The Walls Begin to Fall
At Tennessee Temple University, a historically ‘fundamentalist’ college, the greatest transformations in my spiritual life began to unfold. TTU had been itself undergoing changes, which made it a perfect place for me to continue my spiritual journey.
Going to college meant being exposed to several new experiences. You meet so many people from diverse backgrounds, and begin to understand that the world is a really big place. I met so many devoted followers of Jesus that came from Southern Baptist Churches, Bible Churches, and many other evangelical denominations. I grew up with an Independent Baptist background – and to the credit of my pastor, Garvin Walls, he never ‘bashed’ the other churches and denominations. However, many pastors/evangelists in the Independent Baptist churches did and do to this day. The Sword of the Lord, really became the Sword that cut down any church or movement that wasn’t sticking to the ‘stuff’. The stuff of course being a singular methodology of ministry: KJV, No pants on women, no movies, no CCM, no being around people who did those things.
So, naturally my impressions of many evangelicals was negative. One saving grace was the fact that I had spent so much time listening to Adrian Rogers and David Jeremiah on the radio that I didn’t buy all the criticism of Southern Baptists etc. hook, line and sinker. Those guys were amazing preachers and pastors, so I knew in my heart that Independent Baptists weren’t the only people out there living for God.
The other deciding factor was the influence of academic scholarship. So much of the beliefs held by Christian Fundamentalist were beliefs that I like to say are held out of ‘innocent ignorance’. Wonderful, genuine people who just believed what ever they were told to believe. Needless to say, I was using the New King James Version in a matter of months.
Classes exposed me to all kinds of books and in particular Purpose Driven Church. I began to read of churches who were reaching throngs of unchurched people – without suits, Monday night visitation and choirs. I wasn’t convinced in an instant, but my curiosity just became more and more enthralled. Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, John MacArthur, Johnny Hunt – they were all new names to me, but not for long.
Simply put, I began to think. More specifically I began to see the world through a Biblical lens, instead of seeing it through the ideas and philosophies of other people. I learned to read the Bible without presuppositions and to form my opinions based on information and the Spirit rather than what the most passionate and charismatic conference preacher said.
I respected diversity in the Body of Christ. The Walls had come down.
Next, I conclude with the mission and heart that drives me today.