The Drifting of The Church
Five of the six college basketball players that were baptized into the campus ministry!
Despite radically changing my life, my Christian walk started out a bit rocky. I had been dating a girl for almost two years prior to becoming a Christian, but had ended our relationship so that I could build my relationship with God. (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1) I genuinely cared for her, and I was hoping that taking the giant leap into Christianity would be the example that she needed to see, and that it would propel her to do the same.
At first, this seemed to work! She began studying the Bible, and even started making some major changes in her life. My hope began to build that we could date once again as Christians – this time, however, the right way! Sadly, my hopes were crushed on the night before she was to get baptized. She called me and told me that she no longer wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, and that she had met another guy that she wanted to date. I was devastated. And like Jesus being tempted in the desert right after His baptism, Satan began to tempt me to walk away from God.
I’ll always remember a phone call that I had with my older brother, Kyle, who had been a Christian only one month longer than I. He had been reading a book that he was being inspired by, and as I shared about my dilemma and how I was being tempted to give up, he shared a perspective that the book had given him. He said, “Evan, if you quit, if you give up, this earth will be the only Heaven you’ll ever get to experience; but if you stay faithful and push through, this earth will be the only Hell you ever have to endure!” Needless to say, that was the motivation I needed to push through!
Little did I know, however, that this phrase would be a catalyst for me in the years that would soon follow and the challenges that they would bring.
Evan & Kelly are married in Kona, Hawaii, on July 16, 2005!
Early on as a Christian, we experienced radical growth, biblical mentorship, extreme sacrifice, uncompromising commitment, and an abundance of fruit! In fact, our tiny campus ministry of five ballooned to 17 in just a year! We were held accountable to biblical standards, and frequently met up with each other to share our faith, to pray, or even to just fellowship with one another! (Acts 2:42) Things were great, and the church was doing well! Yet none of us could have anticipated the storm that was brewing on the horizon.
In February, 2003, just a year-and-a-half after I was baptized, Henry Kriete, a Kingdom Teacher, released an open letter to our movement of churches, called “Honest To God”. In his letter, Kriete highlighted many of the problems and systemic issues that existed in our family of churches. I believe he was well intentioned, and was genuinely trying to help. However, pre-existing bitterness, attitudes, doctrinal disagreements, frustrations with leadership choices, and financial pressure, had already been building in the movement – blowing up like a balloon at full capacity. As it turns out, Kriete’s letter was the perfect needle.
The balloon that was the movement I was baptized into, exploded. Thousands of disciples fell away or left the church, church members began rebelling against church leadership and angrily opposing them, and many basic biblical practices that we had become accustomed to were tossed out like rotten fruit or stale bread.
Since I was still a very young disciple, I didn’t completely understand what was happening. I couldn’t grasp why a letter written by someone so far away had any bearing on what was going on in our small church. “Couldn’t we just stick to the Bible and not worry about all that stuff?” I reasoned. But the damage was done. Slowly but surely, the church drifted into lukewarmness and shrunk into being almost completely non-existent.
Evan & Kelly begin building a “paneled house”!
I must take personally responsibility as well. During this time, I too began to drift. Like the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, I began focusing on my own “paneled [house].” (Haggai 1:4) I got married to my amazing, beautiful wife, Kelly, in the summer of 2005, and then graduated from college that winter. Kelly was working with autistic children full-time, and I had started a business with my dad and younger brother, Levi. Our business was started out of my parents garage, building custom kitchens for people, but quickly expanded into a huge warehouse. We did very well! So well in fact, that it afforded us the opportunity to build our own house. Kelly and I bought property, designed our own home, and began the process of building.
Evan graduates with a Bachelors Degree in Communication!
During this period of time, we attended church, but had become like most denominational church-goers in our commitment. Very rarely did we have any Bible studies, we often missed church services or events for other priorities, and we contributed very little. Our church was dwindling, and there were little to no additions (baptisms, restorations, or placed memberships) to make up for it. Those who were baptized quickly fell away, or assimilated into the same lukewarmness as the rest of us.
Ironically, although our departure from being totally committed is quite clear in retrospect, we were oblivious to it. We were like an airplane on a slow descent. As long as there are no sudden drops and the windows remain closed, the cabin is quite unaware of the drop in altitude. Likewise, we did not realized how far we’d fallen from our first love. (Revelation 2:4-5)
Our church, too, did not realize how far it had fallen. We went from 65 committed church members to just 38 barely-hanging-on church members. We had stopped seeing fruit, and hadn’t seen a baptism for over a year. Our minister at the time could no longer be supported by the church because our giving was so low. And this is where things finally began to change.