Jim Edwards grew up in a spiritually diverse family. His sister is Jewish, his father is Buddhist, and Jim was a Taoist for almost a decade. Growing up in Kansas City, he spent time away during his service in the Navy and then came back to his home town. After a bad breakup with a girlfriend, Jim spent six months living on the dining room floor of a friend’s house while he was trying to get back on his feet. While working in retail a lady came in one day and asked if she could pray for Jim. “I’m fine,” he told her, “don’t do it for me, but if it makes you feel better go right ahead.” This woman stopped right there in the middle of the store and prayed for Jim, but he completely dismissed it at the time.

Jim was an amateur swing dancer and his partner started going to Graceway, then KCBT. As she got to know people at church, she started inviting them out to dance with them. This ended up being the girl who invited him to church. Even though she didn’t believe the same as what Jim did, she would sit and listen to his beliefs. She wouldn’t dismiss him because he thought different than she did. He ended up coming to church one evening. At the time, Jeff Adams was preaching through the book of Revelation. “He spent the entire hour on one verse and it blew my mind,” Jim said, “I had never seen so many young people care about the Bible.”

After service there was a time of prayer, and to be polite, Jim kept his head down. At the end of prayer he noticed that he was physically rocking back and forth in the pew. He looked up to see one of the pastors looking at him. He stood up, walked over, and the pastor introduced him to someone who took him back to the conference room and laid out the gospel. “I listened for ten minutes and didn’t say a word.” Jim said. This man, who was trying to help me, told me that he couldn’t do anything for me if I didn’t respond at all. “He got up to walk away and as he did I grabbed his arm and said, ‘we aren’t done yet.’” Jim said. “And then it hit me that everything I was doing, everything I knew I needed to change but couldn’t, I knew what needed to happen next.” It was that night he accepted Christ. “At the time I had no idea what was involved with this decision and I really had no idea what this was going to do in my life.” One of the first things he thought of was the woman who had prayed for him in the store so many months ago. He said, “I still attribute her prayer that day to me eventually accepting Christ.”

The first several months after the decision to follow Christ were difficult for Jim. He still was doing things he felt that he shouldn’t have been doing as a Christian. Some of his friends didn’t want anything to do with this new part of his life. Jim was excited to share the message of salvation with one friend, but lacked the grace and care to approach the topic in love. The poor approach did more damage in representing Christ than if he had said nothing at all.

A short time later, Jim moved in with a couple of guys he met from church. “I was nervous they would be too ‘churchy’.” he said. “I wasn’t sure it would work out, but it turned out to be a good fit.” He signed-up and started going through the discipleship process and slowly started to get involved in ministry. “I was slow to transition because I did not think the things I was doing Christianity would approve of. I was scared to let people see that.” he said. “I was still smoking, still had a mouth and I was scared people would freak out.” For him, it was getting comfortable with the fact that he could be himself and people wouldn’t judge who he was. “Despite being worried about people accepting me, I found grace and acceptance as my relationships deepened within the church.” he said.

Jim describes his life before salvation as chaotic and full of emotion. “The structure of discipleship really showed me a different way of approaching life.” he says. It was structured, organized, and for the first time he had a good male influence in life.

In January we will begin our “i am graceway” series. Join us as we talk about the importance of the discipleship process and the power of relationships.