George was my drug dealer. He was also the sound engineer in a band I hung out with. All in all he was a pretty wild character who is his calmer moments saw himself as a seeker, a philosopher of sorts, in that he would get stoned, stare at the stars, and get all deep and spiritual.
I didn’t take George’s seeking all that seriously given that his pursuit of truth didn’t extend to his drug dealing or ripping off his friends. George got picked up by the police for a stack of unpaid parking fines and was sentenced to two weeks in the local jail. Keeping on his quest for truth (and to quell some of the boredom), he took along his mother’s big Greek Orthodox family Bible. I can’t imagine what the police thought when he walked in with it. It probably weighed ten pounds.
You know what happens next. George begins reading that big Bible and the Holy Spirit falls on him. He is born again right there in the local lockup!
When the police released George ten days later, he was bursting at the seams—ready to tell the world about his newfound faith. His brother John picked him up from jail and gave his life to Christ before they even arrived home.
An Unlikely Community of Faith
The two then banded together, Bibles under one arm and a copy of Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth under the other (it was the 1980s after all!), and went out in hot pursuit of new converts. They compiled a list of all the people they sold drugs to and called it their evangelistic “hit list.” They would pray for each person and then catch up with them and tell them about Jesus. I was on the hit list, as were a number of my friends, including my sister Sharon and dearest friend Mark.
My journey to faith didn’t actually begin when George shared the gospel with me; God had been working my case for a long time. I just hadn’t realized it. Like George, I was a seeker, and in the weeks before coming to Jesus, I had sensed something was in the wind. I kept telling my friend Jason that my “answer” was just around the corner. He thought I was maybe taking too many drugs, and maybe I was. But I was expectant, never thinking for a moment that my answer, like George’s, would be Jesus.
When Jesus came into my life everything changed. All those old clichés you hear—being lost and then found, being blind and then seeing—applied to me. I encountered God in such a dramatic way that I knew my life would never be the same. Within a very short time both Sharon and Mark also gave their lives to Jesus. The three of us were living with a bunch of others in a big community house, and were living and identifying as gay.
God set up residence among a group of people who had little clue about him or what the journey of faith entails. Within a period of about six months, over 50 people—friends and contacts—had come to know Jesus. But not everyone who lived with us was thrilled about our newfound faith. There was much debate and sometimes outright hostility. At times it felt like the two kingdoms were warring against one another. And they were! But God’s Spirit was at work, and a new community of Jesus followers was being formed. Originally intended to indulge our hedonistic lifestyles, our home became a place for all sorts of people seeking refuge, healing, and personal transformation.
Stumbling Upon Church
But we didn’t have a church. George had found God in prison; we had no real connection with other believers in the outside world. As I look back now, I laugh thinking how easily we could have ended up as some weird cult. But intuitively we knew we needed to go to church and meet other Christians.