by Chad Clark
March 27, 2015
Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I was raised in a very conservative, hell fire and brimstone, first cousin of snake handlers type of southern Baptist church. I know that sounds negative and judgemental so let me also say that the congregation was filled with extremely kind, good hearted people who meant the best and cared for me deeply. I know that many of them have prayed countless hours for me and my family and for that I will always be grateful. But some of the experiences I had there and the general church dogma pushed me so very far away from God. For 5 years from the age of 11 to 16, I spent summers laying in the alter praying to God to be “saved” and was led to believe that if I walked that out the church door that night without being “saved” then I would surely perish in hell if I were to die before I found my mystical moment of salvation. I watched as the other kids around me had these grandiose experiences and were baptized while I had to wonder what it was I was doing wrong or why God didn’t love me. Finally my dad told me that for him the experience was just God taking his burden away to be “saved” and after the fifth year I can say with confidence that the last time I rose out of the altar I had no burden from God whatsoever to accomplish anything else in that manner. So I joined the church having been “saved” and was baptized.
It was not just the revival season that started to push me away. The whole attitude of the church and others like it in the area was that they were right and everyone else was wrong and going to hell, plain and simple. That was my upbringing. So as I moved to Athens to attend UGA at the age of 18, I had a pretty narrow minded view of religion and Christianity. During my four years at UGA and the years following I met a very wide variety of people from different walks of life with all sorts of different attitudes towards religion. I became very interested in what others believed and more importantly why they believed what they believed. My world kind of opened up and I tried to absorb the best of what I heard. During this time I stopped going to church and began to form my own brand of spirituality. “Spiritual but not religious” is a term I have heard in recent years which seems to fit my thought process at the time. Eventually even the spirituality began to fade and you could just about peg me as an agnostic.
So several years ago when Jamie told me that we should find a church I will be the first to admit that I was against it. I was doing just fine and really did not see the need since my beliefs seemed so far away from any Christian church that I had ever attended. But she persisted and after some thought we decided to give Oconee Street a try. The service was so very different from what I had experienced growing up and each week seemed to inspire me in some way or make me think about something in a different light. It surprised me that I actually enjoyed attending and over time the members became like family to us. It took many years but I finally found my church home and feel much stronger spiritually than I ever have at any point in my life. I think about the term “revival” in a much different light now as I have had my own revival so very different from the ones from my youth. It goes to show that no matter your background or how far you have travelled in another direction you can always open new doors and find the right path that works for you.
Prayer: Let us always be open minded and give thanks to those who help us find our way on our journey.