Brett Avants, Pastor
So how does a West Point graduate who intended to become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Desert Storm cavalry officer, Bronze Star recipient, intelligence officer at one of those three-letter agencies, and marketing professional come to realize that he is nothing without Christ? Through the power of the gospel.
I am married to my high school sweetheart Karen, and we have 2 wonderful daughters.
I was born and raised in an Assembly of God church in North Little Rock, Arkansas. My parents ensured that I attended church regularly, and instilled Godly values and upbringing in my brother and me at an early age. I believe that this has shaped the way I think and act, especially towards my own children and family, even today. I am thankful that I had those Godly parents that were able to teach me the ways of the Lord. I am thankful that, for the most part, I did not depart from that teaching. I do not remember the first time I gave my life to Christ, but my wife (and girlfriend at the time) still has a diary that records me as going to the altar and giving my life to Christ in April 1982. While in junior high and high school I did not feel the call of Christian service, and I was not in church “every time the doors were open,” I still lived a good Christian example.
It was during my service as an officer in the U.S. Army, specifically during my combat service in Operation Desert Shield/Storm as a scout platoon leader, that I began to really understand who God was and what He had for my life. There is a saying that there are no atheists in the foxhole, and that is absolutely true. Soldiers who had not been in church except on Easter and Christmas, if then, were talking with me about God and what it meant to have a relationship with Him. Initially, I was not very comfortable about these discussions for various reasons, but God gave me the words for them during this time of life and death crisis. It is also true that it is especially hard to be a Christian in good times, because when the war ended, many of those soldiers, assuming that the threat to their life had ended, generally went back to their old ways. I thought this was sad. I prayed daily that He would protect my soldiers and give us strength and wisdom to destroy our enemy. Thankfully, no one in my unit was hurt.
Combat taught me that God was real, and that our life here on Earth is only temporary. Death can be hard to face for many people, but knowing you are a Christian and knowing that Jesus conquered death for you gives you a completely new and different perspective on this issue. However, I was still not growing as I thought I should. I was not paying tithes regularly, and was just “getting by.” Friends and neighbors knew I was a Christian, went to church, and generally lived a “good moral life,” but I was not where I needed to be spiritually. It would take me several more years to “grow up” and learn to accept what God had for my life.
Sometimes God has to hit us with a 2×4 board to wake us up, and that is what he did for me. In October 1997, my only daughter at the time, who was only 3, was diagnosed with Type I juvenile diabetes. I literally fought with God about why He could do this to me and to this little innocent child. However, God brought several scriptures to my mind, including John 9, and made me realize that God is sovereign, even when it doesn’t seem like anyone is in control. He also made me realize that he can cause all things to work for good for those who are called to His purposes, which He did with this event. I can honestly say that this event more than anything caused me to reevaluate my faith and “get off the fence” so to speak. I began to inquire about the things of God, and found out that God is almighty, and His Word is true.
Years ago, I discovered Reformed doctrine and the life-changing doctrines of grace. The Assemblies of God is distinctly Arminian, more like Semi-Pelagian, and I have had several opportunities to discuss differences of theology with some of my pastoral and educational colleagues, and have thoroughly enjoyed the conversations. Everyone has a theology, and I firmly believe that one’s theology governs the way that a person lives their life. Reformed theology has opened my eyes to a grace that I had never before experienced, and an understanding of the Bible that has completely changed my life. While I love and respect my brothers and sisters who are still Arminian in belief, I have found that the totality of the Bible and the message of Christ make more sense through the framework of Reformed theology. I am no longer affiliated with the Assemblies of God, and resigned my ordination with them, and instead have been a Baptist for many years.
I have a Master’s degree in Ministry from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, a Master’s degree in Theology from Whitefield Theological Seminary, and am pursuing a PhD at Whitefield Theological Seminary in English Puritan and Reformed Theology. Some of the people I admire and have learned from include Charles Spurgeon, Andrew Fuller, Mark Dever, John Piper, John MacArthur, RC Sproul, Joel Beeke, John Calvin, J. Gresham Machen, B.B. Warfield, Carl Henry, Gordon Clark, John Wyclif, and many of the English and American Puritans (who get a bad rep but are theologically and experientially giants), and many others.