Rev. Lee Sterritt is the associate minister in our Toronto church and principal of Whitefield Christian Academy and Collegiate Institute. Before moving to Toronto in 2009 Lee served as pastor of Heritage Free Presbyterian Church in Prince George, British Columbia. Since then he has been called to an administration position in Whitefield Christian Schools. He and his wife, Nicola, have five children: Claire, Lauren, Owen, Adam, and Samantha.
Anyone who knows Mr. Sterritt will agree that God in His wisdom and providence has made the man for the task. He enjoys sports, has a servant’s spirit, and works tirelessly for the good of the youth of the church and the students of the school. With our theme in this issue of the Current being ministry to children we knew we must interview Mr. Sterritt.
You came to Canada with your family when you were a teenager. How did you find the transition from life in Ulster to life in Toronto?
As a teenager coming to Canada in 1989 it was very exciting. I think that was my first time flying ever. I still remember the drive from the Toronto airport, trying to take everything in and being so impressed by the vast city, its highways, and skyscrapers. I considered this a new beginning, a big adventure. After the initial excitement though, I found it difficult to settle and missed my friends and family. It took about a year to adjust to life in a new country.
What age were you when you were saved and how did you discover your need to seek the Lord as your Saviour?
I came to the Lord at the age of nineteen, although I had made a profession early in life, praying as a child for the Lord to come into my heart. However, through my teenage years there was no evidence of change. I had no desire for the things of the Lord; I mixed with profane company, got into the world, and pursued its pleasures. I soon found the things of this world to be empty. Like the prodigal I came to my senses after a Sunday evening service at the old Toronto church on Warden Avenue. I knew things were not right in my life, I knew the gospel well, I knew I was a sinner, and I knew things were not going to change until I got right with God. Following a conversation with the youth leader that night I simply went to my car and there, alone in the church parking lot, I called upon the Lord to forgive me and take control of my life.
What were your student days like at the Whitefield College of the Bible in Northern Ireland where you trained for the ministry?
My wife and I enjoyed our time in Northern IreIand very much. We lived in Moneyslane and got to know many wonderful people. It was great to have the opportunity to study full time and visit many of our churches. I gained real practical experience speaking and testifying at many youth groups and various services. I benefited from the combined wisdom of the lecturers who were also ministers in our local churches and who could speak from pastoral experience. The workload was heavy and the exams painful, but I somehow survived!
Tell us a little of your ministry as pastor of Heritage FPC in Prince George, British Columbia?
As a student minister fresh out of seminary I still had much to learn. The congregation was very patient and welcomed us with open arms. It was a great place to live. We spent just over eight years in Prince George. The weekly discipline of study and preparation for pulpit ministry was difficult yet so vital to my growth in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. The people had a hunger for the Word of God and were so willing to help in the work. The congregation in Prince George was very much involved in the preparations and plans for the annual youth camp for our western Canadian churches. Those times of fellowship were sweet and blessed of God and so it was a very difficult decision to leave when the call to minister in the school presented itself.
Describe for us your role at Whitefield Christian Schools.
Some days I wear many different hats from administrator, to teacher, coach, and counsellor. You have to be versatile in this kind of ministry. At present we have 230 students enrolled and about 35 full- and part-time teachers. I oversee the needs of the staff, lead the weekly staff prayer meeting, chair the school committee, teach Bible in the high school, and take morning assemblies each week. I meet with parents and students on a regular basis and of course as principal I have the unpleasant task of dealing with any issues and matters of discipline.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your ministry among the students?
I wanted to be in a ministry where I could have a greater influence and impact especially in the lives of our youth. You don’t always see the fruit of ministry immediately; sometimes its months or years, but it’s always rewarding to hear how the Lord has used His Word to shape young lives. There is no greater joy than to hear of children walking in truth. Many have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ through the years and it’s great to see young people who love Christ pursuing the things of the Lord with zeal. The students often come back to volunteer at the school or to share how the Lord is leading them. They have so much potential. God has given our young people gifts and talents they can use to glorify His name and serve Him in this world and that’s very exciting to me.
What lessons from your own youth and conversion to Christ can you apply to help your students?
Personally, I wasted a lot of time and energy as a young person seeking vain things. I let other things come between me and the Lord. I was very into sports, played a lot of rugby, soccer, and ice hockey; those things became idols to me. Now that I’m a little older (and wiser, I hope) I regret that! I would encourage the young people to remember their Creator in the days of youth. Don’t waste your life! Solomon, reflecting upon his life, lamented his vain pursuit of lasting joy and satisfaction in temporal worldly pleasures. He discovered that unless that search ends with God all will be vanity and vexation of spirit (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14). Augustine once said, “Thou [God] hast made us for yourself, and our souls are restless until they find their rest in thee.” True rest of soul, peace of conscience, and lasting joy are only found in Jesus Christ and in a knowledge of God. God has made us in such a way that we can never know eternal rest apart from Him (Matthew 11:28–30).
You and your wife, Nicola, were married in 1995 and God has given you five children. How has your role as a husband and father helped you to minister to families in your church and school?
I’m so glad my own children have the privilege of being educated in a school where Christ is exalted, where the teachers know and love the Lord Jesus as their Saviour and genuinely care for the students under their tutelage.
I have many opportunities to speak with students and their parents. I feel my need of divine wisdom to counsel and direct others in the way of righteousness. In this busy day and age I understand something of the challenges of trying to raise children for the Lord. I can sympathize with other parents. I understand their desire to protect their children from the influences of the world and to prepare them for the challenges they will face beyond the walls of a Christian school. That’s why a consistent witness and example at home and school are important. We are working together as parents and educators to equip the rising generation. We want them to be ready always to give an answer of the hope that is in them with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15).
What do you find to be the greatest threats to young Christians today and how can they avoid or stand against them?
There are many challenges for our young people today. They are bombarded on every side. Peer pressure, the sinful influences of the world, the advancements in technology and social media, a sense of entitlement and privilege in the age of celebrity and fame, changing worldviews regarding sexuality and marriage are just a few of the issues confronting them. How can they navigate safely through all that? They need godly wisdom and discernment to prove things that are morally excellent and acceptable to God. They must build their lives upon the foundation of God’s Word. I fear there is a widespread lack of discernment among young people from not knowing the Word of God (Hosea 4:6). There are so many distractions, so many things that call for their attention. It’s so easy for them to drift along, accepting everything and not think through the issues. I would encourage them to take time in the Word of God. They must take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God if they are to stand in this evil day (Ephesians 6:17). Knowing the Scriptures is a strong defense against the attack of the evil one.
Do you have a hobby or a special interest beyond your church and school work?
I enjoy time in the gymnasium with kids at the school playing soccer and floor hockey. Outside of school in the summer I spend some time at the lake with my family, going for walks, biking, and fishing. Also, I play a little golf when I can through the summer months. In the winter I help coach the ice hockey team my boys play on.