I am Second…
Hello. My name is A.J. Wood, and I am a follower of Jesus Christ.
If my introduction reminds you of something you might here at an AA meeting it’s because that’s the stigma I held as a Christian for the longest time. This view wasn’t something that people had thrust upon me, but rather a culmination of opinions long gathered through my experiences in and out of church.
Being a Christian was the secret I kept to myself, rather than share with other people, and if shared it was a passing statement generally whispered or directed towards the immediate conversation, lest outside parties point and say, “Oh, he’s one of them.” Of course, I’ve never felt like one of them.
My earliest church memories are Sunday mornings gathered with Mom & Dad & little sister, dressed up in clothes that made me itch, confined in a seat for two hours, unable to move except for the occasional sequence of “stand, sit, stand, sit, kneel, sit, stand, walk.” The highlight of Sunday mornings came afterward, when we would leave and get fresh made “donuts on stick” from Dunkin Donuts. Hmmmm… donuts.
As the years passed our denominations changed, the reasons why escape me. I’ve been Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Episcopal, never Lutheran, a few times Baptist and finally settled on simply “Christian” long after I stopped going to church. I’ve prayed quite a bit in my lifetime, and I do remember feeling once like God was actually listening to me. Mostly, I have hollow memories of one church service, that blends into a slightly different church service, and I can never recall who wants to be forgiven their trespasses vs those that want to be forgiven their debts.
Then I met Ben Sanders. If you want to see the swagger of someone who walks with the Lord, just talk to Ben. Ben has a confidence in his faith that is immediately recognized, but not overwhelmingly suffocating. The first time Ben talked about God and church, we were at a Bennigan’s, and I wanted to know more. He addressed all my questions with an assuredness in his voice, that confidence I mentioned earlier, a determination of purpose, and frankly I envied it.
Ben invited me a few times to Abundant Life Church. It always felt like an invitation, not a recruiting tactic, and I didn’t know what to think on my first visit. That day Pastor Rigdon was at the pulpit, and while I had witnessed such charismatic preaching it was generally on TV as a role played by an actor. It wasn’t just the Pastor though, it was how the church body reacted, and interacted during the service. ALC members are proud to be known as a friendly church. You do well to create a welcoming environment for visitors. I’m happy to say that you also know the difference between being friendly, and being someone’s friend.
I’ve been asked what is it about ALC that keeps me coming back? It’s not Pastor Rigdon, who inspired me during the first service I attended, nor Pastor Hennigan, who won’t be satisfied until everybody is saved. It’s not even Pastor Manning who makes me laugh, especially when I need it. You might think it’s the worship team, and the great music, or the acceptance from members with whom I’ve never had a conversation. Could be the lifegroups, or the theatrical productions, or even the hip & cool things led by Student Pastor Donnie Culpepper in The Factory. Those things contribute, and are important, but the reason I come to Abundant Life Church is never before–in church–have I felt the presence of God.
It is an AWESOME feeling, more addicting than anything else I have ever done. This place has created a wanting of salvation, a recognition of purpose, and each service I attend leaves me rejuvenated in the Spirit in ways I had only heard people talk about. Attending ALC has made me excited about God, and the exuberation I feel is something that I want to share with other people. I’m forever thankful to ALC for giving me the gift of Faith.
Hello. My name is A.J. Wood, and I AM, a follower of Jesus Christ.