David Domina

David Domina   Sometimes it God gives us a powerful vision of what we don't want to guide us on the right path. This is what happened to Pastor David Domina, the guest on the new episode of the Limitless Spirit Podcast and one of the speakers at the Greater Purpose Conference.

   On this episode of Limitless Spirit, pastor David Domina shares how God gave Him a vision and experience of hell that led him to Christ and ultimately to finding his true calling.

   David took a while to figure out what he was supposed to do with his life. He first studied psychology in college before switching to journalism. But after getting married and realizing he needed something more lucrative to support his family, he started a successful construction business. But then, God made it clear to David that He was calling him to build lives rather than buildings.

   He has been leading Bethel Christian Fellowship in Rochester, New York and considers himself a missionary to America. At the same time, he remains open to what God has for him next and believes that God doesn’t have one perfect plan for His children and gives us a free choice.

David Domina: I had this vision of where my life was heading. I believe the Holy Spirit gave it to me and it was out of His compassion for me. The imagery was powerful but the feeling that I felt was even more powerful. I felt utter hopelessness. It was the absence of the presence of God and I just woke up in tears. I was shaking. I was sweating. I knew that I had visited this place and maybe it was just a hell in my mind, but it was this absence from God. That's the tragic experience of those who are in hell.

Helen Todd: The vision of hell that David Domina experienced one night was different from the way hell is portrayed in the scripture but terrifying nonetheless. He had grown up as a pastor's kid, but the rebellious and adventurous spirit led him away from Jesus as a young man.

   I'm Helen Todd and Pastor David Domina's today's guest on this episode of Limitless Spirit. I'm so glad you are joining me to hear his story. In this series, I interview people from different walks of life on how they pursue their greater purpose. David Domina never imagined he would be a pastor. He was absolutely terrified of public speaking. In college, he pursued psychology, journalism, and later built a successful construction business. Though it didn't seem like it at that time, through all these experiences, God was preparing him for his true calling.

   In this interview, he talks about his search for identity and the revelation of what hell feels like and also his thoughts on how God gives us choices to make in pursuit of the greater purpose. Let's listen now.

   Good morning, Pastor David. Thank you for being on the Limitless Spirit podcast this morning.

David: Good morning, Helen. This is a pleasure to be with you today.

Helen: Well, I have known you and Charlotte for several years. But today, we're going to talk about some personal things and I'm excited in a sense to get to know you better this morning. I'm also looking forward to you speaking at the Greater Purpose Conference. I hope that today's interview will give our listeners a better idea of who you are and where your heart is.

So let's jump into your story. You are a PK, so to speak. A pastor's son, the preacher's kid. Did you have that PK syndrome growing up?

David: I don't. I didn't think I did at the time but I suppose like any teenager, we have our challenges, right? In depending on what career path our parents take or where we live, our environment of culture we grow up in - it affects us. So I didn't think that I grew up with any sort of stigma or pressure but as I look back now in retrospect, I can see how it forms some of my opinions about the world and just how I dealt with relationships. I think there probably was some pressure. It's funny, you mentioned PK kid. I used to call it problem kid. Now pastor's kid. But I was your typical teenager who realized you're not born into the faith. Faith is something that you have to decide. It's an intellectual decision, but also a spiritual decision. You're not born a Christian. So like anyone, I had to find Christ on my own. It wasn't good enough that I grew up in a Christian home, my dad was a pastor, I grew up in the church. I had to discover Christ on my own. There were challenges there.

Helen: So did you ever struggle with God's authority in your life or just the existence of God?

David: They were identity issues that everyone goes through whether they're a person of the faith or any faith. As we grow and as we mature, we have to discover who we are, what our purpose is, what's our bent, what our gift things leaning towards. We develop this worldview.

   I think I've always had a Christian worldview. I've always believed in a transcendent God. I had to discover who that God was for me. When I was young, it's not that I didn't believe in the God that my parents believed in but I didn't feel like I had a personal relationship with God through my teenage years. I felt it was all about rules and legalism, and there was something in me that resisted that. We can call it a rebellious nature. But I think I identify it more now as just being incredibly inquisitive and adventurous. I just wanted to know the world and understand the world. That led me down some dark roads - experimenting with drugs and researching other religions. In ultimately, I found hopelessness and emptiness there.

