“From Addiction to Redemption” - Stephen McWhirter's Story

“From Addiction to Redemption” - Stephen McWhirter's Story
Side B Stories
“From Addiction to Redemption” - Stephen McWhirter's Story

Mar 15 2024 | 00:59:35

Episode 89 March 15, 2024 00:59:35

Hosted By

Jana Harmon

Show Notes

Former atheist Stephen McWhirter rejected God because of Christian hypocrisy and abuse. Looking for comfort, he plunged into drug addiction. After an encounter with Christ, he left his skepticism and addiction behind and spends his life in leading others to Jesus.

Stephen's Resources: 

Resources mentioned by Stephen:

  • Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ
View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Speaker A: You. I would say deep down, if I was honest, I did believe. But there's that. I think that's the thing about a lot of people. I don't think it's an issue of not believing in God. I think it's an issue of a lie. You believe about the character of God and you feel like by then you've gone so far, there's no point in turning back. So just go all the way you. [00:00:26] Speaker B: Hello and thanks for joining in. I'm Jana Harmon, and you're listening to Sidebee stories where we see how skeptics flip the record of their lives. Each podcast we listen to someone who has once been an atheist or skeptic, but who became a Christian against all odds. You can hear more of our stories on our [email protected] or on our YouTube channel. We welcome your comments on these stories on our Facebook page and our YouTube channel. You can also email us directly at [email protected] we always love hearing from you. We all have an idea of who God is, whether he is real or true or good or relevant. Our ideas are based upon our life experiences, our understanding of who God is. [00:01:12] Speaker C: Supposed to be, and whether our ideas. [00:01:15] Speaker B: Of God match our own expectations. Oftentimes, life is difficult and disappointing, even devastating. We find it impossible to believe that a good God exists. When we look around, all we see is brokenness and lies and destruction. Envisaging a good God or a powerful God becomes even more challenging when the brokenness and devastation is in your own home and in your own life. In rejecting the possibility of a good God, we often believe that we can do life better on our own. But we often find, too, that when we're in control, life doesn't go as well as we thought it would. It can lead to a destructive path. In our story today, Stephen McWhorter angrily rejected God because of what he had seen and experienced in his own home and embraced a life of darkness and drug addiction. Yet today, he spends his life and influence as a musician, telling the world about a good God who loves each person personally and generously. How did that happen? I hope you'll come along to hear his amazing story. [00:02:32] Speaker C: Welcome to Sidebie stories. Stephen, it's so great to be with you. [00:02:36] Speaker A: Oh, it's good to be here. Thank you for having me, Janet. [00:02:38] Speaker C: Perfect. As we're getting started, I'd love for our audience to know a little bit about you. Steven. Tell me about who you are, kind of. Now, what's your world look like? [00:02:49] Speaker A: Oh, my goodness. That's a big question today. Let me start at the very simplest part. I'm married. My wife Tara and I have been together, gosh, 26 years. Dated since she was 14 and I was 16. We have three boys, Andrew, Alex, and Austin. 1916. And eight. It's about to be nine. Surprise. We live in Louisville, Kentucky. And, yeah, we're just blessed. I've been doing music, christian music, songwriting. Worship leader for, my gosh, a long time, over ten years full time as just a songwriter and artist, traveling, but almost 20 years as a worship leader in general. I travel a great deal overseas, in the United States, all over. And it's just a joy to get to see so many people come to Jesus just telling a story and just worshiping the Lord and letting him do all the heavy lifting. [00:03:53] Speaker C: Okay, terrific. That does really set us up. I'm curious because I know that that's not where your story began. [00:04:02] Speaker A: Right. [00:04:03] Speaker C: Why don't you tell us about your home life, where you were born? What was that world like? Were there Christians in your world? Was there God in your world? [00:04:12] Speaker B: Let's start there. [00:04:14] Speaker A: Yeah. Well, my dad was an evangelist growing up, and so we traveled from church camp to church camp. That was my entire childhood. And I just remembered the man that I saw behind a pulpit and the one I saw behind closed doors were not the same. I would literally see my dad get up and preach about Jesus, but then physically abuse my mom behind closed doors. So I just remember at a young age being like, look, if God's real, he's not good, and I don't want anything to do with this Jesus guy. Around 13, I think, through eleven, I was smoking, drinking marijuana, all that. I was stealing cars. I was breaking into houses. It was a mess. By the time I was 15, I was using cocaine and pills, and I was selling drugs. By the time I was 17, I had become a full out crystal meth addict. And I was using crystal meth almost every day for over six years. I was arrested six times before I turned 21. It was just a wrecking ball of bad decisions that I would say with confidence was rooted in this brokenness and this woundedness that I have with seeing my dad talk about Jesus and then do this and not to lay it all at his feet. At the end of the day, I believed a lie about God and about his character and just ran with know. And this made me truly hate Christianity and Christians. I remember being the guy that would cuss you out or try to knock you out if you mentioned the name Jesus around me. I would be the guy online right now with people on social media making fun of you for being a moron and believing in fairy tales. That's literally who I was. I remember my sweet mom putting her hands on me one time when I was just having, like, a total depression breakdown in my house, and she put her hands on me and started praying in the name of Jesus. And I just remember knocking her hand off of me, saying, never mention that name around me again and get out of my mean. This is who I was. I was just the guy you would never think would come to Jesus. And so I had a lot of woundedness. Yeah, I had a lot of brokenness. And it was pouring itself out around everyone around me in the most brutal way. [00:06:46] Speaker C: Wow. So as you were growing up, I guess it sounds like you were fairly young when these experiences happened, so that you were really getting a tremendous disconnect between who your father