John Milton, Lead Pastor
Pastor John remembers the day of his salvation as the greatest day of his life. On October 11, 1981, John Milton was a 14 year old boy in attendance at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. An Evangelist came to his church in Oxford, Florida and preached a message from Mark 8:38. In this verse, Jesus was talking and he said that “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Prior to that day, John was more concerned about what his friends that sat on the back pew of the Church thought of him than he was about his eternal destination. At the end of that message, and after waiting through several stanzas of the invitation song, John finally walked down the aisle to the altar. The Evangelist went over the verses with him, showing John his sin and his separation from the Lord, and how that he could simply receive the gift of forgiveness and salvation by accepting Christ as his Savior. He prayed and did just that. He remembers standing up in front of the church with a grin so large that he could not shut his mouth. The weight of his sin, the prospect of Hell, and the emptiness inside was gone. It was, has been and will be for all of eternity the greatest day of his life.
Pastor John was raised in central Florida, in a small town called Oxford. He spent his Middle School and High School years there. Prior to that, home was wherever his dad had been stationed with the Navy. John remembers living in California, Spain, Texas, and Florida. Soon after his graduation from High School in 1985, he enlisted with the United States Air Force in July of that year. He went on to be an Air Traffic Controller stationed in Grand Forks, North Dakota. It was there that the second most important thing in his life happened. He met a beautiful young lady named Kim Aure while roller skating, and in March of 1990, she would become Kim Milton.
From Grand Forks he applied and was accepted into Officer Candidate School with the United States Coast Guard. He spent three years working in New Orleans as part of the Marine Safety Office, before being accepted into Flight School. He then spent five years in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, followed by five years in Kodiak, Alaska. While stationed in Elizabeth City and Kodiak, he primarily flew the HH-60 “Jayhawk” for Search and Rescue missions.
In 2005, John could no longer resist the pull of the Holy Spirit to enter the ministry full-time, so he retired from the service and went to work with a good friend as his Assistant Pastor in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. The Lord tremendously blessed their work there. During his fifth year there, the Lord started moving him towards a Senior Pastor position, somewhere. After speaking with his pastor about it, within a week a man called him about a Pastorate position in a small church in Kimball, Michigan. The Lord had moved this man to call him, without any knowledge of the conversation he just had the week prior with his pastor.
There were a number of distinct signs from the Lord of His calling John to Michigan that sealed the decision to accept the call and become the Pastor of Sparlingville Baptist Church. Pastor John officially began his ministry here with us on August 11, 2011. Pastor John has said that outside of the birth of his children, pastoring SBC has been one of the biggest joys of his life. He cannot wait to see what the Lord will allow us to accomplish.
Abram Braun, Associate Pastor / Youth Pastor
Abe was privileged to grow up in a Christian home. He went to Sunday school, sang the hymns, and learned the Bible stories from a very young age, but it wasn’t until he was 11 years old that he realized his need for salvation. It was during a spring revival at Aultman Baptist Church in Aultman, Pennsylvania that Evangelist Rick Rose preached on Hell, and Abe realized that if he died that’s where he would go.
Abe did not get saved at church that night, but he remembers the Holy Spirit convicting him. On the ride home from church, he remembers his dad making remarks about the message that continued to scare him about Hell. That night when Abe got home he went to bed, and his dad was at the table doing some work. Abe came out several times to ask questions about salvation. It was late that night while lying in his bed that he asked Jesus to come into his heart and save him. He remembers that at that moment the fear was gone; the burdens of his sin were lifted and the joy of Christ filled him.
Sadly, spiritual growth did not start for Abe until he was 15 years old. At the time his family began attending Slippery Rock Baptist Church in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Through the preaching, fellowship, bible camps, and much time invested into him by the Youth Pastor there, God started to break his heart. Abe began to see the need for souls saved and the responsibility that he had to share with others the love of Christ. He began helping in the bus routes, Children’s Church ministry, Vacation Bible School, and missions.
