I Had Lunch With My Former Youth Pastor, John Lloyd

Maybe you have never heard of John but he is an incredibly talented amazing man who helped me in my walk with God just after I had become a Christian in 1973. He was my youth pastor at the Adam's Apple, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It was a hip place for young former hippies like me to find God our own way through Christian rock music and a down to earth kind of teaching from someone who was one of us before his conversion. The Adam's Apple was one of several pentecostal ministries started up all over America that cared enough to reach our generation. Nancy Honeytree (the first lady of contemporary Christian music) led us in singing every Monday evening, and we had the best musical bands come in every Friday during the summer at the very beginning of the Christian rock music era. Artists like Larry Norman, Chuck Girard, Love Song, 2nd Chapter of Acts, Keith Green, and Petra sang there, and it included Mike Warnke too, who has been disgraced since that time as a fraud.

In 1980 John started a ministry in Clearwater, Florida, that grew under his leadership from eight people to 3000 in attendance every Sunday. He left that ministry and is "following God's calling" for another church where people have a heart for God. To see how he is regarded by his former church watch this video.

I have admired John from those days until now, and still do. It was a great experience to meet face to face with him and talk for a couple of hours over lunch after so many years. He cares and grieves over me, as you would expect (more so than God, who could change my mind in an instant merely by snapping his fingers and taking away my critical thinking capabilities). We went down memory lane a bit too. But we also got down to business.

Joanie, my good friend from those days, brought us together. John's wife Deborah was there as well.

I don't know what he'll say about our conversation but I found him arguing for nothing but faith based special pleading. He counts the hits of his experience and discounts the misses, like all believers do. And that's part of his charismatic genius. You can tell by looking at him that he really believes. He told me he knows that he knows that he knows that what he believes is true. And when he says this he closes his eyes as if he is at that moment experiencing God. So when he says it you know he means it. I remember him as a person who lit up on fire on the stage/pulpit area, so we came to watch him burn. It seems I've always been attracted to passionate people because I am one myself. Passionate people are convincing to the undecided. That's his charisma reflected in his persona. But it's no gimmick or charade. He really does believe.

I told him that we are at opposite poles because I'm convinced Christianity is false. I'm sure of this, I told him. I have to be, for if I'm wrong I risk going to hell. In fact, everyone who ever leaves the Christian faith struggles through their tears because of the threat of hell. We have to be sure. And since that's the case you won't find very many of us at all who will return to the fold.

I told him about Dan Barker. He hadn't heard of him. I told him what Dan said in his book, Godless: Dan tells of how everything that happened had a "spiritual significance" for him, even to the point of following so-called divine hunches while driving, to turn right, and then left, wondering if these hunches were actually voices from God. Dan tells of a time when he followed them and found himself at a dead end in the middle of a cornfield! He concluded God had merely tested him to see if he'd be faithful!

You see, I said to John, no matter what the result is, a believer can always find some meaning to any so-called divine hunch. He didn't buy it, of course. And there is nothing that could convince him otherwise. He said that if I seek God honestly I will find him. But I said I have sought him for nearly forty years and though I once experienced what he does I was deluded into thinking it was real.

John said that I need to search for God elsewhere, since there is a lot I don't know and a lot I haven't experienced, just like a small dot inside a large circle of knowledge. Yes, I agreed, I don't know that much and there are a great many things I haven't experienced. But all that I've learned and all that I've experienced leads me to think other than he does. If God created me with a brain then he should give this brain what it needs to believe, or point me in the right direction.

John argued that Christianity is the only faith where God comes down to save us, whereas in other religions man must climb up to God with good works, or what have you. I'm not sure that's true but I simply told him this only means the Christian faith is unique with a different story than the rest of them. This says nothing about which one is true since it can be equally be said of them all, that they all have unique religious stories.

Anyway, there is no convincing some people, so why bother? When he painted a picture of the bliss he awaits in heaven I have nothing that competes with that. As I argued elsewhere, atheism can't compete with the hopes and dreams of the Christian faith. That is, the truth cannot overpower such a heavenly vision of bliss--not very often, anyway. It takes people who really want to know if what they believe is true irrespective of their hopes and dreams.

Anyway, what a super nice guy he is, as well as Joanie (who comments here) and his wife Deborah. I value them all as friends and wish them the best. My arguments against Christianity are never personal with people. I have plenty of good Christian friends like them. (Rob R., who comments here is another one).

Joanie told me with a heartfelt concern that many people were praying for me. Okay, I guess. Have at it if it makes you feel better. Just yesterday a pastor friend named Dan Johnson at the Kalkaska Church of Christ, in Kalkaska, Michigan, where I was a Youth Minister myself, told me my former church was praying for me too. Fine, I guess. Isn't it odd that these Christians care for me more than God does who can change my mind if he wanted too?

I like them. I wish them all well. Friends can be friends and respect one another even though we are poles apart. I like that. But they are wrong for so many reasons I don't have the time nor space here to get into this further. My reasons can be found in my books.