was, who he presented himself to be as a representative of God, but yet being so abusive in your own home, I can imagine it would be very difficult to conceive. You said you had a misunderstanding of who God was because of your earthly father. Who did you perceive God to be based upon the example of your father? [00:07:30] Speaker A: I'd say. Again, I wouldn't say that. I think I just thought he was a know. Most of that was through the view of my know. Like I said, I believe that if he was real, he wasn't good. This is something that I think I struggled with slightly even after becoming a Christian. And I think a lot of Christians, people that have given their life to Jesus, do struggle with what I'm about to say, which is, if God's real, he's good, but the plan that he has for my life is good for him, but it's bad for me, but I should want it because he's God. And this is the internal battle that we have because we mistaken goodness with something God just does instead of realizing that it's actually who he is. And I think for many of us and myself at that time, I thought it was just something he does. I forgot that. I didn't realize yet that it's who he is. Psalm 1968 says, you're good and everything that you do is good. And I think I just didn't understand that the whole time when I was striving to feel good, even through all the addiction, I was seeking after him through broken ways and didn't know it because I can't have good without the one who is the very source of goodness. And so I struggled with that greatly throughout that whole time. And again, I think most of it stemmed from, hey, we're shaped a lot by our fathers and by our parents as kids especially. And what I witnessed was very traumatic. Some of the brutal moments where I saw my father physically beating on my mom. That is something that's really hard for an eight year old to sit and watch and process. Right. So to me it was that, okay, if this is who Jesus is, he's not good. If he's even real at all, he's not good. Because this is obviously what people who believe in him act like. Right? And so I think at the end of the day, the biggest lie that stuck with me about God is if he's real, he's not good. [00:09:37] Speaker C: Yeah, because you were a child and your father was an evangelist, I'm sure that there was some keeping up the pretense that you have this family at home, that all is good, but that there was this pretend going on because you were a child. Were you forced in a sense, to go to church and maintain this pretense or did they allow you? [00:10:07] Speaker A: Oh, no. I mean, when I was a kid, kid, obviously I had to go everywhere they went. By the time I started turning twelve and stuff like that, I just didn't go at all. My dad was on the road a lot. I stayed home, stayed with my mom, stayed home at this point, and we lived with my grandma as well. And I just did whatever I wanted. I went wherever I wanted. And I think some of that, if I talk about it and I'm honest, I think I heaped a lot of agony on my mom because part of me kind of blamed her for not leaving my dad, like staying with him. And I was just kind of like, if you're not going to stand up for yourself, then I don't respect you at all. I'm going to do whatever I want. Really, I did. And no one stopped me. I hate to say that I didn't have any real. My dad didn't exist in my life. When he was on the road, he was gone. When he was home, he just hung out in his room and then he left again. It was really messed up, and that's fine, whatever. And some people have much darker stories than me, right? But it's still real. And I remember during that time just thinking, you know what? If nobody's going to stop me, I'm going to do whatever I want and I'm going to bury this anger and this brokenness under as much destructive behavior as I possibly can. [00:11:30] Speaker C: So you knew what you didn't believe. You didn't believe in God. You didn't believe. [00:11:36] Speaker A: Obviously, I would say deep down, if I was honest, I did believe. But there's that. I think that's the thing about a lot of people. I don't think it's an issue of not believing in God. I think it's an issue of a lie. You believe about the character of God and you feel like by then you've gone so far, there's no point in turning back. So just go all the way, right, which kind of makes sense if you look at the Bible where it says in revelation, it says that the devil has come down to you, the enemy has come down to you, and he knows his time is short, right? He's angry and he's coming against the bride because he knows his time is short. And I think this is very characteristic of a lot of people that have decided, hey, I'm an atheist or I'm angry at God or whatever. Deep down, I think honestly they believe. But there's this thing where they've said, if he's real, I'm his enemy. So I have to just succumb to this, right? And that's kind of where I was. I was like, you and me are enemies. If you're real at all, you're my enemy. So I just kind of went at it hoping he wasn't real. And if he was, I was just going to go as far right as possible because there's no hope for me going left. And all this comes back down to a lie about who God is. Right? [00:13:00] Speaker C: Yeah, but there was also some pain there. I would imagine that you were trying to numb, in a sense, through drug use. I guess you could say some of it was rebellion, like you were saying. [00:13:13] Speaker A: Yeah, but even that rebellion, if I come back to it, everyone has believed a lie about who God is at the core of it. I mean, if you're going to be honest about it, yes, my father was a mess. Yes, my childhood was a mess. But still, at the core of it, as much as I can blame all these other people, I still believed a lie about God and about who he is. And I went all the way with that lie. And it's deeply at that root. And for many of us, when we start to take that know, you look at Jesus in the desert with Satan, all Satan does is lie about who God is. He takes scripture and he flips it. And all that Jesus does is turns it back around. Right? The battle of the ages is just this truth and lies thing, right? And so, yeah, for me, that was the heart of it. [00:14:03] Speaker C: So you believed a lie and you were rebelling and you were running towards, I guess, away from God and towards drug or anything self destructive, it sounds like, in a pretty serious and significant way, what was life like out there? Kind of in the wilderness where you were running from God? You were heavily addicted, it sounds like, for several years. And at a young age, what was that life like? [00:14:34] Speaker A: I'd say during that time, probably the biggest thing was anything I could get my hands on. And this