Hatred Towards God, Softened by Love – Mike Arnold’s story

Oct 20, 2020

Side B Stories
Hatred Towards God, Softened by Love - Mike Arnold's story
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Former atheist Mike Arnold suffered an unspeakable childhood tragedy which suddenly catapulted him into atheism.  After twenty years, he was given cause to reconsider not only God’s existence, but God’s goodness as well.


Episode Transcript

Hello, and thanks for being with me today. I’m Jana Harmon, and you’re listening to the Side B Podcast, where we listen to the other side.

What happens to your view of God when bad, especially traumatic things happen in your life? You may have had expectations of a good, loving, and powerful God who’s supposed to protect you at every turn. The bad things aren’t supposed to happen. But they do. You begin to wonder, “Where was God? Who is this God that I thought existed? Maybe He doesn’t exist after all. How could He, in light of such horrible circumstances?” Belief in a good God often crumbles under the weight of pain. If that’s true of an adult, it’s especially true of a child. When a child suffers sudden, unspeakable loss, it’s not surprising when they also suddenly lose whatever faith they must have had in a God who seemed to go missing. Pushing God away is the only viable option left on the table.

The only problem is life without God doesn’t seem to have any existentially satisfying answers, either. That’s the tension faced by the former atheist in our story today. Someone who hated God for nearly 20 years, a God, in his view, who didn’t exist, but comes to experience God in an unexpected way. Mike Arnold was a former atheist but is now a Christian and serves his community as a Christian pastor.

Welcome to the Side B Podcast, Mike. It’s so great to have you!

It’s great to be on as well and to join you on this cast.

Thank you, thank you. As we’re getting started, why don’t we start by you telling me a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, and perhaps where you live now, what you do now?

Yeah, well, my name is Michael Arnold. Everybody calls me Mike, and I prefer it that way. I’m a bit laid back, but if you’re thinking, “This man sounds really strange,” it’s because I’m from Wales. I’m a Welshman, but I’m actually living in a small town in the East Midlands of England called Long Eaton, where I’m a Baptist minister.

And you’ve been in England for how long?

I moved here 12 years ago, into a different pastorate. I recently left there and moved here, but yeah, 12 years ago, I moved from Wales into England, where I can honestly say that I’m a missionary.

Yes, yes. That’s great. All right. So at least we know where you are now. And let’s now kind of start back at the beginning of your story. I presume, if you’re from Wales, you had a childhood in Wales? And your ideas of God and faith and religion developed there. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about that your childhood, your understanding of if there was a God, those kinds of things.

Well, I grew up… My parents, like so many parents, didn’t actually attend church and had no faith at all. They wanted, I think, a quiet afternoon on a Sunday, and so they used to send me and my brothers and sister to Sunday school at the local Pentecostal church, and that’s where I went for about 18 months, up until the age of seven. The one morning I stopped going because the one morning I was woke up by my brother, Tony. He was 11 years old. I was 7 at the time. But he woke me up to say that the house was on fire, and yeah, sure enough, it was. We went to get Mom because she was sleeping in her bedroom. We went to wake her up, and then she raised the alarm by smashing out the bedroom windows, and I jumped out of the bedroom window, and my brother Tony, at the time, realized that my youngest brother, David, who was 3 years old, was still somewhere upstairs in bed, so he went looking for him. I jumped out of the bedroom window, and I have 47 stitches across my backside because I fell onto a piece of glass on the pavement, and I was taken into my neighbor’s house. When they were ready for me to go to the ambulance, as I was going to the ambulance, my brother Tony walked out of the front door of the house, and he was a ball of fire. He suffered third-degree burns over 90% of his body.

Oh, my.

