Not long after I started high school, by God’s grace I began to awaken from my spiritual slumber. In the fall of my freshman year, I somehow managed to catch the eye of a sophomore girl. She was attractive and popular, and her condition for us “going together” (remember that delightful term?) was that I go to church with her, at least occasionally. I had no desire to go to church at all, but I figured that she was well worth a few church services. So, I agreed to her condition. When I did attend services at her Church of Christ congregation, I was struck by the challenging preaching of her pastor. It started me thinking about God and the Bible for the first time in my life.
A couple of months later, she unceremoniously dumped me for an older, cooler, and more attractive guy. At the beginning of the next school year, I found myself “going with” her younger sister (no laughing or teasing me!), and as you might expect, I found myself back in the same church being challenged by the same pastor’s sermons. Alas, that relationship was almost as short-lived as the previous one, and before long, I was once again not even, to use St. James’ phrase, a “hearer of the Word.”
However, my second stint in the sisters’ church did lead to a major turning point in my life, for it was then that I was inspired to start reading the Bible and going to church on my own (not just because some girl said I had to). I asked my mother if we could start going to church, and she gladly agreed. Since she was from an Episcopal background and was a member of a local parish, that is where we began attending. And there I would attend nearly every Sunday for the rest of my high school years.
I was fortunate to not end up in a liberal, heretical parish. Our rector was a pious man who clearly loved the Lord and his flock and who subscribed to traditional Christianity. He occasionally went on mission trips and even learned Spanish (while in his fifties!) so that he could start an outreach to the many Hispanic families that lived around the church. Still, his sermons were more like literary analyses than true biblical preaching, and they lacked the application to life that I was hearing in the preaching in my friends’ churches. In addition, the liturgy seemed very dry to me, and very few of the kids in the youth group seemed to be serious about their Christian faith. One of them once asked me, “Why do you go to church?” I said, “Because I love God! (this was not quite true, but never mind)” He quite seriously replied, “I wish that were my reason!”
All of these experiences led me to think that there had to be something more out there. I wanted to worship God and get to know him. I wanted to be involved in church, but I also longed for stronger, life-based preaching and teaching and a more meaningful worship experience. Enter the Baptists…