sounds cliche, but to numb the brokenness, the woundedness, the anger, the childhood that we didn't even talk about, you know what I mean? Everybody knew I hated my dad. Nobody knew really quite why, because there was this entrenched thing of like, just don't talk about it. Just don't talk about it because your dad's a minister and it'll hurt all that, blah, blah, blah. So I didn't talk about it, and I bottled it up. Every now and then I would get so drunk or something, I might mention it, but that was about it, right? So during that time, I just remember, even at a young age, around eleven through twelve, this is crazy. I got in trouble first time with police, stealing cigarettes at a wind Dixie grocery store, which I know was classy. After that, it was. First time I ever smoked marijuana was at a church camp, actually. And people always say, really? That's shocking. I'm like, really? Is it, though? Think about this. I mean, back in the least, when I was going to church camps a lot, this is where people would send a lot of their troubled children, where they hoped they would find Jesus. So it's really not surprising that when you put all these people together in a camp for a week, that they're going to get in trouble. I literally got kicked out of a church camp where my dad was preaching a revival for vandalizing the cafeteria and sneaking out after night and smoking marijuana and all this kind of stuff. I can't imagine now having somebody come to me and tell me, hey, this thing you're preaching at or speaking at this week, your son's getting kicked out. And this is what he did. Just total. Just a rebellion on the next level. And during this time, this was what I was doing. I was drinking and all these things, and it was just a blur. Like I said, by the time I'm 15, a lot of my friends I knew, and this was small town Corden, Indiana, which is like, imagine Mayberry, if Mayberry was a meth know, it looks like this really sweet little town with a gazebo and a square, but there's just so much darkness kind of going on in these mobile homes and all these people are making drugs. It's crazy, really. And so this was kind of the world I lived in, was with these people in these dark places, selling drugs, using, arrested again six times before I turned 21. It was a blur of just like, even though I look back now and this is over 20 years since then, and it just feels like an out of body experience, but yet when I write about it and think about it and talk about it, I'm like, man, that was really my life. I lived through that somehow. Somehow I lived through it. There was many times where I almost od or did something really stupid like that. I remembered in those moments even thinking, okay, God, if you're real, you better do something, because if you're not, prove to me. There was this part of me inside that was thinking that. I never said it out loud, but I know now, looking back, there was a part of me inside. I was like, almost like I was testing. If you're not going to stop me, I'm just going to keep going and I'm just going to butcher my life. That's really where I was. [00:17:59] Speaker B: If you're listening to this podcast and are interested in growing your relationship with Jesus alongside others who have a deep desire to do the same, I'd like to take a moment to tell you about the C. S. Lewis Institute Fellows program. The Fellows program is a year of intensive discipleship that leads to significant life change. Since 1999, the Fellows program has helped transform the lives of thousands of people and has been commended in the legacy of C. S. Lewis. The Fellows program holistically focuses on discipleship of heart, mind and life and includes directed Bible study, book reading and lecture from notable christian authors and speakers, alongside group discussion on what was read and heard. Changing monthly themes center around growth in spiritual formation and apologetics. Each fellow is also supported and encouraged throughout the study year with the help of a personal spiritual mentor who walks alongside all. In the context of a small group of like minded believers, this year long program is designed for those who want to live as fully committed disciples of Jesus Christ who make an impact in the world for him. Now located in 17 cities in the US and in Ireland, if you'd like to see if it's for you, or if it's in your city, or to find out more information, go to the [email protected] fellowshiprogram. Now back to our story. [00:19:49] Speaker C: You knew what you were headed towards. I mean, you knew what you were rejecting or who you were rejecting. But when you're running like a train over a cliff, you know you're running into the darkness, but there's a recklessness about it. And it's not as if you're being mindful, saying all these rational reasons why God can't be real or true. It's just. I know I don't want that. So I'll accept this, this other lie. [00:20:17] Speaker A: Misery really does love company, too. I just gravitated towards broken people, and we all broke stuff together. That was very much what it was. There's just so many wounded people out there, especially youth and stuff. And it's easy to find. There's a lot of hormones, a lot of rebellious angst in those years anyways, and so it only fuel for the fire. [00:20:45] Speaker C: So how long were you in this state of just being arrested and drug use and meth use? [00:20:51] Speaker A: Well, it was over eleven years, easy. Over eleven years for sure. And six of which was the crystal meth period. Yeah. And during this time, like I said, I hated Christianity, but there were people praying for me. My sister was also in all this destructive stuff. She was as wild as me, if not wilder, but she actually gave her life to Jesus before I did. Had some encounter with the Lord that know quite remarkable. And she'd become a Christian. And to me, at this time, this was the most annoying thing on the planet. I couldn't stand being around her. She was like nails on a chalkboard to me, every time. Her joy and all this kind of stuff that was going on, which was genuine, was horrible to me. I hated it. Just anger towards her. I was like, how stupid could you be after what we grew up around, to give your life to Jesus and to believe in all this stuff? So, yeah, she loved me, prayed for me through all this, even though I was brutal towards her about it. And I just remember people telling me how they would pull over on the side of the road and just be crying over me coming to Jesus. Like, people told me this later, there's a reason you feel so burdened for a person. I would always say, that's the Holy spirit that does. You know, God was after me, right? And somebody came and gave me this book about Jesus written