Oh. Well, it is what it is, isn’t it? You know. He survived for five days in absolute agony. I was put in the ambulance at his feet, and for the next ten minutes, while they raced us off to the hospital, that’s all I could hear was him screaming in agony. And that was the last I saw of him. They found my younger brother, David, who was 3 years old, as I said. They found him curled up dead in my mother’s bedroom, near my mother’s bed. He never got out of the house alive. The following Sunday, Mom sent me to church, where the minister said, “Come and give praise to God,” and I thought, “Praise to God!” I ran off. I didn’t want anything to do with Him. I thought to myself, “If God loves us,” as I had learned in Sunday school, “why would He do this to my brother Tony?” And so I became an atheist. I wanted nothing to do with God at all.

And I became evangelical. I stopped going to church. I became an evangelical atheist, and whenever I would come across Christians, I would get into conversations with them. I would ridicule them. I would mock them. I would get into arguments with them. I would tell them how stupid they were, how foolish they were. Yeah. That was my life growing up where faith was concerned. And that’s how it was. I had nothing to do with church, wanted nothing to do with church, wanted nothing to do with God. Would argue with anybody who was religious.

So there was a lot of pain and anger. It manifested in anger towards God, towards anything religious, towards religious people?

Yeah. There was anger. I felt a lot of guilt as well because I survived while my two brothers were taken. And so I felt a lot of guilt. My life was driven by anger. I would become periodically depressed and everything else. I was actually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder when I was 24. I had a serious breakdown when I was 24, and I was taken to the doctor, and they diagnosed me with PTSD, and I was able to have some psychiatric counseling, and that allowed me to regain control at that time. And that’s the way it was. And it was working its way out.

Wow. It sounds like the trauma you incurred as a child is unspeakable. Truly. I can’t imagine. But it affected every part of your life, it sounds like. For a long time. Wow. So you got a little bit of counseling to help perhaps deal with some of the pain and the anger and the guilt that you were feeling. What happened then? What was the next step in your journey? I would imagine it would be a little difficult to have relationships when you’re trying to deal with all of this going on internally within yourself.

It was. And I was in a long-term relationship with a girl. We were living together. And I put her through absolute hell. When I had a breakdown, honestly, I put her through hell. It was her that talked me into the doctor. She couldn’t cope with me anymore. And it was through that that I got counseling, and it just enabled me to get control again, you know?

Right.

But as I had the breakdown I lost my job, and for several months, I was out of work because I just couldn’t cope with anything. I would sit in the corner for days on end. And then what happened was I managed to get myself back up on my feet, and I found a new job with a Japanese company, and they sent me to Japan for three months for training. When I got back, my partner had become a Christian. And that is never a good mix with me because I was the outspoken atheist, and now I’m living with the enemy.

Right.

Every time she went to church, she came back to an argument. Every time she went to a prayer meeting, she came back to an argument. And again, when I argued, I wouldn’t hold back, and I really feel sorry for her because she had to put up with me having a go at her every time she went to church.

She was more agnostic. She told me that, when I was in Japan, she was in the gym one day, and a hymn kept going over and over and over in her mind. And she knew a Christian in the gym, and she said, “I’m having this strange experience. This hymn keeps going over and over in my mind.” And the Christian said, “Oh, the Lord is speaking to you!” And I thought, “Yeah, okay.”

Right.

While I was there, she started going to church. Which was an interesting experience for her, but it was a great taboo, so the first thing is she was afraid to tell me that she’d started going to church, but what I did realize was the person I came back to when I returned from Japan wasn’t the person I left when I went there. There was something completely different about her. And I could see it in her, that there was a huge change in her. And for the next twelve months or so, she showed the patience of a saint with me, I tell you. I’ve got to be fair.

So there was a huge change in her. So she was patient. What else was different about her that you noticed that made you feel as if she was a completely different person?

Well, it was her outlook. She was far more patient with me. She was far more laid back. She seemed to be much happier, much calmer. And she kept praying as well, which freaked me out.

So she was happier and calm and more patient with you, but yet you were probably more resentful of this. As this militant atheist, this angry atheist at religion and God and all of those things, I can’t imagine, despite her patience, that your relationship would have been calm in any way.

It nearly broke our relationship at the time. It really did. Because she was now… In my eyes, she was the enemy. And, like I said, every time she went out to church, it would result in an argument, and yet, patiently, she had people praying for me in the background.

