One of my seminary classes require that I write a brief paper explaining my faith journey. Here is my rough draft. It is rough more because I am imperfect than my life has been really hard. When I look at what some other people have had to go through, I wonder why God hasn’t allowed me to face more truly difficult situations. Not that I am complaining. I have had some challenges, but I do believe that God has blessed me in many ways and given me incredible opportunities to experience His life.
My journey with Jesus started as a child. I grew up in a family where being a Christian was almost a foregone conclusion. It was considered just a natural part of what it meant to grow up in my family. We went to church activities on a regular basis. To reinforce a religious worldview, my parents sent me to a Baptist Christian school until high school.
Adjusting to school was tough for me at first because I had a severe stuttering problem. I went to special classes to help me cope with the problem until third grade. It was a source of embarrassment and frustration. My parents prayed over me regularly that I would improve and encouraged me to keep on trying. With God’s help, I was able to overcome the problem although it still comes back on occasion in moments of extreme pressure or excitement. Overcoming this problem was the first real personal struggle of my life. It showed me that God cares and He can help me deal with whatever life throws at me.
While in grade school, I gave my life to Christ after a teacher taught a daily Bible lesson. I can’t remember what she taught. But whatever she said struck me as a beautiful truth that required me to trust God. I don’t really know if I understood what I was doing. I just knew it was the right thing to do. My life is not an instant conversion story. It is more of a gradual process that has become more certain through the years.
Each year as a kid, I strived to win the Christian character award at school. Looking back, I think that I really felt that I had to prove myself to God. I had a very works-based view of Christianity. It wasn’t until college that I would have a real revelation of God’s grace.
In high school, I had to shadow a different religion for a school assignment. I chose the Jehovah’s Witness. The experience freaked out my parents. I came home asking questions like, “How do we know the Trinity exists if the word is not in the Bible?” The Watchtower literature and issues brought up by the Jehovah’s Witness sect revealed to me how much I didn’t know about the Bible. I began to realize that my faith was based mostly on what others had told me not what I knew for myself. I had a classic case of coat-tale Christianity.
When my parents couldn’t answer all of my questions, I insisted that they help me find someone who could. That is when I met Dr. Warren Weaver. He was a well-respected professor at VCU and a noted Bible teacher in the community. As a sophomore in high school, I peppered him with questions for two hours. He knew how to answer everything. It was at that moment that I decided I would never again be clueless about key aspects of my faith. I wanted to know God for myself.
Jesus used a pseudo Christian-cult to draw me closer to Himself. This reflects one of the greatest lessons that I have learned in life – God is in control. I grew in my faith throughout high school. But I still felt like an outsider. I struggled to relate to those outside of religious circles and distrusted many at church.
College was like a breath of fresh air compared to high school. It was in college that I first had someone other than my parents really disciple me as a follower of Jesus. Bill Dempsey was the campus minister for Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). He showed me what it meant to relationally lead others to Christ and help train them in the faith. Billy introduced me to indepth Bible study and the joy of tackling “hard” parts of the Bible, such as Hebrews, Ecclesiastes, the prophets, etc.
RUF was the first time in my life that I felt connected to a vibrant body of Christian believers. It sparked an interest in community, Bible study and discipleship. Billy and others helped me see that God’s grace is limitless and never based on my performance.
After college came my “Sodom and Gomorrah” period, I worked hard and partied harder. I was living one way on Sunday and another way the rest of the week. A series of events led me to see that I needed to get back into Christian community and re-commit my life to Christ. This led me to come back home to Richmond.
While in Richmond, I experienced deep spiritual growth through discipleship and personal encounters with the Holy Spirit. The Lord brought another great mentor into my life when I met Pastor Don Coleman. I attended a home church led by him for a number of years. Don helped me better understand my journey with God and encouraged me to write the revelation that I was getting in Bible study and everyday life. This led to a number of book projects, including Organic Faith, which was published in 2003.
Organic Faith is a concept that God gave me to describe my life in Him. Organic denotes life, something that is not artificial and has not been tainted by pollutants. Faith is the critical element to know and please God. My journey with God is best understood as a growing walk of faith away from artificial Christianity to a vibrant, personal relationship with a living God.
Over the past several years, I have served in youth ministry as a volunteer and am an active lay leader at Mechanicsville Christian Center. Currently, I am attending Union-PSCE to obtain a Master’s Degree that will aid me in fulfilling God’s call for my life. I am not really sure what the future holds. I just know that I am in the right place now. Each new day, God gives me the direction that I need to live out an organic faith.