Atheist after 40 years a Christian Minister

by Jeff

I just found this site and figured I'd check in, as I too am an "ex-christian." I became a Christian at 18 after a rather dramatic conversion experience...lots of emotion and a total change of direction in my life.

I was a senior in high school at the time and making decisions about career and college. I was "led" into the full-time Christian ministry shortly after my conversion, so I chose to attend a rather well-known Bible college in South Carolina.

After four years there, I sensed that I'd most likely eventually become an overseas missionary, the which I did. But before accepting a missionary assignment in Italy, I graduated, got married, was a youth pastor, a Bible teacher in a Christian school, put in a year towards my Master of Divinity degree, and finally pastored a church in Philadelphia for three years. Six years after graduation from college, my wife, two children, and I moved to Europe to evangelize and start evangelical churches.

This was my life and ministry for over 28 years, but all during this time I was struggling to maintain my faith. I had so many questions about the Bible and its teachings. I kept suspecting that Christianity really didn't "work." I mean, prayer didn't really work. Faith didn't make me a new person. My old "sins" were still plaguing me. I rarely sensed any "presence of God" in my life. I looked for God's guidance, but rarely was sure I got it. And even then it often turned out to be patently erroneous. I experienced church and missions from the inside and became very disillusioned with it. For an enterprise headed by the God of the universe, it sure was awfully human, and terribly fallible. I really saw precious little that could be called "evidence of God" in it all.

My questions about the Bible and its teachings just multiplied over the years, until I had to intentionally close my eyes to them in order to maintain anything like enough faith to continue my ministry without feeling like a total hypocrite. But the struggle only got worse...along with depression and very real self-loathing (for my feelings of hypocrisy.)

Finally, after 28 years overseas, I came to that place where I just could no longer consider myself a believer. I could no longer represent Jesus and the Bible, as my missions agency called on me to do. Honesty demanded that I quit the ministry and return Stateside.

It is now almost five years that I've been back in the "secular" world. I no longer attend church. I have come to peace with my unbelief. In fact, I am happier and enjoy greater contentment now than at any other time in my adult life. The dust has slowly settled in my mind and I have come to realize that I actually do not believe in God at all anymore. I haven't looked to become an atheist, but I guess that's what I am... and I'm very happy in my unbelief, thank you very much!

That's my story in a nutshell. If anyone wants to comment on it or jot me line, feel free (rjtrueman AT gmail DOT com). I'm not crusading for atheism, but neither am I ashamed of it. Quite the contrary.

Be well!

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