My name is Richard Playford. I am a new Christian Apologetics Alliance contributor. For my first post, the editing team and I thought that it would be a good idea for me to post my testimony!
I was raised in a fairly agnostic English family. We might go to Church once or twice a year at Christmas and things like that, but as a family we were not in any way committed Christians. For most of my childhood I didn’t really think about God very much, and when I did my opinion would often change. At about the age of thirteen I realised that there might be a God, and then there might be a Heaven and Hell, so I thought I might as well go to church to try and get in his good books! Unsurprisingly, with this skewed view of Christianity and a limited relationship with God, I soon lost my faith. This was due to the various stresses, strains, and temptations of teenage-hood. By the time I was fifteen, I had stopped going to church; by the time I was seventeen, I was probably an agnostic. After this, I was always sympathetic towards religion, but looking back I did not truly understand what Christianity was about, nor did I have an intimate relationship with God. Furthermore, I was highly sceptical of religious experiences and whether religions could be intellectually rigorous.
I went to University to study Classics and Philosophy, and in my first year I met an attractive Christian girl called Emma. She invited everybody to come to church with her if they wanted. So I looked at her and thought, ‘Some time with a pretty girl, a free cup of tea, a biscuit and a nice singsong. What’s not to like?!’ So I went! Not perhaps for the right reasons, but I still went! So I went to church a few times with her in the first year. During the second year, I started to go regularly, maybe about three times a month, and I went even more during the third year. If people asked me why I went, I could never really answer. I think now that it was God calling me there.
The big change happened during the last month of my third and final year at Exeter University. I was standing in church, singing the various songs, and was wondering why I had been to church for three years, and yet felt like I had made no progress in deciding whether to enter into a relationship with God. Emma was standing next to me, worshipping God. I looked at her and then I looked at the various other friends I had made in my time at the church and I was struck by the thought that they all looked really beautiful; it was a look of peace and happiness and I felt that they looked how human beings should look. I then thought about all the things God had done in Emma and my other Christian friends’ lives and how happy he made them. I was then struck by the thought that God, whether or not he existed, deserved thanking. So during the next worship song, instead of just singing as an exercise, I decided that in my heart I would say, ‘God, if you exist, thank you for everything you have done for my friends.’ Very quickly within the same service it just became ‘God, thank you for everything you have done for my friends.’ In some way, even though I was not sure why, I had started to believe in God! The next week at church, I went back and started doing the same thing, thanking God for what he had done for my friends. However, I began to feel an ache, and to realise that I wanted God to come into my life. I wanted him to be my God. Why wouldn’t you want that? I had started to love God! This was when I first cautiously asked God into my life. At about this time, I was at home one day and was struck by the fact that I was happy and joyful in a way that I had not felt for long time, if ever. I had often felt miserable and unhappy in life until this stage and I was struck by how this had all gone away and been replaced by joy. To me, there is only one answer to why this happened, and that is God.
Term then ended, and I graduated and I went home to my parents. I did not forget about God and still believed in him, but very quickly I got back into bad habits. I stopped going to Church and spending time with supportive Christians and stopped exploring my relationship with God. I had been home for a few weeks when out of the blue Emma invited me to go to Momentum. This is a Christian camp for 20-30-year-olds. I originally was not planning to go as I would have to leave a day early, and it cost a reasonable amount. However, as I was midway through writing an email to Emma, I had a strong feeling and thought that I should go. I felt like it could have been God speaking to me, so I deleted the e-mail and wrote a new one saying that I would go. I bought the ticket and we went. On the first day, one of the people who was camping with us asked me if I was a Christian. I replied saying that I was not sure I was a Christian and that I was not comfortable with that title, but that I did believe in God.
On the second night of the camp, in the evening service, the man who was running it, Mike Pilavachi, asked whether anybody wanted to come up to the front and give their lives to Jesus and become a Christian. I did not want to go. I did not want to get up in front of all of those people and say that! It was scary! At the same time I really felt that I should go! So I desperately tried to come up with excuses not to go. In my mind I said things like ‘I have been to church all my life, I used to believe in God when I was thirteen, I let God into my life a few weeks ago.’ However, I knew that none of these excuses would work. I knew that even if I believed in God when I was young, I had stopped believing in him before I went to University. I also knew that even though I had let God into my life a few weeks ago, I had not publically and formally said I was a Christian. I knew that I needed to go up to the front. As a last, desperate excuse, I thought, ‘I am in a T-shirt and shorts! I am not dressed for this decision; I need to be in at least a shirt and trousers to make this decision!’ When this excuse appeared in my head, I knew I HAD to go up to the front. So, shaking with fear, I grabbed onto Emma’s arm and asked her to take me up to the front! On the 18th of August 2012, at the age of twenty-one, I went up to the front and then, with a handful of other new Christians, we said a prayer asking God into our lives and we became Christians.
Since then life has in many ways been great, but there have been huge challenges. The main challenges have been lots of doubts, both intellectual and emotional, and lots of feeling overwhelmed at the decisions that I had made. There have also been loads of good things. I met with some relatives recently who said that I have changed for the better and that I am happier. Since moving to Birmingham, I have joined a new church, everybody I have met has been really encouraging and supportive, and I have made some great friends. On my course, I also met my fellow contributor, Paul Rezkalla, who suggested that I join the Christians Apologetics Alliance. I also joined a prayer group, who have been really supportive and understanding when I get confused or overwhelmed by my new faith. I got baptised a few weeks ago and the number of people who came to watch me and support me was really touching! The best thing about being a Christian is having a relationship with God. Although much of the time it is easy to forget about him or to doubt him, every so often you can experience him in your life and that is the best thing in the world. When I experience him, I feel happy, my doubts are banished, all of the worries and pains that we all have go away. I feel calm and yet excited and I feel confident about the future. It is a hard feeling to describe, but the best way that I think of is joy! I love God! Sometimes being a Christian is hard but God is Good and he makes life more than worthwhile!
I hope that by contributing to the Christian Apologetics Alliance I can serve God in some way and help others on their own journeys with God. My background is in philosophy, with a particular interest in ethics. I have also read a number of apologetics books and I have some knowledge of the philosophy of religion. I had some knowledge in these areas before becoming a Christian, but I have learnt and explored a lot more in these areas since becoming a Christian and I will hopefully learn a lot more in the future . My aim in writing here is that I can help myself and others to explore Christianity and to see that it can be an intellectually rigorous and satisfying position. I hope that this can strengthen people’s faith and perhaps help others to find God. I hope that this account of my testimony has been interesting to read and that it might help other people in their own relationship with God.