Matt Gruel's Testimony

I was born on April 27, 1973 and lived in small town Indiana most of my early life. I was born the son of a minister, which has made the church a central part of my life. I can still remember the church we attended and the parsonage we lived in during those early years of my life. When I think back upon it, I believe I really had a happy early childhood.

When I was approaching 5 years old, my mom and dad got a divorce. Because I was so young, I don’t think I really understood much about what was going on mentally. But the divorce surely took its toll on me emotionally. We ended up moving to a new small town in Indiana (Peru) and I lived with my mother. In my eyes my mother was a rock and fortress to run to. Even to this day, my mom means a great deal to me, as she has always supported and cared for me like no one else.

I went to a Lutheran school from kindergarten to eighth grade, which continued the importance of church and religion in my life. However, my religious experience was mostly educational and not experiential. I knew the answers to the questions and that got me in good with the teachers. And at that age, doing well in school meant that you were accepted by adults and peers, and this was great to fill my need for acceptance. So I did other things—like played sports, began to play piano, and learned the current lingo of my age group—all in the attempt to be accepted. This created a drive to always perform well in what I did. Good performance usually meant acceptance, so I drove myself hard, and in the process, I gained my love for music and basketball.

When I went into high school I went to the public high school, which was out of my Christian school environment. I was now out of my element, and a whole wave of insecurity came over me. I needed to be accepted, and I was going to do anything I needed to be liked by all. I became a complete people- pleaser, trying to be liked by everyone.

I went to Butler University in Indianapolis and majored in music theory and composition. As I started college, it was a similar scene to my early high school days—always trying to please others to be accepted. That pattern has been very similar throughout my life and still is a great temptation for me today.

While in college I gained some exceptionally great friends. During my sophomore year, I noticed changes in their lives. I concluded that it had to do with their involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ. They asked me to attend as well, but I wasn’t interested at first. When they asked if I could play the piano for the meetings, that peaked my interest, so I went and played. As I heard the Good News and I talked with and watched my friends lives, I began to understand that I really wasn’t living a Christian life at all (even though I thought I was). I accepted Christ into my life and my life has never been the same. My life didn’t change over night, but I definitely began to change. Most noticeably was a subtle change in my goals for life. God really began to change my direction in life.

As I began to grow in my relationship to Christ, I was led to go on a summer missions project with Campus Crusade for Christ. This trip was to the Middle East, and it was a life-changing experience which began to broaden my perspectives.

Although I loved the summer project, I told myself after I came back that I wouldn’t do that again. Never say never to God! The year after I graduated from college I went back to the Middle East for a second time, but this time for a full year.

I shared the gospel every day. I prayed every day. I was involved in ministry every day. It was hard, but I loved it. God had sufficiently con- vinced me that I should go into the ministry.

Before I continue with the story, I need to back up a bit. During my senior year in college, before I went on my year to the Middle East, I met Cyn- thia. We started dating and took a liking to each other. When it came to me going away for a year, we decided to stay together and see what happened. We made it through, and we learned the true meaning of faithfulness. Shortly after I returned from the Middle East I asked Cynthia to marry me, and she accepted.

We were now engaged and we were ready to go on to the next stage of our lives together: moving to Trinity Seminary. During that time, I found a church home. I had a long-time friend who invited me to the church where he was on staff. I visited and was drawn immediately to the ministry there. The church ended up hiring me part-time at first and eventually full-time. For the final four years of my ministry at Bridgeway I was the Senior Pastor of the church.

Without a doubt a major life-changing event for me was my marriage to Cynthia in 1997. She is the love of my life. God has also blessed me with two wonderful sons, Cam (13) and Caleb (8). It is amazing how God has worked into my life certain things that have made me what I am. I’m thankful for all of it, and I desire to continue to improve on my weaknesses and tap into my strengths my whole life. I am an ongoing project. May God use me for His glory!

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