God grew that burden until Abe accepted God’s calling for his life to be in fulltime ministry. He continued to serve at his church, and after graduating from high school he attended Massillon Baptist College in Ohio to train and receive his degree in Pastoral Studies. After graduation, Abe spent three months in Honduras working at an orphanage as a Missions opportunity.
After returning home, God opened the door for Abe to move to Michigan and accept a position as an assistant to the Pastor at Sparlingville Baptist Church. He currently works under Pastor Milton and strives to serve God here. Abe believes that God has placed him here to learn, grow, and serve.
Ryan Simmons, Assistant Pastor
Pastor Ryan was raised in a Christian home by godly parents, and grew up with a knowledge of the Lord. Unfortunately, he recalls that knowledge was “a head knowledge, and not a heart knowledge. I knew about God, but I did not know Him personally.”
After graduating from a Christian school, Ryan attended a Bible college “because it was the expected thing to do.” Little did he know, the unseen hand of God was bringing him to the place that he would settle the matter of his salvation, and accept the Lord’s call to pastoral ministry.
On January 19, 2010, during a message at one of Temple Baptist Church’s Bible conferences, Ryan could feel the Holy Spirit convicting him. He knew that he was not saved, and that if he did not humble himself he would never accept Christ as his personal Savior. He went forward to the altar and asked Jesus to save him from his sins and become to Lord of his life.
Ryan graduated from the Crown College of the Bible with a degree in Pastoral Ministry in 2012. He remained in Tennessee for a few years, working with the youth ministry at Valley View Baptist Church in Knoxville. He felt the Lord leading him back home to Michigan in 2014, and he moved there with no clear idea about the future held for him. He started attending Sparlingville Baptist Church, and soon after began working underneath Pastor Milton.
In 2015, Ryan met his lovely wife Janelle, and they were married a year later in July of 2016. He was ordained for the ministry of the gospel in February 2017 by Sparlingville Baptist Church, and in August of the same year, the church called him to be their Assistant Pastor.
Bonnie LaVere, Church Secretary
Bonnie has been attending Baptist churches since she was four years old, so I guess one might say that she had a “religious background.” She was satisfied with her “religiousness” until her senior year in high school, when the Lord began to convict her of her sin. She had never murdered anyone or committed gross immoral sins, but she began to realize that she had done countless things that displeased the Lord. She knew in the depths of her soul that she could not go to Heaven – God is a righteous, perfect God and He could not let sin enter Heaven.
For a time, she was able to push the conviction from her mind, but as time passed, she grew more disturbed about it. Finally, she could stand it no longer; she knew she was on her way to Hell, and she was scared. She also knew that Jesus Christ was the only hope she had – she had memorized all of the right verses as a child in Sunday School. She asked Jesus to forgive her sins and save her soul, and as the Bible promises, He did. What a weight was lifted from her shoulders – she no longer had to worry about going to Hell!
Bonnie has been a saved child of God for many years now. She has tried to live her life in a manner hat is pleasing to the Savior, but must admit that she has disappointed Him too many times. But as I John 1:9 promises, when we humbly ask, He forgives us, and we continue on together.
For many years, she has served the Lord faithfully at Sparlingville Baptist Church, in many different capacities. What a joy it is to serve the Lord!
Kelsey Braun, Pastoral Secretary
Kelsey serves as the Pastoral Secretary. She is the wife of our Youth Pastor, Abe, as well as the daughter of our Lead Pastor, John Milton.
“I grew up in a loving Christian home where my parents were highly involved in the church. My dad was the youth pastor for many years before becoming an Associate Pastor in my later teens. I made a profession of faith when I was very young, but later on in life had many doubts and couldn’t remember exactly what happened. My salvation was nailed down in June of 2011 when I graduated high school.
“Through most of my teen years, I went on many missions trips – including to Honduras and Africa – and the Lord put a burden in my heart for missions. After graduating high school, I attended West Coast Baptist College in southern California to receive my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. I hope to one day use it on a mission field, Lord willing. As of right now, I am serving alongside my husband in the church as the pastor’s secretary and teaching in our Christian school as the 5th and 6th grade teacher.”