Sloan Stephenson: Youth Ministry Intern
What did your life use to look like that would relate most to the non-Christian?
I just kind of based my life in being a good person. I was saved at 5. I was just making sure that I obeyed Mom and Dad and was a good boy.
What did you rely on the most before accepting Christ? Where did your security and happiness come from?
Security and happiness came from the approval of family members and people who were over me, as well as Sunday school teachers.
When was the first time you heard the gospel and was exposed to dynamic Christianity? What were your initial reactions?
At a VBS in the church I grew up in. My initial reaction was "I've heard that one before." Just a response that I had already heard it before at home, it wasn't something new.
When did you feel the Lord reveal Himself to you and begin to turn your attitude around?
I first felt it in the church I grew up in. I went to a very small Baptist church, so we didn't have children care other than infants. The pastor was going through a study on Revelation. I would be illustrating out on the back sheet of the announcement paper. I would doodle out whatever we listened to during the sermon and that morning I was doodling the book of Revelation and realized, "Hmm, this is not good." That is when all the pieces came into place. This is what is coming and here is what I know is offering salvation. It was on a Sunday morning in April that I walked down the aisle and talked to my pastor and he led me to the Lord. I was baptized just a couple weeks after that.
What are some specific changes that Christ has made in your life?
I gained an understanding of why my family did what they did and why they were calling me to act in the way of obedience they were asking me to. It made sense to treat others with love and respect because it was what God was asking of me. And I understood why I needed to sit quietly and listen in church because it's God's Word.
Is there a Bible verse that you hold near to your heart that encourages you of Christ’s impact in your life?
"The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14. For me, it captivates what the Gospel is. That God would be willing to come down fully man but fully God and allow us to experience Him in His fullness. How he allows us to experience his presence as he reveals himself to us.
In what parts of your life do you pray for the Lord to continue to work in?
Definitely patience. But it just so happens, every time I ask for it, traffic gets worse. I've always been one who would like to see things happen sooner rather than later. God has been sanctifying my heart that waiting is a good thing. That, and how I view people. God doesn't save bad people, He saves dead people. No matter how good I was as a kid, I was still a sinner. And no matter who other people I engage with in life are, they can be just as dead as I was when God found me. So not setting a kind of system and just to keep engaging people with the Gospel as I was engaged with it as a kid.
If you could go back and talk to your former self before accepting Christ, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell younger me that despite what people will tell you, life is not about getting easier but about relying on the Lord more.
How do you go about approaching non-Christians and telling them about the Lord?
I approach them with gentleness and love. In the same way where Jesus met people where they are, I strive to connect with people and allow God to let dialogue occur and let spiritual conversations occur.
Who are three people connected with your testimony? Why have they been such an influence in your life connecting to your testimony?
My mom and dad. My parents both led our home in a very godly way. While most kids listened to fairytales, I listened to David & Goliath and parables of Jesus out of the Storybook Bible that my parents read to me at night. They would walk through the Christmas story before opening gifts. Along with that, I was at a camp when I was 16 and the service was led by a pastor in Tennessee named Gary Morgan. I had some conversations with him and God really used him to guide me during the week of camp. That was when the Lord called me to ministry at 16. And that's obviously been a big life turn moment.
Since accepting Christ, how have you been an influence on others around you?
After the Lord called me to ministry, I began serving on the student ministry worship team. I was able to preach at my home church and other local churches in the area. I was privileged to get to lead a Christian organization at my public school. I met 60 students every week, helped get them connected in a church, and many were saved.
What initially called you to serve at Cottonwood Creek?
A friend of mine who is on staff with our student ministry. We've been friends for about 3 years, probably closer to 4. We met through mutual connections in ministry. She called me in January and asked if I would be interested here at Cottonwood.
What called you to serve in the specific ministry that you're currently in?
Students specifically are in that stage of life where they are like a sponge and want to learn and do as much as possible that is modeled in front of them. I see God bless them with abundant amount of potential and just leading them in that way is what I love to do. I love seeing God move in their lives.
What have you learned so far from this internship? What do you hope to gain out of it?
I've learned the value of planning well and at the same time, praying for the Lord to move. No matter how much we plan, it's all for nothing if we don't rely on God and plead with Him to move in our students and to bless what we've planned. I'm not from the DFW area, so I hope to sponge some wisdom and knowledge and ideas that the Lord has blessed here at Cottonwood and prayerfully see that the Lord does the same where I'm from in northeast Arkansas.
How have you been able to express your spiritual gifts during this internship?
I've been able to teach some of the theology classes and lead our worship. I also have a seat at the table when it comes to planning and preparation.