By Vicki Brown
Word&Way News Writer
Marcus Reynolds can't stop talking about Jesus.
And with an infectious smile and non-stop "praise-God" attitude, he wants to take as many people with him as possible on a joyous Christian adventure.
Living for God is an adventure, Reynolds said, one that he almost threw away.
The Jefferson City native grew up in a Christian home and calls his grandfather his greatest influence. "My grandfather influenced us in our work ethic, our relationships...and in putting family first," Rey nolds said. "But his ultimate objective was to encourage us to seek a relationship with Christ."
All six of his grandfather's children accepted the Lord and many of his 19 grandchildren also have become Christians.
Although Reynolds accepted Christ at 14 years old, he began to drift away from God in high school. "When I went to high school, there were other elements of the world.... I put that relationship [with God] on a back burner," he said. "But God was good even as I had issues."
Reynolds' "issues" kept him prowling the streets and away from God for nearly 10 years. A football player, Reynolds said the praise and adulation heaped on school athletes inflated his ego. He looked for ways to please himself, and, he said, just about everything was available - alcohol, sex and drugs.
Reynolds landed a football scholarship and headed to college. But what had been just "recreational" alcohol and drug use in high school became habitual once he was on his own. Although he primarily stuck to alcohol and marijuana, the pastor admitted, "Any element that was out there, I tried it at least once." And he turned to selling drugs, as well.
He dropped out of school and returned to Jefferson City, where he enrolled at Lincoln University. But his habits forced him to drop out again.
Now pastor of One in Christ Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Reynolds is convinced that although he had placed God on a "back burner," the Lord had not forgotten him. Six years ago, the pastor felt God's presence. "The Lord just began to deal with me. He called to my remembrance just how good He was to me," Reynolds said.
By age 25, Reynolds quit selling drugs and stopped running the streets. Although living with his parents, he still abused alcohol. "I used it as a crutch," he said.
Currently a Lincoln student, Reynolds said that in early March 1998 God visited him. Late one evening, shortly after going to bed, Reynolds felt a presence. "It was so overwhelming, it scared me.... I thought the enemy was coming to get me, and I thought I was going to die. I started calling on the Lord and I cried myself to sleep," he said.
When he woke up the next morning, he began to realize that perhaps God, not Satan, was at work.
He said he simply felt comforted when the presence visited him the following evening. Then on the third night, God spoke. "'I watched over you while you were doing those things in the world,' God seemed to say in my spirit," Reynolds explained.
The young man added that the Lord showed him flashbacks of incidents from the past that could have turned tragic.
In one scene, Reynolds was driving back drunk from the lake area to Jefferson City. "There was a deer in the road that seemed to miraculously move," he said. God showed him that had he hit the deer, his car would have gone off the road and he would have slowly died.
A courtroom scene scared him most, because both his mother and grandfather were crying. He realized how his lifestyle choices had disappointed his family, particularly his grandfather.
Reynolds said God "wrestled" with him and showed him that He wanted the young man to serve Him and to help others.
A few months later, Reynolds asked God to remove his alcohol problem. "I've been clean and sober for more than five years," he said.
Reynolds said that in August 1999, he "got in God's face" and challenged the Lord, "I'm going to try You out and see if what You say is going to come to pass.
"He has done it exceedingly more than I could have asked," the pastor said.
The young man now concentrates on serving the Lord and helping people understand God's goodness. "To carry the gospel... is the highest honor in the world. It's my way of life," he said.
"I have a passion for God that allows me to have compassion for other people, because God has so much compassion for me," he said.
That compassion has spilled over into One in Christ's ministry efforts in its neighborhood. The church hosts activities every evening - from Bible trivia night to prayer meeting.
"Whenever you [Christians] need to get closer to God and His people, we want to be available. And we also want to be available for people. They may walk by and say, 'I need to go to church,' even if they don't believe," he said.
A pastor for the past two years, Reynolds noted that he sees two kinds of people - those simply seeking relief from problems and "some who are truly looking for Jesus." He is leading his congregation to minister to both.