Adam James didn’t want to go to Commonway. Now he’s leading a small group.
Adam was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school, and says he technically “still is Catholic, just not practicing.” His girlfriend, Laura, invited him to Commonway two years ago and he felt out of place.
There was a band, not a choir. There weren’t readings. There wasn’t communion every Sunday. He would attend with Laura and then go to mass alone.
“I went a couple more times,” Adam said, “and then just stopped going because part of me felt guilty.”
He felt he needed to decide between his faith and his girlfriend.
“We broke up,” Adam said. “My reasoning, which was stupid, was that I was Catholic and she wasn’t.”
The next week he went to Israel, not on a spiritual journey, but through his job with the U.S. Army. Adam, the general manager of The Arsenal CrossFit gym in Muncie, was in the National Guard until recently. Even though he was there to train with the Israeli military, he expected the trip to affirm his faith.
In an unexpected way, it did.
“Israel was not the image I had in my head. It was very touristy.”
Adam started to question why he was going to church, what his relationship with God was, and why in the world he left Laura.
Church had been part of his life for 26 years, but it wasn’t something he did for himself.
“It was something that I did because I thought I should . . . It wasn’t like I was building a relationship with God.”
Adam went to church because his parents and grandparents did.
After he came back from Israel and patched things up with Laura, he started going to Commonway again.
“Now I go for me. I want to go. It was like, ‘Oh I’m actually getting something out of this.’ It gives me more of a purpose, a direction I guess.”
Adam liked how he could relate to Matt, the lead pastor at Commonway. Adam knew Matt from The Arsenal where Matt is an avid CrossFitter.
“Matt is so transparent as a pastor. He’s a normal person. He messes up, too. He has such a good way of connecting you. It’s really good for me to actually have a relationship with my pastor.”
It was a big step for Adam to attend Commonway on a regular basis and it was an equally big step for him to join a small group. Adam was never one to open up to others, and, in fact had been bullied in high school and suffered with depression.
“It put me in a really, really dark spot for like four or five years [after high school] where I was depressed. That continued into college because when you get beat up and bullied all the time, it really destroys your confidence . . . For a really long time it was very challenging for me to talk to people and trust people and create relationships because I thought it was going to be one of those things where this is going to be the same thing as last time.”
But Adam showed up with Laura to Innovation Connector for the small group connection event.
“I kind of sat over in the corner and just stood there and waited, not really wanting to pursue it. Put me in the gym in front of everyone, I’m fine and comfortable because that is what I know. But put me in a setting where I don’t know anyone, that is hard for me to do. Laura was mingling with other people because that is what she does; she’s good at that. She was like, ‘Hey, you need to come and meet these people.’ And before we knew it, there was a group of twelve of us. We did it based off of our age and our schedule. It was easier than I thought.”
“When you start a small group, they have an eight week series that you go through. You meet everybody, tell your story, talk about your relationship with God. That brought us all close. Now we are all friends, we hang out outside of group, so it was really, really good.”
Talking with his small group, Adam came to a painful realization.
“It was hard for me to get the words out, ‘I don’t really have a relationship with God. I know who He is, I know about Him, I’ve read the book, but it was never a relationship.’ For me, the stuff that Matt says and the stuff we talk about in small group, has taught me not to fear God, but to want a relationship with Him. You are supposed to love God just like you love people on Earth and that takes constant effort, you have to work on it like any other relationship, like a marriage.”
Adam realized he had never really prayed before. Sure, he had prayed to pass a test, but never to give thanks for the everyday gifts in his life, or to be closer to God. His whole worldview started to shift.
“If someone were to wrong me, three or four years ago, my first thought would be revenge. And I wouldn’t really feel bad about it. Now, I see that everyone has different views on the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are wrong. You don’t have to agree with them, but they are all a child of God.”
Adam graduated from Ball State and as a student never saw himself staying in Muncie. That was before Laura and before Commonway.
“Laura and I have have pretty much set our roots here. With The Arsenal, with Commonway, I can’t imagine going anywhere else.”
Kelsey Timmerman is a writer, speaker, and the co-founder of The Facing Project, an organization focused on connecting people through stories to strengthen communities. Kelsey and his wife, Annie, have been around Commonway for a few years. You can find him online at www.kelseytimmerman.com
Have you experienced a similar kind of change? Has God shown up in your life in unexpected ways – or changed your perspective in a personal way? We’d love to hear your stories, no matter how big or small you think it is! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story today.