Hi, I’m John Ralls, and I help lead the worship and media ministry here at Cornerstone. I grew up in Chelmsford with my mom, dad and little sister. Although I was far from perfect, I would probably be considered a good kid by most. I was motivated to be good by guilt and fear of getting into trouble. I was the kind of kid that didn’t want to rock the boat.
Going to church was important to me and my family. However, it was more of an obligation than a desire. It was something to check off on the weekend before getting on with the rest of my week. I knew that God was important, but I didn’t understand how that related to me personally.
As I grew older, I didn’t handle the pressures of adolescence very well. I lost many of my friends as they moved on, and I changed schools. I tried to fit in however I could, but even with my efforts, I became an outcast at school and felt very alone. My school grades began to suffer, and I was mercilessly bullied.
Then I went on my first youth retreat, and everything began to change for me. I made new friends, and more importantly, I realized that my relationship with God could be much more personal. I was on fire after that retreat, and it was at that same time that I was forming what would become a lifelong friendship with my buddy Dennis. He was able to help me take all that excitement, and guide me as I came to understand what it meant to be a Christian.
He led me to the Bible, which I had never read on my own. We started reading through the gospels together; the four books that explain the life and teaching of Jesus. I remember the first verse that really struck me was John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends”. Jesus loved me as a friend.
But why was it necessary for Him to die? As I read and shared more, I realized that as good as I thought I was, I could never be good enough. God demands perfection, and He sent His son as the perfect sacrifice. He died so I wouldn’t have to be perfect. He paid the price for my sins.
I finally began to understand that going to church and being raised as a Christian didn’t make me a Christian. There was nothing I could do to earn my way into heaven. It didn’t matter what prayers I prayed or what acts I performed. God provided a way through faith; believing in His son and the sacrifice He made for me. So that’s what I did, I put my faith in Jesus Christ.
I had new hope in life. My outlook totally changed, and I was transformed by my faith. I was no longer alone. I knew that Jesus not only died for my sins, but He rose and is alive today ruling with God. I took comfort from what Jesus says in the gospel of John “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
With that hope, I formed new friendships, I turned my school grades around, and I had new motivation to do what was right. I still faced challenges and temptations, but I had help to withstand and overcome. I grew more in my faith as I went to college and was instructed by friends I met through the campus ministry. At that time I started attending Immanuel Church, which is Cornerstone’s parent church, and I discovered the church is more than a place of worship. The church is a family, fellow believers (and sinners) who all have the same desire to serve God and others.
It is exciting to see the work He has done and is doing as I reflect back on my life. He has brought some amazing people into my life. His hand is clearly evident in the way that He brought my wife and I together (a whole other story), and He’s given us two wonderful children. I don’t know what challenges and opportunities await me, but I do know that God will always be with me as my guide and my strength. I would love to share more, so please talk to me if you have any questions.