ďThe Great Pretender
Testimony Of Mark McKinney"

Ever since I was born, I have always been in the church. Much like the song Everything to Me by Avalon, I did grow up in Sunday School and learned all the golden rules. I could tell you about how Jesus died on the cross for all of us. I could recite to you the plan of salvation by the age of eight. During Christmas, I was always given the biggest piece to recite. I was called on to do the most reading in a class filled mostly with 15 to 17 year old students while I was only 12. Everyone saw me as a good Christian boy.

I have never had a drug or drinking problem. Actually, I may have done worse. For years I deceived many people leading them to believe I was a Christian. Because of the ease in which I grasped the meaning of the Bible, it was easy to pretend I was such a good boy. But, I wasnít what many people saw. True, I knew the meaning of Godís word; but, I didnít know the true meaning. You could say I was the Great Pretender. I had everyone fooled.

Or so I thought. One day a loving family friend pulled me off to the side at church. Gently, she pointed out my deception. By the way, many of you who attended North Brook Elementary School when it was divided into 3 separate areas know this wonderful lady. Because she loved me as if I were her own child (she loved all of her 3rd Grade students as her own), I owe all my gratitude for starting me down the right path to Wilma Wilcox. Along with my mom, she saw my potential and urged me to strive for it. I wish I could say I changed right then and there; but, I canít. It was almost 2 years later, when I was 16, that I finally surrendered my life to Jesus for the first time. I say first time because; as many of you who were raised Baptist know, by professing your faith and being baptized you became a member of the church. Not exactly happy with denominational ties at the time, I rejected baptism.

Although they still loved and cared for me, for the next 4 years church and Christ were not a big influence in my life. I still attended church but I had other priorities. My first priority was to just get out of school. Now, many of you who knew me back then probably thought I loved school. I hated it Ė it was not a challenge so I did just enough to get by in certain classes. Only because I was told I needed to go on to college, I attended NCSU for 1year (only because I had a free ride) spending more time on Hillsborough Street that actually in class, basically majoring in partying. My only other priority, but possibly my most important, was to get a job and prove my naysayers wrong when they said I would never be able to work with my hands instead of my brain.

Yet, even through this entire time, God was protecting me. One night, while at NCSU, some friends and I decided to go to a local bar. Not finding any action, we decided to go back to our dorm and play pinball. Just as we stepped on campus, the police raided the bar and arrested everyone there at the time. That situation while still only 17 showed me I didnít belong there. So, after the school year was finished, I came home and found a job. Although I was probably too immature at the time, I made supervisor by the age of twenty.

When I turned twenty, things began to change. I finally submitted a second time to Godís calling and, this time, I was baptized; but only after my dad had given his life to Christ and was baptized earlier. Ironically, I may be one of a few who can say their physical birthday and both spiritual birthdays are the same dates. I wish I could say it was smooth sailing from there. But, it wasnít.

As I grew in the Lord and in service to Him at church, certain opportunities started coming my way. Unfortunately, most you who have known me since childhood remember that I was very shy and introverted. Yep, you guessed it! The opportunities presented me required me to lose that shyness. Now, I tell everyone that I wouldnít talk for the first half of my life and for the second half, so far, I canít shut up. As I began to shed the shyness, I started taking on more and more responsibilities. I began to teach different classes. I started speaking in front of the church on menís day. Ultimately, I was elected as a deacon. Then, I started to become more mission-minded. As that happened, I started taking on more responsibilities outside my church. I started doing volunteer work for our local Baptist Association and soon became the youth leader for it Ė in charge of planning events for roughly 53 churches. Through this service to the association, God provided me opportunities to go on mission trips I could never afforded on my own Ė as a team member and as a team leader to Brazil. Regrettably, this service had a price; my social life suffered greatly. Being so busy serving God that I never took the time to socialize led me to make one of the worst decisions in my life.

Wanting to slow the pace of my life, I decided to take a position with a church that wanted to hire their first youth minister. Both the church and I should have seen the folly of that decision. First, there were delays in gaining approval to start as the start date kept getting pushed back. Second, the youth area was not yet finished and no office space provided. Lastly, and most important, we did not seek Godís will. Within a week, I became sick and was diagnosed four times with a simple sinus infection. Between the problems with starting the program and the drugs prescribed for my illness(?), I became depressed to the point that suicide entered my mind. One night, as I was driving home from the church, I came to a crossroads. I remember sitting there as a tractor trailer approached thinking how easy it would be to just pull out in front of it. But, as I was pondering this decision, a thought entered my mind that if I tried this stunt two of my best friends from work would kill me. Needless to say, I resigned that position the next Sunday and went back to doing what God wanted me to do. Of course, I got well as soon as I returned to Godís will; x-rays revealed that I had never had a sinus infection.

As time passed, I started feeling God calling me to a higher service for Him. Coinciding with that higher calling, other things started happening in my life. In 2006, my mom suffered a horrible accident that would subsequently lead to my brother and me looking after her every need. Prior to her needing our care, our father suddenly passed away in May. Then, mom passed away in September. Ten days after she passed I was asked to perform the funeral for her last living aunt. Within an 18 month timetable beginning with the death of a dear friend, and including the funerals for dad, mom and her aunt, I attended funerals, or went to visitation, of over thirty relatives and friends. Joyfully, mom and dad along with most of the others are with Jesus today. Along with the sad times came happier times as well. In 2005, I had accepted a ministerial job at a local campground. In October 2006, I began sponsoring a 6-year old girl from Indonesia. Due to the company closing, I finally did go back to college in 2007, graduating in May 2009. Finally, after surrendering to Godís call, I was ordained as a Baptist minister on November 11, 2007. And that is how I have arrived to this point in my life.

Although I thought I was the Great Pretender, God showed me differently. And while I may have been out of His will at times, I have never been out of His care.

I hope you view the attached videos and see the relevance they have in my life.

Everything to me Ė Avalon

Everything to me Ė Avalon

Iíve Never Been Out Of His Care Ė Dallas Holm

Iíve Never Been Out Of His Care Ė Dallas Holm

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