Are you curious about my journey as a Christ follower the last 19 years? Or are you curious about what I was doing before that point 19 years ago? I’ll share some of both and hopefully you’ll find something to relate to. Please don’t be offended by the description of my experiences with different Christian U.S. denominations. I am not criticizing, just sharing my story. Remember that no one, including the clergy of any church, is perfect in God’s eyes. As a result we sometimes have less than perfect experiences in churches. That doesn’t mean you give up on God or stop going to church. If you have a bad meal or bad service in a restaurant do you stop eating out completely or even worse, stop eating?
As a young boy in rural Fond du Lac County in the 1960’s, I attended a large United Church of Christ congregation in Fond du Lac. I went to Sunday school and church. When I was around 12 years old I participated in a confirmation class where I memorized the Ten Commandments and the books of the Bible, at least those are the parts I remember. In my teens we started attending a smaller rural UCC church (less than 100 folks). I was part of the small youth group there and also taught Sunday school. In 1979 I married my high school sweetheart who grew up in the Catholic Church. The first 9 years of our marriage was spent in the Air Force, moving around the world every few years. We mostly attended Catholic services on Sundays. We moved back to Wisconsin and settled in the Stevens Point area in 1991, becoming members of a Catholic congregation.
In the fall of 1993 I attended a nondenominational church service at a weekend business conference. The service was led by business people, not clergy. At that service I heard something different that got my attention. I heard that God wanted a personal relationship with me and that the only way that was going to happen was if I recognized that I couldn’t earn it, I had to realize Jesus Christ earned it for me and I could simply believe its truth, accept it and acknowledge it. I thought hard about the statement I heard many times in church, that Jesus died for our sins. Why did he die for our sins? Did he die for my sins? What are my sins?
I didn’t do anything about it at that event, but seeds were planted. In the spring of 1994 at another similar event I heard the same message presented. Like before, I was given an opportunity to publicly acknowledge my acceptance of the truth presented by standing up, which I did. We were given some good advice, which was to get a Bible to read and find a church that teaches from the Bible. Since I didn’t have a Bible I went out and got one. God blessed our family by leading my wife to the same truth at about the same time through other people in our community. We were led to an Evangelical Free Church of America denomination church and heard clear Bible teaching from the pulpit. We hadn’t really seen this in the churches we attended as children and adults. Fortunately, there are many churches who do offer this kind of teaching.
So, what does our faith life look like now? We have our own Bibles, more than one translation, both print and electronic. We read from our Bibles daily, not out of obligation, but out of a desire to know and understand better the Creator of the entire universe, someone we will walk with in eternity, just like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. We worship together with other Christ followers on Sunday, singing great songs, listening to Bible teaching and socializing. We spend time praying, alone and with other Christ followers in various gatherings. We have served and continue to serve in various roles within the church and outside the church, trying to live out the teachings of Jesus Christ.
In the last 19 years we have gone from being nominal, Sunday Christians, to being fully devoted, 24/7 followers of Christ. My business is working with other business owners who also follow Christ and help them live their faith journey. Our lives have purpose and our children and grandchildren are following our example. We still have struggles like anyone, because we are disobedient at times or God is pruning us at times. We continue to mature, a never ending process.
I hope you have an opportunity to hear truth like we did. I hope you accept and acknowledge it like we did. I hope you were encouraged or provoked by my story. Feel free to contact me if you want to discuss your situation, I’m happy to try to help with advice if you want it.
Some Bible teachers I enjoy reading or listening to (not an exclusive list):
- Greg Laurie
- Francis Chan
- Tim Keller
- Brian Berg (Brian is the pastor of our church. I strongly recommend his Easter 2013 message entitled “Believing Thomas”, using text from John 20).