A Life Devoted in Service
In our continuing series, “Listening to Our Elders,” I get to unveil wisdom from some of the experienced members of our church. We have an incredible opportunity to listen to those who have gone before us, learning from their mistakes and gleaning wisdom from their experiences. Last time, we heard from Ed Dyck, a former pastor at First Alliance Church.
I think everyone who has attended FAC for any period of time has a “Pastor Ray” story. I know I have mine. When I was fresh out of high school, I led a guys’ Bible study, and one of the guys in our group was an incredible testimony to Ray’s perseverance and love. This guy was originally a Muslim who had several dreams about being in a dark forest, following an unknown man to a lit city, but not being able to enter the city. Night after night he had this dream, and he told his girlfriend who was attending FAC at the time. She directed him to speak to Pastor Ray who interpreted the dream for him. The dark forest was his life, the man in the dream he tried to follow was Jesus, and the lit city was the Kingdom of God; but the only way in was through Jesus. This guy came to accept Jesus and was passionate about learning more as we studied every week in our Bible study group. Pastor Ray Matheson has been a part of FAC as long as I’ve been attending. After I returned to this church from being overseas for 15 years, it was comforting to see Ray still doing what he does best – loving people and turning them to God.
In fact, I think the story of Ray’s reach goes beyond those who attend this church. Pastor Ray is well known throughout the city and it seems he has friends and acquaintances in every corner of Calgary. I sat down with this incredible man to get a sense of who he is and what lessons he can pass on to the church.
Jeremy: What are your favourite books of the Old and New Testaments?
Ray: Oh, that’s easy. Isaiah is my favourite. I love Isaiah’s calls to come to God, to return to Him, to reconcile with Him. He says in Isaiah 55:2, “Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? … Listen to me and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.” These are all calls to seek the Lord. When I was in Grade 5, I memorized Isaiah 53 and that’s always been a key passage for me, the suffering servant of Jesus.
As for New Testament books, the Gospel of John is my preferred book. That’s where I lead people to Christ. I urge them to read John because he pulls you into Jesus, understanding more of who Jesus is. I like John because a lot of Jesus’ words are in there. We see His teachings and much of the last week of His ministry.
How did you know God was calling you into fulltime ministry?
Even before I was sure I was actually a Christian, I knew I was going to be a pastor. I remember being in Grade 4 and 5, and I was part of a little youth group. I got to be president, lead the meetings, offerings, and saying the prayer. I relished that. I just felt that there was no greater thing I could do with my life. But I struggled for the longest time about how I knew that I was a Christian.
I remember going door to door with an evangelist and I asked him “How do you know that you’re a Christian?” He gave me the response that if we receive Him, His promise is that He renews us into a new creation. But I still struggled. I prayed in bed and waited to feel something different. I went forward constantly in church. I tried to find some assurance that my salvation was there. It wasn’t until I was in a Vacation Bible School in Grade 9 when I read through Romans 10 that I discovered the truth. It says in that passage that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. It wasn’t based on emotion or feeling. It was just a fact.
What do you read for people in hospital?
I LOVE the hospital. I find that when I’m there, people are craving God. They sense a need for God that they normally wouldn’t have, a desire for His strength, His hope, His encouragement. They crave something spiritual. I usually don’t read scripture, I quote it. I share passages that talk about who Jesus is, and what He wants to be for them.
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
“I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
“Fear not for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
How long have you been in ministry and how have you maintained balance in life and ministry?
I don’t want to put myself forward as someone who got it right all the time. I never thought I had the perfect balance in life and ministry. I did sit down with my boys and asked them to be honest with me one day. I asked if my sons had felt any regret or bitterness, if they suffered at all over the years. They told me that they never felt that way, and they were grateful that I was in ministry. Part of being in ministry is being flexible. I was always able to be there for my family. I had extra opportunities to be present and available, even if I was out very late at nights in hospital or getting calls at all hours of the day.
This year, I’ll have been at FAC for 30 years, and before that I was at Canadian Bible College (now Ambrose University) for 18 years. That’s 48 years that I’ve been in ministry in some capacity. In ministry, I’m always facing situations that I’ve never had before. I’m never bored.
I remember when I was 65, and I thought it was time that I consider retiring. This was around the time that Pastor Terry Young was the Senior Pastor. He sat me down when he heard that I was considering retirement. I’ll never forget what he said.
“Ray, if I know you, retirement won’t affect you at all. You’ll do exactly what you’ve always been doing. Only we won’t be paying you to do it.” I knew that was true and that I was always going to be loving people and drawing them to God. I have nothing to retire from. I always seek out chances to bring God into people’s lives. And I like to bring God’s strength to the people. If I had the strength I would do that for a long time to come. I can’t imagine not being able to share Christ.
Interview by Jeremy
Elder: [el-der] noun, an influential member of a tribe or community. (Dictionary.com)
Missed the first of this series? Read Listening to Our Elders: Part 1 featuring Ed Dyck here.