And then one night… I was working on a split shift, which is mornings, afternoons, and nights. And the one evening I came in from work, it was about midnight. I had been working a late shift, and the house was empty, and that caused me to worry a bit because she’s a woman on her own, and she wasn’t there, and I didn’t know where she was. And then the phone rang, and she said she was over with some Christian friends. Would I mind going over and picking her up? And by the time I got there, I was ready for a fight. I’ll say it that. I was absolutely seething because she was out at that time of night and she was with Christian friends. And she should’ve been at home. And I was waiting for them to mention Jesus, and I would have just erupted. And they didn’t. And I was there for three hours with them, and they didn’t mention Jesus once. They offered me a coffee. They talked to me sensibly. They didn’t broach Christianity or Jesus or God or faith in any way, shape, and form, and that got me puzzled, I will say.

That was probably very disarming, probably not what you expected when you walked in the door.

Oh, yeah. I was waiting for it. I was railing to go, you know? And they didn’t talk about Jesus at all, and part of me was disappointed, part of me was intrigued.

So what was intriguing about this?

The fact that these were the first Christians I’d met in a very long time that didn’t talk about Jesus or try and wangle Jesus into a conversation, you know? My experience of Christians is they’re there and they want to preach at you and they want to tell you how bad you are, that you’re a sinner, that you need to repent, to put your faith in Him, and there was none of it! And that is quite surprising when your experience of Christians is this is what they do, and then you can fight them and battle them and tell them how stupid they are.

Yeah. And that just didn’t happen here.

No, it didn’t. And it didn’t happen for weeks. Every time I met with them. And I got to a point where I was visiting them every single day. And if I was on afternoon shift, I’d go over in the morning. If I was on night shift, I’d go there in the evening. If I was off work, I would be there most of the day. And they wouldn’t talk about Jesus. And in the end, it was me who brought Jesus up, and I started questioning them, and I didn’t have any—I didn’t want to know Jesus. I wanted to get them talking, so it could provoke an argument, so I could tell them how foolish they were in believing in this nonexistent thing. And it went like that for several months, I’ve got to be fair, and we would have some very good conversations that would very quickly degenerate into an argument. Sometimes we would have good conversations and I would leave it there, and then I would lull them into a false sense of security, and I would go back the next day, and they would think, “Yes, we’re getting somewhere with him,” and I would start arguing with them again. This went on for several months.

Oh! And you were arguing about just the big issues of God or science or—what kinds of things, what kind of conversations were you having?

Science, that science has proved that there is no God. I was into the writings of Erich von Daniken that Jesus was an alien and all this sort of stuff and what they thought was God was an advanced alien species that visited earth at some point, that evolution has disproved that God created us, and anything that would disprove this nonsense that they were believing, you know? And so I’d come at it from a scientific point of view, from the alien point of view, from the evolution point of view, and from the point of view that if God was so powerful why did He do this and allow this and why were there earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and natural disasters? You name it, that’s the path that I walked.

Well, were they able to respond with any substance to your accusations at all? Or were they were able to meaningfully participate in an intelligent way?

Sometimes.

Yeah?

Sometimes. And sometimes, depending on what mood I was in, they were a bit more successful than other times, but I found that, if someone doesn’t want to listen, no matter what you say, if they’re not prepared to listen, you may as well just say, “Well, I understand where you’re coming from,” and leave it at that. Because if someone doesn’t want to engage and doesn’t want to listen, then that’s it, you know? But there were times when actually I realized after a while that I did want to listen. I did want to hear.

That’s a really huge statement that you just made, that the desire to listen or not—we’ll return to our conversation with Mike in just a moment.

What do you think allowed you to turn from the resistance and the not willing to listen to move to a posture of, “Maybe I do want to hear what they’re saying,” in a more open way. What made that switch in you? What do you suppose happened there?