by Lee Strobel. Right. The case for Christ by Lee Strobel is what they brought me. And having told you how much I hate Christianity, which you've gotten the gist of in this already. This is probably the most miraculous part of the story, because I accepted this book without clawing the eyes out of somebody's head, right? I was just like, cool, whatever. Take this mean, really. That's the part in the Red Sea moment. If you can imagine the person, you know that hates Christianity the most, you offering them a book about Jesus and them accepting it would be like, earth shattering miracle, right? But that's what happened. For whatever reason, I was like, cool, whatever. And, yeah, fast forward. I have this book. I'm living in a house full of musicians and drugs, and it's just a big cliche, right? We were all sharing this house together and just smoking pot and drugs and drinking all the time and playing music, because around this time in my life, I was actually in metal bands, screaming my head off and doing all this kind of stuff. I was in music, but it was just a super unhealthy environment that I was in. So I was sharing the house with these guys, and I just remember they gave me this book. Fast forward. I'm in this room in this house. It's 03:00 in the morning. Nobody's playing a harp in the corner. Softly and quietly, there's nobody preaching. Not that these things wouldn't have helped, but it was seemingly the most improbable place for somebody to get saved. I would say it would probably offend some people, like the idea of somebody getting saved in a place like this. But that's what happened. God met me in this room at 03:00 in the morning, literally, with drugs on the side table next to me. I'm reading this book about Jesus written by Lee, and I basically have this encounter with what I know is God in the room. I'm not saying I heard an audible voice. Let's just say I knew he was there, right? And we began to have this internal dialogue that went like this. Steven, I'm real, I'm good, and I have a purpose for your life. What are you going to do about it? And I remembered thinking then what I'm thinking now, which is those sound like words you would pull out of a book called Christian Things to say, right? If you want to sound spiritual, insert one of those words, right? But I always tell people God has a way of saying a word you've heard a million times, and you hear it not just intellectually, but you hear it, and you really hear it in a way that unlocks something that's been dormant inside you your entire life. Something as simple as, I love you. Right? And suddenly you're like, you're hearing it from the first time, from the one who is the very source of love. And when he said, I'm good, I went, right. It's like, can you really be? Is this really possible? And I just remembered in that room, in that moment, saying, God, I want to give you my life. I want to quit all this addiction, all this darkness, all this depression, all this anger that I've known for so long, God, I want to, but I can't. Look, when you know you're talking with God and you know he's there, there's no, like, saying the right churchy things. You just are like, God, I want to, but there's no way. I mean, this is who I've been for over eleven years at this point. I remembered I'd been up for like four days at one point and on meth and had this thought to myself that you're going to die at a young age, but you can't quit. And literally coming to terms with my fate and going, but that's okay, is what it is again. Eleven years of addiction. I couldn't remember what it was like to be a little kid and be happy without taking something to make me feel happy. This was my life. I was the guy that got high with everybody. I didn't know anything else. So when I said, God, I want to, but I can't, I meant it. I just remember the Holy Spirit spoke something into me that changed me for the rest of my life. And I knew this wasn't me. I mean, there's just no way. And it was, Stephen, you won't do it. I'll do it. And it's that Ephesians, you're saved by grace. This is a work from God. This isn't something you can boast about. And so I did the simplest thing, like Christianity 101. It says, the only work the father asks of you is to believe. Right? And that's what I did. I took God at his word. I believed him in that moment. Like, I believe I'm breathing air right now. And I literally got out of bed, got on my knees. I'd been around church enough to kind of get a feel for what I would do. But this wasn't that. This was like a real genuine gut of who I am reaction. I got out of bed, I got on my knees, I started uncontrollably, that boogers out of your nose crying thing. I'm on the floor and I'm like, jesus, I give you my life. All this stuff and everything, right? There and then in that room, 03:00 in the morning, I went from addiction to redemption because God's real. It's all real. Anything I remembered leaving that room that night and going to people that I knew that weren't believers yet or friends of mine going, oh, my gosh, it's real. Like a crazy person. It's all real. Oh, my gosh. And the crazy part, too, is I'll just say this, and some people may not like this, but you'll just have to take it up with Jesus when you get to heaven, because I quit everything overnight. I literally quit everything overnight. Don't get me wrong. Plenty of emotional problems to deal with for years to come. Physically wasn't easy, but if you knew me, I do not have that willpower. The Lord completely transformed our heart in that moment. And I always tell people, because I speak all across the country and overseas telling my story, and in addiction recovery ministries, they'll often say, hey, it doesn't work like that. It takes time. You can't say that. And I always say this. Look, in the gospels, Jesus never healed anyone the same way twice, right? Because every story has a purpose. If it takes five times, God's going to use your story to change someone's life, for whatever reason. With me, he did it like this, right? And the rest is kind of history, I think. I got a job as a worship leader for a very hard up Methodist church because ex meth addict apparently doesn't look good on a job resume. But maybe I underestimated just how desperate churches can be for worship leaders. And having been in metal bands, I'll never forget, they slid me a list of songs that I was allowed to play. And you have to understand, I'd been in all these heavy metal bands and all this stuff, and here they are sliding me a list of songs I was allowed to play. And at that time, I think the coolest song on that list was, I can only imagine. And I was like, but you know what? When you encounter what I encountered, I was so grateful to just