The first Pemberton in my line to come to the New World was James Pemberton. He helped to plant the historic Old South Church in Boston in 1669 as a Puritan Congregational church. That family name has come to me. Today the Old South Church is theologically opposed to that of its founding. While that congregation has fallen away, the preservation of God’s people has not. My grandfather, Martin Pemberton, Sr., was among a group of elders that pastored several churches in a small association of Baptist churches in southern Kentucky. I know that he prayed for the salvation of his children and his grandchildren.
I’m originally from the Midwestern countryside near Greenville, Ohio. I first came to faith and was baptized in a Church of the Brethren, the denomination of my mother. After moving south to Statesville, North Carolina, my mother passed away and my father remarried.
My new stepmother was Lutheran, and we joined her church. Although I was catechized with Luther’s small catechism, I was not well-discipled. After a failed attempt at college my first year, I joined the Marines. Toward the end of my tour of duty, I was deployed to the wilderness in Saudi Arabia to participate with my unit in Desert Storm. God was faithful during that deployment to send two brothers to disciple me.
Upon my return home, I returned to school studying physics and then Bible. God was convicting me that I needed to be involved in ministry of some kind. I went home after that and married a girl from my Lutheran church. We started addressing the theological differences we had with the Lutheran Church and observed the steady decline of the denomination into liberalism. We left the Lutherans and sought out a sound Baptist congregation, Western Avenue Baptist Church. Although Lutherans are not particularly Reformed, Luther himself was on his way. The first line of the Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness in the old, green Lutheran Book of Worship states, “We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” That led me to read Luther’s Bondage of the Will. Our new Baptist church in which we currently serve has many leaders in it who are explicitly reformed, including the senior pastor, Jeff Spry. He was the Minister of Education in the church when we joined and taught a series on Reformed Theology that I attended. I was ready to hear and accept those doctrines.
I have taught several series of my own in the church and have taught many times now in the mission field. My wife and I have an ongoing ministry to Latin America. We have also been involved in Child Evangelism Fellowship and mission efforts in Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. I currently serve on the deacon board of our church that has recently voted to move to an elder-led model. Reformed Baptist Seminary has been instrumental in my understanding of the issues as we pursue this change of polity to bring our church more in line with the Scriptures.
For the future, my heart is to expand my mission efforts into areas of the world where churches that have been planted are faltering because they have not been led to pursue the great commission in their areas. My heart is to strengthen these churches through discipleship into sound doctrine, and devotion to Christ in obedience to our call. The people in these churches often have access to places where Americans cannot go, and they are vital to taking the Gospel into those places. Equipped with what God has provided through Reformed Baptist Seminary, my prayer is that God will make many more opportunities available to build up churches around the world. Although some churches may fail, God will not.