I am native to the southeastern region of the United States—born and raised in the Tennessee River Valley in the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. I am currently serving as the pastor of the Knoxville Grace and Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Churches in eastern Tennessee. I am also studying toward a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Religion with a concentration in Theological Studies at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Previously, I graduated in 2015 from this same institution with a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree in Systematic Theology. My undergraduate education was completed at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee; there I earned Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degrees in Theology and International Studies, Spanish Emphasis, minors in the areas of Biblical Languages and Psychology, and two certifications—one in Ministry and the other in Bible Work. I have been married to Mariesa (Swisher) Tinkham now for more than ten years. She is a very talented musician and a licensed clinical social worker who is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Besides these achievements, I feel a strong call to share the eternal gospel message of Jesus Christ and the Three Angels' Message of Revelation 14:6-12 through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. But this has not always been the case.
Before I Met Jesus
I was born into an active and loving Christian home (Seventh-day Adventist), but it was not long after my birth that my parents' marriage began to fracture. Around the age of five, my parents divorced, and, not long after, we left the church.
I grew up distant from God and with that came a deep, seemingly bottomless void in my heart. My biggest struggles were dealing with all the anger and hurt that came from my severely broken family and wrestling to find purpose and meaning in life. I was hurting, unsatisfied with how things were, and I often felt empty. I spent many years attempting to fill this void in my heart with all kinds of things—including worldly music and entertainment—to no avail.
My Conversion to Christ
It wasn't until the summer before my freshman year of high school that light began to enter my dark world. My mother ran into an old classmate of hers with whom she had attended high school at the Christian academy from which she had graduated. He happened to be a pastor. A friendship began to grow. Not much later, he invited us back to church. We were very hesitant but still agreed to accompany him.
It was during this time that I was also faced with the decision of where I would attend high school. We had just moved out-of-zone from the public school system that I grew up attending which prohibited me from attending the high school that all my friends were going to attend. The options were to go to the local public high school or find a private school to attend since private schools have no zoning regulations for attendance. My mother wanted me to attend the Christian academy from which she had graduated. She feared the bad peer influences of the public high school could encourage me to get involved in drugs or partying. So I yielded and began attending the Christian academy.
During the first few weeks of school, I noticed that my new peers at the Christian academy had a different demeanor than many of those at my old public school. They seemed to have purpose, drive, and meaning in their lives. They appeared to have something for which to live. During those first few weeks, one of my new classmates lost her father to a heart attack. Even throughout this major tragedy of her life, she maintained an unending joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding in her life. I just couldn't understand how she could have such hope and peace during this challenging time for her family. This triggered me to begin asking questions of my peers. "How do you get this type of peace? How can I have meaning in life like these other teenagers?"
As I asked these questions, the resounding answer from the other academy students was JESUS. Within those first few weeks, I decided that I wanted the benefits of a relationship with Christ, and so I surrendered my whole life to Him. As a result, God had filled the void in my heart by giving me peace from the turmoil of my past and a passion and purpose for the future.
My Call to Ministry
Not long after I committed my life to Christ was God ready to extend to me a call to pastoral ministry. One day while attending the Apison Seventh-day Adventist Church in Apison, Tennessee, Pastor Greg Daniel, the senior pastor of the church at the time, asked if I would like to be the speaker for Pathfinder Sabbath (a special youth-led worship service) in just a few months. I was quite hesitant initially due to my previous embarrassing experience of public speaking when I blacked out in front of my eighth-grade class during graduation. Nevertheless, I finally agreed to do it. Pastor Daniel promised to help me all along the way. Each week he and I met together for an hour and worked on the sermon. Between meetings, the pastor would suggest different parts of the sermon to be edited for the next meeting. Eventually, the sermon took shape and the research and writing process was over. A few weeks before my preaching date, Pastor Daniel invited me to practice the sermon in the church's sanctuary. He sat in on my practice sessions and gave his supportive encouragement and counsel.
The Friday night before Pathfinder Sabbath was a rough night for me. It stormed all through the night and I couldn’t get a wink of sleep between the thunder and my nervous anxiety. Needless to say, the morning of I was exhausted and didn't feel well. Yet I determined to preach anyhow. I prayed that God would make this a success for His glory. Nervously I sat through the worship service until finally, after the special music, it was time for the preaching of the Word. As I made my way up the platform stairs, I stumbled up the stairs. I stood behind the old wooden pulpit to hide my shaky knees and set down my sermon notes and Bible. Grasping the pulpit with both hands until my knuckles turned white I looked out at the congregation. A stuttered greeting came forth and then I announced, “Good morning. Let's pray.” In that moment of prayer, a wave of peace and calm came over me as I had never felt before. It felt as if the Holy Spirit had come down to rest upon me.
At the end of the sermon, I made an altar call. Many people came forward to commit and recommit their lives to Christ. I was so amazed at how Christ was using me to bring people to Him. After the worship service, I went outside onto the front porch of the church and noticed that all the clouds from the storm had disappeared. I was greeted by a beautiful deep blue sky and the glorious beams of the sun. All the water from the heavy rains had dried up except a few sparkling drops on the leaves of the surrounding trees. As I stood there admiring this scene, I felt a deep impression as if God's voice was speaking to me, saying, “This is what I want you to do for Me for the rest of your life.” That weekend I accepted God’s call to pastoral ministry and dedicated my life to leading others to meet Jesus.
The following year, I received a flyer in the mail inviting me to a prophecy seminar. I attended every night of the seminar and was amazed by the biblical messages the evangelist shared. At the end of the seminar, I was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church and committed my life to the preaching of the Three Angels' Messages so to prepare a people to meet Jesus at His second coming. I conducted my first prophecy seminar soon after in Collegedale, Tennessee.
Since my call to pastoral ministry, God has provided opportunities to travel to many places in the United States and around the world (such as Ecuador, Cuba, Costa Rica, Greece, Argentina, etc.) to preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the three angels' messages (Rev 14:6–12) with countless numbers of people. God ever continues to fill my life with His unspeakable joy and peace and has placed a unique calling and purpose in my life to serve Him in full-time ministry. I now get my greatest fulfillment in life from my relationship with Jesus and serving Him by leading others into a saving relationship with Him.
Some of my favorite hobbies and pass-times are reading, biblical and theological research, singing, hiking, backpacking, kayaking, wildflower identification and photography, paleontology, traveling internationally, language-learning, playing badminton, and golf, and enjoying my home aquarium. Most of all, I enjoy seeing the lives of people become positively changed by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the Word of God.
If you are experiencing a void in your heart that keeps you from experiencing true joy and peace as I have been able to experience in Jesus, I hope you will consider a relationship with Him too. He will fill your heart with his love and replace your feelings of hopelessness, despair, and lack of direction with meaning and purpose. He will make you completely new as he has done for me. 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Would you like for the Holy Spirit to make you a new creation in Christ?