It wasn’t that they were making sense or whatever. It was who they were. And the fact that they weren’t pointing the finger at me, they weren’t judging me, they were accepting me for who I was without judgment, and they were allowing me to be me. And I think, very often, Christians come at atheists with a view of, “You’re a sinner. You need to be a Christian. You need to put your faith in Jesus,” and I had none of that. It was just, “We’re going to love you for who you are, and we’re going to give you the space to be who you are.” And that got me to a point where I was actually willing to give them the time and listen to what they had to say, even to the point where, even if I didn’t agree with it, I would at least give them the respect they needed, or that they deserved, because they gave me the respect that I deserved.

And it got to a point where, after several months we went to visit them one Friday evening, in October, 1996, and my partner and his wife went to put the kettle on, and the kettle took 5-1/2 hours to boil because, as we sat there waiting for the kettle, he said, “Mike, I’ve got to ask you. I seem to take a couple of steps forward with you only to realize that I’ve taken actually three steps backward. And it baffles me.” He said, “What do you hold against God?” And for five hours that night in October, 1996, I just told him my story. And for five hours, I just poured it out, and what struck me as I was sharing my story with him was that I could hear him sobbing. The room was semi-dark, and the light was behind him, and his face was in darkness, and I could hear him sobbing, and that really hit me. And he cared. You know?

Yes.

And at the end of five hours, he said to me, he said, “Would you mind if I prayed for you?” And I looked at him, and I said, “Well, if you think it’ll do any good, you go for it,” so he came over, and he put his hands on my head, and he said, “I’m going to start praying for you, and I’ll pray in English, but if I stop praying in English and I start praying in something else, don’t worry about it. I’ll only be speaking to God.” And he started praying with me, and he started praying in English, and then he stopped praying in English, and he started praying in something else, and it was at that point I wanted to get up and run like hell. It freaked me out.

Yes!

It did. It really freaked me out. I went cold. I wanted to be sick. I wanted to run. And he prayed with me, and he sat down, and he called the women in, and they came in. They put a cup of coffee in front of me, and we just had a time of fellowship. And when we left, it was about 2:00 in the morning, my partner said to me, she said, “How are you feeling?” And I said, “I think I’m demon possessed because he started praying for me, and I felt like this,” and she said to me, “No, no. That’s normal when people pray with you.” And I know, of course, it’s not normal. She was lying.

Oh.

But that was it. That was my experience that night. Over the next couple of weeks, I found I couldn’t argue with him anymore. I could argue with other Christians, but I couldn’t argue with him. And after a couple of weeks, he said to me, “Mike, how are you feeling?” and I said, “You know, it’s really strange. I can’t argue with you. I’m finding that I can’t argue with you anymore.” I said, “But also I feel really peaceful.” I said, “I can’t explain it.” And he laughed, he started laughing, and I said, “Don’t laugh. I’m being serious.” “No, no,” he said, “isn’t that what I prayed for when I prayed with you? I said, ‘Lord, this boy has never known peace in his life. Would you please give him peace?'” and as he said those words, it was like a thunderclap going off inside me, I’ll tell you what, and I thought, “Oh, heck, if the prayer can be answered,” and it was. That was what he’d prayed. “This boy has never known peace in his life. Would you please give him peace?” And I thought to myself that night, “If a prayer can be answered, there must be someone there who is able to answer prayers.” And I was wrong.

I went in, I told my partner that I’d asked the Lord into my life. She gave one almighty scream and got on the phone, and she started phoning everybody, saying that I’d accepted the Lord into my life.

I bet they couldn’t believe it!

They couldn’t! I went to church the following Sunday. This was on another Friday. I went to church on Sunday. It was that exciting I went to sleep halfway through the service.

This was the first time you’d been to church since you were a child, like six years old.

Since I was seven, yeah. I was twenty six at the time, and that was the first time I’d been in church in 20 years.

Wow.

I wouldn’t even go into a church for a funeral. I would stand outside on the door. And that’s where I was. I wouldn’t even go into a church for a funeral, and here I was, found myself in church for the first time in nigh on twenty years, and I fell asleep.

Not an exciting sermon, I guess.

