(Photo: The Elephant Room/Alyssa Armour)
Seven pastors of some of the largest churches in the U.S. shared their own personal testimonies of conversion to Christianity in a few short, concise sentences during the final session of a theological roundtable at Harvest Studios in Aurora, Ill., Wednesday.
During the "Speed Round" of the Elephant Room Round 2 – a gathering of seven prominent church leaders in the Christian community – pastors were asked to give short answers to several questions asked one at a time. Their answers gave a revealing look at their personal lives, not commonly known in some cases.
The all-day conference moderated by pastors James McDonald and Mark Driscoll was designed to challenge participants on perceived theological and teaching style differences. Although the leaders never engaged in a heated conversation, some of the thoughts shared at the conference have become fodder for further debate.
The final round was a chance for the pastors to simply give short answers to several questions on a more personal side. The lead question for the half-hour session was, "How did you come to know Jesus Christ?"
Their answers as transcribed from a recording of the Elephant Room Round 2 by The Christian Post are below.
Crawford Loritts, senior pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Ga.:
"I was 13-and-a-half years old. I have a sister that was older than me and she really surrendered her life to Christ and I saw a change in her heart and life. She invited me to the church where that had taken place even though I had grown up in a Christian home. I went there and saw the infectious love of the Lord Jesus in those people. I came back the next Sunday. Altar call was given and the pastor said to me, 'Son, what is it that you want from God?' And I said I want to be saved. That's how I got started."
Steven Furtick, co-founding pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte:
"My mom raised me in church. I got dragged to a Baptist revival when I was 16. A guy there named Jody took me aside and told me about having an authentic relationship with Jesus. I got saved and got real radical and addicted to what I am doing today – trying to influence people for Jesus at age 16."
Wayne Cordeiro, founding pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu:
"I thought Christians were freaky and so I would hide from them a lot. I went to college and I loved music. God used music and brought a Christian group and when I heard them use their music and share their songs and their stories I thought Christians must not be that bad. It really opened my heart. I still use a lot of music and use a lot of arts to present the Gospel."
James MacDonald, founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago:
"I gave my life to Jesus Christ when I was 7 years old. It was February of 1967. It was after a Sunday night service. Our pastor had preached the Gospel and I was too fearful to go down front during the invitation. But when I went home I was still under conviction and I went out into the kitchen and asked my parents, and my mom led me to Christ. I wandered from the Lord during my teenage years, and though I tried to let go of the Lord, He never let go of me. I had more return experiences, but I know that I know that God knows that I am a child of God today."
Mark Driscoll, founding pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle:
"I was raised Catholic. Some Catholics know about Jesus. I wasn't one of them. A pastor's daughter gave me a Bible. She's now my wife. I was reading Romans in college for a philosophy class. I finally understood sin is pride. I thought it was just bad moral behavior and I considered myself fairly moral. I had a whole lot of pride and still do. God convicted me of my sin and opened my heart to Jesus reading the book of Romans. So, a Catholic boy reading the book of Romans. Go figure. Jesus made sense and I had to go find a church."
Jack Graham, lead pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas:
"Childhood conversion – six years old – literally, an evangelist came to town, set up a tent. I walked the sawdust road and as a little boy gave my life to Christ, due to a great Christian home, family and heritage. I have never doubted that experience, even though I was very young it was very powerful and life changing."
T.D. Jakes, founder and senior pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas:
"My dad got sick when I was 10 years old. He was the hero of my life. He died when I was 16. It threw me into a real serious depression and a thirst and a vacancy in my life that created a spot in my life that I knew that the only hope I had to be fathered was from my heavenly Father. As my dad was dying he said, 'Son, by the time I figured out what life was all about it was time to go.' I was determined to be able to fill in with the work he did and it drove me to the author and finisher of our faith and I have been with Him ever since."
The Elephant Room discussions were first organized in 2011 by MacDonald and Driscoll. Organizers believe that by talking openly about their differences, pastors and church leaders can assist in edifying the Church.