Forty years after the Church of the Nazarene came to my hometown of Greeneville, Tennessee, a holiness preacher came to the hospital and prayed over my parents’ firstborn. The church had given my teenage parents a baby shower, and despite my parents’ resistance toward salvation, the church did not give up on my family.
My paternal great-grandmother, whom I never met, had been a charter member of the church. One of my aunts took me to that holiness church on Easter Sunday when I was five years old. The next visit to that church is etched in my mind and heart. As an eight-year-old boy, that day I became very aware of being in the presence of God.
My joy was almost palpable. It felt like a heavenly pep rally as several people shouted “Amen!” and “Praise the Lord!”
Holiness people were like divine magnets, creating in me a desire for God and pulling me toward Him.
By the time I turned 14, my parents had divorced and life was chaotic. I was mad at God. I knelt at the altar on October 31, 1993, and asked Jesus to forgive me and make me a Christian. He graciously saved me! With no spiritual guidance at home, one saint told me at the altar that day, “I’m going to be your spiritual grandmother!”
Those holiness people ensured that I never missed a church service—my family lived in a trailer 17 miles from the church—and they drove 22,216 miles for over two years until I could drive myself.
On February 14, 1994, in a revival meeting, I knelt at the altar again. I knew I needed to ask Jesus to help me, but all I could say was something like, “Lord, I want You to sanctify me—whatever that means! I just want what these people here have, and I’ll do whatever You ask me to do!” Above all the prayers being prayed for me, I clearly heard God say, “Will you preach?” At first, I tried to negotiate with the Lord on this call but then wept and said, “Lord, I will do or be anything You want, even preach.” He graciously overwhelmed my heart in holy love and gave an abandoned teenager the fullness of His Holy Spirit as resident and president, living and reigning within! The church board issued me a local minister’s license, and my pastor let me preach. These holiness people in my life were so affirming.
I am a Christian today because a group of holiness people lived authentic lives that convinced me of the reality of Christ. God has used faithful people to change my life and destiny; He prepares and uses such saints even today.
The grace of God continues to transform lives, making us new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). He forgives every individual who confesses and forsakes his or her sins. He cleanses and sanctifies believers who come to Him in absolute abandon, empowering them with His Spirit. Jesus Christ is the answer for a world that has gone wrong.
As my spiritual grandmother used to say, “I bless the day that holiness came to Greeneville!”
Micah Sturm serves as the pastor of Sharpsburg First Church of the Nazarene, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.