Forty years ago on a Sunday night, August 5, 1973, I was born again. I have been serving Jesus now for forty years. I want to say it has been an incredible journey!” Today I would like to spend some time telling of some of the things that God has done in my life on this journey. When I say “serving the Lord,” I mean totally sold out, on fire, 100% commitment, no holding back, serving the Lord. The people I started my Christian walk with asked a lot of me concerning my commitment to Jesus. Sometimes people we associate with, think we were always saved. I was NOT. I grew up with a loving mom and dad, eleven brothers and sisters. I had a great family life, for which I am extremely grateful. I never saw my mother and father fight. I never saw my dad drunk or smoke or swear. He was always around. My mom did not work outside the house. How could she, with 12 children? When I was 18 years old I moved out to start attending college. Things really went downhill for me. I had started rebelling as a teenager and eventually got mixed up in drugs and alcohol. After I finished my first year of college I got it in my mind to hitch hike around the country. This was the time when hippies, long haired young people, were hitchhiking all over the country. So with a friend of mine and $60, we started to hitch hike right outside our New York City, since that is where I grew up, and headed west for the summer.
We ended up in San Francisco broke and hungry. We went to the Haight Ashbury district. This is where all the hippies used to gather. If you needed a place to stay, you went here and they helped you find someplace to sleep for the night. They were called crash pads. We were told there was only one crash pad left that still had room. It was some house run by “JESUS FREAKS.” It was called Shiloh. We stayed two nights at this Christian communal house and on the second night one of the guys who ran the place started to tell me about being born again. I really can’t remember all the words he spoke to me that night but I do remember one Bible verse he referred to, Revelation 3:20, which reads “Behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone opens the door I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” This was Jesus knocking on the door off people’s hearts. When the guy told me that Jesus was knocking at the door of my heart, I could almost hear the knocking. I realized for the first time in my life that if I died that night I would have a very hard time trying to convince God to let me into heaven. Wow, it totally freaked me out and I ran out of the house. I found my friend who was getting drunk and tried to tell him what was happening, he just handed me the wine and said forget it. Just then something inside snapped and I knew I needed to go inside and get saved, which I did. I remember bowing my head to pray that night; I could hear voices in my head. “You don’t want to do this, get out while you can.” Then I heard voices, “This is what you have been looking for your entire life, don’t leave here.” I realize now it was spiritual warfare going on for the salvation of my soul! I prayed a simple prayer with that group and was saved! “Jesus please come into my life and forgive me of all of my sins.” Something happened to me that night. For the first time I understood what that hunger was that I had felt for so many years. It was a hunger for God. I realized I needed God in my life. Something happened to me that night. For the first time I understood what that hunger was that I had felt for so many years. It was a hunger for God. I realized I needed God in my life.
Shiloh was a radical Christian movement made up of Christian hippie crash pads all over the US. I was invited to stay and join up with them, so I did. I told my friend that I had been saved and was going to join them. My friend asked me if I was going to become a “Jesus freak” and I said, I guess so! I immediately began reading the Bible, in the NT and as I got to Paul’s epistles, Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Ephesians, and so on I noticed that Paul started each letter saying “To the saints at Corinth, to the saints in Ephesus…” This dramatically affected me. I realized these people were being called ‘saints.”
I had grown up in a good Catholic home. Even though I had never heard the gospel preached to me about the need to be born again, I grew up believing in God and knowing the basic principles of the Christian faith: Heaven, Hell, Jesus as the Son of God, the dangers of sin and that Jesus died on the cross for me. I also learned many other doctrines which were not Biblical, like praying the rosary, going to purgatory and trying to be good enough to earn my way to heaven. I had attended church every Sunday, Even if I was out of town I always made sure I found a Catholic church to attend. I actually have only missed church a couple of Sundays my entire life. I thought I was a Christian. I thought I was going to heaven after I spent some time in purgatory since I was baptized as a Catholic. Yet I knew I wasn’t fooling God. I knew I was a hypocrite. When people talk about rejecting Christianity because of all the hypocrites, I often say, “I know what you mean, I was one of them.” Yes, I attended church every Sunday, but come Monday, actually sometimes by Sunday afternoon, I was living the life of a sinner. When I started going to high school it was the sixties and drugs were everywhere. The rock bands were all singing about drugs. All of my friends were experimenting with them so eventually the peer pressure got to me and I got caught up in the drug scene. Drugs and alcohol became regular part of my life starting in my 10th grade in High School. By the time I went to college I was getting high with one drug or another every day for almost two years straight and was dealing drugs for spending money. I never denied the faith with my mouth, but as I got older, sin became more and more a powerful force in my life. I went to Catholic school from kindergarten through 8th grade. I was taught that a person could never be called a saint until after they died and then they had to be canonized by the Catholic Church and approved by the Pope himself. There was a period in my life when I was in about fifth grade that I read a lot of books about saints who were martyred for their faith in Christ. Actually I read fifty of them in one year! They dramatically affected me. I often thought about what it would be like being a saint and how great these people were who dedicated their lives to serving God.
