Kent Bateman, the author of this post, serves as one of our pastors overseeing our communications department. Find out more about our leadership on our Leadership page.
I was a mess in college. I showed up for my four-year degree in Columbia completely convinced that this was my time to let loose. I had grown up in a small religious southern town. So while I would’ve said I was a Christian, I didn’t understand the gospel and certainly didn’t see how getting drunk and partying all the time were at odds with Jesus–it was just what people did in college, right?
But God had a different idea.
A Weird Gathering and a Weirder Venue
Two years into my college career, I somehow ended up at a Midtown Baptism Gathering. My first thought was this isn’t the type of church I’m used to. The Baptism Gathering was being held at the Coop–a building near the stadium used for tailgating. So the smell in the air was a distinct mix of beer and popcorn, and the floor was so sticky that your shoes stuck to it. I made small talk with a few people on my way in, and then the Gathering started. I remember being weirded out by the music, specifically by the guy with huge gauges in his ears playing a huge kick drum in the band (who now is my good friend Mikey).
Once the music ended, everyone turned their attention to the video screen, where we heard stories of everyday normal people who had been rescued by Jesus out of sin and into freedom. Some people had been around church for a long time, and some people had never heard the name of Jesus before they started coming around our church family, but everyone’s story included them acknowledging that Jesus was better than anything else they had attempted to build their life around.
Something Crazy Happened
It was while hearing these stories that something crazy started happening in me. As I listened to each person in the videos tell their story, almost all of them had something in common: they sounded exactly like mine.
There were so many people in those videos that had grown up rejecting Christianity because the Christianity they had seen wasn’t really Christianity at all. It was religion, legalism, emotionalism–really anything at all other than the gospel. But all of them had found something now that resembled more what Jesus taught: a love for him that expressed itself in a love for each other and a love for their neighbor.
That night before I left the Baptism Gathering, I made sure to stop by the Connect Table and sign up for a LifeGroup–I had to find out more about these people and what made them so different. And sometime over the next six months of experiencing Jesus through a LifeGroup, I gave my life to Jesus.
Then God made me a Pastor
Now, I get to serve as a pastor of the church family that first showed me the gospel. I get to spend every day loving, caring, and shepherding the people that played such a huge part in loving, caring and shepherding me. And the plan is for me to help lead a church plant in a brand new city soon, so that many more people can experience what I got to experience.
I am forever thankful to the people who shared their stories and got in that cold water to be baptized at the Coop. God used them and their stories in an incredible way to draw me to himself, and teach me how incredibly gracious and persistent he is. It’s amazing what God can do with your story.
Have you met Jesus recently and want to be baptized? Find out more about baptism and get signed up here.