For most of his life, Andy Lynch was not a particularly religious man. But, he said, Iraq has a way of changing that.
“Getting to shoot it out with the bad guys helps with the understanding that we are going to physically die,” but that there is life after death, he said.
Lynch, who moved from California to Stansbury Park in January to take the pulpit at the Stansbury Park Baptist Church, is not only new to the ministry — this is his first full-time position as a pastor — but also a relatively new convert to Christianity.
Just a decade ago, while he was serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, Lynch said he had fallen into a pattern of heavy drinking, foul language and fighting. But he had taken to reading the Bible because, he said, that’s what Marines do. Then one day in 2003 he had a startling realization.
“I thought, if I die here, then I am going to Hell, and I deserve that,” he said.
He turned to a friend and fellow Marine who he knew was a devout Christian, and the two of them prayed together in a ditch in the Iraqi desert.
It was then that he began to understand that Jesus Christ could change his fate — and his behavior, Lynch said.
Lynch, a Texas native, became increasingly involved in his local congregation in Southern California over the next several years, helping with everything from cleaning to ushering, but he continued to feel a call to greater service.
As he traveled around the nation with the Marines, he said he noticed a need for experts with a knowledge of the Bible that could help other evangelical Christians apply the ancient book —which Baptists hold to be the complete word of God — to modern-day situations.
So in 2011, Lynch retired from the Marines and within a month had enrolled at a seminary in Sun Valley, California.
While studying, Lynch felt drawn to the Utah area, where he knew evangelicals were a minority, even though he had never before set foot in the state. Because of the small size of Utah congregations, he said many pastors were reluctant to accept a position there. But Lynch had an impression that there were congregations in the area that needed leadership, and said he figured that since he had never passed up a challenge in the past, he wasn’t about to start doing so now.
As he neared the end of his schooling, an organization Lynch described as a “matchmaker” for pastors and congregations, introduced him to members of the Stansbury Park Baptist Church, which had been without a full-time pastor for more than two years. Lynch said he and his wife fell in love with the community on their first trip out to visit the church.
Lynch and his wife, Lori, moved to Stansbury in January, just after Lynch finished his training. Their adult son came with them, and is preparing to begin a welding program at Tooele Applied Technology College. His daughter, Caite, lives in Texas and is preparing to attend Texas A&M University, where she plans to study classics.
The Stansbury community has been welcoming, Lynch said, and although he has moved around the nation extensively, he said he has never felt at home the way he does in his new neighborhood.
His new congregation has about 60 regular attendees, Lynch said. Although that’s a bit on the small side, Lynch said he would rather have a smaller congregation he can “pour himself into” rather than a larger group. He plans to focus on current members’ spiritual growth, rather than outreach, during his ministry here.
“I would love to see the church grow — in spiritual maturity,” he said. “So that they are not just hearers, but doers of the word.”
That said, he quickly added that his doors are always open. “Of course, if 150 people show up on Sunday, we’ll have chairs for them,” he said.
The Stansbury Park Baptist Church currently meets at the Stansbury Clubhouse on 1 Country Club Lane. Worship services are held every Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.