My name is Kirk. My wife’s name is Kathy. We have 5 children. I met you at the Idea conference. I did not know that you existed, but I thank God that He has allowed our paths to cross. I not only thank God that I can share my story, but I feel it will be a part of my healing. I don’t know how long you want it to be, I will try to be as brief as possible.
In many ways my story if very similar to yours. I was raised in a IFB church in a rural area in NC. My Mom is a believer, but my Dad is not. His job took him away from home months at a time, so my Mom was able to be faithful to our church. I went through all the children’s Olympic and Master Club classes. I remember Craig Edwards preaching a tent revival when I was 7 or 8 years of age. I made a profession when I was 8 or 9. I walked down an aisle, prayed a prayer and was told I was saved. Even though we were doing the “three to thrive” our family and our church had no true discipleship happening. When I became a teenager, I wanted to be the popular guy, and so it was not long until I realized living for Christ was not popular. I stopped going to church and became rebellious. I ended up being arrested for petty crimes, and almost did not finish High School because I only cared about having fun and partying. I say all of that, because I would have still been told that I was a Christian by my church, and that I was only “backslidden”.
I barely graduated high school, and then talked my parents into letting me go to Wake Tech Community College, where I went to school for 1 week and partied the rest. After the semester was over, and my parents found out I did not go to school, they decided to stop funding my party and said I had to get a job, or get out. I hated rules and regulations, so I decided the Marine Corp was the place for me… Hahaha! What a 3 and a half months that was for me at Paris Island. I made it through, by the grace of God, and was stationed at Cherry Point, NC. It was here that God started working in my life.
I believe God was always drawing me to Him, but it was while I was at Cherry Point, NC that my life was changed. I started listening to FBN radio, out of Newport NC. It took a couple of years, but God chipped away at me, and one night I was listening to a message by Oliver B. Greene when I believe I was converted. He was preaching on people “sliding in to hell from their pew” meaning going to church will not get you to heaven, but you must be born again. No one was in the room with me and I did not say a fancy prayer, I just called out to God to save me if he could. My life changed that night. I started desiring to read the Bible and be around God’s people. God started sanctifying me. I struggled to know if I had been converted, or if I “gotten my life right”. After reading scripture, especially Ephesians 2, I realized I was converted. I highlight the struggle because I feel it is the “easy believism” that the IFB has that causes confusion in many peoples life.
Because I grew up in an IFB church, that is where I migrated. I started going to my home church. I drove 3 and half hours on the weekend to be there. I even drove home each night to be part of the tent revival we were having with Bro. Dewey Williams. I was feeling the desire to preach, so I talked to my pastor and decided to be discharged from the Marines and enroll in Crown College of the Bible. I was drinking fully from the IFB cup. I met my wife while in college. I graduated and was asked to come back to my home church to be an assistant pastor.
It was while I was pastoring that I started my journey out of IFB legalism. Like I said I was drinking fully from the cup. I believed and taught that the KJV was the only English bible we should be using. I believed Calvinism was from the devil. You only sing the old hymns, any contemporary music was from the devil. It felt like I was living the movie “The Water Boy”. I wore the shirt’s and ties, and never went to a movie theater. You needed 3 to thrive, and I practiced it. My wife and I even had 5 kids, at one time 5 and under, because we were taught that contraception was ungodly. I think about the pain and suffering that my wife went through, even though we would not give up any of our kids, of course. It started with the KJV, but I have realized that the IFB legalism is like a house of cards, once you remove one the house starts coming down.
I was giving a book to read called KJV only? The person who gave it to me was told he was a compromiser and not right with God. I was so angry with people that did not agree with me. There was no Christian love. I remember being in my wife’s home church, which was a SBC church, and not standing to worship, because they play contemporary music. I was so full of pride! I eventually read the book and then threw it on the shelf never to read again. But God started using what I read. I started attending Shepherds Theological Seminary and there went through their Systemic Theology Class. We discussed Bibliology and the KJV came up. The professor talked about it and I was so wrestling with it in my soul. We had a break and I talked to some of my class mates, and I remember someone saying, “is this really a thing”?. He could not believe it. He had never read the KJV and here he was training to be a Pastor. That is when I realized that we were wrong. After reading James White’s book on the KJV, I knew we were wrong. I still remember reading from another version and feeling life I was looking at porn! I needed to deal with this and I wanted to bring it up, but I knew how I would be treated, so I did not at first. I asked God to help get away from my home church. A pulpit committee was looking for a church in Danville, VA. It was close to my home town. I put in and they called me. It was my first pastorate, and it was a train wreck. I remember hearing about Brain Edwards and that he was there. I actually thought about reaching out, but never did. I pride would not let me. I look back and still see God’s hand using His gospel to change people, but my life was a wreck. My family struggled, because I tried to a pastor the way I was trained. I was to be separate and not depend on my congregation. I was preaching 6-7 times a week, and had a young family of 7. It was at this time I thought I would share some of the things God was teaching me. I did, and I was rejected. Long story short, I crashed. We ended up resigning the church and moving to my wife’s parents home town to try to start healing. That was about 10 years ago. We did lose all contacts and friends. I was no longer the “golden boy”.
After two years in Tennessee, God called us to Utah to plant a church. The church is call Art City Church. In some ways I feel like I am still healing, but God has done a great work in my life to free me. It is hard here in Utah, where 89% of people are Mormon, but I have noticed that the hardships that I went through have prepared me to minister to them. They are heavily influenced by tradition.
Well, that is the short version….Hahaha! There is so much more. Thanks for giving me a platform to share. Please feel free to share it all! Also, contact me if you need to hear more! I thank you for what you do.