John 4 tells the story of the woman at the well in which Jesus meets a Samaritan woman, graciously exposes her sins and asks her to follow Him.
John Gantz had his own “woman at the well” experience while visiting Southeast Christian Church about 10 years ago.
“God was truly convicting me of all of the things I’ve done in my life,” said Gantz, 40. “I remember sitting in the seats, listening to the worship leaders and just bawling. I like to equate my story to the woman at the well and Jesus tells her all the things she has ever done. Jesus went through the list of everything I had ever done, and it was becoming so clear to me that I was doing life wrong. It was really refreshing. From that moment on, I pursued Jesus and gave up everything I can to live a life that is honoring and pleasing to God.”
Gantz, who serves in the Army and is stationed at Fort Knox, sings on the worship team at several Southeast campuses, including Southwest, Beechmont, Bullitt County, Shelby County and Elizabethtown.
“It’s cool to know my past—and I could get into some deeper stuff—but to know where I’ve been and where I’ve come from to where God has me now,” Gantz added. “I can’t imagine living my life without Jesus today. The rest of my life is going to be continuing to pursue after Him.”
Gantz works in the Army casualty office and seeks to locate and identify the remains of the roughly 80,000 soldiers still listed as missing in action from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
He said about one soldier is brought home every week.
“It’s a great moment for the families and to be able to provide closure for them or even just give them information,” he said. “Some family members know they lost a loved one, but they don’t know how they died. We work with a bigger agency that is able to share the details behind their death.”
Gantz and his wife, Celicia, attend Southeast’s Southwest Campus with their two children, William and Abigail.
‘We wanted to do things right’
Gantz grew up near Cedar Point Theme Park in Sandusky, Ohio.
“We didn’t have much as kids, but our grandpa would buy us passes and take us almost every day during the summer,” Gantz said. “It was a highlight of our youth. So anytime anybody says, ‘This amusement park is really good,’ I’m like, ‘Yea, but you’ve probably never been to Cedar Point.’”
Gantz attended a small Baptist church, but he and his family “faded away” in his teenage years. He joined the Army when he was 18.
“I embarked on this soldier life and really moved into living a life of fulfilling myself and whatever made me happy,” Gantz added. “I just pursued all kinds of different things. I drank a lot. I didn’t do drugs, but just being a guy in the Army and pursuing whatever pleasures I thought I needed.”
In 2003, Gantz got married before being deployed to Iraq, where he was stationed for three years on two separate occasions. He spent very little time with his wife due to deployments, and the marriage ended in divorce after seven years.
Gantz met Celicia while stationed in Fort Knox, and they decided to get married after she got pregnant in 2011.
“We thought, ‘We’re getting ready to have a child, what do we want for this child? What do we want for each other?’ We decided we wanted to do this right and get married, to bring William into the world under a union,” he said.
Another way they wanted “to do things right” was to start attending church.
“I knew about Jesus—I wouldn’t say I knew Him at the time—but it wasn’t something I was trying or wanting to pursue until I met my wife,” Gantz said.
The Gantzes would Google different churches and check them out each Sunday. They enjoyed Southeast and became members the same month they got married.
‘You’re an Army guy’
The Gantzes got more involved in church when Southeast launched the Southwest Campus near where they lived in 2014.
“Someone on staff said, ‘You’re an Army guy. I think you’d be great at directing traffic,’ so I took on that role for about a year, but I still felt God wanted me to connect more to others,” Gantz said.
It eventually led to Gantz joining the worship team.
“Throughout school, I had a music background of playing instruments in the marching band. My dad plays music. He plays in Beatles tribute bands all over the place. I’ve always had this passion for music and sang; I just never had the courage to do it in front of others,” Gantz added.
God empowered Gantz to overcome his fear of leading worship.
“I’m a two-time combat vet, and I’ve been through stuff overseas, but when it came to leading worship in front of people, I’m like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” he said. “Kyle (Idleman) preached a message about not allowing your fears to control the gifts that God has given you. It was another conviction where I was sitting there like, ‘OK, God. I need to let go of this and allow You to be in control.’”
Gantz was challenged to lead a Southwest worship service one Sunday morning and he hasn’t looked back.
“The rest is history. I’ve been going on a course pretty fast in pursuing Jesus and being obedient to whatever He is calling me into. It’s just super exciting,” Gantz said.