Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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My Early Days in Christ

Young Dennis

by Dennis Pollock

I gave my life to Jesus a long time ago. It was during the heart of what has been historically called the “Jesus Movement,” a time when young men and women were finding Jesus wholesale. This movement was a genuine spiritual awakening that swept across America in the late 1960’s and early 70’s. Long haired, “hippie” guys were showing up in church with their paisley shirts and bell-bottom pants, as well as stringy-haired young ladies who had tasted more of drugs, sex, and the counter-culture than most of their parents ever knew.

Until its last few years, the 60’s had been a very secular decade for America. Time Magazine ran the famous headline: “Is God dead?” Christianity appeared to be on the way out. Churches seemed unable or unwilling to change from their conservative, ultra-orthodox, rather legalistic ways, and the young people in those days wanted nothing more than to get away from it as soon as they could. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a genuine revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit sprang up that reached from coast to coast and drew hundreds of thousands of young people, along with a sizeable number of adults, to Jesus Christ. New praise songs were being written and sung as fast as believers could learn them, new styles of worship were being adapted, and there was an emphasis in the pulpits upon Bible teaching, of all things.

It was in this climate that I discovered Jesus Christ, in the waning days of winter in 1973. I was nineteen years old, living in a dormitory while attending Southeast Missouri State University and entirely ignorant of the fact that a great spiritual awakening was going on all around me. In fact, I found Jesus in a rather quiet and solitary fashion. I really didn’t believe much in the Bible, but I had heard it quoted and referenced even in some of the far-out, new age books I read, and finally decided to read some of it for myself and see what all the fuss was about. I started in the book of Matthew and resolved to read through the New Testament.

That did it for me. My life was forever changed. I was profoundly impressed with Jesus as I read through the gospels, and somewhere between Matthew and Revelation I surrendered to Him. Before reading the Bible, I wasn’t sure God existed. By the time I finished the New Testament I was His.

The Beginning

As I look back on those days, I can still feel the freshness, the excitement, and the newness of my early walk with Jesus. My attitudes about nearly everything were being transformed. Instead of looking for a good time with girls, I began praying for a wife. I learned to be less critical. I remember sitting at the lunch table with some of my friends, and when we saw a girl coming through the lunch line, we began to mock her among ourselves (I can’t remember the reason). But I had barely made a cruel statement when I suddenly felt guilty, and knew I was doing something wrong. The Holy Spirit was sensitizing my conscience.

I started doing the things Christians do, even though before then they had seemed dull and utterly pointless. I read the Bible every day. I went to church. I quit cursing and threw my dirty little magazines in the trash. It was a long time ago. When I received Jesus, Richard Nixon was the president. Eight-track tapes were the music player of choice. And the only way anybody I knew ever made a phone call was to either call from a phone in your house or go to a pay phone and drop a dime in the slot for a local call, or more coins for “long-distance.”

I didn’t have anyone to mentor or encourage me in the Christian life in those early days. I lived on a floor of a dormitory tower, which housed around 36 students. I can only think of one young man who may have been a Christian, but he was kind of a strange guy and kept to himself. As a result, my walk with Christ was a distinctly solitary and personal one. I know now that this was not the ideal situation, but God’s grace kept me in those first few months even without much Christian fellowship.

Devouring the Word

Reading the Bible seemed natural for me. Peter tells us, “As newborn babes desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Just as a baby instinctively desires to nurse his mother, I didn’t need anyone to tell me to read the Bible. When I finished reading the New Testament I started on the Old. I not only read, but I started a “reading journal,” writing out notes of what I had read and gained from each chapter. By the time that first year was out I had read through the entire Bible, a practice which I have maintained in all the forty-some years since then.

I had no sense of calling to ministry in those early days. I never really thought about being a preacher or a teacher. I wasn’t reading the Bible in order to prepare sermons or prepare myself for a ministry career. I simply was fascinated with God. It was such a radical change of heart and attitude for me. Before, I had no interest in God whatsoever. The whole business of religion seemed quite dull and I assumed only losers who had nothing better going on would want to have much to do with it. Now, I could hardly put my Bible down, and throughout my days, my thoughts were often on God and His ways.

