i wrote in an earlier post that i would write more about why i am in seminary at a later time, and well.. its officially “later”.
i don’t really know how to keep this “short”, so bare with me.

like most people, i was born at an early age. my parents were(are) both christians and very active in ministry. my dad, whose father and maternal grandfather had both been pastors, had done some supply pastoring and from the time i was born (1978) until last year, had always been the youth and/or music minister at whatever church we were attending at the time. in addition to this, my parents were the directors of the baptist student union (now “baptist collegiate ministry) at the community college in the town where i grew up. [in 2003, dad took the position as campus minster again at the dyersburg state b.c.m.] so my whole childhood was surrounded by teenagers and college age people that my parents were ministering to. there were also endless hours at church for choir rehearsals, youth activities, and even cleaning the church bathrooms. i was at church every sunday and wednesday, lots of saturdays, and at some time or another, every day of the week. lots of people say “i grew up in church”. i am more literal than most when i say it.
The jargon and lingo of the church was second nature to me growing up in the enviroment that i did. for the most part, i would say that i enjoyed being in church so much growing up. i always had close friends at church, and i more or less always enjoyed, if not looked forward to most activities i was involved in. i didnt have any *bad* church experiences, no “prodigal preachers kid” moments where i denounced the faith or refused to participate.
when i was ten years old, i went to church camp for a week in lyndon tennessee. one of those nights, after a sermon that i don’t remember, i was struck with the fact that a previous “trip down the aisle” and its consequent “baptism” wasn’t an actual conversion. i realized that i was a sinner whose only hope of salvation was through jesus christ, and i had never come to a place where i placed my faith in him for the forgiveness of my sins and my eternal security. so, after talking to a counselor about it, i prayed a prayer asking jesus to be my savior.
at ten years old, i proffessed christ as my savior and lord.
over the course of the next few years, i lived the average life of any “church kid” my age. i tried to pay more attention during church, and was fully aware that matters pertaining to the christian life really did matter. i wouldnt say that i was growing by leaps or even bounds. i was just…aware.
my teenage years brought a whole new set of experiences and perspectives into my life. somehow my good intentions and simple knowledge of “church facts” developed into a much more vague world view of “christians are, at the core good people despite their sometimes bad decisions(after all, if they walked an aisle, signed a card , or prayed a prayer.. they’re forgiven)”, and that non christians could still be good people, they just needed to go to church and believe in jesus to go to heaven. i would readily confess that jesus was the only way to heaven, and that i, as a christian, should do my best “not to mess up”.
but that was about the extent of it. when i did “mess up”, i knew that those actions could and would lead to varying degrees of circumstances and consequences. if i am honest, i would have to say that it was fear of those circumstances that botherd me the most- moreso than my failure to “be good”, much less having sinned against the lord. despite all of this, from the casual observer, i was a “good kid” that was well liked and thought well of by most everyone that i was aware of.
this trend carried into the beginning of my college years. although i included in my identity that i was a christian , i still lived a life that was marked more with compromise and justifying my actions than any attempt to grow in the faith. in random spurts i would be “consistant” in prayer and reading the bible, just enough to remember that these things were things i was “supposed to do.” but those times were usually short lived and when whatever trials were lifted, so did the “this time i mean it” resolve.
near the end of my freshman year and into my sophomore year,the lord intervened in a mighty way by placing certain people in my life, that through the course of the next two years would greatly alter my life, both directly and indirectly. the lord surrounded me with people that i wanted to be friends with, wanted to be accepted by, and who were open, and even excited about living a life that not only pleased god, but that by pleasing him brought them satisfaction- and even enjoyment. for the first time in my life, the walls that had compartmentalized my life began to fracture. no longer was christ a segment of my identity, he began to trickle in to areas of my life that had previously been considered neutral, or even “not religious.” it was a slow process, and sometimes a painful one, but it was a process that was progressing. no longer was i able to look at my life in evaluation and see any stagnant areas as acceptable. i knew i needed to grow. i wasnt sure how, or even what growth would look like, but i knew that i couldnt stay the same.
my junior year, i encountered a whole new universe that i never knew existed. i went to a passion conference in fort. worth texas where i saw 12,000 other people my age completely give all of their energies into worshiping and thinking on the lord. for the first time in my life i heard teaching that boldly proclaimed that god’s chief concern was his glory, not my comfort. it was also at this time that i had back surgery, which left me unable to do anything, but lay in bed for almost two months to look at the first 21 years of my life and where it had been, where it was, and where it was going….
[to be continued]
grace and peace,
-stephen

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