I once was lost, but now am found. I grew up believing vaguely that there was a God, but not caring at all about who He was or what He had to say. Church was where “religious” people went, most of whom were hypocrites. These, of course, were my own thoughts, not those of my parents.
The Bible was full of nice little stories, but largely full of “truth” which was irrelevant to modern life. The slight exposure I did have to “church” was going a few times a year to Sunday school at my grandparents’ church, which I didn’t like because I never knew what anyone was talking about.
The only time I went to church with any regularity was for a few weeks span when the seven year olds in my class were all practicing for a play. I was under the false assumption that I had a part in that play, and when I found out I did not, I disliked church all the more—feeling forever on the outside. I could blame this on my parents, but that would not be fair, since I am certain I complained about it and desired not to go myself.
However, in 9th grade I made a new friend: John. John was a Christian, I knew that, but first and foremost he was my friend. He invited me to his church multiple times, at which I chuckled and refused—considering myself to have escaped afresh the trap of Sunday morning boredom each time. Finally, John had a plan. He told me about this girl in the youth group whom he liked, said she was cute, and that he wanted me to meet her (all true). He immediately followed up by adding that on one particular Sunday the youth of the church would lead the service and it would not be so “boring”. I caved.
That morning I listened to a message on the difference between Christian joy and worldly happiness. It struck me as surprisingly applicable to my own life. As I looked around the people seemed to be interested, and when I went back to the Sunday school room they were nice to me. Nice enough, in fact, that I decided I liked being around such friendly people and desired to be around them again.
That night I began reading the Bible. I didn’t know where to start, so I started at the beginning, determined to read straight through—mostly just to say I had done it and to be able to toss that into an argument if anyone asked why I didn’t believe. It had quite the opposite effect! I was astonished at how the world was made, at these strange stories of Noah and Abraham. I began to be convicted of various sins in my life and tried to stop them, only to find that I could not. It was fine to be enslaved to sin if that is what I wanted, but not if I wanted to stop!
After nine months of reading I had become convinced of the truth of the scriptures, and after nine months of going to church I had become convinced that I was loved and accepted at church. I was loved into the Kingdom of God. I did not seek it. I stumbled upon it. It found me, and having tasted, I found that it was good.
On my 15th birthday I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord, though I didn’t fully appreciate the depth of what I was doing at the time. I was astonished that after accepting Christ and being baptized I was suddenly able to stop sins which I had spent nine months trying to stop before! This was an extremely powerful experiential testimony to me. I spent most of my first years attending church and growing little by little, but the summer before I went to college I had my wisdom teeth out and was couch ridden for 3 to 4 days. I quickly became bored of TV and video games and decided instead to read the Bible. Hours and hours of uninterrupted meditation on God’s Word changed my life. I was a Christian before. I knew I needed Christ to be saved from hell and to have a relationship with God, but during that week I had my eyes opened to how much of the life with Christ I had been missing.
Within a few weeks I was at college, and within a few months I had felt God’s call on my life as a missionary, a call that has stuck with me these past eight years. As I grew I came to love evangelizing. I joined a few groups that evangelized door to door, spoke with friends in the dorms, passed out tracks, witnessed at work, and preached on my college campus in the free speech area. Yet even more than evangelism I came to love discipling. My church at the time allowed me to start teaching a middle school Sunday school class. It was a fantastic match! I took great joy in watching those middle schoolers grow in their faith. One of them now wants to be a missionary and martyr! About that time I was also selected to begin leading worship at our church. I did this and by God’s design a worship team was formed that is still in that church today (though I have moved to Indiana from Kentucky to marry my wife.)
When I moved to Indiana to marry Bethany, I became a part of Zionsville Fellowship. I was astonished at “the life of the mind” in that church. I fell in love with church history, starting learning Biblical Greek and Hebrew, and began to become an almost fanatical learner of anything and everything. I set myself reading goals of thousands of pages a year. Never had all of the world’s noise been coherently gathered under Christ’s lordship for me before. All along we were working on getting ourselves to the mission field, and now, at last, eight years from when I initially heard “the call” we are on our way.