It hurt too much to live

Fire-and-brimstone preaching never leads to sustainable change

David Sluyter: "My wife came to the hospital and started singing over me."
  • David Sluyter: "My wife came to the hospital and started singing over me."

Bonita Valley Community Church

4744 Bonita Road, Bonita

Membership: 4000

Pastor (student ministries): Jason David Sluyter

Age: 29

Born: Flagstaff, AZ

Formation: Point Loma Nazarene University

Years Ordained: 7

San Diego Reader: What’s your main concern as a member of the clergy, especially in regard to young people?

Pastor Jason David Sluyter: I’m concerned with unhealthy environments where young people get taken advantage of and their boundaries are disregarded. I stress with my young people that I want them to know the truth, but I want them to discover it and own it for themselves. I’m not here to manipulate you or say, “It’s this way or no way.” If young people don’t discover the faith and own it for themselves, they’ll never hold onto it as they grow older.

SDR: Why is a student ministries pastor necessary?

PS: The type of questions that 30-year-olds might have about God and their lives is different from the kind 13-year-olds might have. Parents have questions about raising kids while a 13-year old has questions about how to fit in at school without giving in to peer pressure and that sort of thing. In a way, they’re two different journeys and the role of a youth pastor is to answer the questions a young person has. The answers have to be worded in a way that young people latch onto. At the same time, once a month we join the main congregation and worship together with the whole church so they get to know the main pastor and are a part of the worship service.

SDR: Where’s the strangest place you found God?

PS: Last year around this time I was in the hospital because I had tongue cancer. They did a fifteen-hour operation in which the doctors removed most of my tongue, I had a tracheotomy in my neck, and they’d taken part of my arm to remake my tongue. I was super jacked up with tubes and medicine. When I woke up I couldn’t breathe through my nose or mouth and I was panicking. They gave me pain medicine and other medicine to keep my body going. Accidentally, one nurse gave me a dose and a nurse on the next shift gave me another dose. Next thing I know I’m screaming in pain from a reaction to the meds. The worst part was that the doctors said this effect would last for about four days and I thought I couldn’t even do it for the next five minutes. It was torture. In that moment, I wanted to die; it hurt too much to live. But in that moment my wife came to the hospital and put on some worship music and started singing over me. I had so much anxiety and pain; but when she sang over me, I felt this peace in the room that helped me go to sleep. She would visit every day for several weeks in the hospital as I went through this very painful journey fighting cancer and sing over me every night. So I felt God in the hospital.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PS: Being Assemblies of God, we preach there is a heaven and there is a hell, and if you believe in Jesus and he is your savior, you spend eternity with him in heaven. I believe it’s the goodness of God that leads to repentance. Fire-and-brimstone preaching never leads to sustainable change. I preach about how good and unconditional the love of God is.

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