I was not raised a Christian. My life up until conversion at 33 years old was pockmarked with sin, tragedy and failure. By the time I had moved to New York City in 1987 I was living a life in a fast lane headed for a cliff. My friends told me that I was “a man on a mission” headed for self-destruction. I had lost all hope. Everything I touched seemed to turn to dust. I came to the conclusion that love was a mirage and that life itself was a meaningless illusion that only produced heartache and disappointment. I was empty. I wanted my life to be over.
On a lonely night in October of 1989, I attempted suicide in my dark apartment in Queens, NY. Before I collapsed I crawled over to an open window and cried out to God for help—then fell into unconsciousness fully expecting my life to be over.
But God had other plans. My girlfriend found me the next morning crumpled up on the floor in the center of the living room. We began to weep together over what our lives had come to. But something was different. Something had changed inside. God heard my cry—He reached down into my spiritually darkened existence and breathed life into my soul and from that moment on began the slow process of restoring my life.
After attending a church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan for a few months, my girlfriend and I decided it would be best to start over somewhere else. New York, with all of its wonderful opportunities, had for us become a place that represented a former life—one that needed to end. We decided to move to Orange County California to start over. It was there that we began attending church and understanding the great and glorious truths of the Gospel. I came to know my beloved Savior Jesus Christ. I was filled with joy. My heart was on fire!
All I wanted to do was help others the way I had been helped by God through the hope found only in the Scriptures (Rom. 15:4). Within the first year of my new life in Christ I became involved in a lay counseling ministry in our church in Costa Mesa. Before long I began to pursue a call to ministry. Wanting to receive a formal education in the Bible, I went on to complete my Bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries from The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA.
About that time, a new Master’s degree program in Biblical Counseling had just begun and I enrolled almost immediately. Completing my MA in Biblical Counseling from The Master’s College proved to be one of the greatest seasons of spiritual growth for me personally and in my ability to help other hurting individuals with the private ministry of the Word.
I graduated with my MABC in 1998 and soon completed certification with the National Association of Nouthetic Counselors that same year. Since then God has shown me the importance of practicing both the public and the private ministries of the Word in the Church of Jesus Christ. As a pastor of a local church, I believe that it is scripturally incumbent upon me to minister the powerful, inspired, authoritative Word of God equally from the pulpit in Bible exposition and in private through counseling and discipleship.
Living now in the Nashville area, I decided to continue my education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where I completed my Master of Divinity equivalency and most recently my Master of Theology in Biblical Counseling through the doctoral program there. In 2004 my Master’s thesis on the relationship between preaching and biblical counseling was published into a book by Timeless Texts titled “One Ministry of the Word: The Recovery of Biblical Pastoral Ministry.”
My life has been given new meaning. Now I have been given a new mission–to be an instrument in the hands of God in the restoration of broken lives. My girlfriend Barbara and I were baptized together in the Pacific Ocean in 1990. We were married the following spring. We have been celebrating our love for our Saviour and each other in a faithful, Christ-centered marriage ever since.
Over the years God has shown me the power of His Word to restore lives. I have not lost one degree of passion for seeing people fully restored and relationships fully reconciled through the all-sufficient Word of God. God continues to change lives, one heart—one soul at a time. May His glory be evident in the ongoing record of transformed lives at Grace Bible Fellowship.
-Pastor Mark Mann