How does God work in drawing people to a faith in Jesus Christ? This is Dr. Ron Powell’s story. Ron is the Youth Ministry Institute Director at Vanguard College in Edmonton and is equipping pastors be a voice for their generation. He is an avid blogger at YouthMinistryUnleashed
It’s not just one influence that brings a soul to Christ.
In my case, there were many different voices that led me to one clear choice.
You may be surprised to see the variety voices God uses to save a life.
My dad lost and found his Scottish Presbyterian faith in the front lines of Korea. When he returned to Montreal, he married Shirley Knowles a staunch Anglican. Together they brought us to the tiny St. Ignatius Anglican church in Montreal North every Sunday morning.
Sometimes our family of nine and the minister were the only ones present.
My mom would sing hymns as she worked in the kitchen and prayed with us every night.
My choices at that time were to pray my prayers and to be quiet in church. I didn’t excel at either one.
Maple Hill Sunday School
As if to make up for the old hymns and rituals in the morning, every Sunday afternoon we would go to a fun, interesting, outreach Sunday School that met in the gym or our elementary school.
Every week they gave us the choice to receive Jesus into our heart. Without fail, each Sunday afternoon, I would invite Jesus, “Please come into my heart and help me to be good.” Still, when they said, “Amen,” at the end of the prayer, I would bolt out of the gym and hit the crash bars on the double doors so hard and so fast that they would bang on the walls behind me. I’m sure my Sunday School teachers shook their heads thinking, “There’s no hope for that kid.”
I have to confess that after seven years of perfect attendance, I became a Sunday School dropout. I still attended the Anglican church in the morning. I even became an altar server but as I moved into high school, I wanted to shake off my “goodie goodie” image. I joined a pathetic, little gang that made mischief at Rosemount High School and a local arena.
Enter a new voice in my life. Youth With a Mission set up an outreach in my neighbourhood called La Cachet (the hiding place). These men and women from California ran a Christian bookstore upstairs and a coffe house downstairs playing music by Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, and other early Christian rockers. (It was an improvement over Alice Cooper that I would listen to religiously at home.)
I felt I had another choice to make. I could continue deceiving my parents and hang out with my delinquent jean-jacketed “friends” or be like these caring Californian Christians.
My choice? Compromise and Improvise! I sewed a “One Way Jesus” patch on my jean jacket and tried to prove to my friends, “You can be tough and love Jesus too. He was a rebel and the toughest man who ever lived!” I was deceiving myself and wasn’t convincing anyone.
My Brother, Dave
On a dare from a pretty girl in his class to visit her church, my older brother Dave went to see who would go to a church on a Tuesday night as well as Sunday! Her family picked him up and dropped him at home late, carrying a paperback Bible called The Way. We were in bed when he came in. He climbed up to his bunk and said to the four of us, “Hey guys, can I pray.”
My brother; the joker, trickster became a Bible-reading, Jesus-sharing believer! His faith was genuine. It was constant. He never let up. He helped around the house and did kind things for all of us! His life showed me that the religious belief I had was empty and powerless compared to his 24-7 relationship with Jesus.
Fabre Street Italian Pentecostal Church
I started attending Fabre Street Church with him on Tuesday nights. Faith came easy for him but it seemed wrong to me that someone else should pay for what I had done wrong. I also went back and forth between thinking God exists and God didn’t exist. I wanted what my brother had but I feared that I may be committing my whole life to something that wasn’t real. The Bible is so right in saying that a double minded person is unstable in all of their ways (James 1:8)
One Tuesday in August, before the start of grade nine, the pastor quoted Jesus’ words,
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:35-38
In this church service, a voice broke through my self-deception.
It was obvious to me that my objections to God’s existence were just my way of denying the decision I had made as a child.
The pastor invited anyone who wanted to deny themselves, lose their life and follow Christ, to come forward. All I could think of was my choice between what mattered more: what my gang, my friends, or the congregation thought of me, or what Jesus thought of me.
I was the only one who went to the front that night.
Instead of objecting to the fairness of Christ dying instead of me, I told him that because he laid down his life for me I would lay down my life for him and live life entirely the way he wanted me to live –no matter where that would lead.
After praying I felt strange. When I walked to the front of that church I felt alone but for all those hundreds of times I prayed, “Jesus come into my heart,” as a child, I felt like he actually had this time!
Now that I have been in the ministry for 30 years, I reflect on how I got myself into this….life.
It really comes down to all of those voices and that one undeniable choice.
APPLICATION: Please leave a comment for Ron.
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Thanks for sharing this pastor Bob! I hope it helps some folks in their faith journey! I think it also show that God can change a teen for a life time, at least that’s what happened my brother and me.
Thank you for telling your story, Ron. It is very encouraging to see who you have become because people spoke into your life words of faith and life. You’re an inspiration.