Confessions of faith: Bennington

After growing up with a vague sense of church, a man is encouraged by his wife to learn about God’s steadfastness and forgiveness.

Rachel Hartman

Jim Bennington didn’t grow up in a religious household. “Religion was present to a degree,” he recalls. Bennington was born and spent his early years in the city of Pontiac, Michigan, about 30 miles north of Detroit.

The family relocated frequently. “Sometimes we moved two or three times in a school year,” he says. The moves didn’t take the family too far, however. “It was always around the county.”

With so many changes, the family attended many different types of religious services, usually one that was close to where they were staying. And while they went to a variety of places, including a Catholic church and Spanish services, they never attended the same church on a consistent basis.

“You live the life your parents lead,” says Bennington. “I had a lot of different exposures to religion. We got into a kind of religious roulette. I knew God was out there; I just didn’t know how to make a connection.”

LEARNING MORE

As an adult, Bennington worked as a radio DJ and moved around quite a bit with the job. Then he started working for an entertainment company. While there, he met another employee named Amy.

It was through her that Bennington grew to learn about WELS. Amy had been born and raised in a WELS church. What’s more, her parents and grandparents had also attended Lutheran churches. Being in God’s Word was important to Amy, and her commitment did not go unnoticed.

When the two began their courtship, Amy introduced Bennington to a WELS church. But Bennington didn’t find the experience to be a smooth one. “I was always lost,” he recalls. He tried to follow along with the bulletin and also the hymnal but found it difficult to sort out the hymn numbers from the different pages of worship in the book. At certain times, he wondered why others were talking while he tried to sing.

As he continued going to church on Sundays, however, Bennington found it easier to follow along with the order of service. He also began tuning in to the Scripture readings and the teachings addressed during worship.

With Amy’s encouragement, Bennington took Bible information classes. He was baptized and confirmed after finishing the classes.

Gaining an understanding of Baptism left a solid impression on Bennington. “That’s something you witness in different formats in churches,” he explains. He had seen it displayed as an act that simply happens.

But Bennington grasped a fuller concept of Baptism after learning about it in God’s Word. Studying about the washing away of sins through Baptism was very meaningful for him. And he found getting ready for it to be effective. “Preparing for that moment in my life was very reflective,” he remembers.

He also was drawn to the ease of communication he found when studying the Bible. You just ask questions and look for answers. “The dialogue of God’s Word is easy to understand. You’re welcome to ask questions and educate yourself further—it’s not intimidating,” he says.

And Bennington is glad to see that anyone can start studying God’s Word, regardless of where they stand in the walk of life. “You don’t have to be a theologian the first time you sit down in the pew,” he says. “You can find opportunities to broaden your knowledge base. It’s a good way to live your life.”

DIGGING DEEPER

Bennington and Amy got married and continued attending church services. Then their family moved from Michigan to Renton, Washington, for work-related reasons. Since then, they have attended a WELS church in this suburb of Seattle.

This summer, Bennington had the opportunity to attend the WELS synod convention as a delegate. Right from the start, the experience made a strong impression on him. “It was awe-inspiring to walk in and see all of these men and attendees committed to one effort,” he says.

He also appreciated the chance to learn how the synod operates. “I sit through board meetings on a professional side, and I can relate to that on the organization of the church,” Bennington explains.

Another aspect of the convention that caught Bennington’s attention were the presentations on mission efforts in various places throughout the world. He could relate to the strategies of finding opportunities for further mission work and then striving to support the ongoing missions while maintaining an overall balance. “As a laymen that’s a challenge I experience,” he notes. He found the emphasis on practicing good stewardship to be a key component to church planning.

ON THE ROAD, COMMITTED TO GOD

Bennington continues to work in the entertainment industry, designing and building arcades for a living. “It puts me in the heart of the real world and in a business that impacts people’s lives,” he explains.

His current job frequently takes him on the road. But when it comes to the beginning of the week, he says it’s key to enter the church doors. “It’s the best way to begin your week,” he says. “It starts with Sunday morning.”

He also finds being in the Word to be a grounding experience. “You don’t have to move backwards or be stuck in guilt or unfulfilled commitments,” he explains. “You can start where you’re at and move forward.”

Bennington has three children; in addition, his niece who currently lives with his family in Washington is going through confirmation classes.

Attending church services on a regular basis has made it easy for the entire family to follow along during worship. On Sunday mornings, “I’m really proud that my 12-year-old sits down and instantly organizes his hymnal,” says Bennington.

In the industry Bennington works in, there are often ups and downs, highs and lows, and swift changes. He recognizes the need for dedication when raising children to be centered in God’s Word. “We pray for God’s guidance,” he says. “It’s a burden we don’t take lightly.”

Amy leads the family’s homeschooling efforts, and they often seek ways to provide education in a variety of life’s settings. Sometimes the family travels with Bennington when he is on the road. During those trips, he often looks for time to take off of work to be with his family.

In everything he does, Bennington strives to keep a balance between his career and family, always keeping God as the focus. He credits this attitude to his wife, Amy. “I’m grateful for my wife’s commitment to her faith and helping me build my commitment,” says Bennington. “She’s the person who started it all, and this is the place to be.”

Rachel Hartman and her husband, Missionary Michael Hartman, serve in León, Mexico.

 

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Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 102, Number 11
Issue: November 2015

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