I became a Christian in 1988 or 1989 – I was about 10 years old, and felt in my heart and soul it was the right thing to do – it just made sense even at 10 years of age. Since then I’ve re-dedicated my life to Christ multiple times.
When in youth sunday school at the tab church I often felt the power of God in my life, often when we went away and life was away from school, and home life – where I could be free to believe and know that those around me didn’t judge me. I would be a lot more faithful then.
In February 1992 I started to go to an event named “Crucible” where a lot of youth groups met together and worshipped God together. There was around 200 people there when I started and the event had to move to different locations as it had around 400 people going each month – always based in the Tees Valley.
In 1994 I went to a youth camp named Harvest – The theme was “Everybody needs somebody” and was using music from the Blues Brothers theme tune. I went with The Tab Youth group.
While at school I discovered that many schools had a Christian union, but mine did not – myself and a group of others tried to set one up and had a small group of students meeting together once a week. It didn’t really work out – we didn’t know what was to happen just that there should be one. So without a real plan we went out and tried. Now they have one thats going well at the school but that many years since.
In 1995 I stopped going to church, I didn’t see the point anymore.. The sermons seemed to be repeated and the information stale. I’d been told I had to go into the main church now and youth church was no longer an option. I found the services tedious and quite boring so stopped going. I continued going to the crucible events each month and Harvest but otherwise church was out.
In 1997 I started University and was determined that I would not let people dis me for my beliefs – I would not make friends for them to throw religion at me..
So I introduced myself with “Hello my name is J… and I am a Christian” – It totally terrified me of the response and was so glad to find the first person I asked replied with.. “Hello my name is T… and so am I” which was a relief. I was later to find that no-one else in the class felt the same way so wow, I think that was a good sign and is still a great friendship.
We joined the Christian union of the University and were members throughout the time of University. At one point for a year I was involved in running part of the group which was an honour.
Uni was a suprise to me at how people seemed to look at people and the world, it was more of an accepting place of “oh, you believe that… thats nice” and not such ridicule for believing in God.
I found friends from all over the country and world that also believed as I did and were supportive and helping althou we were all doing totally different things in life, we are all following the same Christ.
It got me thinking as to why people from different denominations didn’t work together – always confused me – people asked me what my denomination was – I’d say “Christian” and they’d ask which type… I thought “There’s only one” and reply “Christian, Were all in this together”
In 1999 I joined a church named “Riverside” – I went after a friend bugged me continually about going for several weeks from the Christian Union [CU] – the services were quite long but enjoyable. They had a youth church on a friday night – around 20+ went which was nice. We would sing, and worship, games, pray and learn together support whatever any of us were going through.
In 2000, we heard about a mission event that was going to happen in Manchester at summer time – something that hadn’t happened before named “Message 2000” – two weeks of working in the area supporting the people there though running youth/children groups, clearing gardens and decorating homes and speaking to people about God. There was invitation to events on the night where bands would play in the areana and got around 14,000+ people turning up.
We went for week 2 of the project, where we camped out in groups in a park in manchester and worked on different teams in the area. I was working on a kids group team. Over the 2 weeks around 10,000 Christians joined together and helped out.
We also went out in small groups of 2 or 3 and spoke to people about out beliefs. This terrified me and on the first day when I tried to speak no sound came out – I was embarrased, and scared but nothing bad came from it… The next day, we went out again and spoke to people successfully.
Many people didn’t want to know and shrugged us off, but there were a lot of people willing to talk and convesations would go on and it was good. A lot of oposing ideas but people were listening and responding – something I was not expecting and felt blessed for it.
Around 2001 I went and got baptised – this isn’t the same as a Christening, this is showing people that I do believe in Christ and want God in my life – a public demonstration where I had many friends and family attend and see me leave one life and come into another.
I have continued to go to Harvest althou not as a patron any more, since around 2000, I helped with stewarding which helps keep the place running safely. In 2009 I tried a spot on the Ministry team which allowed me to pray with others – not that they couldn’t pray themselves – more as a faciliatator helping when stuck. In 2010 I am not doing stewarding – but intend to help with the ministry team as this is where I feel I am directed now.
In 2006 an event named NE1 was ran where several churches all from the North East of England met up in chester-le-street and spent a week going out helping people in the area. From Clearing gardens, and painting to spending time with people and running childrens groups.
NE1 reminded me of the Message 2000 event but was local to the North East where I am instead of another part of the country.
I helped with stewarding and anything else I could help with there. A fun time, great hot dry weather and wonderful friendships made aswell as seeing so many peoples lives changed through Christ.
In Late 2006 I moved back to the church I started at – The Tab where I attended and could get involved with things. They had a 20s to 30s group that met each week on a friday at Borders on Teesside Park at 7pm ish til closing. A time to chill out and be with other Christians not in a church setting – Not sure its still on since Borders closed but there are many coffee shops around there now.
Over the what been 23 years since becoming a Christian, I’ve fell away from God and the Faith many times but always have came back. If I look at all the times when I’ve been truely happy there has always been A God aspect to it all so that where my focus should be.
I don’t know what to expect from life in the future, or even in the present really but think that its going to be an amazing adventure.
A few bible verses come to mind:
Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
– I had always read that passage and missed the point of future – I’ve always looked at what NOW, and not future but to know that there is going to be a future and I will be looked after – I like that.
Psalm 139:1-3: O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.You discern my going out and my lying down;you are familiar with all my ways.
– To know that God knows everything is amazing and scary at the same time, but to know that someone is in control is a great thing to realise. Especially when they know what you are able to do and give you the power to do it.
In mid 2008, and spread over 10 weeks there has been a local event named Just 10, I’ve wrote about it here but its been a truelly local opertunity to see around 5,000+ people coming together and worship God together.
Lots has happened since then but I’ve not quite worked out how to put it into words that I can share yet, but it will come in time.
I currently (when I go) attend a church in Stockton named The Vine. Its a small church but its where I feel I fit in. I’ve many friends there and discovered that many of the friends I made in different churches over the years before getting here have also settled here too. Services are around 1.5 hours, and the sermon times are closer to 20 minutes. The regular sweet things after such as donuts, and cakes are a bonus and give people a time to chat afterwards.
We have small groups that meet once a month, and more through virtual online groups where we chat on whats been spoken about in church, eat together and support one another through whatever is happening in life. When I’ve not been to the actual church and groups I often get emails asking how I am and how is life which is great but not so many that is seems like pressure. A nice balance.
I don’t think that a belief is something that is static, I think it can grow with time and more understanding comes with it all. Its something you learn about, even when you don’t want too and can shape your life or at least, it has shaped mine.