   I talk about identity - discovering who I am. I didn't discover who I really was and my purpose in life until I found Christ, until I've made a personal decision to make Jesus the Lord of my life. But it was a tumultuous teenage years. I was that typical middle child trying to figure out life and to discover this personal God on my own. I have a lot of regrets. I learned from them - this broken relationships and inappropriate relationships. It ultimately led me to Christ because that life which is really just pursuing the flesh, pleasure, being accepted by the world, you end up feeling just very empty and alone. I went back to just really digging into scripture. Ultimately, I had this dream which really wasn't a dream. It was a vision of where my life was heading. I believe the Holy Spirit gave it to me and it was out of His compassion for me, but I got a picture of where I was going and where I was headed because at that point I had not made a decision to follow Christ.

Helen: So where was your life heading at that point in your vision?

David: Well, I'll share a little bit of the vision. It would take a lot longer than a half an hour podcast to share a lot of the details. My junior year in high school, I don't have many fond memories. They were tough years for me. I was incredibly insecure. I didn't feel like I had a whole lot to offer anybody, didn't feel very gifted, very talented, very bright, very athletic. So I was kind of pushed towards that fringe crowd that wasn't accepted but we were pretty wild and obviously I wasn't following the Lord. I probably didn't see myself as a very very good person. I mean, I was headed to hell because I had not made Jesus my Lord at that point.

   So in the vision, I'm walking down this hallway, which reminded me of a high school hallway, which reminded me of our junior high school. That provoked some really terrible feelings because I didn't have fond memories. I'm walking down this hallway and there's stalactite hanging on the ceiling like I was in a cave. It opened up into this very large room which I can only describe as like a dingy dark cocktail lounge. There were all these small cocktail tables with one person at each table. There is no one else at the table, but one person. I remember their heads were pointed towards the table. I never actually saw faces. The imagery was powerful but the feeling that I felt was even more powerful. I identified what it was that I was feeling. I felt utter hopelessness that these individuals in this scene were lost and I was there. It was the absence of the presence of God. I identified that really is hell. There wasn't [inaudible] that wasn't flames but it was just utter disconnection from a transcendent God, my Creator.

   I opened my eyes from this vision. It was at night, but I wasn't sleeping. That's why I know it wasn't a dream. I woke up feeling this thing was so real. It was a vision that the Lord had given me. I'm out of His compassion because He knew where I was heading. I just woke up in tears. I was shaking. I was sweating. I knew that I had visited this place. Maybe it was just a hell in my mind, but it was just absence from God. That's the tragic experience of those who are in hell. It's just a total disconnection and absence from goodness - the goodness of God. That plunged me towards the direction of pursuing your relationship with Christ. I repented. I knew what I needed to do because I grew up in a Christian home. I repented of my ways, my sin, my thoughts. It really propelled me towards this transformation that took place. I instantly gave up much of what I was pursuing - the drugs. That was easy for me, for some reason. Maybe it was the grace of God, but I didn't seem to be easily addicted to chemicals or drugs. Obviously, there are other things that the Lord had to refine in my life and change. But that was the real deciding point.

Helen: This is a very powerful testimony and I've always felt like being involved in the great commissions as heavily as I am. I've always felt like it is a privilege that God extends to us because He doesn't really need our help in revealing Himself or His truth to people and you are a great example of that. You were growing up in the middle of the church culture and yet you were so disconnected from God. It wasn't the person that led you back to Christ but it was God Himself giving you that revelation of your despair without Him. So this only confirms that really, God does not need us. When He calls us to partner with Him in the great commission, it's more of a privilege of being the co-workers with Him and the co-creators of faith on this Earth.

From that point on, I'm sure there was a journey between that moment and you being called into ministry because for a while you still pursued other endeavors in life. So how did you end up in ministry?

David: Well, that could be a long story, too, but I'll hit the real salient points of the highlights, of the journey. The agreement my father had with us was if you go to Bible school for a year, I'll pay for college and that's when college was affordable. It was five grand for me to go to a SUNY school in New York State University. Five grand for the whole year but that was the agreement - to go to Bible college for a year. So I agreed. We went to Southeastern Bible College which is now Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. I went there for a year and I only lasted a year not because I had it in my mind a year to Bible College and then I can go anywhere else. That was the agreement I had with my dad. I was majoring in Psychology, taking a bunch of Bible classes. When you're discovering what Christianity is, what Christ means to you, you grew up in the church, and you start to turn a little rebellious - you're drawn to seeing all the hypocrisy in the church. I saw a lot of that at Southeastern Bible College. They were very legalistic, which I can't stand to this day - legalism. I think that pushes more people out of the church than brings them into the church. You got to help lead people into a relationship with Christ. That's what brings the transformation - not all the rules. I don't believe the Bible is about rules. I believe it's about relationship. So I only lasted there a year and there were a lot of other things that were happening at the time. If it's cool that I just won't get into. I just wasn't very impressed with.

