Allen is a former Methodist mega-church pastor and currently hosts a daily talk radio show (the Allen Hunt Show) which is heard on 150 mainstream stations around the country each week with a half million listeners. Allen is also a husband and father of two daughters.
For fifteen years, my ministry as a Methodist pastor blossomed from one ministry to another, culminating in my dream job. I became the senior pastor of a mega-church, the most well-attended Methodist congregation in the South, and one of the largest in the country. Somewhere between four and five thousand people worshiped there each Sunday. Eight thousand gathered there for Christmas and Easter services. The church sponsored one of just two K-12 Methodist schools in the nation, had a full pregnancy resource center, a counseling center, a child care ministry, and maintained partnerships with vital missions on every continent around the globe.
How did my transition occur? Not in a single moment of great revelation, but slowly, through a series of experiences. More like a mosaic of God-encounters. Or better yet, like a journey on a boat that begins in the Atlantic Ocean, without a real plan or destination. One day you wake up, look around and realize that you’re somewhere in the Pacific. You’re not sure when you crossed from one ocean to the other, but you know you’re there, and there’s no going back.
Often, I was leading that wonderful mega-church, and deep inside I began to feel a longing to be a part of what I was convinced was God’s One Church. Over time that longing grew until I could deny it no more.
My journey culminated on Sunday, January 6, 2008, the feast of the Epiphany. On that day, I, the former pastor of a mega-church just twenty miles away, stood before the congregation at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Atlanta’s oldest Catholic church.
I was no longer the very public and well-respected Methodist minister. I would not welcome the congregation, deliver the homily, or stand outside and greet members as they left, but instead would be just like any other lay person there.
But then, finally, the moment came.
I walked to the front, and the priest gently placed the Body of Christ in the palm of my hand for the very first time.
And I began to weep.
Tears slowly streamed down my face as the years of journey climaxed in the enveloping presence of the Holy Spirit.
God used my friendship with a priest whom I met in graduate school to introduce me to the treasures of the Catholic Church. Through Father Steven, a Dominican friar, I came to see the six hidden treasures of the Catholic Church, treasures so powerful that they changed my life in ways I could never have imagined. I call them hidden treasures because they are so often over-looked or misunderstood or taken for granted.
At times, God uses friendships in remarkable ways. We listen to real friends. To strangers, we often turn a deaf ear or a cold shoulder. But to real friends, we will listen, even when listening stretches us in new ways. I do not think Fr. Steven intended to lead me home. Rather, he loved me and my family with abundance in a time when we desperately needed it. That friendship and love led to conversations about things of faith. Those conversations percolated and bounced around in my soul for years. I am constantly amazed at how God uses genuine friendships to shape our lives.