sing to him. I didn't care. [00:30:04] Speaker C: Wow. So in that moment when you surrendered to Christ and knew that he was real and that he was good and that he loved you, it sounds like you left everything behind. Not only drugs, but I would imagine you would have had to have left your bands, your friends, everything. [00:30:24] Speaker A: Basically everything just fell away. I mean, I tried to be like, guys, this is real. Come on. Like, friends of mine, people, well, so called friends of mine that I knew for years, but they all disappeared. I mean, really, honestly, some of them got saved later in life, and we connected again. I had a friend of mine I stole my first car with Nick Smith. Man. Nick. Nick is now the sheriff of the town where I grew up. We're still really good friends. So God has a way, and he's a believer, man. The Lord's using him to, like, we've come and done things at that jail and just baptized inmates and just all kinds of cool stuff. So God, he takes the things you think will mark your life with shame, and he uses them to mark your life with his glory. [00:31:11] Speaker C: That's beautiful. So you left drugs and you became a worship leader. What was the time lapse between the time you set down your drugs, surrendered, and then you started leading worship? Surely there was some time, some healing, some. [00:31:25] Speaker A: I think it was like six months later or something, somebody said, hey, two different people call me about this thing, okay? Like, hey, you should go check this out. [00:31:33] Speaker C: And what happened with your family once you decided to. [00:31:39] Speaker A: Yeah. So it's a full story again. Like any life, there's more to it than just the salvation part, right? And so I give my life to Jesus. And not long after that, by the way, I was in that bed with me that night was my girlfriend, who's now my wife. And I moved out that night and slept on a couch and said, I want to get married. We're going to do this, right? So, so many months later, right? And moved out. Slept on the couch. She thought I was crazy. Slept on the couch. My friends thought I'd been kicked out of my house. She was mad at me. What did you do wrong? I'm like, no, man. I believe in Jesus. I'm sleeping on this couch. I'm sleeping on this couch. And she ends up getting saved later, by the way, which is awesome. Before we get married and we decide to get baptized, right? And I'll never forget this. She actually instigated this. The Lord uses her, Tara, in a big way. She's amazing. I always tell people my wife is stronger, faster. But the Lord used her to basically be like, hey, I feel like the Holy Spirit's telling me, you're supposed to go to your dad. So I go to my dad, and I hate this. I hate the idea of this. And by the way, at this point, my mom had threatened to leave my dad and all this kind of stuff. And so this is wild. My dad was apparently addicted to painkillers. That doctor in the early 80s, if you came and said, I have back problems, they still do this now. But then they would just give you drugs. And my dad ended up getting addicted to painkillers. I didn't know this. During all this time, he was like, addicted to painkillers, which is so crazy. Little did I know in all the rebelling, I was walking more in his footsteps than I realized, right? Crazy. So anyways, he's healthier. He's not touched my mom in like ten years or whatever. At this point. Still, granted, I hated his guts, okay? And I just remember the Lord being like, you're supposed to forgive your dad. That doesn't make it okay, what he did. I don't condone people staying in abusive relationships like that. I'm just going to be honest with you. My mom did, and that's fine. But I went to my dad and I said, hey, I'm a believer now and I love you and I'm going to forgive you for what I grew up seeing and for all the pain. And it wasn't this miraculous moment where light came in through the window and a bird landed on my shoulder. It was so awkward. I think he looked at me like, oh, God, why are we talking about this? Please stop. And that was it. Fast forward. We're about to get baptized and my wife comes to me and says, I think your dad's supposed to baptize us. I know that sounds hard, but I think this is something God wants to do. So my dad ended up baptizing us. It gets even worse or better, however you want to look at it. He ends up performing our wedding ceremony. My goodness. He died of cancer over ten years ago now. But the point of this is this. I'm not condoning anything, sure. But when you give your life to Jesus, it's not just about you. It's like this pebble in the ocean that ripples out and becomes like a tsunami of grace and redemption that begins to hit everything, not just you, but everything around you. When you fully start going, okay, Jesus, you can have it all. Even the bitter hurt that I've held onto my whole life, you can have that too. Not just the way, you know, forgiveness is about debt or legitimate debt. Sometimes that you have the ability to rip up and throw away, just like Jesus did with you. And that was probably one of the hardest things I ever did, but it radically changed my. So there was a lot of redemption there. [00:35:54] Speaker C: Just curious. I know that you came to him in a spirit of forgiveness and it freed you from that burden and that anger. But did your father confess in a. [00:36:06] Speaker A: Sense, towards the latter part of his time he was constantly asking forgiveness with us kids and with my mom and stuff publicly about it with us. But, yeah, I'd love to tell you that he went out and he told everybody. That would be great, but that's not what happened. And I think it's an opportunity for people to go, okay, the worst thing that could happen is me not confessing it, because there's so much beauty that God wants. On the other side of repentance, revival is on the other side of repentance. Restoration things that you can't even imagine because you've allowed yourself to only think, if I do this, all these bad things will happen. Maybe some things might happen, but the good that God wants to do will always outweigh it. [00:37:04] Speaker C: So, obviously, again, you rejected God, or this image of God who you thought was not good, not loving. You met Christ. He demonstrated to you who he was, and then that lie was shattered, in a sense. So your concept of God was reformed? I guess, in a sense that he was the kind of God that you could trust, that you could believe that you felt his love. And it sounds like you were radically changed. For someone to have despised God so much because of their father, but yet because of the grace demonstrated to you, you poured out that grace to your father. I don't know that any greater transformation really could be made. [00:38:03] Speaker A: Don't give me a medal. [00:38:05] Speaker C: Like you say, it's through God himself, the Holy Spirit, that allowed you to forgive. It was through the grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. And, wow, what a transformed life. And then you went from that, evidently, that little Methodist church where you were leading worship in a very small way, it sounds like now, to a very grand way, to a global scale. So how did that transition. [00:38:34] Speaker A: Pretty wild. [00:38:34] Speaker C: How did that transition happen? Were you just leading worship for a little while in a small church? And then what happened? [00:38:42] Speaker A: Well, I'd definitely say people are like, wow, where you are today, it just feels like overnight. I was like, well, you haven't been with me because it's far from overnight. I always say God is always preparing your character for your destiny. A lot of my journey is just me learning, hey, his ways are higher than mine, and if it takes this long, that's fine. If you'd have told me in my 20s that not until you're in your 40s will you actually walk into the fullness of what God has for your life, I would have said, get behind me, Satan. But I didn't realize what all had to happen before I could do it. And so only today. Now do I fully grasp. No, not fully, until I'm in front of Jesus. But only now do I feel like I have a greater understanding, a greater sense of how big his grace is and how humbling it is to allow him to use you in a way that you look back at your story, and like I said, he takes what you think you would mark your life with shame, that you would never want anyone to know, and he uses it to mark your life with his glory. I would have never told anyone my story. I would have know I was brought up to say, hide those things, don't tell anyone. And now authenticity and just being super real is, like, the center of my know Jesus is. But that's a big part of who I am. I have very little tolerance for people that talk differently on a stage than they do behind closed doors. It's just like, gosh, I want to be that guy. That who I am is shaped in the secret place, like, who I am when no one's watching is who I am on a stage. So that it's just the overflow of a life, just constantly with him and aware of him. So sometimes somebody will get up on a stage and you'll be like, man, this person is technically not that good at this, but why do I just feel the presence of the Lord? It's because they spend time with him all the time. Right? And that's the stuff you can't quantify or practice to learn. It's really interesting, but, yeah, I went from that church. I had no idea what I was doing. I was just following the present, like the lead of the Lord. And then when I left officially, it wasn't too long after that that the Lord just put me in places that you would never write it down on paper and go, a plus b equals me doing this, and everything will work out. There's no way you could have written it down. And we don't have enough time here to talk about it all. Suffice it to say that it takes real faith, which means you have to walk out into things where there is no net and trust that God's leading. [00:41:28] Speaker C: Right? [00:41:28] Speaker A: There was just some really influential people in the christian music industry that just happened to hear a song I wrote or just happened to see me somewhere at this one specific time. I never pushed anything or tried to get anybody to listen something. Next thing you know, I've got a record deal, and I started traveling and putting out music, and, gosh, just blessed it. This is all I've done for the last 15 years. Travel and start sharing my testimony and seeing thousands of people come to Christ. I mean, it's just been wild. But last year, around September of last year, I got on this thing called TikTok. I'm one of those people that actually believe, well, you can let the enemy just have social media, or you can actually love people and build the kingdom with it. Not your platform, but actually the kingdom, right? That's different. And, well, I put this song out called Come Jesus, come, which is about the return of Christ that the Lord really put on me, and very quick, it went viral. So I started going live on Facebook and TikTok and all these things, and I started just worshiping Jesus. I never once said, I'm an artist, and here's where you find my music. I was just like, no, I'm just going to worship Jesus. I'm not even going to talk about me. I'm going to share the gospel. I'm going to share my testimony. And I asked somebody if they want to give their life to Jesus, and I wanted to pray with them. And one person said yes. On the first night, I was like, wow. The next night, I got to connect with them, get them connected to a church. It was awesome. The next night, ten people. The night after that, 50 people. I was like, oh, my gosh, this is a thing. So, since September of last year to today, over 35,000 people have come to Jesus on my live streams, and we have over 200 moderators across the country that help connect with those people and get them connected to churches. [00:43:10] Speaker C: That's amazing. [00:43:11] Speaker A: It blows my mind. Yeah, it's all the Lord. And so if you'd have told me back then that kid in that room, that the book you're reading written by Lee, you'd be traveling with Lee. I've done events with Lee. Like the guy whose book you're reading right now. You'll be on a stage with him in front of thousands of people in so many years. And I'm going to use you on these things that don't exist yet, to see 35,000 people come to Christ and thousands of people traveling. And we literally had a high priestess witch get saved. That was in Illinois. She came all the way. She got saved on the live stream. She drove all the way to Louisville, Kentucky, to a sold out event with, like, thousand people. Got to baptize her in front of all these people. I can't tell you the stories, the things that God have done. It's mind blowing to me, and it feels like I'm in an out of body experience watching a movie, and I'm like, okay, God, what's next? And it literally is like that. And the whole time I'm just like, don't try to sell something right. Don't try to build your platform. Just build the kingdom. And I think that's been the biggest thing. So if somebody's listening, that is using social media for ministry, the hard thing is to not go, come to my thing, buy my stuff. Here's what I'm doing. Come to this. It's to go, how can I just love people? And that's it. Just love people with Jesus and share Jesus. That's it. If I just do that, and I only think not, how does this benefit me? But how do I go on