Andy Shank was selling drugs at an apartment complex in Ashland, Ohio, when he first heard the gospel from SEEDNet church planter Nathan Wells.
“Nathan was youth pastor at Ashland Grace Brethren Church (Dan Allan, pastor), and had been bringing a group over to Stony Creek to play kickball and share the gospel,” he recalls.
“The first time I’d been talking about getting rid of him. I just thought he was an upper middle-class preppy dude. I was getting upset because he was taking away the attention from selling drugs.”
In the meantime, Andy’s best friend’s mom invited him to come to a Bible study hosted by Ashland GBC. At first, he refused, but she was persistent. Finally, he agreed to attend one meeting, but only if she would never ask him to attend a Bible study again. And that’s when God got a hold of his heart.
“During the service, The Lord hit me right between the eyes. Nathan started preaching, and it spoke into the deepest part of my being. I needed forgiveness and it was offered through Jesus. I wrestled with that for a few days. I called Nathan a few days later because I couldn’t get it off my mind.”
While the gospel words were still fresh in his mind, Andy decided to attend the opening service at the just-finished building at East Gate Bible Church, a new Grace Brethren church, which was held on Easter Sunday, 2007. And that day, he gave his life to Christ.
“I immediately felt a huge weight come off me,” he recalls. He went home to his family and told them what happened.
“I was a day old in Christ,” he notes. “There wasn’t much theology there. I told my dad that I was going to heaven. He said, ‘There’s no way you can–God knows what you’ve done.’”
They would have come to blows if Andy’s mother wouldn’t have intervened. Andy asked Pastor Wells to come over to share the newly-learned words of the gospel to the rest of his family as well, and God worked another miracle.
“My mom and dad and sisters and grandma and two of my cousins stood in the middle of the living room and surrendered their lives to Christ that day. I couldn’t get over the fact that The Lord honored that and rescued all of them.”
Andy knew that his life had to change. Instead of selling drugs, he started preaching the gospel and planting churches alongside Pastor Wells. His background gives him a distinct advantage – he is better able to pour into the lives of many other church planters and provide insight into the lives of SEEDnet’s target audience: people living in Spiritually, Emotionally, Economically, and Developmentally oppressed areas – because he has experienced firsthand how knowing Jesus changes lives.
Today, Andy is the director of street church plants at SEEDNet, working closely with the other church planters and leaders. His is passionate about helping SEEDNet raise up churches who can then take up the mantle of leadership, despite their lack of theological training.
“I think a seminary is a good thing but I think the church needs to adjust to movements like SEEDnet, and raise leaders out of these poor places,” he stresses. “My qualification is I have been with Jesus. And I’m being transformed into the likeness of Christ. And that’s the kind of leaders we are trying to bring up through SEEDNet.”