As a member of the 'New Testament Church' I quickly began to rise up in the ranks as one of the congregations most spiritually gifted and talented youths. I joined the youth association of that church and I remember that every Wednesday we would meet up and go witnessing for at least four hours handing out tracts and ministering to the public. In essence we were out proselytizing, but the goal at least for me was not just to bring more people into the church but rather to lead as many souls to salvation as I could.
During this time I had one particularly touching experience that stays with me to this day. I was out witnessing with a group of youths one evening and they were running down the street handing out tracts to anyone that would accept them. I noticed that they had ran by a homeless man that was sleeping propped up against the side of a building, I caught up to them and asked them why they had passed him by. One of them said "because he's a bum", I rebuked him on the spot and told him that he was not a bum, in fact he was another of gods creatures just like ourselves.
I went over to him and tapped him on the shoulder till he woke up and I simply said as I held out a bible tract to him; "Jesus loves you". This mans response touched me more than any other in all my days in the ministry. He stood up and immediately rivers of tears came pouring down his face as he grabbed me and hugged me. He told me that no one cared for him or even bothered to say a word to him, he was very grateful and I led him to our church to be fed and to see if we could find him some help.
The most heart rending experience I had in the church was when Micheal had back slid and left the ways of the Lord. Since he was the one that got me on this path of righteousness and salvation it hurt me gravely. I tried everything to get him to reconsider coming back, but he was overwhelmed with guilt because he had fornicated with another young lady. To my knowledge he never recovered from that.
It wasn't long before I was praying for the sick and casting out demons and utilizing all of the so called gifts of the Spirit in my personal ministry. But within a year I had backslid myself. I think it was the cumulative pressures at home and some issues I had in my head that pretty much kept me up at night. I can't to this day pinpoint on this particular occasion why I backslid, but my fall was as hard as my rise. And although I left the church I did not lose my respect and fear of God, I was just not ready to come back for a long time. When I did return it was the last time I did and the first time I declared myself an atheist and rejected God completely. More on this in my next post.