and just go, hey, I want to pray for you. I love you. Hey, here's a song. And don't put the name of the song. Don't be like out now, but just go. Do you need to know God as a healer? Do you need to know God as a savior? Here's this thing that I pray draws you closer to him. Like, you just start thinking like that. God will do what no social media marketing company can do because you're actually partnering with him. [00:45:02] Speaker B: I'd like to take a brief minute to tell you about an upcoming online event sponsored by the C. S. Lewis Institute. One of the most common questions or criticisms of Christianity is, is Jesus really the only way? In other words, is the gospel of Jesus Christ the only way to enter into a relationship with the creator of the world, find forgiveness of sins, and receive the gift of eternal life? Jesus'proclamation, I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the father except through me can be seen as radical. How do we make sense of this exclusive claim in a pluralistic world that says the idea of truth is relative and that there can be many ways to God? On Friday, March 15, Dr. Amy Orr Ewing, who holds a PhD from Oxford and is one of the world's most foremost esteemed apologists, unpacks this important topic in an online forum. This event is free, but you must register and we encourage you to invite others and even have a watch party. [00:46:10] Speaker C: There are two viewing options at 08:00. [00:46:13] Speaker B: P.M. British time, hosted by Belfast, Northern Ireland, and 08:00 p.m. Eastern time, hosted from Washington, DC. If you missed this online event, it will be available on the CS. Lewis Institute website at a later [email protected]. We hope you'll take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. Now back to our story. [00:46:40] Speaker C: Wow, what a great adventure you've been on. It's funny because, yes, the Lord presented himself to you in that room, but look how the Lord has presented himself in your life. [00:46:56] Speaker A: I always tell people, often the size of your destiny is seen. By the size of the attack on your life, you might be really dangerous for the kingdom of. [00:47:12] Speaker C: Know, Stephen, there are so many people who have rejected a God. They think that based upon their experience, or lies that they've been told, or our personal pain, or for so many different things, inform who we believe God to be. And so many have rejected because of lies, essentially, kind of like you did. But they may be listening. I mean, I'm sure you have all kinds of people listening. Yeah. To your TikToks. And they're like, okay, maybe God isn't who I think. Maybe he is better. Maybe he is good. Maybe he is loving. If there is a curious skeptic or someone who might be listening, what would you say to. [00:48:10] Speaker A: Know? I do get this a lot when you're on live stream on TikTok, which, by the way, it's very rarely that an atheist is going to walk in a church, but the chances of them just randomly in a room doing drugs and scrolling past a TikTok video is far more likely. And so I find myself with people jumping on. My favorite are the ones that go, no, I don't want to give my life to Jesus, you bunch of wackos. And I just go, hey, I love you, man, and I'm praying for you right now. I know you don't believe anybody, but he's real and I love you. And that usually makes him mad, madder. Or they go, okay, I didn't expect you to respond like that. I want to have an argument with you. I want to have an argument with you about this. [00:48:51] Speaker C: Right. [00:48:52] Speaker A: But I know there's no winning that argument with them. And I'm not against apologetics. That's not what I mean by that. But often what I've seen with people like that is when I just stop and love them and actually mean it, and it breaks down that thing. Plus, I also believe I'm one of those crazy people that actually believe God is real. And I often was like, look, don't take my word for it. Ask him to reveal himself to you. I know you might not believe he's real, but I know he is. And if he can meet me at 03:00 in the morning in a room without anybody trying to talk me into something, just ask him to show himself to you. And a lot of the times these people don't expect that kind of response, right? They expect me to argue them into why they should believe. But honestly, if I told them everything I think would convince them, they still wouldn't listen. So it's like God, you got to break through this stuff. You're real, he's real. So I believe he's real to the point where if I do this thing called prayer, he'll do what I can't do. That doesn't mean I don't have a reason for the faith that I have, and I'm not ready to tell it. That's not what I mean. I'm just saying that sometimes we have to actually believe he's going to do what no man can do. And for these people, again, I believe that most of them, deep down inside, actually believe God's real. I really do. I'm convinced of it. But they've decided that if he's really, he's not good, so I'm going to just fight against the whole idea. Or deep down they've decided, well, if he is real, he doesn't want me because I've already put my whole life into not believing in him. So I'm just going to bet all the chips on that, right? So there's this thing where it's like, man, I don't care who you think you know you are right now, if you're a non believer listening to this podcast, the question I have for you is you want to know what you look like fully alive, like for real, the real you, the you God spoke before the foundation of the earth, the real you. And you may think you know who you are because you've lived so much life and you're, ah, you're not going to trick me, but I'm telling you right now, you cannot know who you really are without Jesus. There's no way, because the real you is the you free of depression, of anger, of despair. The real you is the you full of life, and that's only through him. And you can be mad that there's only one way, or you can go, thank God there's a way at all. That's how much he loves you. And so, even right now, I'm just praying for anyone that doesn't believe that might be listening to this podcast, that he would be closer to you and more real to you than he ever has been, and that you would know without a doubt, not only that he's real, but that he's good that he's full of grace and that that door you've kept shut, you're like, nobody look in there. Because if you knew what I did, you would never talk to me again. He kicks that door down and says, I want her. I want him. This is who he really is. And I believe that the real you fully alive, is the you in Jesus. [00:52:09] Speaker C: Amen. Wow. Now, the moment that Christ came to