   So I ended up leaving there and going back to New York - to Brockport, which was one of the SUNY schools and pursued journalism. I minored in psychology because I got pretty turned off with a founding fathers of psychology and the mental health field. They were all kind of crazy. So I studied journalism at Brockport and I graduated from there. I got some really pathetic job offers making about minimum wage. We got married before we graduated. I knew that I was not going to be able to support a family on minimum wage. So I went back into construction, which I've always had done through my high school years and built a business. It was running very well.

   We'll just fast forward into my mid-20s. I think I was around 23 when the business administrator to the church that my father was pastoring came to me and said, "Would you be interested in being the project manager to build the new sanctuary?" I thought about it. I knew that we were very small company. It was just me and one other person. I knew that if I took on this job, it would almost have to turn on my other customers away. But I really felt like this was the direction that the Lord wanted me to take. I didn't know why because I wasn't thinking ministry at all. It was never in my head. It was never an aspiration of my mind.

We started the construction project and ended up digging into three brick buildings that were underneath the ground. We had to dig all those out which costs a lot of money and then you have to bring in new dirt to fill that in. We ended up having to pause the building because we were building a cache. There were so many extra costs - like a hundred fifty thousand dollars in extra cost. So we put it on pause and I'm thinking, what am I going to do? I'm not managing a project. I don't have any other work coming in.

I had started to get involved in young adult ministry and then it's ministry. This developed - this real love to see people's lives transformed through the power of Christ. That's what really drew me into ministry. So I just started doing that for a year and then eventually the building project started. Then it ended and I knew that at that point, that was not what I wanted to do. It wasn't a desire of mine to pursue, to build a construction business. I went from building buildings to building people. I just never looked back in the sense that I have a construction business, but my kids run it. My boys run it. I'm not very involved but seeing a person's life transformed by the power of Christ is there's this nothing greater. That's what led me to be in ministry. Eventually, I stepped into the role of being the senior pastor and my dad kind of stepped back. He's still involved in ministry, but that's how I got to be a senior pastor at Bethany Christian Fellowship.

Helen: Well, I see a very natural progression there. You went from studying psychology and journalism, which is studying people's minds and being a communicator to building, which gives you an idea of building something and then going to building people. I see a very solid preparation for your true calling. The podcast series that we're doing now is called greater purpose in preparation for our Greater Purpose Conference. So to me, what you have just told, your testimony is the process of you going from a rebellious teenager to discovering your true greater purpose. Would you say that being a pastor, a spiritual leader is the greater purpose that you feel called to?

David: As far as occupation, yes, I would say that. But I think there's way too much focus on occupation when we think about purpose. I think the Lord would have blessed me whatever decision that I made. I know this could be somewhat controversial but people think there are a lot of people that believe that God has a perfect will for your life. He's mapped it all out. That doesn't bear witness with me as I study scripture. I do realize that there are certain people that are called to do specific things, but I think there's choices that we can make. God doesn't punish us if we choose A instead of B or B instead of C as long as we're serving Him. I did hear the Lord tell me, "This is what I desire you to do." So in obedience, I did walk in that direction and that was to become the senior pastor of Bethel. But when I took the job at Bethel, He gave me an option. He said, "I'll still bless you if you pursue your being an entrepreneur and building the building business. There's this open door for you. If you choose this, you'll thrive, you'll be blessed, and you'll be just as satisfied." I felt that that was one of the times where I felt that the Lord spoke to me more clearly than ever. He gave me a choice and that to me really reveals the sort of relationship and partnership that God wants to have with us. We don't deserve any of this but He loves us so much. Doesn't that look like a good father to you? A father that doesn't control our lives - that gives us choices. As long as you're following that moral path, I think there are options there.

Helen: Was it an easy choice for you or did you wrestle with that choice? I mean, you knew that God would prefer one over the other but what did you feel?

David: I wrestle with it because I didn't feel like I had the gifts. I was afraid of public speaking. I'm fine to be in journalism - writing on pieces of paper in an office with nobody viewing me. The idea of preaching or teaching in front of a large group of people petrified me. You could call it a paranoia. It's like I didn't feel that I was a good speaker. I didn't feel like that I knew the word well enough. So I didn't feel like I had the gift. I felt like the natural gift thing was to build buildings and I could do that without thinking. But isn't that like God, right? It's like you have to take a step of faith knowing that you don't have what it takes. But if He's leading you in that direction, then you could trust God to provide you the tools to do it.

