Pastor Wilbert Unger
I met Pastor Unger in 1991 when Bethel Baptist Church was nine years old and meeting in a storefront. We had returned from our church planting in South Asia in 1989 because of a change in the visa laws and had settled into our home church in Oak Harbor, Washington. We lost most of our support, of course, and I didn’t have the money to continue to publish the monthly O Timothy magazine, which we had founded seven years earlier. I decided to drive across the country and visit some churches and see if the Lord might open a door. The trip was a miracle from beginning to end. I had no credit cards in those days and only had the money to get to the first preaching engagement, which was a Wednesday evening service in Salt Lake City. They gave me a $50 love offering, which wasn’t enough to get to my next engagement in Ontario. I called a preacher friend in Colorado and he invited me to preach that Thursday night, and they gave me a nice offering which got me to the east coast. Somehow I got in touch with Pastor Unger and dropped in to preach at a mid-week service. I didn’t tell anyone my situation in regard to O Timothy. We were looking strictly to the Lord. But Pastor Unger asked me to stop back by that week and talk with him about something that was on his heart. He told me that he had a burden to start a ministry to print sound Bible materials and to send them as far and wide as the Lord would enable. He was planning to approach the church about taking part of the building fund to purchase equipment and set up a shop. He asked me if he could take on the project of printing O Timothy magazine. Of course, I said yes, not knowing what would happen. As it turned out, the church did agree with Pastor Unger’s plan, and Bethel Baptist Printing was established, and O Timothy was saved. They have printed, I guess, hundreds of thousands of copies for free distribution in many parts of the world.
That began a 30 year friendship and ministry association. In 1993, I completed the first edition of the Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity. I was working part time mowing lawns, selling fire wood, and such things, and I didn’t have the money to put that book into print. Pastor Unger borrowed the money, had the encyclopedia printed in a nice hardcover binding, and as the first edition sold, he was paid back. Eventually, Bethel was printing all of the Way of Life Literature books.
Whatever fruit O Timothy magazine and Way of Life Literature has had since then, and I have reason to believe that it is rich, has been fruit that Pastor Unger and Bethel Baptist Church have shared in as we have ministered together in the Lord.
In 2001, when the Lord called us back to South Asia as missionaries, Pastor Unger invited us to base our missionary work and Way of Life Literature at Bethel Baptist Church. Since then, they have not only printed all of the books but also handled all of the shipping, accounting, and other business associated with our ministry, and they have done it with the highest standard of ethics and diligence. And they supported the gospel preaching/church planting work in Nepal. And they have done even more that that; they have been steadfast friends in Christ.
There is no other man on earth who has been a greater friend to me than Pastor Wilbert Unger, and I thank the Lord for him.
No man is called great in Scripture, only Jesus Christ, but some men are called faithful, and that is what Pastor Unger has been. Steady, faithful, diligent, honest, dependable, persistent, steadfast in the face of difficulties. Falling seven times, perhaps, but getting right back up and keeping on in the right direction, following along after the good Lord (Pr. 24:16; Joh. 10:27).
God called Pastor Unger to preach in 1971 when he was a 31-year-old farmer, and at the end of 1976, at age 36 he stepped out by faith to go to Bible college at Tennessee Temple in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He says, “That was one of the hardest things we have ever had to do in our lives. I knew that when we sold the farm we would never be back. I also knew that my boys would never be able to continue the farming tradition that had been a part of our family history for many generations. That was a very hard time in my life. I felt like I had already been resisting the will of God for my life for a few years, it seemed I couldn’t quit the farm. I also knew what God wanted me to do. The call of God to the ministry is not something that you can walk away from, ask Jonah.”
At Tennessee Temple, Brother Unger felt the Lord’s call to Mexico, so after graduation that is where the family went in 1980. He was 40 years now, and ministry in that foreign culture was a difficult experience in every way. The pressures were so great that his health crashed. He couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, was a “nervous wreck.” He arrived back in Canada two and a half years later convinced that he was a complete failure, to his God, his family, and his supporting churches. But these kind of things are under God’s control. When a man surrenders to God and seeks His will, God leads, and often He leads into difficult, puzzling circumstances. But the man of God’s times is in God’s hand (Psalm 31:15) and all things are working together for his good (Romans 8:28). We think of Moses in the backside of the desert for 40 years, Joseph laden with chains in an Egyptian prison, David fleeing from Saul for years on end. God is in control and uses every situation to mold and shape and prepare His people for the ministry that He has for them.
Back in Canada, Brother Unger’s pastor encouraged him to go to London, Ontario, and start a church, and that’s what he did in November 1982. The spiritual soil of late 20th-century London was very hard. Brother Unger was 42 years old. He had to clear the spiritual land of big rocks and tough, deeply-rooted shrubs. He had to plow that hard-packed ground himself, with the help of his godly wife and a few co-laborers. At the same time, he farmed a small plot of land for a supplemental income and started the Unger Farm Market, which today supports some of his children and grandchildren. He stayed by the stuff through thick and thin. He didn’t quit and he didn’t back down from doing what God told him to do. God blessed his patient labor and raised up a New Testament church, a great light in the midst of the darkness of this world.
As a result, many souls have been saved, many lives have been changed, saints have been educated, discipled, protected, godly homes have been built, children have been raised for Christ, the gospel has been preached far and wide. God wants fruit, and He has gotten fruit from the call He put on Pastor Unger’s life. The “pound” that He gave this man has been well multiplied (Matthew 20:1-16). And this is true not only through the ministry of the church in London, but also through the distribution of great amounts of biblical literature throughout the world.
Pastor Unger didn’t go along with the crowd, which is a very rare thing. He didn’t boast about numbers, didn’t count empty professions as “salvations,” didn’t promote himself, didn’t go along with the new Bible or the new music or the new anything, knowing that the newest part of his faith is 2,000 years old.
No New Testament is built without great hardships and tribulations. It is serious spiritual warfare to preach the gospel and seek to establish a “pillar and ground of the truth” in the devil’s dark territory. The battles are many, never-ended, and not every battle is won. A church is made of sinners, redeemed ideally, but sinners nonetheless, and sinners sin, and there has never been a church that was not harmed in some way, to some extent, by sinning sinners. Church builders are not answerable to God for “success,” but only for faithfulness.
The old farmer just stayed humble before the Lord, depending on the Lord, and just kept plowing. He plowed until he couldn’t plow any more, and that is all that the Lord requires.
Pastor Unger retired from the pastorate in 2018. His plowing days in this old world are over. Because of failing health, he does more sitting than plowing these days, but his days have barely begun! He is waiting for the shout, hoping for the trumpet call to meet the Lord in the air.
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
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Goal:Distributed by Way of Life Literature Inc., the Fundamental Baptist Information Service is an e-mail posting for Bible-believing Christians. Established in 1974, Way of Life Literature is a fundamental Baptist preaching and publishing ministry based in Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, of which Wilbert Unger is the founding Pastor. Brother Cloud lives in South Asia where he has been a church planting missionary since 1979. Our primary goal with the FBIS is to provide material to assist preachers in the edification and protection of the churches.
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