FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–I’m about to share three words that have almost become a collective obscenity in modern times: “New Christian here.” Here’s hoping you won’t hold it against me.
I am a Gen-Xer, raised in a Methodist church in the South. I enjoyed the stories there about Jesus, the potlucks and the family atmosphere, though I never personally connected with Christ. I also have a slight Jewish heritage, so after coming home from Advent services, we sometimes lit a menorah to commemorate Chanukah.
We’ve reconciled since, but my father wasn’t around much when I was young, and that rejection gnawed at me, so much so that I carried a chip the size of a Volkswagen on my shoulder throughout most of my life.
These things, paired with the heavy subliminal indoctrination of secular mass media, left me confused about the truth of anything beyond the basest sense of God’s existence for years. I reminded myself often that I knew right from wrong and I didn’t lie or steal very much. But like anyone else, I was oblivious to just how blindly corrupt our carnal nature is.
I knew Baptists in high school. They underwhelmed me. With some notable exceptions, for all their piety in the halls, many were as red-eyed and uncoordinated as the rest of us around under-aged, after-hours bonfires. I found myself memorizing auditorium ceiling tiles as the same kids accepted civic awards onstage in the days that followed. My eyes rolled almost involuntarily. The next time I saw them outside school, especially if they sought to buy something illicit from me, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or pity them.
I said there were exceptions, and one of them, I’m thankful to say, I’m back in touch with after coming to Christ. He tried, more than once the best way he knew how to warn me, persistently but gently, of the spiritual danger I was in. Most others, except for those who stressed condemnation in a tone suggesting I was something to scrape off their shoe, never bothered.
I have no delusions of being anything like an apostle, but this makes me wonder if anyone sincerely tried to reach Saul before he became Paul. Granted, like Saul, I probably put up mental and physical barriers intended to discourage attempts before they started, but a part of me may always wonder.
I eventually came to know and depend on Jesus, but it took time and freedom from those who practiced in-your-face, loveless varieties of witnessing. In fact, it took something of a prodigal son experience.
In pursuit of my own narcissistic ambitions as a writer — and at the time, wanna-be screenwriter, author, etc. — I dragged my long-suffering wife to New England. We wound up more than 1,000 miles from both sets of parents, isolated from almost everyone we’d ever known.
It was there, where I insulated myself from any human being who could’ve bothered me about Christ, that He drew me to Himself. A (small-time) freelance reporter, I was researching a story idea I’d been kicking around one night when I came to a conclusion I couldn’t refute.
What I’d learned about advanced microchips that were being implanted in human guinea pigs, the incremental discounting of human life, the assault on marriage, world politics, and more “clicked” within me. Revelation, I realized — despite how hard I’d worked over the years to dismiss it as myth — is unmistakably coming to pass.
I think of it now as an avalanche that’s descending slowly, frame by frame down the mountainside, like a slowed video signal. It may not have hit bottom as you’re reading this, but the conclusion’s inevitable. At some point, it’s going to be un-paused, probably without a peep of warning from the mass media.
Being conservative, alone, suddenly wasn’t enough. All the “Jesus stuff,” I grudgingly had to concede, was true. I’m ashamed to admit that this was the initial, save-my-precious-hide-from-the-wrath-to-come nature of my conversion, but there you go.
Still shaking, I searched the Web for ways to get right with Him. Most seemed to agree that admitting my sins, repenting and inviting Him into my life was the best and only way to go, so I did. I won’t lie and say it’s all been roses since, but I immediately received a comfort and peace I’d ever known.
From there, after a few tries, the Lord led me to a local church where I heard the Holy Spirit speaking through the pastor. I knew it was the church for me, but I had no idea I was a Baptist until I noticed it in a pre-baptism tract. That church remains seeker-friendly to this day, and though some speak of such places with contempt, I remain extremely thankful that they’re there seeking seekers. I have stumbled, just like any Christian, since — and I won’t hesitate to tell you I’m still a rotten sinner in need of grace, daily — but I’m growing in His grace and thankful to be.
God is teaching me many things, including a new, personal understanding of irony. It’s one thing to smugly critique the hypocritical and sometimes obviously hateful overtures of those who look down upon the unsaved. It’s another to grievously yearn to convey the peace and healing only reconciliation through Christ can give someone whose ears appear soundly closed.
If you’d have told me I’d be an evangelism-burdened Southern Baptist three years ago, I’d have urged you to get to rehab, but what I can I say? God has a sense of humor.
I’m no one’s example of a prematurely glorified Christian, but as a former postmodern agnostic, I am a living, breathing, if-He-can-save-me-He-can-save-anybody testimony. Jesus called me into spiritual awareness, just as He raised Adam from the dust and Lazarus from the tomb.
I know the enthusiasm of my fellow new Christians can be tiring. We can even come across as pompous in our ignorance. This is why, as I mature in Him, I pray that I’m able to catch their spark and stoke the fires of my own zeal rather than growing spiteful or jealous when I meet His newest little ones. I pray that I will be able to remember the day I moved from death to life and the impulse to share the grace I’d been given with others.
B. Jon Walker is a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He and his wife, Liz, had their first child, Josh, on Oct. 28.