My Journey to Faith

My personal story of faith is both unremarkable and, at the same time, unique. It is typical because, like anyone who belongs to the family of God, I went through a sequence of recognizing my need for a relationship with God, turning to Christ and then entering into a life-long process of discipleship. Colossians 2:6 says, “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” Jesus often said, “Follow me.” While I am involved in doing a lot in Christian ministry, at a more basic level, I am keenly aware that I must also walk as a disciple personally. It must be my daily, habitual practice. This requires constant vigilance. 

My personal story begins with my family of origin. My parents were each the first believers in their families. My mother came to Christ before my father. She rushed into marriage before she graduated from high school. Soon after she married my father, they moved from her small hometown of Sweet Springs, MO to Washington DC.  Disconnected from all that was familiar, she became lonesome, unhappy and started listening to Theodore Epp’s Back to the Bible radio broadcast. Before long, she became a Christian. A short time later, my father did as well. His decision followed the shock of seeing a woman in their apartment complex burn to death. That started him thinking about the frailty of life.

I distinctly recall praying secretly at age nine to begin my personal relationship with Christ. To the extent of my understanding at the time, I was sincere about knowing God. Very little spiritual growth occurred, however, for the next several years.

During junior high school and then high school, I became involved in Youth for Christ in Kansas City where I spent most of my formative years. KCYFC was at its peak during that time and it was a season of tremendous spiritual growth for me. Two men in the organization took personal interest and mentored me. They became my surrogate fathers. I am eternally grateful. My faith developed deep roots.

I was useful to YFC as well. Because I had an instinct for public speaking, including debate in high school and college, YFC booked me literally several times a week to speak at local Bible Clubs in the schools and area churches. It helped their promotion and was great experience for me. Before long I also became an announcer on the local Christian radio station, KCCV. By the time I graduated from high school, I was general manager there.

It was while preaching at a YFC booking that I met the woman I would later marry. We spent several wonderful decades together until she died from cancer in November, 2012.

Three years after we married in Kansas City, we moved to Chicago. I joined management at the CBS owned all-news radio station WBBM. My wife worked with the Associated Press and later ABC news.

We lived in Evanston, a suburb just north of Chicago. Churches there were not strong at that time. It was a spiritually dry time for us, and strains began showing in our marriage.

Eventually, after visiting almost every church near us, we found a place of nurture at a small Assembly of God church in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Skokie. They connected us with a counseling program through LaSalle Street Church in Chicago. The church became a place of healing for our marriage and renewal for us spiritually. We became actively involved; I preached there about once a month. We attracted quite a few students, mostly new believers, from Northwestern University. Sadly, after a few years, tragedy in the life of the senior pastor led to his resigning. The new pastor, it turned out, had serious brokenness that he concealed when we called him, an affair in his previous church. His manipulation split the church and he eventually left the ministry. Through this upheaval, many people came to us asking whether we could start a new church. Eventually, it was birthed in our living room. For the first several years it was called Christ Church of the North Shore. Today it is still going strong and affiliated with the Vineyard movement.

I will skim a few additional highlights. Besides churches, we invested ourselves in a ministry with refugees and, after a few years, formalized that with a handful of friends to become Exodus World Service. Exodus has helped thousands of refugees build new lives. I was also on the board of a mission in Haiti and on the board of Chapel of the Air.  

1991 was a pivotal year when I was recruited to be CEO of Opportunity International. That required me to sell my television production company. This is chronicled in section of this website about my past. After leading Opportunity, I subsequently launched two other organizations: HOPE International and Geneva Global. In 2006, I turned Geneva Global over to another executive and except for writing a book, I was uncertain what the future held.

This left me once again seeking God for His next assignment. Executive recruiters brought possibilities that ranged from a famous foundation to a mega church. None seemed right. My wife and I decided that we needed to develop a personal mission statement to help us clarify how we would recognize where God was leading us. We could then use that mission statement to evaluate future offers.

After a lot of discussion and prayer, we felt we had one. It still seems right today. It was the basis for my joining David C Cook. Our mission statement was not an elegant paragraph, but rather a set of three bullets almost like a PowerPoint slide. These guidelines continue to set the direction for my life. My personal mission is to see:

          ·      Millions come to Christ

          ·      The Church become strong

          ·      The last become first (Luke 13:30)

 

 

© Eric Thurman 2015