My name is Thomas Skip Gillespie. I am known by my middle name, Skip. I know it's a bit of a strange name, but I don't have a problem with it! I was born just off Dee Street in East Belfast (Northern Ireland), into a family of six brothers and two sisters. Having so many brothers had its advantages - not too many people picked on me as a kid!
I had the most wonderful parents in the whole world, but I was to bring a lot of shame to my Dad and a lot of heartache to my Mum as I got into my teens. Not meaning to, I was to set on a course of self-destruction. I began to dabble in alcohol, soft drugs and glue sniffing - which was common among my peers. The end result was quite a few court appearances, including the High Court. I felt a lot less 'cool' when I was sentenced to two years and eleven months. What a wake up call! Following an appeal my sentence was reduced to 240 hours of community service.
Not long after this I was watching TV one night when a church service came on. I could not believe what I was seeing - there were so many young people and everyone seemed to be happy. It wasn't right, I thought. Church was for the old. How could they be happy in church? I have to go there, I thought, and see what they are 'on'.
And so it was that a few weeks later I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time in my life. I didn't know that I was a sinner and that I needed to be born again. I was told that God loved me and that Jesus died on the cross that I might be forgiven. Two weeks later I cried out to God in my living room: "God, if you really love me, take away my sin and take away my need for glue." When I woke the next morning I reached under my bed for my tin of glue and then I thought, "I don't need this. Christ is in my life. He has set me free."
My family could not believe it. My Mum was so happy and so encouraging. My friends said "Two weeks and Skip will be back on the glue". They weren't counting on the Lord, but I was. The Lord not only saves us, but He keeps us as well. Today I find myself married to a beautiful young woman called Ruth. We have three lovely children: Lois, Rebekah and Beth. Prior to Grove we were members of Agape Fellowship where Pastor Robert Hunsdale helped and encouraged us greatly.
The Lord, in His grace and mercy, led me to the Irish Baptist College to train for the pastorate. During the training, invites arrived to preach at many of the Baptist Churches in Ireland.
One of these churches was Grove Baptist Church where I preached a number of times. Some time later, and with much prayer and consideration from the leadership of Grove, I received a call to consider becoming their new pastor.
After much prayer, and seeking Godly wisdom, the Lord laid it on our hearts to accept the call and the challenge ahead. We are now looking forward to accomplishing His will in reaching out to the people of East Belfast with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You can read an article about the Induction Service of Pastor Gillespie here.