My Christian Background

Copyright 2015 by Wil C. Fry. All Rights Reserved.

Published 2015.02.10, Updated 2016.06.07

My story begins much like many U.S. citizens: not long after birth, I started showing up in church, and attended regularly for many years. Perhaps unlike many Americans who call themselves Christians, my parents were relatively serious about it. And I became downright fanatical.

My parents, with me (11 days old) at church
Honolulu, Hawaii
I was in church from eleven days old, and grew up in churches affiliated with a relatively young denomination — one that differentiated itself from others by emphasizing the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues.

The “speaking in tongues” part, along with the church’s belief in divine healing by the laying on of hands, of course seems odd to members of more traditional Christian organizations, despite us all reading from the same Bible. And it really seemed strange to those outside religion. To someone not accustomed to the services, the sometimes wild and upbeat music combined with shouting, flailing, rapid and loud praying, might seem like a pagan ritual of some kind. To me of course, it seemed normal.

You’re only accustomed to what you’ve experienced.

By the time I was born, my mother had been raised with these doctrines, as had her mother before her — and both their husbands had joined in wholeheartedly. Some of my mother’s siblings were ministers, as were some of their spouses. Others had attended the same Bible college I eventually went to. One relative worked in the Jimmy Swaggart organization for years, while others pastored churches and even planted churches, several of them working with deaf congregations.

From birth, God (YHWH) was the basic assumption on which all else rested. God made the Universe, the Earth, and everything else. My entire worldview was based on this. The second basic assumption, very closely related, was that the Bible was infallible, inerrant, and precisely the Word of God. Any one person, or even a church organization, could be wrong, but not the Bible.

The church was riding a combination of waves, including the Charismatic Movement, Prosperity Theology, and Word of Faith, all of which combined in a rowdy, charged atmosphere of growth and excitement.
I of course, took all of this for granted. When I was six years old, my family attended a quickly growing church in Oklahoma City, under the fiery, charismatic preaching of Rev. James Thomas. Before long, the church had built a giant new sanctuary that seated over a thousand people and was drawing big names like Benny Hinn, Carman, and the Gaithers. These were people that were on national TV broadcasts every week; it was heady stuff. The church was riding a combination of waves, including the Charismatic Movement, Prosperity Theology, and Word of Faith, all of which combined in a rowdy, charged atmosphere of growth and excitement.

Many people in our congregation (and I assume others around the world) believed they were living in the End Times, that the Rapture was just around the corner. These were businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, owners of local companies, government officials, school teachers, members of the Chamber of Commerce. They were not — most of them — country bumpkins or idiots. They were, like my parents, educated — in public schools and secular universities. They were Democrats and Republicans. They were earnest, good people.

The old sanctuary was used as a Children’s Church, with around 300 kids on some Sundays. That’s where I went. There were puppet shows, contests, songs, and short little kid-friendly sermons. It was there in children’s church, about the age of six that I “gave my heart to the Lord”.

That single event didn’t change my life in any significant way; it couldn’t have. I lived under my parents’ rules and home, and kept attending children’s church as I always had. In fact, I’ve always wondered a bit about people who have pinpointed the moment their lives changed — that’s something that never happened to me. For me, there was merely the cumulative effect of three church services per week, occasionally regular Bible studies at home, and not knowing any other kind of life.

There was also the matter of my personality. Since childhood, I’ve long had a habit of going “whole hog” with certain interests. Eventually, religion was one of those.

At the age of six or seven, I joined our church’s “Royal Ranger” program, which was a Christian version of the Boy Scouts. We wore uniforms that were vaguely similar to the Boy Scouts, we went camping and hiking, learned relevant skills like how to build a campfire or pitch a tent, and had more Bible lessons. I stayed in this program for years, even after we moved out of state (though we had to re-start the program in our new church).

A stack of just some of the Bibles I read through
It was, perhaps not coincidentally, around puberty when I began to get serious about religion. I remember hearing a pastor challenge the congregation to read the entire Bible through in one year. Knowing that I read a science fiction novel almost every single day, I figured it wouldn’t be difficult, and it wasn’t. Just three or more chapters a day and you can read the whole thing in a year. And then I did it again. Once in high school, I read the whole thing through in a few months. By that point, I realized I was already unlike most Christians — less than 30 percent will ever read their own Holy book from cover to cover. Repeatedly completing this project began — unknown to me at the time — two completely divergent trends: (1) I began basing my faith on the Bible itself rather than on my church’s or my parents’ teachings, and (2) I began to have doubts (more on those later).

