Stephen Gutmann - Truth Seeker


I was born in London’s West End and grew up in Hendon and Finchley. My father was a German Jewish refugee, whose parents never left Theresienstadt; my mother (my father’s third wife) was a Gentile. From the age of five I attended a boarding school in Bournemouth with my older brother. We were taken to the local parish church on Sundays and Saints’ days. A year after starting this school my father died. I remember crying for the whole night after the news had been given to me. I finished my schooling back in Finchley.

A Mixed-up Kid

My childhood was mostly unhappy! My mother and I had clashing personalities and I always felt that my brother was treated as the favoured son. At secondary school I was bullied and called “Jew boy”, although I didn’t understand why. In a strange way I experienced Jewish culture because my mother had a Jewish admirer, whom she kept at arm’s length but who took us to Jewish restaurants such as Barnett’s in the East End.

I remember blaming God for my unhappiness and shaking my fist at him, yet I had never really known him! When I was twelve, my mother met a Christian who suggested sending “the boys” to a class each Sunday afternoon. We were quite happy with the suggestion and readily accepted. That year we went to camp at Aviemore in Inverness-shire. There I heard for the first time that I was a sinner and that Jesus Christ had died to redeem me! I responded emotionally and went home trying to be a new creation in my own strength. After three weeks, I went back to being my old self! Every year for the next three years, I gave my life to Jesus – then took it back again!

Truth Seeker

After that, I grew more determined to discover the truth. I began to read avidly, examining extra-Biblical literature such as the Apocrypha. Then, when challenged by the Mormons to read their pseudo-bible, I read it, believed it, and joined their organisation. Yet I couldn’t reconcile their teachings with what I knew of God and his word. So I tried Mormon offshoots that rejected the more bizarre Mormon teachings. Soon, I had been baptised into three “true churches.” In between times, I had burnt Mormon books and re-acquired them! Finally, deeply convicted that my actions may have led to the state of apostasy described in Hebrews 6:4-8 and 10:26-31, I turned away from Mormon teaching and sought the Lord for deliverance from deception and backsliding. In that time of repentance I experienced God’s rich grace and forgiveness in Christ and was never again drawn back into Mormonism!

Back to my Roots

At the age of twenty-two I was baptised and later that year, during the Keswick Convention, I heard and answered the call of God to his service. Three years later I met my wife-to-be Lilian, a student at Birmingham Bible Institute. We were married within twelve months and set up home in Tyneside. Four years later, I returned to Birmingham Bible Institute and then, at the age of thirty-four, I responded to the call of God to become the Town Missioner in Barry. Whilst there, two events brought me back to my Jewish roots. One was a conversation with the late Stephen Levinson of the (then) Mildmay Mission, regarding their work in South Wales; the other was a phone call from Ernest Lloyd asking me to stand in for him at a Passover demonstration at a Railway Mission meeting at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Barry, which I did. Less than a year later, I became pastor of that church! I then attended the University College in Cardiff as a theology student, my subjects included the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. My final exams took place during ten nights of celebration for the church’s centenary, yet by God’s grace I obtained a Bachelor of Divinity with 2:1 honours! In 1988 I began my second pastorate in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Whilst there I frequently attended and spoke at the Leicester branch of the Society for Distributing Hebrew Scriptures, and I joined the Hebrew Christian Alliance (now Messianic Jewish Alliance), of which I have been a committee member for the past nine years. In 1994 our family moved to North-East London, where I pastored a church for several years. Since 1999 I have been working in hospital chaplaincy and, for the past four years, I have also been the pastor of a small Baptist church in South-East London. In addition, whenever possible I give leadership support to the Tree of Life Messianic Fellowship in Ilford, with which I have been associated for nearly ten years.

The Next Generation

All four of our children know and love the Lord. Our daughter works for a church and is involved in several areas in the life of that congregation. Our youngest son attends the same church whilst our second son, who is married with two children, is in training for the Christian ministry and has “a heart for Israel”. Our eldest son and his wife live in America, where I also have several unsaved Jewish relatives who know of my Christian vocation. This gives me great opportunities for sharing my faith. I am glad, too, to be actively involved with Christian Witness to Israel through membership of the Council of Management.
This article first appeared in the June 2006 edition of the Herald

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