I currently live near Charlotte, North Carolina, but I grew up near Parkersburg, West Virginia, and lived primarily with my father and younger brother. We lived with my paternal grandparents until their passing when I was 10 and 12 respectively. My father and mother were divorced when I was 2 or 3 and my mother did not play much of a role in my upbringing. My family did not regularly attend church, but my grandmother began going to an Apostolic church when I was 8 or so and I attended occasionally. After her passing, I do not recall being in a church except with a girlfriend when I was a teenager. I didn't have a very high opinion of "church" since most of the kids I knew that went to church were as bad or worse than I. They knew the rules to follow on Sunday, but that didn't affect them the rest of the week. I can think of a few, though, that seemed to actually live their faith the other 6 days and I respected them for that even then. I would probably have had to classify my self as agnostic, I believed that what we were taught in science class was true, that we came about through evolution over a long period of time. God didn't fit within those parameters. I was a very concrete person, I needed to see it to believe it or so I thought.
I attended college at Purdue University in Indiana and began to work part time. Ultimately through relationships from work I met some real, 24-7 Christians and attended a Baptist church a few times with these new friends. During this time I came to know Sheena and she had a church background. I honestly believe the Lord worked through our lives over the next few years and drew us together and back to North Carolina.
We attended church at Alexis Baptist, Sheena's home church, and the Spirit began to call me by revealing the inconsistencies in what I thought I believed. A book by Josh McDowell called "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" along with the book of John and Acts were essential in developing the faith that I needed to believe in Christ. I was saved about a week before my 25th birthday and, not long after, my father went in the hospital in very serious condition; he was not expected to survive. At that time, I did not know anything about his spiritual condition. It was a major test of my faith. I prayed as earnestly as I knew how for my dad to survive so I could talk to him about Jesus. It took a long time, but eventually he did get out of the hospital. All of this occurred during a time when Sheena and I were planning for our wedding in June of 2000. Dad was supposed to be my best man, but he was still in the hospital on our wedding day. But, I was able to have that important conversation with my Dad about his salvation. He had been saved a few years prior, but had not been baptized. He eventually asked a Methodist chaplain in the hospital to baptize him there in his room. I believe Dad living was, at least partially, God teaching me to trust Him; He was there and loved me. This obviously was a huge spiritual milestone in my life.
Sheena and I were married on June 3, 2000 and marked a beginning of the real learning of my Christian walk. I was still very rough. I could play church, but how to walk the walk was a learning experience. God had miraculously cleaned my once salty speech when I was saved. Those filthy words no longer came to mind where they once flowed as smoothly as any ordinary word. Over the next few years God worked through many of my new brothers and sisters to show me how to do a better job being the 24-7 Christian that I saw so little of when I was young.
One of the first groups that we became a part of was the church choir. My wife is a good singer and we were driving almost an hour to church at the time, so I figured I might as well join as well. I really enjoyed getting to know the people in the Choir, the men especially. They were full of life and wisdom and although I was not a good singer, was blessed greatly by being a part of this group. We began being involved in other ministries in the church and were committed to being at Sunday school. It was not always smooth, but being a part of a group of believers was what I needed to keep on track.
Over the last 11 years, I have tried and sometimes failed in many different areas of ministry within the church. But as I take time to reflect on how I have served my Lord, there have been many peaks and many valleys. I have served with my own strength and with the strength of the Lord. I have been faithful and faithless. I have answered the call and ran from it. But, through great times and sorrowful times…the words of one of the men I hope to be like one day ring in my head. God is ALWAYS faithful. He, too, had experienced many of the same mistakes I have made, but his life prior to his death were an exhibition of generosity and servant hood. He made a difference in my life and in many others. I hope that is how I get to leave this world to be with the Father.
One of the calls that I have embraced, ignored and ran from is the call to preach. On several occasions, I have been given the great privilege and responsibility to open God's Word before his people and preach. At times it has been Him being what I am not, other times I have withered in my own strength. The most challenging aspects for me are to rely on the Spirit and to be careful to give God the glory in a genuine way.
No matter our calling, being a Christian is disciple making. Speaking God's truths to both the lost and the redeemed with the anticipation that the Spirit will use it to make changes in people is our essential function as believers. I feel inadequate at both. When I do manage to do it, I rely on scripture as my encourager. One of my favorite verses is 2 Timothy 1:6-7 "6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." (ESV) I pray God will teach me to fan this little flame.