In the Assemblies of God’s Statement Of Fundamental Truths, the very first of 16 is:
“The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.”
I took this to heart and challenged any doctrine that didn’t agree with what I found in the Bible. Most people I knew had a few scriptures memorized, but I had hundreds. My journal, in 1988 (when I was 15) records that I memorized new verses every night and quoted them to myself.

And I could find any scripture you named in less than five seconds. I became so familiar with this book that adults in the church began to take notice. Sunday School teachers would ask me when they were unsure about something. And, though it probably embarrassed my parents, I even corrected our pastors a few times.

My membership card from the church in which I spent my teens
All it took was a pamphlet from a dead guy for me to decide to be a preacher. Keith Green’s “Why YOU Should Go to the Mission Field” was compelling and convincing for me. At about the same time I read that, someone else released a song that said: “If you’re not a missionary, then you’re a mission field.” Both pointed out that Jesus’ only additional commandment to his disciples after rising from the dead was to “go ye into all the world” and preach the gospel to everyone. I was 18 when it sunk in — I couldn’t just be an “ordinary” Christian. I realized I would consider myself a failed Christian (and therefore a failed person) if I didn’t use my knowledge and my gifts to spread the Good News to those who hadn’t heard, or to those who’d heard it too often but never did anything about it.

And so I headed out of state to a Bible college in Springfield, Missouri, to get a degree in Missions, to acquire a preaching license, and to make connections with the right people who could plug me in to the mission field. (I briefly considered skipping the college phase. I’d already begun publishing a small devotional newsletter for teens that was getting positive feedback, and I considered trying to build that into a ministry of sorts.)

My CBC Student ID card
I spent seven semesters (1991-‘95) at a Bible college, going to the on-campus chapel five times a week and attending a local church three times a week, volunteering at a homeless shelter and retirement home, “witnessing” on the streets, fasting and praying, studying — including the following courses: New Testament history and literature, Old Testament history and literature, Pentateuch, Synoptic Gospels, Gospel & Epistles of John, Acts, Romans and Galatians, I & II Corinthians, Theology I-IV, Hermeneutics, Homiletics I & II, A/G History and Doctrine, Church Government, Church Administration, Pastor & Ministry, Church Education, Music and Worship, Personal Evangelism, Missions, History of Missions, Missionary Principles & Practices, Cross-Cultural Communications, World Religions, Cultural Anthropology, Psychology, Western Civilization, U.S. History, Sociology, Physical Science, Biological Science, Public speaking, English Composition, American Sign Language, and Computers/typing.

There was more, if that’s possible. The few times I went to summer camp, it was serious-for-God summer camp, with worship services and devotions multiple times per day, scripture memorization, Bible devotionals, and both private and public prayer. During college, my summers were spent working to save money to return, but also preaching, teaching Sunday School classes, and studying the Bible. In my free time, I worked on scriptural interpretation treatises, hoping to someday publish my own verse-by-verse commentary on the entire Bible.

A real Christian was not simply a citizen who went to church.
I did not believe the church was simply a community organization, but a fortress in spiritual warfare. A real Christian was not merely a citizen who went to church, but a soldier for the Kingdom of God. God was not a comforting idea or some mystical source of ancient morality, but the essence of everything — atoms would collapse if not for God’s amazing power.

I do not offer this background as “credentials” for authority on any subject, nor to cast blame on any person or organization. It is presented for two reasons: (1) so that the reader will better understand where I started my journey, and (2) to head off any fallacious arguments along the lines of “then you must not have been a true Christian”.

This is the updated version of this page. To see the original version, click here. Below is a list of known edits to this page.

Edit, 2016.06.05: Added link to original version of this page. Added link to this Edits section into the More menu. Added photo of my 1990 church membership card. Added meta tags to html header (invisible to most viewers).

Edit, 2016.06.07: Added the word “fallacious” to final paragraph. Added photo of my CBC student ID card. Changed formatting of photo display. Slightly reworded first sentence of “I spent seven semesters” paragraph.

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