Jon Nelson’s Journey From Atheist to the Missouri Baptist Convention’s First Black Vice President

Jon Nelson found himself alone as an atheist — with only the God he hated. Now, years later, he is a church planter and Missouri Baptist Convention first vice president.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) — The Missouri Baptist Convention’s first African American officer, Jon Nelson, is not only a husband, father and church planter. He’s also a testimony to the grace of God that can take an adversary of faith, such as Nelson once was, and bring him into the service of the one he had hated.

Growing up in his parents’ inner-city church in Kansas City, Nelson admits he often intellectually wrestled with Christians there.

“When I attended my parents’ church, I would privately engage in debates to destroy others’ faith by asking venomous and loaded questions,” Nelson remembers of his effort to agitate doubt that anyone had about God, the Christian faith or the Bible. Having become a self-defined — but not publicly identified — atheist, he wanted others to taste and see the same freedom he felt by rejecting belief in any God.

For Nelson, this “freedom” began in high school and continued at Kansas State University. He used his God-given talents in analytical thinking and communication to break down not just Christians, but anyone of any faith around him, hoping to give them this so-called “freedom” as well.

But it came at a cost. Soon the friends he debated and judged for their belief in any God would leave him, and he found himself alone and at odds with only the God he hated.

Yet, even in his march toward freedom, which only left him in chains, God’s relentless grace refused to leave Nelson alone.

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Source: Baptist Press