you, you had that experience with Christ. You were at least open enough to look at a book that had been placed in your hands. [00:52:26] Speaker A: I would have told you I wasn't. Before getting interesting, I literally would have told you, there's no way you're ever going to get me to read a book. But someone, people were. I go back to this. People were praying legit for me. Like, really, the Holy Spirit had this thing where they were praying not just for me to be saved, but to me to be open to it. And then suddenly I accept a even. It was like a blur, you know what I mean? I was like, cool, whatever. It wasn't like, I was like, oh, I'm really open to this. Thank you. No, it was like, whatever, take it. And I had, next to my bed one night, I literally had drugs on the side table, like a joint in the ashtray next to my bed. And there's this book. I'm like, I'm going to read this stupid thing. And I just start reading and I'm like, it's Lee's book, right? About evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. And I'm like reading it, going, wait a minute, wait a minute. What? He found that out. How is know? And by the end, I didn't even finish the book and I already gave my life to Jesus. I was like a couple of chapters in and gave my life to Christ. So it was really interesting. [00:53:36] Speaker C: So that in some ways was pivotal for you. But what I'm hearing from you is that you were actually, even though you were closed in some weird way, you were still open and curious enough to open it up and take a look at it. [00:53:53] Speaker A: Yeah. I would say that it's the power of people praying for me. I really would. Otherwise, why does the Lord put that on people? [00:54:02] Speaker C: Yes. [00:54:02] Speaker A: There's not a purpose. Right. [00:54:05] Speaker C: So for those of us who are Christians, I'm hearing really some wonderful things you're recommending. Prayer, prayer, prayer, prayer. [00:54:14] Speaker A: It's the one thing that we can't control. That has to be him. [00:54:20] Speaker C: Yeah. [00:54:20] Speaker A: You know what I mean? That's what's so powerful about it. It really is. The most powerful thing we can do. That's not to say we don't actually go out and physically do things. We are called to do that, too. But probably one of the most powerful things you can do is actually believe God will do something when you pray. [00:54:40] Speaker C: And he obviously does. I mean, just look at your life and the fruit of your ministry, really. So, beyond prayer, like you, I'm thinking of you. I'm thinking of the person who gave you a resource. I'm thinking of the way that you're intentional towards engaging those who may not believe. I mean, there's so many things you could probably advise us to do. Anything else that you might add to prayer? [00:55:10] Speaker A: Like I said, just love people without trying to get something. Just love them towards Jesus and share the gospel. Build the kingdom, not our platforms, not our things that we say are for Jesus sometimes. Right. But you know what I mean? There's this, like, okay, what does this get me in this thing I'm doing? Don't even worry about. Like, honestly, I believe sometimes when we do that, the reward is just what we get instead of the reward that Jesus wants to give. You don't even know what it is yet. It's way better than what you're hoping to get out of the situation. Just love people. Build the kingdom. That's it. [00:55:50] Speaker C: That's beautiful. I just so appreciate you coming on. I love these stories. There's so many elements here in your story that are so compelling. I mean, especially, I love what you said at the beginning almost, that there's no one who's too far down a road that's beyond the reach of God to turn them. And for you, in such a sudden and compelling and very personal and experiential way that I think sometimes we give up or we don't try, or we think someone's beyond hope, but there's always hope where there's Christ. And I love that about you, about your story and how many people are being changed through your story and through your life. If someone would have written you off long ago, and of course, God never did, but I would imagine what we would have all missed without the work that he's done and through you, the one that someone might have written off a long time ago. But I think if I was to. [00:57:00] Speaker A: Add one last thing, what I love about what you're doing, Jana, which is great, you have people coming on. They're sharing their story and their testimony, right? And in Hebrew, please be impressed by the fact that I know this. I'm just kidding. In Hebrew, the word testimony means do it again story. And so when we share what God's done, it's like he's telling the people listening, I want to do it again, and I want to do it again with you. And that's why these are so important. So for anyone out there, share what God's done. Don't get tired of it. Trust me, I've told this story so many times. I said I went to Bible college and like God, I've got so many more things I could talk about. Please. No, this is it. Go out there and tell it. I'm like, yes sir. Okay, so yeah, it's good. [00:57:51] Speaker C: There's such power in testimony. And I think that's why there's also a lot of resistance to these stories. [00:57:58] Speaker B: As well as I've seen. [00:58:00] Speaker C: But I think it's because of the power that's there. And I do pray along with you that there are many who would be listening, who would hear, and who would come to Christ and know him as good. So thank you so much, Stephen, for coming on. So appreciate you. [00:58:18] Speaker A: Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me. [00:58:21] Speaker B: Thanks for tuning in to Cybe stories to hear Stephen McWhorter's story. You can find out more about his music ministry and social media links in the episode. Notes for questions and feedback about this episode, you can contact me again. Our email is [email protected] if you're a skeptic or atheist who would like to connect with a former atheist with questions, please contact us on our sidebeastories website or through our email and we'll get you connected. This podcast is produced through the C. S. Lewis Institute through the help of our wonderful producer Ashley Decker, audio engineer Mark Rozera, and you can also see these podcasts in video form on our YouTube channel through the excellent work of our video editor, Kyle Polk. If you enjoyed it, I hope you'll follow rate review and share this podcast with your friends social network. In the meantime, I'll be looking forward. [00:59:12] Speaker C: To seeing you next time, where we'll. [00:59:14] Speaker B: See how another skeptic flips the record of their life.

Other Episodes