I had never read the Bible before, so as I am reading these passages about saints and seeing Paul calling all these Christians in these churches ‘saints’ it dawned on me. They were still alive when he wrote this to them. I looked up what Paul meant by calling these people saints. This was the first time I ever used a concordance. The word saint means to be set apart, separated from sin and dedicated to God. I realized that when I accepted Jesus into my life and asked Him to forgive me of all of my sins at that moment I became a saint. That is when I became Saint David! This was my first true spiritual epiphany! I was a saint and I was still alive and I could dedicate my life to serving God, which I did with all my heart.
When I joined up with the people in this house I quit college and wrote letters to all my friends and family telling them that I had found God and was going to live in San Francisco. My poor family, I kept telling them how they all needed to get saved. They thought I had flipped out and had joined some cult. They even sent my brother Henry and my sister Elizabeth to come out and visit with me. Praise God for His mercy and grace. Somehow through all the radicalness and craziness, God was able to reach them and over the years all of my family eventually got saved, even my father and mother. Several of my brothers and sisters eventually joined up with me in the Shiloh ministry.
Being a part of the Shiloh ministry was a great experience for me. We lived in a communal house, sharing everything. We worked together whenever we could get group jobs. We put all of our money in a communal pot and the pastor of the house would pay the rent, buy food and needed stuff and then send the rest up to the ministry headquarters to help pay for the Shiloh Bible school and opening other Shiloh houses around the country. At that time there were about 40 or so Shiloh houses around the country. It was part of the Jesus people movement that was sweeping across our country in the late 60’s and 70’s. I started giving bible studies after I was saved only one month. Now they were not incredibly deep studies, there were a lot of, “Wow, heavy, this is cool, dig this, etc.” But I loved to teach the Word and have been teaching and giving Bible studies ever since that time.
I lived in San Francisco for about a year working as a bike messenger, delivering packages all over downtown. Every night we would put up between 50 to 100 young people for free. We fed them for free and then gave them a place to stay. We would have a Bible study every night and I saw many young people saved. When you work with street people it was always an interesting day. It was a wild time and I saw some crazy things.
I learned many great lessons that year as I read the Bible for the very first time, so many passages of Scripture opened up to me. I remember one of the first ones to truly speak to me was in Matthew 21:44. “Whoever falls on this stone (Jesus) will be broken but whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” I felt God speak to me right then and there and say, I only had two choices and both required brokenness. Either I fall on the Rock and get broken or He would fall on me and crush me! I decided to fall on Jesus and allow Him to break me of my selfish ways. I decided at that moment that I was in for life and that I was going to go 100%, no turning back. I believe that is a decision each of us has to make at one time or another in our lives. Whether we are going to give our all to Him or are we going to hold back. I can tell you that I have not regretted that decision to fall on Him and allow Him to break me free from all the stuff that was holding me back. He truly has set me free to live the life that He created me for and He will do it for you if you let Him.
After a year of living in San Francisco I was asked if I wanted to move to Eugene Oregon to attend the Shiloh Bible School. I said, “Yes!” It was a great Bible School. All we did was study the Bible, no Greek, no Hebrew, no other books, just the Bible. I often wonder about some so called Bible schools today. They study everything but the Bible. We studied the entire bible, from cover to cover. After Bible School I was asked if I would like to join a traveling youth evangelist team. We were going to travel around the US visiting all the Shiloh houses and help them reaching out to the youth that were traveling all over the country at that time. We had to work as a team for a few months to save up money for our travels, and then we would travel for a few months. Back then that is how we did ‘mission work.’ Sometimes I wonder about people who feel called to doing ‘mission work’ and the first thing they do is send out letters asking people to donate to them so they can go on this trip. We worked first, saved up our money and then went on our mission trips. We did this for almost three years. During that time we did a lot of work in the mountains planting trees. We would make a lot of money doing this, but it was hard work.