No. But it was such a peaceful place.

Ahhhh. The peace.

It was such a peaceful place, and yeah. And I was like that for weeks. For weeks I went to church every Sunday, and I would fall asleep. And people were patient with me. They’d give me a nudge if I started snoring too much, you know? But they just let me be who I was. And it was nice to be there, you know?

Yes.

And then I started questioning my friend Keith because I wanted to know. And there it was. I’d like to say that everything worked out perfectly. My partner left within 18 months. She backslid. As far as I’m aware, she has no faith now. And she has no faith, and I ended up going on by myself to church. When she left, I had another breakdown, but this time, I was put in touch with a group of Christian counselors, and they worked with me for a year, and they worked with me through the issues of the post-traumatic stress. They kept asking me, “Why do you feel guilty?” and I kept answering with all of the answers I could think of, and they kept saying, “No, that’s not the answer,” and in desperation, I cried out to God, and I said, “Lord, why do I keep feeling guilty?” and He showed me, and in showing me, He set me free from it. And then he set me free from the anger, and once the anger and the guilt had gone, so did the depression go with it, and so, for the last probably 20 years now, I’ve had no depression, I’ve had no anger, I’ve had no guilt. He has completely set me free from the lot.

Wow. Wow. So your life changed in a dramatic way, just like when you came home to your partner, and she had become a completely different person, it was like you became a completely different person once you found God and Christ.

Yeah. The Bible says in it that those the Lord sets free are free indeed. Well, the Lord set me free from depression, from extreme anger issues, from serious guilt, to the point where I would become suicidal, and I have tried to commit suicide on three occasions in the past. Whenever the PTSD would kick in because it’s almost cyclical, and He set me free from the lot.

But it was at that time when He set me free that He then started calling me. He said, “I want you to come into ministry,” and I was working as an engineer in a factory at that time, and He started calling me into ministry. And so I refused. I said, “I’m a failure. I can’t be a minister. Because we all know that ministers live perfect lives and they’re perfect people, and I’m a failure. I’ve suffered with PTSD and guilt and anger, and I’ve done things that I’m not really proud of,” and yeah. And there is the Lord then saying, “I want you to go to college and become a minister,” and for several years I said no.

And then I met a young woman who was in the local Baptist church, and I kept talking to her about how God was calling me into ministry, and I said, “This is where I feel God is calling me,” and she said, “Well, would you please be quiet about it or go and sort it out and do something about it?” Because I was driving her nuts because I was talking about it all the time, but I wasn’t doing anything, and in the end, I went to a local college that is run by the Baptists in Cardiff, and I had an interview there. I was in the Pentecostals at the time, and he said, “Because you’re a Pentecostal, you would have to pay for yourself,” for the tuition fees and everything else. It was going to cost 12,000 pound, and because I had gone through this breakup and I was up to my ears in debt, I thought, “This is never going to happen,” and so I prayed about it, and I’d gone to this interview on Wednesday, and I went into work on the following Friday, two days later, and they asked for people to take voluntary redundancy. And I nearly fell off the chair laughing.

What does that mean? Voluntary redundancy?

This is where they wanted to get rid of workers, and because of various issues, they wanted to make people redundant, so what they do in this country, they don’t just give people their cards. What they do initially is say, “We need to make so many people redundant. Could we ask for volunteers?” People who were happy to take a redundancy package instead of just making people redundant.

And so I fell off the chair laughing. And my boss said to me, “Why are you reacting like this?” I said, “Don’t worry about it,” so I went and put in my application, and within minutes, they said, “Well, because you were volunteering, we will give you this redundancy package, and it’ll be a lump sum payment of 12,000 pounds.”

Oh my.

And it was a redundancy package that paid for me to go to college. I signed the paperwork then and there. It took me five minutes. And from there, I left work. I got married and went straight into theology college in Cardiff. And to see the Lord moving in that was absolutely brilliant. So that was 15 years ago I went into college. I was there for three years. I became a minister. The Lord called me to move from Wales into England, where I took up a pastorate in a small mining village, and yeah. Yeah. That’s where I’ve been ministering since, until about a month ago, where I’ve moved over now into Long Eaton.

