I grew up in a small, southeastern Ohio town—“3,000 friendly people,” the sign said at the village limits. I was surrounded by an extended family in which virtually everyone was a believer in Christ and who, for the most part, practiced their faith. I didn’t know it then, but I now understand that this family experience was a rare gift.
Both of my parents are dedicated Christian people and have been since before I was born. Mom was a piano and organ teacher, who has participated in church music and worship services since her teens. Dad was a factory worker and barber and a member of my home church deacon board for over forty years, leading it for much of this time. When the church doors were open, so to speak, we were there. And when they weren’t open, Dad and Mom were still there, laboring faithfully behind the scenes—Dad fixing or preparing whatever needed attention, Mom leading music practices with others.
So it’s not a stretch to say my sister and I come from, in the best sense of the term, a “Christian home.” In response to the witness of my parents and many others in the church, at six years of age I made a personal profession of faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior, following this with baptism some three years later.
All four of my grandparents lived nearby and all of them played a role in my upbringing. They were caring and loving, wise, optimistic, modeled incredible work ethics, and “finished well,” living consistent, admirable Christian lives till the Lord called them home. Each one made spiritual and life investments in me that I cannot possibly repay other than by attempting to live by their example and live up to their expectations.
My maternal grandfather was the lively, hilarious spiritual patriarch of the family, and to a considerable extent of many families within our community. He was also a leading deacon in our Baptist church. He and my grandmother, along with three or four other couples, had made the difficult choice years before to leave their church, which had begun drifting into theological liberalism, and to found a new church committed to the Lord and the Word of God. I was a direct spiritual beneficiary of their courage, decisions, and diligent efforts, and so are other generations in a church that yet thrives after their passing.
In my family I learned and I believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the Bible is God’s inerrant Word, our guide for faith and practice. As a young person I attended Sunday School, daily vacation Bible school, church camp, Jet Cadets, and Teens for Christ. You name it, I was there. I was no angel, but I did everything a kid from a Christian home and a fundamentalist church was supposed to do. Then I attended a Christian college, now called Cedarville University.
Aside from a Christian family upbringing nothing marked my life more than my undergraduate experience. I loved every minute of it. While I was in college God delivered me from a spiritual struggle. Early in my Christian life, given a strongly rationalistic mind, I wrestled with doubt—not in the existence of God but in whether or not I was truly saved. My struggle ended with the assurances I found in 2 Timothy 2:11-13. Later, I discovered others who struggled with doubt, so as one outcome of my spiritual journey I’ve often spoken about doubt with college students and others, using Os Guinness’s work on the subject as one key supporting source.
It was also in Christian college that I found and pursued what became a wonderfully liberating understanding of the Christian faith, what we at that time called “a Christian theistic world-life view.” My growing understanding of a biblically-based Christian philosophy of life gradually allowed me to set aside certain fears, undeveloped views, or limited understandings rooted in my good but sometimes legalistic church experience in favor of a still thoroughly biblical but culture-engaging, forward thinking perspective of life.
Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer began writing his influential books just before my college years and continued for a decade or so after I graduated. His books helped me look more confidently upon the world, life, and learning, knowing the Christian faith offered “true truth,” as he called it. Through my education and via Dr. Schaeffer’s books I was intellectually set free, for I realized that one need not fear learning something that would someday undermine one’s faith. The Christian faith, I learned and internalized, was as intellectually sound as it was spiritually trustworthy.
My Christian college years also provided me with an attraction to the teaching profession and Christian higher education and with a friend who would become my wife.
Years hence I was finally able to write what I consider something of a personal manifesto, Christian Liberty: Living for God in a Changing Culture (Baker Books, 2003), which has since been republished as an ebook, Living for God in Changing Times (Unlikely Leaders, 2011). This book expresses my understanding of how to apply a biblically Christian worldview so one may live “in the world” while being “not of the world,” yet remembering God said to go “into the world.” I believe regular prayer and Bible reading are important ways in which we may and should develop our relationship with the Lord and through which the Spirit of God enables us to live a life characterized by personal holiness.
I am theologically conservative and consider myself a conservative evangelical, though I understand the definitions of these terms are moving targets. Sometimes today I simply say I am a Christian or follower of Jesus. I’m an optimistic realist, which I believe every Christian should be. We embrace God’s providence and know the end of the story, yet we understand the reality of sin in our lives and the impact of evil in the world. God calls us to serve him now, to contribute, to build culture for his glory, to witness to saving faith in Jesus, and to proclaim the Lordship of Christ in all of life. Our faith is eternally contemporary and transformative. All of this is one reason “proactive” is my favorite word.
Sarah and I were married in 1974 and God later blessed us with four children, now adults, and later still with their spouses and four grandchildren. Sarah is a wonderfully gracious believer who uses her gifts, especially hospitality, to bless me, our family, our friends, and many more. She has always served the Lord and has stood beside me as a partner in ministry, but now in our empty-nest years she is even more engaged in volunteer support in missions—Women At Risk, International.
The Lord guided us in attaining advanced degrees, through some thirty-four years of service in Christian education, including 17 years with Cornerstone University, several months in consulting, and now service in missions, doing promotion and fundraising for SAT-7 USA. God has given me opportunities to teach, speak, write, and lead. For as long as he gives me, my aspirations are to honor the Lord by honoring my wife and family, to serve proactively with integrity and vigor in whatever organizations or contexts he places me, and to someday finish well.
For all of this Sarah and I praise God and remember our family verse chosen when we knew our first baby was on the way: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalm 126:3).
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
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