free college courses have been a real blessing to us as we seek to learn more about God, the Word, and ministry. Thank you, CLI, for your free college courses!
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