WEST POINT, Ky. (KT) – Ron Winter seemed an unlikely candidate to become a bi-vocational pastor.
He was a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, had been through a turbulent marriage that ended in divorce and would rather take a failing grade when in high school than stand in front of his peers and talk.
“I wasn’t anybody,” he said.
Except he was somebody to God, who had him right where he wanted him.
“When He called me to ministry, it took me a few years,” Winter said. “That’s how bad I was.”
Winter remarried and he was raising his two children from the first marriage after their mother died. His new wife also had two children.
“I was trying to find myself,” he said. “I grew up in church off and on but I was searching in the world. Something was missing.”
Winter would drive home with 18 beers in the seat next to him and then put away 30-packs on the weekends. He had stopped using drugs, but the drinking became increasingly worse from 28 to 37 when I got saved. "I could function," he said. "The devil was telling me you’re pretty much done, you’ve wasted your life.”
Not so fast. There was still hope.
“Life began to get chaotic, and I turned to alcohol to keep me calm,” Winter said. “Our marriage was falling apart. My wife said, ‘I’m going to go to church.’ I ended up going with her and after two weeks, I felt the spirit of God pulling me. The Holy Spirit started dealing with me. The second week I went, I raised my hand and gave my heart to Jesus. That’s when I felt a burden lift.”
Winter said even with that proclamation, the alcohol was too much. He couldn’t do it alone, so he called out for some divine intervention.
“I got on my knees and prayed to God,” he said. “I said, ‘You’re going to have to take this from me because I can’t do it.’’’
About six weeks later he was driving to work and “felt a tingling from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. It got more intense. It felt like a river on the inside of me. I was 15 minutes from the job site and I’m in the car in tears. You can tell it’s the Holy Spirit. He flooded my soul.”
And that was just the beginning of a new life. That same day he listened to Christian music for the first time and his addiction to alcohol and cigarettes vanished. “My desire and hunger was I wanted to be in church and be in the Word. It changed her life too. The Holy Spirit used her to draw her to church and pull me back in. Now she’s on fire for God. He used her as a decoy to get to me.”
Dawn Winter has become a “pastor’s wife” and her husband marvels at the change not only in him but her.
They started getting active in the Stites Station Baptist Church where Darrell P’Pool was the longtime pastor. Winter became the associate pastor and began speaking on occasion. God was preparing him for something bigger. P’Pool became ill and tragically passed away. The church immediately offered the pastor position to Winter. The former pastor's son, Darren, works closely with Winter in the church jail ministry.
The church had fallen to only about 10 but has now grown six fold with more in the offing. Winter may be considered bi-vocational but he’s as fulltime as any pastor, working multiple days through the week and preaching on Wednesday and Sunday. He also has the jail ministry in Bullitt County. During the summer months, the church went into the poorest neighborhoods in the area, set up water slides and brought food and then preached the gospel. They reached a family of six who are now all coming to the church because of those efforts. Others are asking questions about church too.
Winter said help from the Kentucky Baptist Convention and the Nelson Baptist Association with Associational Mission Strategist Stan Lowery have been instrumental in his transformation as well. “I’m so thankful to be a Southern Baptist and part of this association,” he said.
For Winter, there’s no such thing as too much church and especially when it comes to sharing the gospel. He’s a changed man. From the one who would rather flunk on an essay than speak in front of peers, he is now a fiery preacher in the pulpit.
“He gives me boldness and courage,” Winter said.