God showed up uninvited in Christopher Dempsey’s life in 2017.
As Dempsey was doing something very ordinary—filing an audit report for a client on his home computer—something supernatural took place as iTunes shuffled random songs in the background.
“A song from the 1980s came on, ‘Discovery,’ by (English singer) Cliff Richard,” said Dempsey, who lives in Nottinghamshire, England. “It was as if the words took on a new significance. I played it again and a third time. Before I knew it, I was on my knees on the floor, sobbing like a baby. I was just completely disabled.”
Some lyrics from the song are, “Do you ever take the time to ask me if I want to be more involved in your life? It’s so sad you don’t realize what I can do for you. It’s so sad you won’t spend more time alone with me when you could be discovering my love.”
Dempsey had “drifted away” from God for several decades and hadn’t stepped inside a church since he was confirmed as a teenager in the Church of England.
Dempsey promptly dialed a local Anglican church and asked for a priest, who told him to check out a mid-week communion group.
“At first, I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Why not?’ I said, ‘I honestly feel that if I stepped foot inside a church, never mind take communion, I’d probably get struck by lightning.’ I’m not even joking about that. I felt unworthy,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey eventually attended but felt sick and wanted to leave.
At the end, the priest offered communion to the group.
“Right at the last moment, I just made a bolt for it,” Dempsey said. “I left my chair, went to the rail and joined the line. Hands shaking. Reeling wet. I took the wafer and the chalice of wine. Tears streaming down my face. I had what I can only describe as this overwhelming feeling of love. I abandoned all care.”
Dempsey began attending two small groups during the week and Sunday services.
“In the weeks and months after God walked into my life, it was all very dramatic,” Dempsey said. “I was in a fair state of confusion because it had been so sudden, so unannounced and unsought for.”
In early 2018, Dempsey was still wrestling with God and the implications of life beyond this material world.
“In an effort to try to make sense of it all, I was spending mornings at home on TV, on YouTube, looking for some answers really,” Dempsey added. “I found all these different preachers, some of them were pretty good, some of them seemed to be cranky. I stumbled upon Kyle Idleman. I thought, ‘Oh, this guy’s interesting.’ His delivery was such that he made Scripture relevant to everyday life, so I started listening to him and searched out his previous videos.”
God saved Dempsey even though he didn’t realize he needed to be saved.
“I hear all these stories of people who have come out of drug addiction, alcohol abuse, matrimonial breakups or a serious illness,” he said. “All these people have had a major event in their life that have brought them to faith. That didn’t happen to me.”
The elephant in the room
Dempsey kept his office conversion a secret until his wife of 30 years, who was an atheist, noticed something was different with her husband after he picked her up from work.
“She knew immediately something was wrong,” Dempsey said. “I just burst into tears, and I had to tell her. That triggered about six weeks of absolute hell. She thought I was having a nervous breakdown. She didn’t believe all this rubbish I was describing to her. She said, ‘It’s all in your mind.’ But there had been such a dramatic change in me overnight—my attitude, behavior—she slowly began to realize this was a fundamental change in me.”
The Dempseys argued, slept in separate beds and contemplated splitting up for a season.
Rita felt as if he “was having an affair” or that there were “three people living in the house.” She even told him, “If I live to be 100, I will never believe in God.”
Even music choices became a contentious topic.
“I got into Hillsong music, playing it in the car,” Dempsey added. “One day, I picked her up and I had ‘Oceans’ playing. She said, ‘Do we have to listen to that rubbish?’”
A few weeks later, however, Rita returned from work and began crying.
“She said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ I thought she was talking about our marriage, but she wasn’t. She said, ‘I believe in God,’” he said. “That was the start of the change in her. A few days later, she went shopping. She came back with her eyes all red and had been playing Hillsong in the car. With me, it was instant and like a punch in the gut. With her, it was more of a gradual thing.”
The Dempseys now attend SE Online. With the time difference, Southeast’s 11:30 a.m. Sunday service airs at 4:30 p.m. in England. They also joined a small Southeast group of “Brits” that talks through WhatsApp.
The Dempseys went from complacent to committed rather quickly. Before finding Christ, they were by all worldly standards living the good life.
“We were making good money and having a lot of fun with the money,” Dempsey said. “We were having expensive holidays, went to Australia four or five times. We had a lot of fun, but we weren’t entirely happy. Even though we led what could be described as a full life, it was very shallow. We’ve been a million times happier since coming to faith than we ever were before.”
Their circle of friends changed, they became kinder and more patient people and began buying popup tents and shopping once a month to feed a homeless population they avoided before.
Though there were some conflicts with the Anglican Church that caused them to step away, the Dempseys have remained faithful to the SE Online community and take communion from home.
“Kyle’s style of teaching and how he related to everyday life, I started to see how I needed to align my life with the teachings of Scripture,” Dempsey added. “It’s done that for both Rita and I. Our lives have changed enormously.”