OK, I promised last week that I would share my story today for what Tim Challies is calling Testimony Tuesday. Some of this I shared at Riverview this weekend, so if you were there it will be a bit of a repeat for you.
I grew up in a Christian home. My parents are first generation Christians, so they were very excited about their faith.
I don’t remember ever not knowing who Jesus is.
I don’t remember ever not going to church…because I always have.
When I was little, I asked my mom what it meant to be a Christian. She shared the Gospel with me and I prayed a little kid prayer to Jesus to save me.
That starting point was a blessing and a curse. The blessing was that I really believe God began a work in me that he has continued and continues. The curse was from that point forward many people (myself included) figured I was OK with God. During the next decade and a half, I rededicated myself to Jesus half a dozen times, which is probably a common thing for many people in my situation.
When I hit High School, I began to build a destructive world-view without even realizing it. I had one set of Christian friends at my church. With them, I attended retreats, listened to Christian music, served at the church, etc. I had another set of friends from school and with them I developed patterns of sin and behavior that were contrary to my faith.
I was a hypocrite and I honestly saw nothing wrong with it.
When I hit college, I tried to live the same kind of dual lifestyle. That’s kinda hard to pull off, though, when you live on a dorm floor with people you want to party with and have bible studies with. It was that year that I realized that my hypocrisy was at odds with my faith.
The only difference in my life was now I felt guilty for my hypocrisy.
That year the bottom fell out of my world: I was one of the youngest leaders appointed in my campus ministry and I was one of the first ever kicked out of leadership team for living an immoral lifestyle.
That summer, I went to Africa on a short term mission project. Since there wasn’t too much to do (except ministry), I set out to read the New Testament for myself, looking for answers to two specific questions:
1) What does it mean to be a Christian?
2) What does the church look like?
At the end of that summer, I had grown some pretty strong convictions. And being an arrogant young male punk, I thought I was the only person in the world that held them.
A couple years later, I began dating my wife (she wasn’t my wife at the time) and we found this crazy church that met in the Kellogg Center at Michigan State University. We attended one time and decided this was the church for us.
Little did I know that this church held many of the same convictions I had come to a few years earlier, including:
1) A team approach to pastoring (instead of a senior pastor model)
2) A desire to bridge the gap between the church and culture
3) Being a church on mission, living for those outside of the faith instead of those inside
A short time after joining Riverview, I attended a conference in the Rocky Mountains with a few of my best friends. It was there that I finally made my hypocrisy known. It felt so relieving to release the burden I had been carrying for years and years. I came home and brought my wife into the loop on my hypocrisy (yes, I had hidden stuff even from her).
Since that time, my relationship with Jesus has deepened every year. I became a pastor at this crazy church and I am now trying to figure out how to vicariously plant hundreds of churches the rest of my life while never leaving Riverview.
Oh, did I mention that when I was a kid I made God a deal? I would do anything he wanted me to do, but I would never go into ministry and I would never go to Africa.
God’s cool like that.