I want to take you back to the very beginning.
While it seems like the beginning might’ve been in my first blog post, What is WIGTake?, we all know that there is usually a story behind the story. And that backstory can be just as important as the main story because our backstories often lay the foundation for the main story.
Let me share with you the backstory.
As a teenager, I was obsessed with computers. Hardware, software, programming, network administration. You name it & I was probably into it. I spent hours every day on the computer. I would hang out with people like Napster, aka Shawn Fanning, designer of the popular mp3 sharing platform.
When I was 14, I got my first summer job in the Technical Support department of a local ISP (internet service provider) called HubNet. I began to pursue Microsoft certifications and was given the MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) designation at 15 and the MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer) designation at 16. I did some sub-contract work for Microsoft through a local company during that time as well. I moved from there to CleanWeb, another ISP (internet service provider) that provided filtered internet for families. I was one of the Network Administrators of CleanWeb through much of my High School years.
From about 12-16 years old, I wasn’t following Jesus closely. I was passionate about computers, not the things of God. I was living in sin & keeping things from my parents that I was doing online. It was a dark period in my life.
I remember one day when I was 15 or 16, my Dad came up to my room and asked if he could talk with me for a second. Of course I was busy doing something on the computer, but I said that we could talk.
Before I tell you the rest of the story, you need to know something about my Dad. Something had changed in his life over that past year. He was a different man. All of a sudden, he wasn’t just a church-goer, he was on fire. That’s the best way I can describe it. He read his Bible, prayed, & talked about Jesus all the time. When I’d wake up early for school & go downstairs, I’d find him prostrate on the ground praying. I’d ask how long he’d been up praying & it was usually 2-3 hours that he’d been laying there.
Now, we had always gone to church as a family, but as you know, there’s a difference between just going to church & being on fire for God.
If you were to ask my Dad what set him on fire, he’d quickly tell you that it was going through a study by Henry Blackaby called Experiencing God. The church we went to at the time, Indiana Avenue Baptist Church (IABC), had offered an Experiencing God class & he decided to attend. Learning that God wants us to “experience” a love relationship with him and not just “know” about him was life-changing for my Dad. And our whole family knew it. He was a different man.
Anyways, he came up to my room that day and I can remember it like it was yesterday.
He knelt next to my bed, opened his Experiencing God Day-by-Day Devotional, and said, “Son, can I tell you how I’ve been praying for you?” I was like, “Uhh… sure.” His eyes filled with tears. He said, “Son, I’ve been praying that you’d be as passionate about following Jesus as you are about that computer.”
That one sentence pierced my heart.
I knew I was on the wrong track. I knew the computer was the “false god” that I worshiped and that I had forsaken the living & true God! I was deeply convicted and even found myself weeping at times knowing that I had sinned greatly against God.
Soon after that, my Dad approached me again. He said, “Son, there’s a Youth Edition of Experiencing God. Would you like to go through it together?” I was 16 at the time, so the Youth Edition would’ve better suited me than the Main Edition.
The Lord had prepared my heart. I wanted to follow him again. I eagerly said yes & me & my Dad began the study together.
Over a 9 week period, we went lesson by lesson through Experiencing God & God did in my life through that study what he had done in my Dad’s life. He set me on fire. At age 16, I caught a fire for God that hasn’t gone out since. I also realized that God wanted me to “experience” a love relationship with Him & not just live my life knowing about him but not ever experiencing him. It was the difference between knowledge-based discipleship & obedience/experience-based discipleship. I wanted the real thing!
At that time, I got very involved in the Youth Group at our church. It wasn’t because I had to. I really wanted to. When we lost our Youth Worship Leader, I felt God put it on my heart to learn to play the guitar so I could begin leading worship. Soon after, I became one of the Youth Worship Leaders.
After graduating High School, I got very involved in the college ministry at our church & became the Worship Leader for the college group as well. Then, I became the Associate College Pastor, serving under Russ Murphy, who was a big inspiration for me. He taught me not only how to be a better worship leader but how to put together a worship service & even how to preach.
I preached my first sermon in the college ministry at IABC.
I started feeling like God was leading me away from the computer industry & into full-time ministry.
After Russ left IABC to move to Nashville, I put my name in the hat to become the next College Pastor. That didn’t end up being the Lord’s plan for me as the church was looking for someone with a seminary degree and I hadn’t been to seminary yet.
While I was disappointed at the time, I still felt a leading into full-time ministry & believed that going to seminary was my next step to prepare. Most positions I was interested in at the time would’ve required a seminary degree.
My wife and I left in the Spring of 2005 for Fort Worth, TX & I enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Leaving IABC was difficult, but I wouldn’t realize until later that a connection made there would radically impact my life & our church’s transition into DMM.
One of IABC’s mission partners while I attended there was an organization that I referred to in the Millions post. The leader of this organization would later become one of my mentors that would inspire me to pursue DMM in America. He’s been a part of a movement that’s seen more than 10 million people baptized in a relatively short period of time. My Mom had actually served on the Board of this organization and my Dad had become friends with the man who had helped to catalyze this great movement of God.
This connection would be vital in bringing our church into our 2nd decade.
Part 2 – Seminary Elective