So you moved from a place of atheism, rage, depression, anger, guilt, PTSD, to a place of being released from all of that as a Christian and believing in God, and now you, in your life, go and minister to those who have questions, that have pain, that have anger. It’s almost like you’ve seen your story come full circle.

The irony is not lost on me. I think God has a sense of humor. Yeah. And there are a number of people I talk to, and it starts off with, “I can’t talk to you. You’re a minister. You couldn’t possibly know what it’s like.”

Right.

Because people think ministers have it all together. And I say to them, and I always respond in the same way, I say, “Well, would you please give me a couple of moments just to share something of my own story with you? And if you feel the same way after, I’ll finish my cup of coffee, I’ll bless you, and I’ll go.” And I share a couple of minutes of my story and what I’ve experienced, and then they say, “Oh, you do know what it’s like. I’ll talk with you,” and it is out of everything of my own experience that I am able to reach out to people and minister to them and help them through it because I’ve walked the road with them.

Right.

And it’s got to a point where I work with local schools now and I lecture on faith and science. I teach ethics. I do apologetics and all this sort of stuff as I talk with different atheists and yeah. So that’s where I am now. And I help as many people as I can.

What an amazing story. Truly an amazing story.

As I’m sitting here thinking on your story, and with your wisdom and your experience, I’m wondering if there are those who are listening who are asking the same kind of question perhaps that you did. “Where was God? How could these bad things happen? Why is my life like this?” I wondered if you wouldn’t mind just giving us a little word. How would you encourage someone to think if they’re really questioning God because their circumstances?

It’s an interesting one, isn’t it? If I may share a short story with you, I was recently talking to a survivor of Auschwitz, you know the concentration camp.

Sure.

And I was sat in a classroom full of children listening to this survivor as he shared his story, and I thought, “I’m going to play devil’s advocate here,” and so the children were asking different questions. I put my hand up and I said, “Tell me, are you still a practicing Jew,” and he said, “Yes, I am.” And I said, “Tell me, where was God when you were in this camp?” And he said, “Do you know, I never saw God gas anybody. I never saw God shoot anybody. I never saw God beat anybody. I never saw God do any of it.”

And I pondered this, and as I reflect on my own story, I never seen God set fire to my house. It was an electrical fault because we had bad wiring. And yet, as a child, I blamed God. We always want somebody to blame for circumstances in our lives or because somebody else has done something they shouldn’t have done that, if they had been following God’s way, they wouldn’t have done in the first place. But because they’re not following what God wants them to do, they treat people badly, and very often, we are experiencing the result of what they shouldn’t be doing, but we can’t blame them. We blame God.

“Why did God allow this?” No. “Why did they do it in the first place?” “Why did God allow this illness?” Because we live on a planet where we know illnesses exist. It’s the way it is. But we feel in ourselves that we’ve got to blame someone, so where there’s nobody to blame, we point our finger and we shake our fist at the heavens, and we scream and shout at God and say, “How dare you do this?” And yet the truth is what He is saying is, “Well, if I was walking with you, I would be comforting you in this. I would be giving you the strength to face it. I would be with you, walking with you through it, encouraging you, and strengthening you.” Because the Bible tells me Jesus said himself, “I will never leave you or forsake you, and when these things happen, I will help you.”

Thinking about what you’re saying and also thinking about your story, as well as the peace that you were able to find that I presume has never left.

No, it hasn’t.

Yeah. It’s the peace that you have regardless of your circumstances now, and it’s a peace that you can demonstrate.

Yeah. And, again, I ended up, five or six years ago, just before I met you in fact, I think I shared with you when we first met that I was going through a divorce because my wife decided that she was leaving. Completely out of the blue. And through all of that, the sense of peace I had, and you know, it was very upsetting. There were times when I bawled my eyes out, and I cried profusely and everything else, but still the sense of peace that I had. And I knew I wasn’t on my own. And I came through at the other end, and I was able to put down things that I had been carrying for many years, and through that experience, the Lord set me free from other things, and yeah. To see the Lord moving through even the difficult times has been absolutely astonishing.

