21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
Lost in a Religious World
I found myself at the age of 16 rejecting an opportunity to attend the Alabama School of Math and Science in order to move with my family to Missouri. I was trying to run from all the bad things I had done and ended up being a self-righteous snob. I had an earnest desire to prove that I was a good person and a secret desire to make up for all the wrong I had done. I was engaged in religious activity and very involved in a student group 30 minutes away from our house (back when gas was $1.16 a gallon).
I also started a small student group of about 8-10 kids in the basement of my father’s new church (an aging 25 member congregation). I was a great self-starter but lacked substance and depth. I learned a lot about student ministry from the way I failed when I was just a 17 or 18 year old kid trying to lead a group of my peers.
In the fall of 1997 I moved to Mobile, Alabama. My first weekend in mobile I was invited to speak to the youth at a friends church in Gulf Shores. The next weekend I was at Lafitte and quickly became a student ministry intern. Things progressed quickly and just over a year later I was appointed associate student minister and then very quickly I was appointed student minister.
Building a Resume of Deeds
I had a passion and a desire for the things of God (Romans 10:2-4), but all the while I was building an impressive resume for God to accept me based on my good works. Not realizing that my deeds did not mean as much to God as my heart (Isaiah 64:6). I worked hard to be a good communicator and studied to know much of the Bible. You would have been hard pressed to find anyone my age more knowledgeable about the things of God. Yet I still missed it.
I became good at telling people how to become a Christian. Most of the places I spoke (outside of Lafitte) would see two or three students make decisions saying something had changed in their life. Every week at Lafitte the same kids were “rededicating” their life and never changing and many of the converts I saw in those early years never became fully devoted followers of Christ.
The saddest part is that I really thought I was a Christian. One of the things I enjoyed doing was learning new ways to present how to become a Christ follower to people. I went through FAITH, EE, and several other presentations. One of the key type questions in these presentations is to ask people “how does someone get to heaven?” I always answered my instructors that it was “by doing good works” and they would correct me. Yet, they never question me further because I was a poster child for someone interested in “Christian things.”
My list of religious deeds was long. I lead a student group. Helped lead and developed a prayer group for reaching international students at UM. I had opportunities to speak at several student events all over Alabama. I helped feed the homeless on a regular basis. I walked the streets of downtown mobile passing out religious literature. I had been on Mission to East Asia. I had spoken in many churches. I partnered in founding a conference that celebrated a protestant Christian History. But without Christ…. I was lost and without hope (Philippians 3:4-11).
It wouldn’t be until I woke up from a Nightmare that I would come to understand just where I stood with God and what needed to be done to set things right.
- My Story: A Godly Heritage (Part 1)
- My Story: A Trial that Proves a Faulty Faith (Part 2)
- My Story: Waking up from a Dream (Part 4)
- My Story: Living with Passion and Purpose (Part 5)
Want to know more about the Christian message and how to become a Christ follower? Click the link below. Be sure to read the whole thing.