A "Before and After" Alumni Story - Pastor Gary Cech
Submitted by: Gary Cech
For nearly twenty years, I led the life I wanted. I loved to sing so I quit college, moved from Michigan to LA, and pursued a career in performing. I was in The Young Americans, performed for Walt Disney Productions, did numerous musicals and stage productions (even took a short break to be on staff with The Today Show and Entertainment Tonight). The last ten of my performing years consisted of playing golf during the day and bass singer at night. During this time I was part of The Diamonds, a group that originated in the 1950’s and whose biggest hits were “Little Darlin’” and “The Stoll” (and many, many more). All that changed in 1988 when my second wife left me for another man, whose child she was carrying. I hit what I thought was rock bottom and cried out to God “I can’t do this anymore! – I give up!” and I did.
It was then that Pastor Dan, the music pastor at the large church I was attending, began to take a personal interest in me. He discipled me and I began to grow. I had accepted Jesus into my heart in 1963, but I never grew because I was never discipled. As a result I was always a ‘fringe’ Christian – a contradiction at best. Now, the closer and closer I got to Christ, the less and less important my career became. In 1989, I discovered “Lordship,” realizing I had accepted Christ as Savior but I had never made Him Lord of my life. Dramatic changes were taking place and it was exciting. In 1991 I survived a head-on car crash that intensified my desire to be the best Dad that I could. In 1992 I married Luanne, my close friend of 23 years. Luanne and I had been on one date during high school (in 1969) but the result was a solid platonic friendship that lasted all through and out of high school. Marriage wasn’t my idea however. After two short failed marriages, I was ready to remain single. Luanne asked me and I had the good wisdom to say “Yes.” Sixteen years later, I guess she was right.
Later that year, when faced with spending Christmas alone and keeping my career or leaving The Diamonds to spend Christmas with my new wife and family, I chose my family. It was the first of many decisions that would cause us to “walk by faith, not by sight“ (2 Corinthians 5:7). I had quit college to perform, now I was faced with the reality of being thirty-eight with no formal education and not a clue as to what I was to do. I did know this…because I gave up my career to honor my family, God was obligated to give me a really good job…or so I thought.
A deep process of “humbling” was in store for me that finally took me all the way to “bare bones.” It seemed like I had lost it all but now God was able to rebuild me in His image. I worked at a Christian radio station for $5 an hour, in a warehouse stocking telecommunications equipment and as a teacher’s assistant. Life was a struggle but I was still growing. We changed churches and quickly got involved in a music ministry, eventually becoming the worship leader. Pastor Greg (who went to Western Baptist College with Dr. Fong) encouraged me to see myself through God’s eyes. Even though I felt worthless, I came to understand that worth is not based in me but on Christ and what He did at the cross. Pastor Greg wanted me on staff as their first full time worship director. When the time came for the congregation to vote, I received 78.8% of the vote, but I needed 80%. There was a second vote the following week with nearly the same result and I was not hired. When I arrived at church the next week for my worship duties, people were surprised and glad that we were still there. My response was,“Where would we be?” People thought that because I was voted down, we would leave. God gave me this inspired response “If God isn’t the God of the ‘no’ then we don’t deserve His ‘yes’.” I have shared that wisdom many times since. I learned in that process that some of the older Saints were concerned with my lack of a formal education. Even though I had twenty years experience in performing and music, I was seen as lacking. It was then, after praying with my wife, I took a step I never thought I’d do again…I went back to college.
In two years, I graduated from Western Baptist College and received (with academic honors) my BA in Management and Communications. Afterwards, Pastor Greg shared those fateful words, “Ok, now go on and get your Master in Theology.” I was tired but began to look at seminaries all over the country. Strangely, there were none in Nevada. It was in an internet search where I found MTS. Like I said in the beginning… "it was a God thing." Later, I was told by Dr. Wayne House that I was the first student to attend that had found MTS strictly via the internet. We loaded our belongings and moved back to Michigan.
My two years of seminary flew by. All of the professors, staff, and students were encouraging and seminary was not as overwhelming as I thought it would be. In the end, I was ready to return to the music ministry I loved, but God had other plans. After graduation from MTS I ended up in the pulpit, proving that God does indeed have a sense of humor. I became the Senior Pastor at a small church in Midland MI and in our six years of ministry there, God grew us from 70 people to nearly 300. We thought we would stay there forever but God again asked us to “walk by faith, not by sight." In 2005, we left that ministry, not sure where He had us in His plans.
My time at MTS laid the firm foundation needed for our current position, a church plant. Grace Community Christian Fellowship is a non-denominational church that seeks to use God’s Word as sole source of authority. As I was taught at MTS that it is the only reliable tool for successful living today. I remember early on that we were encouraged to, “Form a world view based upon truth, God’s Word is Truth.”
I never thought I’d be asked to plant a church, but then again, it shouldn’t be surprising when it’s His plans for us.