I don’t remember much about church from childhood. My mom took me to Sunday School and Worship regularly. For me, church was just something that you did. It was like school. No arguments. It was simply required.
One of the few spiritual things I do remember from childhood is a scene from my grandparents house. Long after they thought I was asleep on the nights I spent with them, I would tiptoe to their bedroom where I could see a sliver of light beneath their door. And always I found the same setting as I peeked in; my grandfather reading the Bible to my grandmother. That planted a seed that I would draw back on later in life.
As a kid, I simply went through the expected motions. I didn’t get into much trouble and I went to church like I was supposed to. But I had no connection with Jesus. I was baptized at 12 and don’t really even know why. Nothing had changed in my walk with Christ. It was simply the next thing to do for a kid who went to church regularly.
Honestly, I remember thinking, “I’ve been baptized so now I’m fine. I can do whatever I want and Jesus will cover me.” Did I believe the Bible was real? Yes. Did I believe Jesus died for my sins? Yes. But did I consider any heart change that needed to take place? No. I compared myself to other kids and didn’t see a problem. So I figured I was good. I didn’t pray or read my Bible except when I was at church. I did the status quo, spiritually. I was the typical Bible Belt “Christian”.
But I did not know Jesus.
Right before I married Angela, I was working on a Masters Degree from Troy. The business school I was in was extremely liberal and often came down hard on Christianity. The movie “The Passion of the Christ came out about that time. People in my classes were tearing the movie apart in lecture hall debates and classrooms on campus. It became a topic of interest in the business world. I remember getting really mad. People were picking on my Christian “club”, and I didn’t like it. But when I tried to debate, I often lost the battle. So I decided to start reading my Bible so I could prove them all wrong.
I wanted to prove the movie was real before it ever came out. I wanted to win arguments. I read the Gospels all the way through. As I was reading I remember thinking, “those guys debating this are idiots, they don’t know the Bible.” But I decided to read the Gospels one more time, to make sure I could nail the argument.
Somewhere reading the Gospels the second way through, the blinders fell off. I started crying. The people in the Scriptures suddenly became real to me. “This isn’t a story, ” I realized. “These people lived and breathed.”
I had two distinct emotions at that point. Sorrow was the first. “God I’m sorry I got this wrong for so many years. ”
And that was quicky countered with concern. I wondered , “How many of my friends are getting this wrong too? How many people think they are alright with Jesus, but aren’t?”
It wasn’t about an argument any more. I was broken for my friends who didn’t know Jesus.
Not long after that, I became the “Sunday School Director” at our church. Fancy name. It really just means I took care of the attendance and such. But from that I began hanging out with students on Sunday morning. And then I started teaching their Sunday School lessons occasionally. Not long after that, I became their regular teacher.
And from that came 9 years of youth ministry.
During that 9 years, I finished my degrees and began working at EAMC. I offered a chapel service for employees on Tuesday mornings. But the whole time I felt like there was more I could be doing for the Kingdom. Despite a comfortable position at the hospital, I decided to walk away from it, feeling convinced that my time was better spent making disciples of Jesus Christ full time. I spent two years with youth for Christ, and did part time youth ministry, and taught a Religion class at Southern Union before I joined the staff at Valley Baptist Church.
For me, it’s all about watching Jesus change people’s lives, especially students. I love connecting with them and helping them connect with Christ. When kids experience real life change and come to you later to say, “you impacted my life”, it makes all the hard life decisions worth it.
My wife and I met in High School and have been married since 2001. She is the Principal at Beulah Elementary School. We have 4 kids, all of which are involved in extracurricular activities like baseball, softball, and competitive swim. We love Auburn athletics and serving our community.
My prayer for Valley Baptist Church:
I pray that the love of our congregation is so contagious, that when people in the community have problems this is the first place they think of to get help. I pray that we live the Gospel in such a way that people are drawn here when they hurt.