While I grew up in the church, I never knew what a relationship with the Lord was until college. I had all the elements of the Religion of Christianity yet without the saving relationship with the Living Savior. When I attended a large Christian university I was expecting to be surrounded by Christians. What occurred instead was an immersion in pseudo-Christian culture. I was plunged into the middle of the Bible Belt with people in Christian T-shirts getting drunk in the dorm rooms, and then hiding the beer cans above the ceiling tiles. Yet among these decidedly confused individuals there were a few that seemed to have something the others did not – a glow, faintly at first, yet under more observation the glow became bright, even blinding. They had something the rest of us did not: an inner joy, not dependent on their circumstances, completely separate in fact. Simply a glow, a light, and a joy I could not understand. I followed them to their church, Highland Baptist Church. On the outside it appeared like any other church, yet inside it was filled with people of the same glow. A people of joy! A people who worshiped Jesus like I had never seen: they didn’t care how silly they may have looked to others. They just loved Jesus! Worship wasn’t a performance by a spectacular band, in fact the only person the worship seemed to be for was Christ. It was an odd experience to be surrounded by hundreds of college students, none of whom were thinking of themselves. Incredible! What was it about this church, what was it about this religion to which they were so recklessly abandoned? It wasn’t the music for sure: frankly the band wasn’t that great. The preacher was good but I had heard better. There had to be something else, something I was missing. Weeks went by and then I discovered what it was. These people weren’t worshiping a book; they weren’t carried away in the emotionalism of a song; they didn’t have a religion, they had a relationship, a relationship with a real and living Christ. At that moment, ideas and possibilities had opened up to me that I had never considered before. I could do anything with Christ in control. I gave my life to Him that night.
The next day I shared my testimony with a friend on campus, and he gave his life to the Lord. I sank into the Bible like I never had before. Prayer wasn’t a religious ritual practiced before a meal, but a continual conversation that happened throughout the day. Christ had ignited me finally! Each day I shared the gospel, or shared my testimony. A month went by and I was leading a homeless Bible study for “Church Under the Bridge” (a Baptist church plant for homeless people around the college area lead by Dr. Jimmy Dorrel). Months after that I was leading a college Life Group (a cell group from Antioch Community Church). When I got back to California I was discouraged that I no longer had a life group, a community of people seeking the Lord. I decided that I would get together with the only other two Christians that I knew in the area and we began meeting around a beach bonfire pit every Thursday night to worship, pray, and study the Bible. A week went by and people began to come. Soon we saw 10 people then 20 then 30 then 40, more and more were coming out of the bars and off of the beach and into our little church around a campfire. We constructed a 12 foot cross out of 4×4’s and stuck it in the sand where we met. People would see the cross and join us. Many came to the Lord, and there on that beach in San Diego, God called me to the ministry.
I went back to college and changed my major. I graduated and went into seminary. For twenty years now I have served as youth pastor, children pastor, college pastor, contemporary worship preacher, senior pastor and even church planter. At each step God has continued to show me that it is only His work, and not my own that reaches people. He guided me to my beautiful wife in 2004 and had shown how our callings and giftings were made for each other. I look forward to what God has planned for us in the future. Over the years I have learned that the safest place to be is in the very center of God’s will, and He will guide us there. He always has.