“Lord, help me use my powers for good.”
This was the closing line to a prayer I prayed in Brandon Briscoe’s house as we were finishing up Bible study. I was 18 and had been saved for maybe five months. I knew next to nothing about the word of God and was blind to His will for my life. However, when I prayed that request, it was the most honest thing I had ever said. I had no idea what the Lord was doing, but I knew he was doing something. I looked at the grown men in the room, Brandon and Jon Kindler, and saw men that were a ways down a road that I was eager to travel. All I wanted was to know the Lord like they did and speak how they spoke. I was ignorant, but I was willing.
Like most Midwesterners, I had assumed being a Christian was something you were born into. My parents exercised a faith that to this day is something unlike I have ever seen. They talked about their faith with my brother and I and spoke of God as though he was in the next room. I grew up in the country and during summer thunderstorms I remember my dad calling me into his room where there was a window that let you see every lightning strike and hear every thunderclap. My dad and I would sit in the dark and talk about God’s power in creating lightning and thunderstorms. Due to my parents’ honest faith, I never once doubted the existence of God growing up. However, I didn’t know him personally due to never knowing his word.
My brother and I attended a small Methodist Church in Pleasant Hill, Missouri. The gospel was never preached and the sermons aligned with Nike commercials, encouraging the congregants to do their best and go out and grab it. On top of this, my brother and I were (as far I’m concerned) the youngest people in the church. I remember my mom working as a secretary at a couple of other churches and in the summers I would spend hours playing Pokemon in the baptismals and napping in the pews. The exposure to religion was there, but no word of God.
I was just some kid who wanted purpose and thought it could be found in my desires.
The result of this childhood was a teenager that was convinced he was good with God but didn’t know why. Throughout high school, I accumulated enough Christian thought to form a well-rounded meal from the à la carte line of Christianity. I was exposed to born-again believers and they challenged my convictions, but all I had were my opinions to back me up. Looking back, I now know why so many of my Christian friends were persistent in inviting me to their youth groups and laying out the gospel to me. I wasn’t a Christian. I actually loved sin and everything the world had to offer. I was hurting people and hurting myself. I was just some kid who wanted purpose and thought it could be found in my desires.
The years of Christian teens laying out the gospel for me eventually paid off. My senior year I had a pregnancy scare with the girl I was dating. I remember pulling into my driveway and asking the Lord to forgive me for all the messed up stuff I had done with my life. I asked that if he would forgive me I would surrender my entire life to him. There was no altar call. There was no pastor to explain to me what happened. But in my car on a cold winter night in 2010, I was saved from my sin and was then adopted into God’s grace.
Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Getting saved without the presence of a church made for a hard transition into a born-again life. I kept going to the same parties with the same people, but all of a sudden the ignorant bliss of drunkenness and fornication was accompanied by a new conviction and disgust. I knew there was more to my life than parties. It wasn’t until I began loitering in Brandon Briscoe’s classroom at Lee’s Summit West that I began to realize that. In Brandon’s classroom, two good friends of mine and I would discuss everything from Daniel Johnston to podcasts to psychology. At the end of our senior year, Brandon pitched the idea of attending a Bible study at his house during the summer. The rest was history.
I found what I had been looking for my whole life.
At the end of the summer, Brandon invited us to attend Midtown Baptist Temple and to us it was a no-brainer. I remember showing up with no Bible and no frame of reference. The teacher that morning was Kenny Morgan, and boy was it a good Sunday to be a first time visitor. From the pulpit he challenged nearly every sin issue I was dealing with and I left feeling so challenged I knew I had one option: I needed to keep coming back. My consistency in stumbling back to Midtown Baptist Temple every Sunday led to a conversation between Brandon and me about discipleship. He explained to me that every week or so we would meet up and learn about the Word of God. But that was only part of it.
Here is the impact of discipleship. I was saved and I was willing and eager to follow the Lord. However, there were so many areas of my life that were still given over to the world. I was still finding myself fulfilling the lust of the flesh and wrestling with conviction all day, every day. Like Jacob, I wrestled and wrestled and every Saturday the Lord would win when I met up with Brandon for discipleship. I would learn about the Word and then have to use what I learned to push back against the Satanic agents in my life. I was in no way the ideal disciple and my discipler exercised lots of grace and patience. But his persistence paid off. I know he prayed for me and I know he pulled other men into those prayers. The demonstration of God’s grace in my life was found in discipleship. And in that demonstration of grace, I found what I had been looking for my whole life.
There is a line in the song “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes that says, “If I had an orchard I’d work till I’m sore.” After sitting under the leadership of a passionate discipler, I too understood that if I am simply available to give the Lord my life, he will give me the strength to go and do the same ministry of grace in the lives of others. I would even say the greatest lessons were not the lessons of the discipleship book but in the doing of ministry. After finishing discipleship, I followed Brandon in ministering to the student ministry. It was through seeing how he did ministry that I learned what it meant to matter for the Lord. I finally had come to the place where I learned there is a need for laborers in the field. There are so many young people floating around in the world just as I was––looking for purpose and fully convinced they’re going to find it. That is until a Christian invites them to share in all the wonderful things God has in store for them if they will just learn his word.
Montana Rex is a member of Living Faith Lee’s Summit, a church plant of Midtown Baptist Temple. Prior to the plant, Montana was a faithful member of C&YA and later a counselor in the youth ministry alongside his wife, Kiersten. They now serve in the youth ministry at LFLS. In this post, Montana shares how discipleship was a necessary process in his walk with Christ.