My faith with Jesus Christ started around age 13 when my mom and step-dad brought me to a Christian movie theater to watch a movie called "Like a Thief in the Night". It was a movie about the second coming of Christ and the tribulation (what happens on earth after Christ’s return). This movie had all the elements of a horror film for an impressionable 13 year old boy who knew nothing about Christianity. There were many chase scenes, dramatic music, interrogations of captured people and the last scene of the movie is a man being publically beheaded because he did not renounce his faith in Christ. After the movie was over an altar call was given. I went up front and accepted Christ into my heart... not because I wanted to but because I was terrified.
My family was involved in a local church at the time and I went to the youth activities on Wednesdays and Sundays and attended all retreats. I was a shy kid and did not offer much in the way of information about myself or my faith. The staff cared for me and encouraged me to be myself and learn about my faith. Even though I never said much, I still remember the efforts those volunteers made to impact my life.
At age 15 my family moved from my home in Pennsylvania to Minnesota where I became involved in a large and vibrant youth group. One Spring break I went on a retreat and was convicted about my relationship with God and wondered if I ever was a Christian. I spoke with some volunteer staff about who Jesus really is and what it meant to be a Christian. I rededicated my life to Christ at age 17 and finally stopped worrying every time I came home to an empty house that my family had been raptured, that Christ returned and that I had been left behind.
After that, life was good until I came home from my first year away at college to the news that my mom and step-dad were getting a divorce. My mom told me I would have to pay for my own tuition and I could live at home if I helped out around the house, took care of my sisters when needed and stayed out of trouble. At first I enjoyed this new responsibility but eventually I started getting weighed down with the pressures of working, going to college, being the "man of the house" and having no male role model in the home. I never knew my biological father because he left me, my mom and my brother when I was quite young. I liked my step-dad but after the divorce I had no contact with him anymore. I also began working a job with many non-Christians and started liking the lives they were leading. All of these factors led me to question my relationship with God.
One fall, Kip, the pastor of the college group at my church, asked if I would like to meet with him on a regular basis. He told me that at the beginning of each school year he prays for students to come to his mind that he could meet with on a regular basis and that God had put me on his mind. I accepted his offer and we met once a week for the rest of the year. Kip walked me through some very difficult times. I had really questioned my faith again and opened up with Kip about my circumstances. I talked with Kip about the feeling I had to keep attending church, reading the bible and praying regularly to earn God's love for me. Kip explained to me that I did not have to do anything to gain God’s love and God would still love me just the same. I said "really?" and Kip said "really!” Kip told me “if you stop doing the things that keep you close to God, he will still love you, but you will not have the kind of life God intends for you to have”. So I tried it. I stopped going to church, stopped praying and stopped reading the bible. I even got drunk a few times with some of my new friends. Even though I had drastically altered my lifestyle, I continued meeting with Kip. He asked me some hard questions about where this kind of life would lead me and I said I didn’t know. He asked if I felt better after getting drunk, if I was happier not attending church and if going to bars with my new friends made my life more meaningful. I told him I didn't really care because I was having too much fun. After about two months of this lifestyle I got the answer to those questions. I realized this was not the life God had intended for me and that I was not fulfilled or even happy. I soon felt the desire to get my relationship back with God. I started going back to church. I wanted to read my bible and prayer became a regular part of my life again. I even became interested in volunteering and began a long time of working with the junior high youth group.
As you can see there are a couple of themes in my story and I have really taken them to heart. The first theme is that God is faithful and always there for me, even when I don’t want to be close to him. I am continually learning about God and how I can lead a more fulfilling Christian life. The second theme is that God uses people to do his work and show his love. I think of all the people who have cared for me, especially those youth volunteers in the church groups I attended. They gave me so much of themselves and will never see the person I have become. My life has been filled with people like that. God put those people in my life and I am deeply thankful for them. I enjoy the people I work with here at City Church so much and know that I am making a difference in their lives. Like those who have influenced me, I may never see the results of what I do in the lives of others. But I know that my life and involvement at City Church make a difference because of how God has used others to care for and love me.