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Former atheist shares testimony at University of the Cumberlands


Dennis Pethers gestures as he shares the story of his conversion from atheism to Christianity in a University of the Cumberlands classroom. Pethers was invited to UC as part

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. — During the first week of September, University of the Cumberlands (UC) students were treated to a few days’ visit with a traveling Englishman. Dennis Pethers, a former atheist, visited UC and the Williamsburg community to offer his interesting perspective on Christianity, and although many enjoyed listening to his accent, it was his story of transformation from an atheist to a believer in Christ that was the highlight of the visit.

Pethers was invited to campus to give his testimony on a three-campus tour through Baptist Campus Ministries and the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Because of his unique perspective on Christianity, coming from an unchurched home and believing that God-believers were “foolish,” his story offers a fresh understanding of Christianity to people who were raised to believe in God.

Like many English people—and unlike many in the Bible Belt of the U.S. who grow up with church being a focal point in their life—Pethers grew up in a life without church, knowing nothing of Jesus. As a teen he began studying evolution and believed that science held the answers; humans must have evolved according to Darwin’s theories.

Pethers’ transformation began when he was 19, while working at the insurance company Lloyd’s of London. While on the job his boss gave him the book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis and asked him to read it. Not wanting to say no to his employer, Pethers took the book. Although he was familiar with Lewis’ children’s books, fairy tales hadn’t prepared him for the astounding truth of the existence of God that he was about to read.

Pethers read “Mere Christianity” while riding the train to and from work, but would keep it hidden in a newspaper so others wouldn’t see he was reading about God. Once finished, Pethers became convinced that there was a God, so he continued studying. It was reading about Christ in the Bible that changed him forever.

“Reading about Jesus blew my mind; it rocked my whole world to know that He is God and that He would die for me. I was massively impressed, overwhelmed, actually, that He believed in something enough to die for it.”

The experience so totally changed Pethers’ outlook that he decided to devote his life to telling others about Jesus, much like the way his employer had done. He now encourages others to do the same, and he did so with the students at UC and Williamsburg community. The notion is to be a part of the lost lives daily, to build real, lasting relationships with the lost and show them Jesus first-hand. Although his idea sounds simple, Pethers said some are intimidated about sharing Christ.

“Some think, If I’m gonna do that I either have to be really holy, or I have to be really, really spiritual, or I have to be really confident or a really great communicator,” said Pethers about sharing Christ. “I’ve found it’s far simpler than that…the most important thing is to be available, and what I mean by that is, get alongside them, become their friend, hang out with them—share life with them. And as you do that, share Jesus with them.”

During his visit to UC, Pethers visited classrooms, services on campus and a local church, and a roundtable lunch with Williamsburg church leaders. Pethers was prepared to share his story, his heart and his faith, and equally prepared when asked tough questions by students who were struggling with the existence of God.

“A lot of people are outlandish with words and tones and gestures…Pethers was very real and personable,” said junior Julie Harris (Ashland, Ky.) “He had an impacting testimony. Having an outsider with a different perspective was great for us in the Bible belt. He was really neat in a chill way.”

Dean Whitaker, BCM director at UC, agreed: “Pethers' underlying theme is that, increasingly the American culture is becoming unaware of who Christ really is and what the gospel is, so believers' striving to get non-believers to come to church or even to ‘get saved’ does not make any sense to the non-believer.” Hence, he suggests, Pethers’ mission to share Jesus in a more personal and relational manner.

Pethers’ idea is that believers can use the church building “very little” to reach the lost, referring to his method of “sharing life” with them.

“You will find, as you are available to people, you’ll get into conversations with people, and through that conversation you can lead them to an understanding of Jesus.”

More information about Dennis Pethers can be found at

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees in more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; twelve graduate degrees, including two doctorate, two specialist and eight master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.

Article Provided by Rhyana Barker, UC freshman from London, KY and Meghann Holmes, UC staff