Proclamation, Invitation, & Warning


How Precious Did That Grace Appear

Bill Oldham's Testimony

Posted here 5/14/09

Brother Bill recently introduced himself via email and, when asked, he was eager to explain how he became a Christian. He had been a, "Catholic for 30 years, then after being born again, a Pentecostal pastor, then becoming a member of the Church of Christ, then deacon and [Sunday School] teacher in Assemblies of God, and finally pastored a Southern Baptist church the last 16 years (resigned last July)."


I was raised a Catholic: infant baptism, first communion at six, confirmation at seven, altar boy, last three grade school years at Catholic school, sophomore year decided to be a priest and spent my junior-senior year at a seminary in Texas. Came home, went to work in glass factory, year later married. Ten years later was born again.

Now I will try to fill in the blanks. I grew up with a tender conscience: going to confession every Saturday night and communion every Sunday morning. I always felt relieved after confession but it lasted only until around Tuesday and then I worried about going to Hell until Saturday.

My first two years of high school were at the public high school. Coming from the Catholic school to the public school and what the kids were saying and doing I felt like I was going to Hell for sure. It was during my sophomore year, at Lenten services, that I decided the only way I would escape Hell was to become a priest.

When we we came home from services I told my parents of my decision and they laughed thinking I was joking but I was dead serious. When they realized I meant it, the question was, where would I go?

In prior years I had spent several summers with my grandparents on their sheep ranch in Texas. My grandmother was a faithful Catholic who would go to mass at a little mission church. The church was served by priests who would come from a seminary. At that little church they asked me to serve as an altar boy and I became acquainted with the priests.

I decided this was the seminary I would attend.

It was during my senior year at the seminary that I realized I wanted to get married and have a family. For most of my senior year I spent my recreational time in the chapel praying to Mary and God for guidance. I was afraid God would "get me" for leaving but at the same time I dearly wanted a family. No answer came but finally in April I decided to leave. I thought I would need to enlist in the army because I didn't have any job skills, but unknown to me my dad had already been laying plans at the factory for a good job if I decided to come home.

I came home, went to work, 10 months later met Barbara and we decided to get married. She had been raised in a Pentecostal church. When we met with the priest he informed us that she would have to sign papers agreeing to raise any children up as Catholics. She refused. I discussed this with my dad who in turn discussed it with the priest. The priest told dad that since I had not known Barbara very long it would probably be best to be married by a Justice of the Peace so that if we divorced, in the eyes of the church, I would be free to marry again. We were married by a Justice of the Peace. Needless to say, I was immediately excommunicated, and for four long years my guilty conscience, along with almost breaking up our marriage, gave me no rest. Then the priest agreed to marry us without my wife signing any papers, and so four years later we were married by the priest and once again my conscience breathed a sigh of relief and once again it was only temporary.

Shortly after we were married, a friend at work invited me to a revival at his Assembly of God church. I had never attended anything but a Catholic church but since I was excommunicated and laden down with guilt we went. I’ll never forget that night. All I remember the preacher saying was something about feeling guilty and coming down front, so down I went. As soon as I was led to a bench I was surrounded by a crowd of people who were shouting and making strange noises and beating on me, telling me to do things. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Finally, completely confused, I got up and they were telling me I had got saved. Nothing registered with me. The next day my friend told my dad what happened, he went home and told mother and she said she didn’t ever want to see me again. She got over that quickly.

For the next four years, still with a guilty conscience, we became members and attended regularly until we were remarried.

For the next six years I attended mass every Sunday and then went to church with my wife. I was dissatisfied and unhappy in both churches; something was missing and I didn’t know what it was.

Right after I turned 29 a great fear came over me of dying and going to Hell. The priest nor the preacher were saying anything to bring it on but there it was and I didn’t know what to do about it; it was with me 24/7. For the next year I would know great fear constantly.

Three weeks after my 30th birthday, trying to figure out where to find an answer, on the way home from work I decide to stop by a small Christian bookstore. As I looked around there was a long shelf of paperback books. I started scanning the titles and one caught my eye entitled “The Secret of Happiness” by Billy Graham. I purchased it and went home and started reading it; it was speaking to me. I had to work the next day, Saturday, but all day long I was thinking about the way the book was speaking to me; I could hardly wait to get back to it. I went home played with the kids(we had three by this time) had a late dinner, took a bath, left the family in the living room, got in bed and started reading the book. Around ten o’clock I came to a sentence in the book that said: “if you’ve never accepted Jesus Christ as your Saviour there’s no point in reading the rest of this book.”  I read about three lines past that and suddenly my whole 30 years of religious activity flashed in front of me and I saw that that was the one thing I had never done.

I got out of bed, closed the door and knelt down. I asked God to forgive me of my sins, I asked God to save me, and I said I wanted to accept Jesus as my Saviour. That’s literally all I said. I didn’t feel any thing so I said:” God, I don’t feel anything, I’m not hearing anything, but I want you to forgive me of my sins, save me and Jesus I want to accept you as my Saviour.” Now the next part is not good theology and I’ve told very few people for the obvious reason but there was a voice, not audible but very clear and very sudden saying: “if you’re serious about this you have to start paying tithes.” I wasn’t raised to do that but I knew what that was and I knew that it was all I could do to pay bills and make ends meet, but I said out loud, “ I will pay my tithes regardless.” That was that! Now I had only been on my knees for about 5-6 minutes but with that I looked up and said: “God, I’ve come as far as I can go, the rest is up to you.”

I got up, opened the door, got back in bed and started reading my book. In less than thirty minutes, all of a sudden, there was a spirit came over me, filled me, and in an instant it was like I was all alone in the universe and I knew my sins were forgiven and Jesus Christ was the answer! I was in awe, I started praising the Lord(I had never known any of this). When my wife came to bed I told her what happened and  she said: “you got saved” I didn’t fully understand but I had a peace that was passing all understanding and I woke up 2-3 times in the night praising the Lord and saying allelujah.

Now its Sunday morning - without thinking or making a decision I knew I would never go back to the Catholic church and I haven’t(41 years) I didn’t like the folks at Barbara’s church but we got dressed and headed for the small Pentecostal church(about 80 people). We came through the doors into the auditorium and I couldn’t believe it: I loved everybody! I didn’t know that happened. I suppose I had heard Amazing grace before but not with my heart. When they came to: “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved, how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.” I cried, and I still do when I get to this part!

That Sunday evening there were two things I knew I must do at work the next day but there would be three. Monday morning the first thing I did was to apologize to a coworker who I had engaged in a cuss fight Friday. Secondly I went to my best friend who was not a Christian and told him I had accepted Jesus, thinking he would immediately want to also. He turned red, then white and said all church people are hypocrites and all preachers are liars. Well, I didn’t know what to think or say so I went back to work. He got saved 20 years later which is a story all by itself.

One of the things I dearly loved to do was tell dirty jokes, the dirtier the better and so every Monday morning this real jovial guy from another dept. would come over to either tell or hear one. this day was no exception. He heads my way grinning and says, “wait’ll you hear this.” Without even thinking I told him I didn’t want to hear it. He asked why, he said you’ve told me some a lot worse that this. I told him I knew that but I had accepted Jesus and I didn’t want to do that anymore. Before I could say anything else he walked away and never spoke to me again.

Within three weeks I joined Barbara’s church, started reading the Bible and I began a journey through the denominations that only God could have taken me through and brought me out safely which He has done. To Him be all the glory forever and ever through Jesus Christ our Lord.


We thank the Lord for Bill!

Please visit Bill Oldham's Blog at:

Pat's Email about Being the Church


Return to: