Having been a skeptic from middle school, as I moved from my twenties into my thirties, if someone would’ve told me I would be a Christian soon, I would’ve snorted and dismissed the person as delusional.
I grew up in a nominal Christian home, and in my twenties I came to think of myself as an atheist or hard agnostic. As I celebrated my thirtieth birthday, following Jesus Christ was as strange an idea to me as declaring Alexander the Great my personal accountant.
But at age 31, my wife abruptly ended our marriage. I was blindsided and devastated. Saying it would do me good to get away and do something positive, my older sister Sharon invited me to go with her church on a mission trip to build houses for poor families in Mexico. I declined the invitation, quite sure I didn’t want to spend a week around a bunch of judgmental Christians prying into my business.
A day or so later, I had a strange moment where I – thick in my misery – spoke to God in my head. It was not a purposeful prayer. I immediately thought, “That was strange. I haven’t talked to God since I was a kid.” With this, I felt a presence (which I now understand to be the Holy Spirit) and an overwhelming sense of comfort. This comforting presence was so clear to me that I told my sister that I would go to Mexico with her church.
In Mexico, I saw Christians living out the sacrificial love Christ modeled for us for the first time. A friend I made there said to me, “Just because you have doubts doesn’t mean you can’t read the Bible, pray, or go to church.” I found myself unable to argue with that. It’s hard to say when I knew exactly when I was saved, but within that first year, I prayed for God to forgive my sins and make me a new man, and I have been following Christ ever since those events in 2005.
(Since people often ask: Along with a new life in Christ, God blessed me with a new marriage. I married my wife, Christine, in 2008. We became parents to our son and daughter through fostering and adoption in 2015-2016.)
(For a more detailed narrative of my testimony, click here.)
CALL TO MINISTRY
God wired me up as a reader who loves to pass on the information I learn to others. Thus, I taught high school English for sixteen years, and from early in my walk with Christ, I sought out resources to help my knowledge of the Bible and God grow deeper.
I also discovered apologetics (a branch of Christian theology that focuses on defending the faith and giving logical reasons for following Christ). The questions I had as an atheist did not go away when I became a Christian, but apologetics addressed those questions and built my confidence considerably in following Christ.
In 2011, I started teaching theology and apologetics classes at my church, Point Community Church, but it became clear to me if I wanted to go as deep as I desired, I would have to go to seminary. In 2012, I started attending Southern Baptist Theological Seminary part-time as a distance student.
When I started seminary, I had no intention of leaving my teaching position. Many people would ask what I planned to do with my seminary education. I honestly didn’t know. I just want to learn, I would answer, and I’ll see where God leads me.
In 2013, I started my apologetics and theology blog God From the Machine. Taking several of my articles, I self-published a book in 2014 about a strange cult that was active around Rutgers University. I contacted Julie Miller of the Rutgers Ministry Ratio Christi, which focuses on apologetics, and offered to send her a copy of the book to share with her students. Instead, Julie invited me in to speak. After that, I stayed casually involved with Ratio Christi, occasionally coming in to teach or simply sit in on meetings.
In the meantime, God kept nudging me more towards ministry as I continued in seminary. I was ordained as an elder/pastor at my church in 2015. As my church is passionate about planting churches, we started talking about me possibly leading the next church plant, though the time was not right. Whether it was planting or ministry of another sort, by this time the Lord had utterly convicted me with his words in Matthew 9:37: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” It was time for me to go out into the harvest.
I have heard pastors like Tim Keller speak about when considering ministries to get involved in, one should consider his or her gifts, passions, and opportunities. If someone can find a ministry where all three of these line up, then it is a “no-brainer.” Go do it! For me, Ratio Christi is a “no-brainer.” It is a ministry where my gifts (teaching, working with young people), my passions (apologetics, theology), and the opportunity line up. Ratio Christi Rutgers is an understaffed, important ministry in a large secular university.
In September 2017, I was approved to be a chapter director and supported missionary with Ratio Christi. My prayer is for Christianity to be taken seriously as a viable option in the marketplace of ideas at the university level and for Christians to proclaim Christ with the utmost confidence.