Don and I visited Calvary for the first time in the early fall of my second year of grad school at Bowman Gray. We were 23. A fellow student recommended it, so we drove down Country Club – and drove – and drove. Then we gave up and turned around. Nothing could be that far out “in the sticks.” The next Sunday we tried again and noted there was a LINE to get in this tiny church with stained glass the colors of Lifesavers! This we had to see!
The pastor Mark Corts was only 33, yet he was a dynamic preacher and quoted the Bible with ease and peppered his sermons with funny personal illustrations. The people seemed relaxed and sang so enthusiastically that no one turned around when I sang alto. They really wanted to know us and loved that we were thinking about getting married. They stood and shared what God had done in their lives THAT WEEK and how He had answered prayers specifically! What???
Coming from a military family, my idea of church was tolerating boring sermons from various Protestant ministers. I had learned in my college religion classes that intelligent people didn’t believe the Bible, and I wanted to be intelligent. But this Corts guy not only knew and believed the Bible, but he was articulate and engaging and intellectually a genius.
One Sunday night I decided to take an evangelism class he was teaching to try to figure him out! He passed out paper, and wrote this question on the board: “If you were to die today and stand before God, and God asked you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven,” what would you say?” So, not wanting to look dumb, I started writing right away: I go to church regularly. I’ve sung in the choir and taught Bible School and Sunday School. I know Bible verses and stories. I’m better than most people I know (wait – that sounds self-righteous, and Jesus didn’t like the Pharisees for that.).
So I crossed that out, and wrote humbly, “Because God loves me.” But God loves everybody, and Hitler sure isn’t in heaven. So I crossed that out and wrote, “I don’t know.”
Wait! How could I not know how to answer the most important question of all? He had my attention now! The answer was in John 3:16, and I’d known that since I was a little girl. “For God so loved the world . . .that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
Just believe? What about all the good stuff I’d done? Mark explained to the class with more scripture that I’d gone my own way instead of God’s (sin); that the penalty of sin is Hell; and the only adequate payment would be either my eternal death (separation from God) or someone’s who was willing to die that death for me. To die for ALL OF US He would have to have lived a sinless life. Only Jesus did that.
And – the amazing thing is – He not only died for us because He chose to, but we can receive it as a FREE GIFT. All the good things we do aren’t needed, and all the bad things we’ve done are forgiven. So, yes! I prayed on the spot, right in that evangelism class. I asked Jesus to forgive me for my sins and to come into my heart. At the end of the class I rushed up to Mark Corts to tell him what had happened. He was shocked. “What motivated you to take this class?” I said, “I wanted to know what made you tick.” Out burst that wonderful laugh of his!
Immediately I began to share my new faith, excited about telling others and angry that so many ministers don’t tell people! I started training others to share the good news of scripture and had a strong desire to read and understand God’s Word.
Calvary has worked in my life not only by bringing me to Christ but by teaching me His Word from the pulpit, especially through Drs. Corts and Chapman. Don and I were guided to live within Christian principles. We gave our lives to serve Christ early in our marriage, and Brian, Scott and Stephen, our sons, have watched us serve joyfully and through trials. They received sound teaching here, and in turn have received Christ and have given themselves through ministry and have chosen godly helpmates, Andrea, Correne and Karen. We have been blessed to have 5 gorgeous grandkids (but don’t get me started). We have all made lifetime friends whom we have served and have ministered to us. Calvary is our church home and family. What a joy to belong here! We love all of you!
We will continue to bring people to Christ and to enthusiastically serve Him wherever He leads.