This evening, Sunday – March 29, my wife and I officially joined Morning Star Baptist Church in Rockford, IL. As part of the service, I read the following testimony.
I was privileged enough to have grown up in Christian family. My mother having died when I was very young, I was raised by a father who tried his best to raise two boys alone. Though he was far from perfect, my father made it point to make sure our family was in a good, Bible believing church for each service.
The church we attended placed a high emphasis on soul-winning and evangelism. Each week people would “walk the aisle” at the end of the service, and would be met by the rejoicing of all those around him. This was such a sight to see, so much, in fact, that a young friend of mine and I actually had a contest going to see who could walk the aisle and receive Christ the most, each time promising that now we were really getting saved.
With this background, confusion about my salvation would dominate my teenage years. Though this would always remain an inward doubt as outwardly I was praised as a good Christian teen who avoided common youthful vices and who exhibited a willingness to get involved in church ministries. Though there was much spiritual activity in my life, doubts remained if there was truly any spiritual life at all.
As I went off to Bible college, these doubts remained. Spiritual confusion combined with some immaturity lead me to drop out of two Bible colleges within one school year. Confused and now somewhat rebellious, I enrolled in another Bible college. Yet this time, the Lord began working in my heart. While I was constantly running from Him and the condition of my own spiritual life, He began drawing me to Himself. I would resist and resist until I was prepared to again drop out of this college. But on the night of September 23, 1997 I knew I could run no longer. That night I prayed with my dorm supervisor and truly experienced Biblical reconciliation with my Lord.
When pressed for a time and a place of my salvation, September 23, 1997 is what I refer to. However, my salvation does not rest upon an experience or a decision. I am saved only because of the grace of our Almighty God. It was His Son who secured my salvation through His shed blood. It was His Spirit who called me and drew me unto Himself. If left to my own devices, I would still be in a state of confusion running away from His Sovereign care.
The remainder of my college education would be marked by a new passion to grow in my relationship with and knowledge of God. As I began to delve more into the depths of Scripture I began finding myself in a troubling position. I felt stifled by a legalistic environment that did not encourage study or thought but rigid confirmation to external standards of righteousness. Superficial understandings of complex doctrines were pushed, along with manipulative evangelism and preaching characterized more by oratory skill than hermeneutical skill. The more I began to grow, the more I felt threatened by this environment.
When I left college and entered into full-time ministry, I had decided that some things would just have to be kept to myself. Instead of questioning the legalistic tendencies of the churches in which I served, I simply adapted to them. While this caused some internal struggles, I did enjoy the opportunities to serve the Lord in various ways. I have served as a Christian school teacher and principal, along as also serving as a youth pastor and associate pastor.
In the few years, things began changing rapidly. Little by little with the Lord’s strength, I began shedding some of my own legalistic tendencies. I grew more bold in my faith. This came at the ire of some and with the encouragement of others. The biggest encouragement the Lord gave me came from the wife He provided. Jill has become the love of my life and true spiritual partner. As we began growing in our relationship with each other and with Christ, we both knew a change was needed.
Through a series of divinely orchestrated events, the Lord led us away from our ministry in Massachusetts. This change was quite remarkable and drastic for both us. Yet, with this change of scenery brought a new opportunity to drink in the freedom and liberty we have in Christ. No longer would we have to live in fear of living up to man-made standards. Instead, we found ourselves free to embrace ideas formerly deemed taboo, such as the doctrines of grace and true unity with all of the body of Christ (as opposed to only those in a certain denomination).
With this new found freedom, I knew our first priority must be to find a good, local church to join. We desired to have fellowship with like-minded believers who would encourage us in our walk with the Lord and keep us accountable. But not only did we desire fellowship and accountability, but we knew we needed to be under sound Bible teaching that we both felt we have been lacking for so long. This is our time to grow! Jill and I both believe the Lord has led us to Morning Star Baptist Church for just this reason.
I can personally testify of how the Lord has been using the preaching ministry here to strengthen my faith. And as I begin to grow here at Morning Star, my first step will be baptism. While I was baptized as a child, I do not believe that I was a believer at that time. The Scripture is clear that baptism is for believers only and it is my desire to follow the Lord in this matter. I am thankful to be in a church that first has kept me accountable and encouraged me in the matter.
Jill and I both praise the Lord for His goodness to us. We can clearly see His hand in leading us to Morning Star Baptist Church. Here, we rejoice in the Christ-centered, Bible-based preaching and fellowship. We are humbled and excited at the opportunity of joining and serving in this church.