Inside every human heart is the longing to find purpose and fulfillment—to be loved and known. What can take someone from living for the world to finding their true identity in Jesus Christ? A prodigal son from East Tennessee discovered this and so much more along the way.
A Prodigal Son
Steve Witt was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and raised in a loving Christian home. He was brought up by godly, Christian parents who attended Lyons Creek Baptist Church in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee. He remembers growing up in this congregation with “Gideon Sunday” every year when a Gideon would come and share about what God was doing in the Association.
Although surrounded by godly influences, Steve was not a believer and struggled with the temptations of the world. “I really struggled with alcohol in my high school years and in college at East Tennessee State University,” remembers Steve. He describes his younger years as “having a great upbringing but ending up being a prodigal son.”
Things changed for Steve during his senior year of college. He met a young lady he worked with named Nikki; his friends dared him to ask her out on a date. She asked Steve if he was a believer. Knowing she only dated Christians, he lied and said yes. “Nikki invited me to go to church with her, and I remember the pastor making a clear and simple Gospel presentation. I truly met Christ that night, and it changed my life.”
Steve was about to graduate but did not waste any time sharing Jesus with others. He started a Bible study on the third floor of his fraternity house. In 1992, he moved to Athens, Georgia, to become a regional operations manager at a trucking company. In 1993, days after Nikki graduated from college, the couple got married. Today, they have two daughters who also love and serve Jesus.
“Nikki invited me to go to church with her, and I remember the pastor making a clear and simple Gospel presentation. I truly met Christ that night, and it changed my life.”
A New Calling
God moved the Witts to Spring Hill, Tennessee, in January 1996, where Steve began a new job. They joined First Baptist Church Spring Hill. It was here, for the first time, Steve sensed God was pulling him out of the transportation industry and into ministry. He became the associate pastor at this church (working especially in youth ministry), serving for the next four years.
A move to Elizabethton, Tennessee, where Steve became the senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, included significant exposure to the work and ministry of The Gideons International. Steve recalls those days with love and appreciation. “Over 20 Gideons were in my congregation. These Gideons honored pastors in our area while at the same time supporting me and were a blessing to our church. They were model church members who served in several areas of our church.”
So Many People, So Little Gospel Influence
After twenty years of pastoring in various capacities, Steve found himself back in Middle Tennessee, serving at Thompson Station Church, loving where God had him and what he was doing in ministry. But then, things got personal for Steve. In October 2014, the congregation was looking at funding church planting out West. He remembers traveling to Las Vegas and meeting with a pastor/church planter named Vance Pittman. When Steve heard the words, “Over two million people will go to bed tonight in this city without the Gospel,” that wrecked him.
“By November 2014, I knew God was calling us out West to plant a church. I’m grateful Thompson Station Church became our sending church as God had clearly laid this on my heart.” The following year Steve transitioned from Middle Tennessee to the West coast and went through the North American Mission Board’s church planting assessment and training.
By the time January 2016 had arrived, Steve and his family began with a few people meeting in their home with an idea to start a church that would preach the Gospel and disciple people well. At the same time, he coached football at a local high school. In September 2016, they officially planted The Well Church, which has baptized over 30 players from that football team, plus some family members of the players.
“Over two million people will go to bed tonight in this city without the Gospel.”
As the congregation grew, they rented a storefront and expanded as God increased their numbers. In 2018, The Well ran over 200 people and needed a new space. Today, the congregation still meets in storefronts but is currently building its own space. It will be finished in Spring 2022. “God has blessed our church with a location that has the potential to reach many, many more people for His Kingdom, and we could not be more excited about the days ahead,” says Steve. Since 2016, the congregation has baptized over 130 new believers, and they are actively growing in their faith to make a difference throughout their community.
Keep Charging Forward
The Well Church will have a space on their missions’ wall for The Gideons in their new building. A man named Clyde is highly active in the congregation and is also a Gideon. “Gideons like Clyde and several I had in my church in East Tennessee are such a blessing. God is using Clyde and his camp in great ways—nearly every week, he is encouraging men to join The Gideons and telling me about where they have distributed Scriptures.” Steve knows Gideons help the local church because they are active in their faith, support the church, and offer prayer and encouragement to the pastor.
Steve and Nikki have also served in the Youth Program at the International Convention of The Gideons for many years. “I love being a part of the Convention every year. It allows me another avenue to continuing to serve the next generation, which will always be a passion of mine.” Steve has also felt the love and support of Gideon families involved in the Youth Program as they planted The Well Church.
“I love the mission and impact of The Gideons and encourage Gideons and Auxiliary to keep charging forward for the Kingdom,” says Steve with joy in his heart. A once prodigal son has not only come home but has spent the last nearly three decades bringing people home with him.