Helen: Well, I think that's one of the identifiers of truly God's calling is He never calls you to do something to feel comfortable with or fully capable of. So that's a pretty clear indication that this is God when it totally terrifies you.

David: Absolutely. But as I began to walk in it, I discovered Christ in me through the power of the Holy Spirit. He can accomplish anything if we submit to His will. So I was really surprised. I don't consider myself a great preacher. I'm effective. I'm called to do what I do and I'm called to be a Bethel. God equips me, but I didn't realize how effective I can be if I just submit to the lordship of Christ and what he can do in me. It just kind of blew me away. I really believe.

Helen: So this is interesting. You have been pastoring a church in Rochester, New York for many years now. This is not the easiest area to be a pastor and especially in the last year, Rochester has been in the news on quite a significant level. I read somewhere that according to the police reports, last year was the deadliest year in Rochester in a decade. Can you share a little bit about this and what your experience has been?

David: Well, it's interesting that you bring that up because the past week there was another homicide in broad daylight. It was a carjacking by what they believe to be 4 younger people under the age of 20. They couldn't get into the car so they took out a pistol and they shot this man. He ended up dying. This happened in the middle of the day. A few days ago, there was a homeless man that was lit on fire by a couple of young people. I think they were 13 and 14 years old and eventually he died in the middle of the day. So it's a strange surreal environment that we're living in right now where it's like nobody fears the consequences anymore. It's not just in Rochester. It's everywhere. So if things don't change, if people don't begin to really love one another and value human life, I'm a little concerned about what's going to be happening in Rochester even either this year because it might be worse than it was last year. So it's a toxic environment. People are concerned. Our mayor wants to dismantle the police - the Rochester Police Department. I agree that there needs to be reform in a lot of these areas. What doesn't need to be reformed? I mean, anything that man puts together is not perfect. Sometimes absolutely corrupt. I don't believe our police department was corrupt but there's this message, this philosophy and culture right now that calls good evil and evil good. That's just an anti-Christ spirit that's out there in culture. We're seeing it rear its ugly head in Rochester and not just Rochester and in the country.

Helen: All across the world, really it's a season. Yeah, it's a season that we have stepped into. So as a pastor, how do you think you can make a difference? Do you feel powerless or you feel like you can make a true difference in your area?

David: I'm sure every pastor thinks about this. I think every pastor is overwhelmed if you look at the big picture. But what the Lord gives us the ability to do is to be effective where we're at. I've always had this philosophy in ministry - one person at a time. We minister to one person at a time. If you can have that perspective, then it's not as overwhelming. God puts us in front of people all the time that we can be a witness to, that we can give testimony to, to serve, to help, to care for.

I think if the Church gets busy just ministering to their neighbor and the people around them and then be prayerful about the other things that God wants us to do - partnering with different organizations in the city, whether their secular or Christian; to help bring transformation and culture; to help the poor, the homeless and all of that; praying for our leaders anywhere called, whether we like them or not, whether we voted for them in or not, we're called to pray for our leaders.

We pray for that. We let them know that we love them, that we care for them, and that we don't always agree. We'll tell them that we don't agree with them. But that doesn't keep us from loving them and praying for them.

Helen: I really appreciate what you said about making a difference in one person at a time because it seems like a lot of times, the Church is focused on numbers and getting as many people as possible into the church building. But bringing a person into the church building doesn't necessarily change them. If we focus on the quality rather than quantity and making a true difference impacting a life and changing a life, that's I think what the Church is called to do.

So we touched a little bit on the greater purpose and then our conversation veered off to other things. What do you think your greater purpose is or are you still in pursuit of it?

David: I only know what I know now. I know that God's going to have me involved in other things. I don't know what they are but He knows that I'm very open. I mean, I'm someone who loves change so I think He uses that. I always feel a little bit unsettled. I get bored pretty quickly. I'm well aware of my gift. I put people around me that are good with the nuts and bolts kind of thing. I'm a visionary. I'm very very open to the new thing that the Lord has for me, but I'm very satisfied with my calling. I'm fulfilled but if the Lord gave me a completely different direction - He even told me to go back in business full time. I would do it. I would do it in a moment because I know that the Lord would prosper it. I love being the pastor at Bethel. I love to be involved in our community. I love to be involved in missions, in general. I mean, I feel called to Rochester and called to America but I've been in the mission - to international missions plenty of times. God has used me there but my primary call is to be a missionary in America. That doesn't necessarily mean being a pastor of a church. If you live in America, you're called to be a missionary to America.

David's Hearing His Voice Testimony

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