Question: So you used to be an atheist

Someone asked:
So you used to be an atheist/agnostic. How did you come to know Jesus?

I won’t bore you with too many details, but it was a very long journey. In the end no “proof” or “argument” won me over.  I also wasn’t looking very hard.  In high school a guy in my homeroom found out I played drums. He asked me to play, I politely declined, but he offered a ride and mentioned there was free lunch at church. I asked if there were girls.  He hesitated, then affirmed. My original motive was hot girls.

The church I attended was gracious enough to allow an atheist to play on their praise team.  I liked the sermons, I liked the pastor, I liked the people (well most of them anyway). But the gospel then was just another religion in a handbag full of them.

Around college a lot of the Bible began making sense. It was actually horrifying because nobody, and I really mean nobody, wants the Bible to be true. And I saw how the Bible played out in serious believers who actually read the dang thing and totally loved Jesus.  They were nowhere near perfect but man, were they passionate. My mockery of these weirdos soon turned to respect … and a horrible fear.

I could say I was “saved” in college, but I still lived exactly as I wanted to.  I didn’t understand the gospel until my mid-twenties.  It was not any overnight epiphany but a slow-burning revelation, understanding the person and work of Jesus, the God who became a man and whispered forgiveness through dying lips on a cross. I studied the Resurrection for a while because that would seal the deal for me.  And so it did.

Three years of seminary later, I’m preaching what I used to hate. Like a scaled down Apostle Paul. Having been an atheist/agnostic, I saw how much hatred and ignorance and straight up messed-up-ness I had, much more than I would have ever admitted on my own.  I see now that I had turned off entire parts of my brain to justify a godless universe, and when I talk to atheists today, I remember my former smug rage that worshipped the flesh between my ears. 

I also have the advantage of seeing church as an outsider.  So much of the American church makes no sense to me.  Reading the Book of Acts and then walking into a modern church is like meeting Superman who turns out to be a three foot troll.  The backdoor politics (which I’m well embroiled in now) is nauseating.  In most meetings I just sit there amused while elders argue over paint color and programs-programs-more-programs. I keep thinking, If God tore off the roof right now you’d be all be dead or blind. Can we do some Jesus work now? Think you can maybe keep half an eye on eternity?

Absolutely no one would ever have thought I would be a pastor, and a large sample of my church population is uncomfortable with it.  Which means there are people who are uncomfortable with God’s radical grace — you know, the God who can change Sauls to Pauls and Goliaths into dead.  I’m living proof that God can do as He wants. Not perfect proof, but yes, passionate.