After a short while I realized that I should go to church. After all, wasn’t that what Christians always did? But I didn’t have any idea which church that should be. By “chance” I happened to hear a buddy of mine talking about a church which was pastored by the father of one of his friends. This seemed more than a coincidence, since I had just been praying that the Lord would show me a church to attend. I got the name and directions of the church and showed up the following Sunday. The church was a small, quiet little church, and I think I was the only young person in the congregation that day. The worship service and the preaching were unspectacular. Still, it felt good going to church. I began attending regularly. Nobody seemed to take much interest in the long-haired college student who sat quietly through the services and left as soon as they were over. But I didn’t mind. In fact, I kind of preferred it that way as I was still trying to figure out what Christianity was about, and considered this a personal quest.

Fasting became a part of my life, something I had never done before. Again, no one told me to fast, but I had seen references to it in the Bible, and it seemed like a way to get closer to God. But I also used fasting as a sort of penance. When I did something my conscience told me was wrong, I would often break off from eating for the rest of the day, to show God my sorrow over my sin. Today I realize that this was not necessary, but in those days it seemed a good way to express repentance. And in those early days I did a lot of sinning and fasting. I think I lost around twenty pounds in my first five months as a Christian from all the sinning and fasting I was doing. I knew very little of sin-conquering grace through faith in Jesus, nor did I realize that forgiveness is based upon the blood of Jesus and not upon giving up meals. I still fast today, but to draw close to God and seek His face; not as a form of penance.

Moving Home

With all my mistakes, my poor theology, my lack of self-control, my solitary approach to the Christian life, and everything else I was doing wrong in those days, one thing could be said of me: I was serious about God. I was attempting to follow Christ the best I knew, and God accepted that. He continually encouraged me, assured me of His love and acceptance, and caused me to feel His presence. In a short time, I made the decision to transfer from Southeast Missouri State University to a university near home, and live with my parents. My time at the first college, was, for the most part a very ungodly season, and it seemed a fresh start was needed.

After moving back home I made a radical and painful decision. I hadn’t been to a barber for over a year and my hair was nearly shoulder length. Even as a Christian I enjoyed looking a little radical. But I knew I would have a hard time getting a job with long hair, and so one day I walked into a barber shop and asked the barber to cut it short. Walking out I felt naked, but it had to be done.

It wasn’t long before I realized that there was a young man living just a few houses down from me about my age, and who was a Christian. We soon became friends and he introduced me to his church and his youth fellowship. In those days I hardly knew one church from another, so it didn’t matter to me which church it was. It turned out to be a “non-instrumental Church of Christ.” These folks didn’t believe musical instruments had any place in church, a view which I never adopted. More problematic for me today is the fact that they believe in something very close to baptismal regeneration. They feel that no one is saved until they are baptized in water, and that when the baptism occurs, that is precisely the time of one’s conversion. I never did accept that idea then, and certainly don’t today, but still I enjoyed the pretty a cappella worship and enjoyed mixing with other young Christians who were excited about Jesus. This was my first experience with Christian fellowship, and it met a deep need in my life. In those first months it had simply been me and Jesus, but now I saw the value and the delight of sharing life with other believers.

Youth Meetings

We used to meet on a weeknight in a house and attend a Bible study led by a youth minister. He was not the typical youth minister. For one thing he was probably in his late forties and balding. We didn’t do the things that are now held as compulsory for youth. We didn’t play games or have contests or do anything silly. We just studied the Bible. But there was an anointing on those meetings and young people used to pack into that small house filling nearly every room. Most of us sat on the floor. Those in the other rooms could not see the teacher, but were content to hear his teachings. I was exposed to Bible teachings outside of my own personal reading and study, and it was a very healthy thing for me.

It was an exciting time in my life. I didn’t realize it then but God was laying the foundations for a lifetime of ministry. There would be many other churches and other seasons down through the years. But those first couple of years were very, very special. I didn’t know much in those days. My theology, if you could call it that, was shaky to put it mildly. I had no idea which course my life would take or where God’s leading would take me, I had no idea who I would marry, where I would live, or the joys and the struggles I would experience. I didn’t think about being a minister. I just knew that I was drawn to Jesus, and having received Him as my Savior I was determined to follow Him wherever He might lead.

Little by little I was changing – something which happens with every Christian, not only in the early years, but throughout all our lives. But this is my story. You who read this must have your own story, those early days in your Christian infancy, when all is fresh and new and when Jesus is laying foundations and building in you the kind of character you need to fight the good fight, to finish the race, and to keep the faith until that Day. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will have your own unique story of new beginnings. And God knows how to preserve and sustain His fragile little newborn babies in Christ. He is a good Father.

 

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