Sharables – Testimony
Pastor Josh Combs | Lead Pastor
I am a church rat. A PK (Pastor’s kid for those who do not know the lingo). My Dad became a Youth and Children’s Pastor at a small Fundamental Baptist church about 45 minutes north of Detroit when I was one month old. From there my love affair with what I thought was the church began. I was at “church” Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, special events, and visitation (or soul winning) night. My car seat was put in the front seat of the bus because my mom picked up kids and teens in the inner city of Pontiac. She took me along. As I grew, I was part of Sunday school, AWANA (yup, I have the trophies, patches, and books to prove it), camp groups, mission trips, youth group, Christmas productions, Easter productions, and blah…blah…blah. I am sure you get the point, even to boredom. I know, I am feeling sick to my stomach just typing this list. I preached my first sermon in first grade to my Christian school and had a few more sermons under my belt before elementary school ended. I started singing towards the end of junior high, so preaching was replaced with “special music.” I was the quintessential church kid. I knew more Scripture than most adults. I did not need a hymn book because I knew most of those too. Now you might be thinking, “Ugh…what a miserable life!” But the truth is, I loved every moment! The “church” was my favorite place to be and the center of my life. I loved the smell of the old building. I loved the events. I loved the potlucks. I loved the whole place. It was my home. I remember the summer between 8th and 9th grade being so concerned that with high school career starting I would not be able to be heavily involved in the “church” building project. This was a major concern in my young life. During high school, I lead Bible studies at my house and my public high school. I coordinated major youth and even church-wide events. I wrote curriculum for elementary camps. I even attended a private Christian school located in a “church” from the time I was three until the end of junior high. I graduated from a Christian college and went to seminary. My life was a beautiful spectacle of churchy-ness. And somewhere in this mess, I got saved.
I do not remember the sermon or even who preached, but in my mind, I can transport myself back to that exact moment. I was standing in the front row with my dad at the close of a Wednesday night revival service. I looked up at my dad, as a just a young boy, and said, “Dad, I need to be saved.” That night, in hindsight, was the true epitome of childlike faith. I knew I was destined to Hell because of my sin, and only Jesus could save me. I was baptized on a Sunday night a few weeks later.
I do not have an exciting or riveting testimony by most standards. I was not addicted to drugs or divorced five times or a professional athlete. My life was not at rock-bottom. I was five years old. But something happened over the next few decades that I am afraid will take the rest of my life to fix. As I meet people now in my role as a Pastor, I am amazed that regardless of the denominational background, so many of us have similar stories. Maybe you do not have the depth of church cred, but you have accumulated incredible amounts of religious baggage that Jesus never intended for you to have. Because of my story of God’s incredible grace, my heart burns with a passion for the religious. For you. The ‘churchy’ people. The holy rollers. The Jesus freaks. The Pharisees. I was not rescued out of an abusive family. My parents are incredible people. I was not rescued out of alcoholism or drug addiction. I was rescued out of religion. I was rescued out of “church.”
The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3:
“If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
This is Paul’s story. He had all of the religious credentials but was empty and hopeless. Then he met Jesus. And that encounter on the road to Damascus changed everything. This is my story. I had all the church credentials but found much of it to be “dung” (Philippians 3:7, KJV). I am not Paul and am hesitant to even draw this comparison. But I do recognize, that without the Gospel of Jesus Christ, religious credentials mean “jack- squat” (Quoting my favorite motivational speaker). So, here is my mess, my story, which I have heard echoed thousands of times in coffee shops, counseling appointments, and countless other places. I am hoping that Jesus can save you too from “church.”