Sunday, May 15, 2011


Now, back to Texas A&M, where my conversion story left off.

Although I continued to go to Sunday worship at Grace Bible Church, my concerns about the college minister's teaching led me to look for alternatives for college Christian fellowship. Campus Crusade was probably the largest group on campus, but after attending a few meetings, I didn't feel like I fit in. They focused on evangelism using a little booklet called "The Four Spiritual Laws," which essentially gave a four step process for becoming a Christian. This was not the way I came to the faith, it was the very kind of thing that would have turned me off before I was a Christian, so I couldn't whole-heartedly get behind it.

Instead, I was attracted to a quaint little group on campus, whose primary method of outreach was to just set up a "book table" with a dozen or so books and booklets for sale. The people manning the table were kind-of nerdy and shy, but the books were very interesting, covering a wide variety of topics concerning Christianity and various issues. The group was the A&M chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, one of the oldest evangelical college student fellowships. The books were all published by InterVarsity Press, which soon became my preferred source for deep-thinking Christian books.

I started going to their weekly meetings, and met Christians from a variety of denominations, including Presbyterian, Bible Church, Baptist, Assemblies of God, Methodist, and Catholic. Like most Christian fellowship groups, they had a time of singing, but in addition to the simple chorus songs that were popular at that time, they also sang traditional hymns that had deep lyrics. They had a speaker at each meeting, often a guest, and the talks were usually challenging and smart. One of the guests was a woman who had been a missionary in China when the Communists took over, and continued to work there until she was forced out. The students seemed to all be serious students, and they saw their dedication to their studies as part of what was required as serious follows of Christ in college. I was also impressed that we had faculty sponsors who were Mathematics, Physics, and Mechanical Engineering professors. They each gave talks at some of the meetings.

After I had been involved for only 2 or 3 weeks, I was invited to a weekend "Bible and Life" conference in Austin. A group of us drove down together, and there I met InterVarsity students from UT, SFA, and other area campuses. During a break period, I stumbled upon a conversation between a couple of the A&M students and the InterVarsity staff worker, Pete, who was responsible for the UT and A&M groups. I was surprised to hear that the topic was concern over the teaching of Dwight at Grace Bible Church. These students had some of the same concerns that I did.

A few days after the conference, Pete contacted me to talk about the conference. We met on campus and had a good talk, and then he asked me about how I felt about the Grace Bible Church situation. I told him my concerns, and he said that if I wanted to ever try another church, I might want to check out Westminster Presbyterian. Although I stayed at Grace for the rest of my Sophomore year, I would remember his recommendation and try Westminster out the next year.

I remained involved in InterVarsity for the rest of my time at A&M, with some continued involvement even after graduation. There are two things I want to point out about InterVarsity that were important in my life. The first is that since it was a small organization, I was soon invited into leadership roles, first as a small group leader, and eventually as chapter President. Although being President was an overwhelming experience for me, and I stepped down after one semester, it was good for me to be stretched like that. If I had stayed in the Grace fellowship, or gone into Campus Crusade, I could have easily spent all four years on the sidelines since they were such large groups with plenty of strong leader types.

The other important thing about InterVarsity was that I got to know strong Christians from many different traditions. They all clearly loved God, and we agreed on the core of the Christian faith, although we disagreed on many non-core issues. This was eye-opening for me because before then I had a pretty narrow idea of what it took to be a real Christian. I think this experience made it easier for me to begin to think critically about my own beliefs, knowing that Christians I admired thought differently about them.