Why did I decide to start this website?
I have been a Christian for over 25 years, and have been interested during that whole time in why other people chose to be a Christian. I wanted to know what personal experiences led them there. While the Bible is recognized as an amazing source of inspiration for those people who had already determined that God was real, I wondered what brought people to believe in the first place? There must have been some real life experience or series of experiences that convinced them that Christianity is not just a story from history, but still happening now.
What were some of those stories?
Early in my Christian walk, I was given a book titled New Lives which was edited by a friend named Bob Ovies (who later became a Deacon). He had collected twenty two personal stories of conversion from people in his home town of Royal Oak, Michigan. This is also my home town. I was fascinated that such an ordinary and normal city could have so many powerful personal experiences of God.
As time went on, I became more courageous in speaking about God to others, by asking them how God had influenced their lives. I was amazed to find out that the number of people for whom God is important is not a small number. Rather, sadly, it's only the number of people who feel free to talk about God that is a small number. The topic has been made to be a forbidden topic in polite company. Not politically correct. I heard about twenty stories in addition to the ones published by Bob, but at the time did not write them down. However, the feeling that God stories are not rare stuck with me.
In April 2011, the Ford Motor Company Bible Study held its Thursday lunchtime sessions in concert with the E.A.C.H. movment ("Everyone A Chance to Hear"). EACH had produced a very professional book and a very professional series of videos whose topic was to help people in South Eastern Michigan feel more comfortable speaking about Jesus. It was very different than most calls to ministry. It had none of the Bible thumping, tract-passing, religion-speaking tone that I had been turned off by over the years. It encouraged us to really understand the person we are speaking with, and to understand their own needs prior to pushing our 'agenda'. That is, to speak about Jesus only when we are in relationship, and when the other person has first felt our care for them.
So I decided to find a way to share Jesus with others. But how? My first thought was to write more stories such as the ones found in New Lives. But how would I get them published? In an interesting coincidence, it was that same week that my daughter Emily, a college student, told us that she had started a blog as a way to keep her friends and family informed of what she's up to. I read it, asked her about it and it seemed fairly easy to get started. Sure, that could have been a simple coincidence of timing, but my daughter has always been a model person when it comes to being close to Jesus. It does make me wonder, looking back. Em knew nothing about my plan.
For the first time I saw a comfortable and safe way to talk about Jesus. Not only comfortable and safe for my listener, but comfortable and safe for me. I credit the God stories told by real people in Michigan and E.A.C.H. for being the primary motivators for me starting a blog titled ChristianityInRealLife.blogspot.com. After the blog was in existence for a couple years, I decided to find others who might be interested in turning it into a true website. I started a Meetup.com group called God Stories Website Club, and through it met Dr. John T. Spencer. Through my church's Men's fellowship group, I met both Dan Fedder and Buddy Michaels (all three use pen names). We have been meeting just about every week since Dec. 2012 at the Royal Oak Public Library.
In June, 2013, we selected Wtness.org as the name of the new site (with the Holy Spirit guiding us in prayer), and Dan incorporated us as a non-profit group. In September, 2013 we engaged the company CorePHP of Battle Creek, MI to build a true website from specifications and image mockups we provided, using personal funds. As of May, 2014, the site was launched to the public.
In the service of Jesus,
Bill Griffin, Managing Editor