–Daniel S. Ferguson
Kevin agreed to publish his story on the condition of anonymity. Kevin is a pseudonym. If you happen to know him, please respect his privacy.
Kevin’s first experience with church was, like so many children’s, a golden one.
“The earliest I remember was I used to go to a Baptist church in California, and I thought it was the greatest thing ever. All I ever did at the church was run around and play games with the older kids.”
That sounds somewhat childlike, but to Kevin, those connections were the most important part about church. To this day, what he seeks from church is relationships, both with God and with people. Perhaps his need for them started when a family move took him away from the church of his youth. Kevin’s family never felt like part of a church family again.
“We finally found [a church], but we didn’t feel a part of it. Whenever my parents walked in…people thought we were first-time guests, even though we had a full conversation with them the week before.”
That created a sense of loneliness for Kevin, which permeated through every aspect of his life. He still attended church for years after that, particularly with his parents, but he couldn’t escape the feeling that he was simply alone, even in a room full of people. Kevin eventually tried to fill that void by reaching out into other groups.
“Eventually I started indulging, using my time for other things. I guess I found college stuff, like parties and sports and studying, more important and more interesting than church. And so I just stopped going. I lost interest.”
And what little interest Kevin did have had a major shakeup during his college years, as the churches he did try to attend kept going through pastors like tissues.
“At the time, the church was changing pastors a lot. It just made me feel even more alone. I wanted to try a different church. I thought maybe it was just that church. All of a sudden, [the new church I was attending] went through three pastors in two months. So I went to still another church, but it had gone through two pastors in a short timeframe also. That really drove me away because it was constantly changing.”
Kevin indicates that this was the low point for him. It wasn’t all church-related; he was making some pretty bad choices at the time that made him feel even lonelier. But the church, the place where he had once run freely surrounded by friends and family, was now a place of stress and loneliness and uncertainty.
Until one day, something changed.
“I messaged a pastor friend of mine out of the blue, just to see how things were going. She messaged me back and said they were going to start a new church.”
And then Kevin did something remarkable, something maybe even he didn’t understand at the time: he volunteered to help. At first, it was just because this friend had helped him in the past during some things he had gone through in high school, but little did he know that this one little offer to help would change his life.
“Honestly, going into it, I was kind of skeptical about it because I hadn’t been in a church in a few years, so I didn’t know how everyone was going to react to me. The first day of church, the second I walked through the door, people were treating me like they had known me for years.”
And there it was. In just one Sunday, Kevin was back. He hasn’t missed a week since. He continues to help his friend, but I think it’s more than that now. I think he’s coming for himself. In fact, he’s even inviting people along, something he had never really done before.
All this was just about three months ago, but so much has changed for Kevin in that short amount of time.
“I now have a more positive outlook on everything. I used to treat my customers [at work] like an annoyance, but now I have a more positive attitude toward greeting them. I recognize that they’re valuable in a way I never did before.”
I think that all started for Kevin when he realized that he, himself, was valued. It’s amazing to me that all it took was for people to treat him like family for ten minutes for him to throw himself back into church. Perhaps he was never that far away. I wonder how many people are really that close to coming back, and I wonder how we can show them, just for ten minutes, how truly valuable they are.
Kevin’s is one of those stories that, gloriously, isn’t finished yet. It still has so many places left to go. I can’t wait to see where his faith, and doubt, take him next.