Paul Ayers

I became a Christian at the age of 20, when I was an art student at Falmouth College of Arts in Cornwall.

I grew up in south Buckinghamshire, living with my Mum and Stepfather from the age of 8, after my parents divorced and remarried. 

I’m not from a religious background at all.  The only time I went to church was at Easter/Christmas services as part of a C of E primary school. I was taken along to Catholic services occasionally by my stepfather when his two children came for the weekend.  So, I was never a naturally religious person.  God changed my life in its deepest sense, because he brought me into personal relationship with him. 

At secondary school I can’t remember hearing the gospel at any time.  I remember one peer who was a professing Christian but didn’t notice anything particularly different about him, or discussing spiritual things with him.  One of my peers, from a white middle class background went regularly to a Mosque from his own choice, but again he was no different in his lifestyle – smoking, girls, playing truant etc.

By the time I was 17 and doing A levels, I had developed problems with anxiety and acute self-consciousness.  I was very inward-looking, selfish, moody and depressed.  I was avoiding school and had a bad experience taking a hallucinogenic drug with school friends.  This made my anxiety and introversion worse.  Then, I had a major motorcycle accident on way home from school – where I could have easily been killed. God had mercy and it was only my leg that was run over by a van.

My anxiety and depression continued into higher education.  I moved away from home to study a degree in Fine Art in Falmouth, Cornwall.  Although it was exciting, it was also a particulary nerve-racking time. I was soon seeing the student welfare officer regularly about my anxiety.  He was very supportive and caring, but looking back, humanistic therapies were a welcome outlet to discuss my problems, but they couldn’t deal with the root of my problems – sin, self and alienation from God.

The Lord led me straight away to several people on same course who were Christians (or professed to be anyway).  They were part of the Christian Union which had been re-started at college recently by one of them (Steve)

These friends were very genuine and caring, which I really needed in a strange town, and in unfamiliar territory. One friend helped me to move into her shared student house.

Another friend was Steve – converted from Roman Catholicism when he was 19 (he is now a Christian pastor). Quite often, when discussing various things, he’d always end up bringing God’s perspective into it, which was unusual and annoying sometimes because it seemed embarrassing.  He seemed a bit of a religious oddball.  I realised that talking about God in everyday situations, not just in a Church on Sunday made me feel uncomfortable and I wished he wouldn’t do it  – he talked about sin, my sin.

Yet, despite this tension, I was obviously attracted to finding out more.  Through our friendship, he told me about the Gospel and invited me to CU meetings and Church services. I was fairly interested in listening to all this with an open mind but was comfortable with my position of the fence, an outside observer.

But God worked within me over about a year, convicting/convincing me that the gospel was true and that I had to make a decision at some time about what I was going to do with Jesus Christ in my life.

Over the Christmas holidays in 1992, back home with my parents, after reading a Christian book about being changed on the inside, I phoned Steve and told him that I wanted to sincerely search to know God for myself in my life.  He said it was the best Christmas present he could hope for (he told me later that he had been giving up hope on me ever changing)

Looking back, this reminds me of the importance of patient, persistent personal evangelism through friendship.

My decision to be a Christian was a bit scary and surprising but also very natural and rational. I was excited, yet at peace.  God had been drawing me towards him, gently.

I was still confused about the role of Jesus Christ– why did I have to put my faith in him?  It took me a while to understand that Jesus died for my sins so that I could be forgiven and be made right with God and be fit for heaven, rather than judged in Hell.

When I told my parents my mum was worried when I used the term ‘Born again’ Christian and about going to church twice on a Sunday.  She was probably thinking, “Who was this Steve, whose influence I was under, a cult leader?!”

It’s difficult for us sometimes to see for ourselves the changes that God makes in our lives, but my Dad and his wife said that becoming a Christian had changed me for the better, (even though they didn’t want it forced down their throat!)

I was still an anxious person, too self-obsessed and selfish but had someone to look to outside of myself to serve and learn from.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean conforming to a stereotype – I’m unique in God’s sight.  Jesus is recorded as saying, in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon your and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”

As a new Christian I tried a large student popular baptist church  but found it too emotional and lacking in solid teaching.  I settled on a less immediately attractive but solid evangelical baptist church.

There were temptations living in a student house with non Christians. The Lord kept me going by his power and grace as I saw professing Christians backslide and fall away.  It is only God’s power that has kept me as a Christian and still is.

I was baptised after graduating in 1994 and led to get involved in the youth work of my church.  My mum worried that I would never meet someone in a small church down there in Falmouth but I met my future wife, Catherine, in that church as we both served God in the youth work.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

I have now been married for 12 years and have two lovely boys.  Truly God is good to his people.