When I was about ten years of age, to my primarily Catholic family’s chagrin, my father decided that we would try another church. He, my mother and brother and I piled into the car and went to a Baptist church for the first time since I’d been born. We went early and I recall attending Sunday School where Bible stories were told with felt boards and enthusiasm. I don’t have much recollection of the service itself, but it was a short-lived change no matter.
After about four months, my father, who was working as a machinist, was invited by his boss to check out his non-denominational church in Lake Worth, Florida. It was called Trinity Church International, and it was immense.
Our first week there, we walked through the middle of three sets of double doors entering into the lobby. I can still see it like it was the first time, written across the wall, above the foyer: Enter His gates with thanksgiving and go into His courts with praise. And that we did! Before the doors to the sanctuary were even opened, I could hear the distinct early nineties sound of trumpets and brass instruments lifting up high praise. The machine gun pounding of drums was unfamiliar in the confines of my mind when associated with church. When the doors opened, ushers on each side, smiling and shaking hands, we were met with an uproarious noise like nothing my ten-year-old ears had ever heard. It wasn’t church like I knew it, it was joy…pure and unadulterated joy.
I watched as if I’d just entered into a circus or stage show as flag flyers and banner streamers danced around at the altar. Congregants hands were raised to the heavens, they too dancing and crying out to a God that, at that time, was a stranger to me. This wasn’t the somber, uber-reverent thing I was used to. This was exciting and it was good.
We took our seats in the middle section. As a small boy, I looked around in awe at the twenty-five hundred seat auditorium. The balconies were lined with flags of countries I’d never heard of. A map of the nations, backlit as if the light of heaven poured in from behind it, hung on the wall. Beneath it, a banner read: As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
I remember being exhilarated, but also confused and possibly even frightened. This simply wasn’t what I had grown to believe church was or was supposed to be.
As the music, which I would later learn was referred to as Praise and Worship, continued—drums, guitars, brass instruments, pianos and a multitude of singers—something strange happened. The older lady next to my father fell to her face, prostrate and crying on the floor in between two pews. She then proceeded to hug my father’s feet, for the remainder of the two-hour service. It was odd, it was crazy—but looking back now, it was beautiful.
At the time, the experience was totally alien and because of that, we were not surprised when my father declared, “I will never step foot in that place again.”
But God had different plans for the Beaulieu family. It was in that moment God planted within my heart a deep and ever-growing desire to pastor people and preach His word. I was eleven and God struck a fire in my that is yet to be put out. A thirst made my spirit man feel dry and in need of water. Only the Living Waters of Christ would ever satisfy.
It wasn’t long, possibly only a few weeks, before we once again ‘stepped foot in that place’ and our feet never left its rich soil. Even twenty-one years later, my feet still stand on that Holy Ground—maybe not Trinity Church International, but God has made me an ambassador of His Kingdom and because of that church, I learned what living a Spirit-Filled, God-Centered life really looked like.
I grew more and more hungry for his word. I began studying religions and reading as many translations of the word of God I could manage. We enrolled at Trinity Christian Academy, the school on the church property and I couldn’t thank my parents enough for caring about me so much to spend hundreds of dollars a month on my Christian education. I doubt they knew that one day I would use the things I learned in that school and church to shepherd hundreds, if not thousands of Christ’s followers over the twelve years I’ve been in ministry.
I’m eternally grateful to my parents and to Jesus for reaching His loving hand out to me at a young age. My testimony is that God saved me out of drug addiction, alcoholism, pornography addiction, strip clubs, jail cells and so much more—because he never allowed me to go to those dark places to begin with.
Not everyone has a miraculous testimony of gutter-to-glory transformation, but we all share in His mercy and grace.