SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–“A gold medal? What could be better than that?”
Tim Mugridge said his question at the 1996 Summer Olympics brought smiles from the volunteers at the “More Than Gold” booth in Marietta, Ga. That gave them the opening to share through the colors on the “More Than Gold” collector pin how a relationship with Jesus Christ could indeed mean more than gold.
The volunteers had probably done that a hundred times before, but what they didn’t know — as many others who share the same story in Olympic ministry — is how that particular seed of the gospel was later cultivated to bear tremendous fruit: Not only was Mugridge’s life impacted, but in a textbook case of how God uses individual evangelistic encounters, he has gone on to lead more than 20 other individuals to faith in Christ.
The story of Mugridge’s transformation from a disenchanted Mormon to a follower of classical Christianity came to light nearly six years later in Park City, Utah, as he discovered Southern Baptists once again sharing the “More Than Gold” story with spectators. Except in this case, he was able to share his own real-life testimony of what that story meant to him.
Mugridge said he first became aware of an entirely different view of Christ during a two-year experience as a Mormon missionary in Houston. In talking with African American Baptists in particular, and later even visiting their churches, he began questioning his own view of God and Jesus Christ.
“That kind of opened my eyes,” he said. “These people in the South who claimed to be Christians are talking about a Jesus that I don’t know. It kind of dawned on me that there are two different Jesuses — the Jesus of the Bible and the Jesus of the Book of Mormon.”
Mugridge eventually left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1993, more out of disenchantment with its teachings than a true belief in anything else. But he was searching.
“I kept getting a very, very strong premonition,” he said. “I just felt something deep within that something big was going to happen, and it was something I would be willing to give my life for.”
It was then that he had the encounter at the “More Than Gold” table during the Atlanta Olympics. He still did not fully understand all of it, but he kept the pin — and the basic idea of a relationship that could mean more than gold. His next encounter with the gospel came a few months later during an evangelistic Christmas Eve service at Southeast Baptist Church in Salt Lake City.
Finally, in the spring of 1997, he attended a church service in Denver on a business trip and attended a service for businessmen at a local church. The speaker, Jimmy Head, made an appeal that “if you consider yourself a real man, you’ll turn your life over to Jesus.” Mugridge did so, went back to Salt Lake City and joined Southeast Baptist Church.
With the help of some VeggieTales videotapes that he watched with his daughter — and later intense personal Bible study and in-depth discipleship from Southside staff member Don Smith — Mugridge began to fully understand what it meant to have a relationship with Christ.
It was a transformation that was catching, as he found more and more opportunities to tell friends and colleagues about what God had done in his life. Now living in Park City and attending an Assemblies of God congregation, he often encounters people who have faced some of the same struggles he has been through — and he is able to share how Christ brought him through.
“They meet me and hear my story. And they think, ‘Whoa! If you can do it, I know I can do it. How did you do it?'” Mugridge said. “And that just opened up doors for me to share with them that it’s not ‘how;’ it’s ‘who.’ It’s not me; it’s he [Jesus] who is in me. ”
And it has been only recently that Mugridge said he realized the meaning of his premonition in 1996, when he believed something big was going to happen that he would “be willing to die for.” He made the connection after meeting the More Than Gold volunteers in Park City.
“It dawned on me what that meant,” he said. “I did die. I died to my old self and became new. I was born again.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: HOPE PINNED ON CHRIST and TIM MUGRIDGE.