What a life! And what a story! Mike, truly, I loved hearing your story, as well as your counsel and your experience, and there’s just so much there for us to listen to, really. As we’re kind of winding up, what I’d like for you to do is, if there are those who are listening who are really still quite skeptical about God and that whole question but yet there’s something in your story that’s intriguing to them. Perhaps they can see themselves in where you were. But like you were able to kind of turn your corner of not willing to listen to willing to listen, I wondered if someone was willing to listen, what would you say to that skeptic?

To be open, I think. We may not understand it. We may not agree with it. But be open to a possibility because you never know. Science—if you’re thinking, “I’m an atheist. I believe in science. Science has all the answers.” No, it don’t. There are things that science can’t answer, and who knows? We’re discovering new things all the time. Sometimes we discover what we think are new things that are actually very old, and we had known them but forgotten, and sometimes—I would just say be open. If you want to go and talk to a minister, respect where they are coming from if they are respecting where you are coming from. And I was very fortunate that I found a couple of Christians who were respectful of me, and that gave me the opportunity to just relax and be myself, and as argumentative as I was, I got to respect them for who they were. And that changed things for me. So be open to people. That’s what I would want to say to someone.

And if you had the opportunity to talk to Christians who were wanting to be open and have a mutual respect for others and for those who disagree, I think what impresses me about your story is that you ran into some Christians who were willing to sit down and invest and engage in your story.

Yeah.

And I wonder—because that changed your willingness, and so I wonder if you could give some advice to Christians in terms of how to break walls down, how to have meaningful engagement with those who are-

There’s this passage in there that says, “Be ready in and out of season to give a reason for your hope, but do it with respect.” And very often Christians forget the last bit. They’re ready to give a reason both without the respect. And I think sometimes before we can start sharing our story we have to get to know the person and give them the space to be and build the relationship with this person and then be respectful all the time. And my own experience, over the last 20 years of being a Christian is, if you are respectful and you meet people where they are, sooner or later, you don’t have to bring up Jesus, they will do it themselves. Because they will want to know, “Why are you like this?” Or, “Why are you helping me?” Or, “Why are you not reacting in the way I expect?” So it’s just getting to know people and being respectful of them.

I think that’s huge. There’s a lot to be said about that, especially in today’s culture, where there’s very little listening to the other side. So that’s why I love-

You’re too right. Too right. I think you’re spot on there. We think we have all the answers, and in Christ, I believe we do, but we have to give space for the other person to come to a revelation of themselves.

I think that is a pearl of wisdom right there, something that’s easier said than done, and I think it’s a really beautiful challenge for all of us, to stop and really consider and give space for the other person. I think you said more than once that you met others who “let me be who I was,” whether it was the friends, the new Christian friends that you had met, or whether it was in the church where you were, as well as the way that you minister to other people. You give them space to be who they are.

Yeah.

And there’s really something very lovely about that and truly transformational. It gives room for change.

It does indeed.

So—wow. Mike, what an incredible story. I’m totally inspired. I actually have chill bumps as I’m sitting here. I know that sounds cheesy, but oh, my goodness! What a great, great story. And what a privilege for you to be here and for us all to hear it, so thank you so much for your time and for sharing this bit of yourself in a very vulnerable and transparent way. So, thank you, Mike.

I’m honored and privileged. I really am.

Fantastic.

Thank you.

And I love the Welsh accent. Glad to hear that and to have that. So thank you again.

Thank you.

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the Side B Podcast to hear Mike Arnold’s story. You can learn more about Mike by visiting his Facebook page and website of Long Eaton Baptist Church. I’ll include that in the episode notes. For questions and feedback about this episode, you can reach me by email at thesidebpodcast@cslewisinstitute.org. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe and share this new podcast with your friends and social network. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you next time, where we’ll be listening to the other side.

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