Roxanna was part of this team and eventually I realized how cool she was and we started dating. But in the Shiloh ministry there were rules about dating. We were not allowed to go on dates alone, we always had to have a chaperone with us, just to keep things right, since we were all living in the same house. As crazy as that sounds, I look back on it and I am grateful for this. It kept our relationship pure until we were married, for which I have been forever grateful. As part of our evangelist outreaches we would often walk the streets and stop young people and talk to them about God or just pass out tracts to people. We would also go to parks and do skits and eventually puppet show and then I actually started doing mime. We saw hundreds of young people get saved during these years. It was a great experience. Eventually Roxanna and I got married so we had to step off the team, which was only for singles. We decided to live in Eugene, Oregon and join up with a Shiloh Church which had started as a result of lots of the young people getting married and having to move out of the Shiloh houses. It was during this time that the call to being a pastor was truly confirmed in my heart.
As a young boy I had always had a desire to serve God and since I was a Catholic I thought the only way to really do that was to become a priest. I often talked to priests about this desire, but eventually I decided that the priesthood was not for me, so I gave it up. But after I got saved and became a ‘saint’ that desire was rekindled and I knew I wanted to be a pastor not a priest. That first year that Roxanna and I were married we were asked to start a home group with a couple of new converts. We were so excited for the opportunity and as we started to meet a revival broke out in that group. Within a couple of months we had about fifty people coming, most of them were new converts.
When God called me to pastor a new church
I decided to go back to college instead of continuing to plant trees. I finished my second year of college and I was getting ready to transfer from the Community College to Oregon State University. I drove to the campus one day and parked my car and as I was walking to the administrative office I heard the Holy Spirit speak to me. He told me not to register for my third year of college and that I needed to get ready to be sent out to start a church! It was a clear impression on my heart. I stopped in my tracts, thought for a minute, then turned around and drove home. I told Roxanna what happened and we got all excited. We began wondering what was next for us. A few weeks later the pastor of the Shiloh Church we were attending asked to meet with us. When we got together he asked if we were interested in moving to Columbus Ohio. He said there were a few married couples that were part of the Shiloh houses that wanted to start a Shiloh Church, plus at that time there were two Shiloh houses in Columbus. We immediately said yes, since God had already spoken to us.
So Roxanna and I moved out to Columbus to start the church here. We were only here a few months before we received a call that the Shiloh ministry was going to close down. We were given the option to go independent or close down. The two Shiloh houses decided to close down and a number of the couples decided to move. So we were left with about 15 people, but we knew God had sent us there so we decided to stay open and affiliated with the Calvary Chapel Church association. Calvary Chapel was pastored by Chuck Smith and he had a major influence in staring the Shiloh ministry. We had always been an extension of the Calvary Chapel ministries so it just made sense to join up with them. We did not want to be independent, so in October of 1978 we incorporated as Faith Chapel.
At that time I was twenty four years old and newly married and really had no idea how to pastor a church. All I knew was street ministry and working with communal houses. So it was truly an adventure. Roxanna I decided we would give it our all for at least one year and see if God blessed our efforts. During that first year we saw a number of young people get saved. Also during that first year some of my family decided to move to Columbus to help us with the work of building a church. They were a great blessing to us, eventually my dad and mom and some more of my family moved here. At one time we had 10 of my brothers and sister living here as well as my mom and dad.
We enjoyed being a little church and watching God bring people in and changing people’s lives. Not only was our church family growing but so was my own family. Roxanna and I eventually had six children, who have all been such a blessing to me, and have grown up to be great people, in spite of having to grow up PK’s, pastor kids.
We rented an old farm house that used to be where the Krogers now stands on the corner of Main and Taylor. We eventually outgrew that house. Then we rented part of the Cotner’s funeral home, which was just down the road. It was a building they used to display all of their caskets and tombstones. They were not able to get all of them out before our first service, so we just put signs on them that were Bible verses like, “The dead in Christ shall rise.” “Death has lost its sting.” “For the wages of sin is death.” It made for an interesting service. We eventually outgrew that building and bought the land here on Palmer Road and began to build the first building. It took 100 Saturdays of volunteer work to build. During that time we rented the Hannah Ashton Middle School. We finished the building in May of 1987 and had a great big celebration. We paid cash for everything as we built it, so we had no debt when we moved in.
