NASHVILLE, Tenn.Oliver Strecker always thought he was a good person. But one day it dawned on him that simply being a good person didn’t make him a Christian.
Strecker, a junior tennis player from Gemmingen, Germany, was baptized Thursday afternoon at Granny White Church of Christ by Brent High, Lipscomb’s Associate Athletic Director for Spiritual Formation. It was the completion of a goal for Strecker that began more than a year ago after he arrived on the Lipscomb campus following his transfer from Auburn University.
“It had really been building up over the last year,” Strecker said. “I always considered myself to be a Christian growing up in Germany. But there the Bible is seen as a book of rules, of dos and don’ts. God is seen as an angry judge. If you do good he will give you good things and if you do bad he will punish you. They draw away from him more than embrace him.”
Strecker admits that when he came to Lipscomb he really didn’t know what Christianity was about.
“I never thought of myself as a bad person and didn’t have a reason to believe that I was a bad person,” Strecker said. “I was nice to people, and I tried to treat people with respect because that was the way I was brought up. But at the end of the day it was all about me.
“Now I see I was living a sinful life because I was living away from God. There was no doubt in my mind that I would live my life for God, It was just a matter of time and that happened Thursday morning at Athletes’ Chapel. After hearing the message and spending some time in prayer and reading Scriptures, I said, `today is the day’.”
Strecker met Mariah Suri while playing in a soccer game on the intramural field on campus. Suri, a student from Middle Tennessee State, gave Strecker a new perspective on what the Christian life means.
“She is the first person I have ever been around that completely lives out the Christian life in whatever she does,” Strecker said. “That was very crazy to me how she would behave in certain situations. It was incredible and very admirable.
“I started reading the Bible more. I really want to live the same way. The last two or three months have really been an explosion of faith for me. I have spent a lot of time in mediation, spending time with God and with scriptures. I also have read a lot of supplementary books that have really helped me.”
Strecker also credits some of his Bible teachers like Dr. Josh Strahan and Dr. J.P. Conway, women’s assistant soccer coach Chris Klotz and High for their help with his spiritual growth.
“They are people I can look up to in my Christian walk,” Strecker said. “They are people I can go to for advice when I need it.”
Lipscomb tennis coach Andrew Harris started regularly meeting in the mornings with Strecker for breakfast in the Bison Café where they discussed the Bible and God’s plan for salvation.
“God continued to work on his heart from there,” Harris said. “From then on Oliver was like a sponge and continued to learn about God's word.”
Harris and his wife, Emily, Lipscomb’s Director of Campus Recreation, traveled to Germany this past summer and spent time with Strecker and his family.
“That was a tremendous experience for me as I came to appreciate his story in an even greater context,” Harris said. “Oliver returned this fall and mentioned that over the summer his faith continued to grow and his hunger to learn more about God's word continued to flourish.
“So now to have him accept Christ as his Savior and understand that the journey never ends but is just beginning is a great blessing for our program."
One of the reasons Harris coaches tennis is the opportunity to work with players with a variety of life experiences. He calls it “the greatest gift” of his profession.
"Whether they are from Germany or India, tennis is a global sport and when Jesus said to "cast the nets far and wide" we realize that in order to be successful as a program we must cast our nets wide to find the best players on the planet,” Harris said. “Oliver Strecker is a great example of that.
“Oliver came here from Auburn University and started here as a sophomore with hope of finding a place he could stay and have a great experience. What he found is Lipscomb is a unique place and our expectations as coaches are different at times versus other places. It’s important that our players compete and are successful but it’s just as important that the character of who they are shines as well on the court.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations.