I don’t think I can remember a time when I wasn’t a Christian. My father is a minister at a church in Wayne, so I have been in the church my entire life. When you grow up as a pastor’s kid, you usually turn out one of two ways: either you rebel and reject God completely, or you make being a good pastor’s kid part of your identity. Growing up, I thought that because I wasn’t the first kind of pastor’s kid, I must be the second. I knew a lot about the Bible and how it applied to daily living, but that is where my relationship with God ended. I had never really thought that maybe I was just operating on autopilot, using my knowledge and standing in the church to convince myself that I was following Christ.
In public high school, I started to encounter Jesus on a more personal and convicting level by seeing how following Christ was supposed to shape my life. Lifeguards emphasized “[coming] to know and treasure Jesus” rather than having religious knowledge to “be changed to be like Jesus.” I was beginning to grasp that my faith couldn’t stop at mere understanding – it required action, both physical and from the heart. I went to a Christian university and quickly became involved in missions and other ministries. I attended an inner-city church and saw the power of the gospel to transform lives and the way that transformation was being lived out by the congregation. I also had a professor that emphasized the “social justice” teachings of Jesus without compromising the gospel – but this never truly influenced my daily faith. Yes, I wanted to follow Jesus, I believed in Him, and I even worked to spread his message, but I wasn’t working to transform my heart and mind beyond that action. By senior year, I was back to coasting through my faith.
When I graduated, I came back to Dearborn and began working in the secular world. I was seen as a Christian at work, but I didn’t make a specific effort to spread the gospel through my words and actions. I attended a few churches off and on before coming to DCF and joining the “young adult” small group. It wasn’t until joining that I started to realize how my walk with Christ was on cruise control. Through my relationship with small group this year, the Lord convicted me that I was not living my life out of love for Christ, but rather out of habit and obligation. Small group furthered the Lifeguards mission statement of treasuring Jesus and they are helping me along the way, holding me accountable to spend time in His Word daily, surround myself with a godly community of believers, and constantly be in prayer. Being a Christian is more than having knowledge about God or even doing good things in his name. It is loving Christ that must come first – before knowledge, before community, before anything.
If Ian's testimony of learning to put Christ first has encouraged you, let him know when you see him or send Ian a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.