If a person were to ask a teenage Russ Ewell where he thought his life would end up, probably the last thing he would have said is “executive minister at a church in San Francisco” and “working hard to bring people to Jesus.”
Ewell, executive minister at Bay Area Christian Church, told Fox News Digital in a recent phone interview that his background makes him particularly dedicated to bringing the religiously unaffiliated — the “nones” — to God.
As a teenager growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ewell “had a lot of friends who were religious,” he said — yet he personally “wouldn’t have anything to do with that.”
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“They tried to get me to go to stuff and do things, and I wouldn’t have anything to do with it,” he said.
Looking back, Ewell says his teenage self would probably be best described as “agnostic.”
“I did not want to go to church. I did not go to church,” he said.
Instead, Ewell said he aspired to go into politics and work as a politician.
That changed during college when he got to know a man he played basketball with, he said.
“After I got to know him, I learned he was a Christian — and I began to give the Bible a chance,” he said.
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“And so when I gave the Bible a chance, that was a big deal, because I’ve not ever read the New Testament and I didn’t know anything about Jesus.”
Reading the Bible, he said, was an eye-opening experience.
“I looked at it, and I was like, ‘I didn’t even know this was all in here,'” he said.
After dedicating his life to Christ, Ewell set aside his political aspirations and turned to ministry, much to the shock of his family and friends.
Right now, a report from Pew Research has found that about 28% of Americans consider themselves not religiously affiliated — “nones.” This is actually a slight drop from 2022, when 31% of Americans were “nones.”
Pew Research published its report last Wednesday. “The identical results we’ve found in three of the last five years are a sign of stability in the size of this population,” Pew said of its findings. “At the same time, in two of the last five years, we obtained readings above 28%.”
Ewell, and his church, have a special dedication to bringing those “nones” to faith.
“We built this program, and it serves thousands of kids.”
The Bay Area Christian Church has numerous programs to engage the community, including a program called E-Sports. It’s a sports league for children and adults with special needs who play alongside those who do not have special needs.
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Two of Ewell’s own children have special needs, he told Fox News Digital.
“And so we built this program, and it serves thousands of kids. And we don’t have any expectation that people have a religious affiliation,” he said.
The Bay Area Christian Church also has a program to assist drug addicts in recovery. It partnered with a local hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic to help with getting vaccines to vulnerable populations.
“Instead of coming in with judgments and with stereotypes of [religious people], and instead of speaking in a cultural language that’s more religious, we try to speak and understand the language of meeting people where they are,” he said.
His church aims to “just be normal and friendly and caring about people,” while remaining engaged in the community, he said.
It is his hope that, much like his own encounter with Christianity through the world sports, he is able to reach those who were just like he was — and bring them into a place of faith.
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Part of that is breaking down the cultural barrier between people of faith and the “nones,” he said.
“When I was a ‘none,’ it was entering into an extremely different culture,” he said. “I’d never been in a religious culture.”
Rather than use religious language, Ewell aims to have a more spiritual bent in his approach.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that culture, sometimes within church, can be a culture that people outside of church don’t understand,” he said. “But the numbers really tell the tale.”
He continued, “People understand or are interested in spirituality, whether it’s in nature, whether it’s in searching inwardly to find who they are or to deal with and resolve issues of their life,” he said.
“And if we can learn to speak the language of spirituality instead of the language of religiosity, I think we will have great impact.”
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Source: Fox News