The Belfast-born pastor, was not a religious man in his youth, openly admitting that although he attended Sunday School and Boy’s Brigade as a child, he came from, at best, “a nominal Presbyterian household.”
A keen sportsman, throughout the 1980s Ken was a boxing coach and held two Irish titles in full contact kickboxing. He fought for the British title in Oldham, but was unfortunately beaten.
It was following this defeat that Ken’s life took a turn for the worse. On medical advice, Ken quit kickboxing but, with a strong desire to stay active, he turned his attention towards bodybuilding.
It was at this point Ken began injecting anabolic steroids and gained employment as a nightclub doorman.
Recalling this period of his life Ken said: “I was introduced to everything including ecstasy, LSD, cannabis and cocaine. I also became very dependent on alcohol and as a result lost everything, twice.”
He continued: “The first time I lost my house, I had to register homeless in order to secure another, which I subsequently lost. I didn’t sleep on the street that often, I slept in my car, but most nights were spent in friend’s houses where the drinking and drug taking continued.”
This party lifestyle played havoc with Ken’s health and he was given a stark reminder of the fragility of life after falling asleep outside in the snow one night.
Ken developed pneumonia and was very ill for three months. Despite this illness and a deep depression that had developed as a result of the drug abuse, Ken continued to get high.
Unsurprisingly, things got worse before they get better. Ken explained: “I went on a drink and drugs spree from Friday night to Sunday morning, I remember it was a very bright Sunday morning and as I walked up the Shore Road in Belfast, high on drugs, I collapsed. I don’t know how I got to my friend’s house but coming round in their front room is the next thing I remember,”
Thankfully for Ken a family, who happened to be Christians, witnessed his exploits on the Shore Road that morning, praying hard for him and offered him help.
Ken recalls: “I wasn’t keen on going to church but was brought to the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, before I knew it, I was blessed.
“Pastor McConnell preached with a fire and passion and, his sermon, ‘Obstacles God Puts On The Sinners Road To Stop Them Going To Hell’ really resonated with me. That night, whilst looking at the cross I saw Christ die in my place.”
He continued: “My body was in bad way following my life to that point; my kidneys and liver weren’t great, I had little to offer but I talked to God and told him, ‘If this message is true, I’ll give you my life. I have nothing else, no money, no strength, take this and use it if you can, save me from me’.”
That was 17 years ago and the Pastor, who has been clean and sober ever since, was given a fresh start.
Ken says: “I had no intention of becoming a pastor. I still faced lots of desires and temptations, but God got me through them and I had a growing desire for more God in my life.
“I was out all the time wanting to be where people were praising the Lord. In 1997 I met my wife Allison in the Craigavon Civic Centre at a Cleft meeting and 10 months later we were married. In 1999 I was asked to be a missionary in an orphanage in a village near Timisoara, Romania. Later that year we were asked to become full-time missionaries. I hadn’t been saved for that long and for one reason or another, it didn’t work out.”
Upon his return, Ken travelled from Belfast to Dublin every Tuesday night, with Pastor James McConnell for faith rallies. Two years later, Ken was asked to assume responsibility for the rallies. He was ordained the day after his second daughter was born on September 21, 2003.
Following his ordination, Ken spoke at any pulpit that wanted him. He was tasked with taking over Donaghcloney Elim in August 2008 and has turned the church around.
At the time Ken took over, there were only 12 people regularly attending and the church was facing closure. However, following Ken’s arrival the church has been rejuvenated and can now boast of a 150-strong congregation.
“We have always had a steady following of faithful older people, but now we have a thriving congregation full of families and host many groups for all ages, including a Sunday School, youth club on Thursday nights and a ladies meeting on the first Wednesday of every month. Our wee church has even been given a mention on National Christian Radio. I’m delighted with how far the church has come and have plans in place to continue and build upon this success”.