One night we noticed some skateboarders were using our parking lot and decided to reach out to them. So we built a huge wooden half pike ramp for them to use as well as a bunch of other wooden and metal ramps. We eventually had a couple of skateboard outreaches and had hundreds of young people show up. The newspapers covered it on the front page and called ‘Holy rollin!” We did all sorts of outreaches to our community. We did free oil changes, huge summer vacation bible schools, Motorcycle Sundays, marched in parades. We started a Sunday afternoon service called the Sanctuary Service, and started having heavy metal Christian bands come in and do serious heavy metal music. God truly used those services and we saw hundreds of young people come and get saved. Several are pastors of churches today!
The one outreach that our church became known for was HellStop. Even to this day, when I tell people where I am from they often ask, “Is that the church that used to do a Halloween outreach called HellStop?” We ran this program for ten years and we saw about 50,000 young people come through and saw literally thousands of them get saved and many of them were even baptized at night right during the program! God’s hand was all over it.
Becoming Vineyard Community Church
In the late 80’s we were told that there was some division going on in the Calvary Chapel association of churches and a new group was splitting off called Vineyard Association of churches. It was being headed up by John Wimber and we were told to decide if we wanted to stay with the Calvary Chapel Association or join with the Vineyard Association. We were familiar with John Wimber and what God was doing in the Vineyard churches but we liked the Calvary movement, so rather than choose one or the other we decided to go independent. It was a hard time, and as I look back I wish we would have decided to join the Vineyard. We really ran our church and our services much like we do today and that was more the Vineyard style of worship. In 2005 we officially joined up with the Vineyard Association. I never did like being an independent church. There was no accountability. We did not belong to anything larger than our church and it just did not feel right. We have really been blessed being a part of the Vineyard. It is a great group of churches and it has grown all over the United States and around the world. Today there are about 600 Vineyard Churches in the US and about 700 in other countries. The local Vineyard churches around Columbus were a great help with us getting our free clinics started, and we have had some great people join up with us who were also part of the Vineyard Churches.
So Now What?
It has been a great experience walking with God all these years. I am so grateful for His mercy and love and forgiveness. I have been so helped by reading God’s Word and listening to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. I felt God speaking to me towards the end of last year that He wanted me to stop watching TV completely for a period of time and to start writing books. Like many people I have always had a desire to write books, but it costs so much and it is such a major project I was discouraged from doing so. I had written one book, “God has tattoos” but it cost me thousands of dollars and was such a lot of work, I just didn’t think I could do anymore. But I kept feeling this urge from within that I needed to start writing books and sharing some of the incredible things that God has done in my life and some of the wonderful things I have learned about God, His character and His kingdom. Then I found this program on Amazon that allowed me to publish books for FREE and it was so easy I could not believe it. So since January of this year I have stopped watching TV completely and have devoted myself to writing books. This is my new adventure. If you go on the internet and go to Amazon.com and type in my name, David DiYanni (no space), you will see that I have written six books and redid the original book, God has tattoos! It was been an incredible experience. This stuff just flowed out of me. I did not realize how much time I had been wasting watching TV and how much I could do with that time. Also if you go to my home page on Facebook and scroll down and look on left side, listed all my books, if you like them that gets them out to the public.
In the Book of James 4:13-15 it says, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit,’ whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” No one knows the future but “If the Lord wills.” I am going to continue writing more books as long as the Holy Spirit inspires me. Right now I am working on three more that should be ready by the end of this year. So we will see how many I can do. These are lessons and spiritual truths are important to me that I want to share with you. Lessons I have learned about child rearing, financial management, healthy living, overcoming depression and sin, understanding God’s great love for us, end time prophecies and so on, that I have learned from reading God’s Word for the past forty years. I would like to continue pastoring this church full time for another eight to ten years, somewhere around my late sixties we will need to start transitioning the church leadership to a new pastor. If the Lord wills I would like to stay on pastoring, if just part time until I am 74 at which time I will have been pastoring this church for 50 years and then maybe retire and see what the Lord has for me at that time.
I am honored to have been able to pastor all these years. This church family has been a great group of people. I have so enjoyed being a part of your lives and I look forward to the many new people God will be bringing in and the new things He has for us as a church. I am excited about our growth of our student ministry. I am excited about the development of our free clinics and the starting of our pregnancy center. Let me just finish by saying dedicating your life to God is the only way to live. We serve an awesome God.