Volume 17, Issue 2
"I Want to do My Best"
by Becky Hobbs
Greg Conover glanced over at a fellow high school wrestler and noticed he was praying before their match. Having rarely set foot inside a church during his life, Greg asked the boy sarcastically, "What in the world are you praying for -- to win?"
"No," answered the young man, "I'm just praying to do my best."
Although totally clueless about Christianity, the remark stopped Greg in his tracks and profoundly affected his life from that point on.
"After that," he recalls, "before every sporting event I prayed that God would give me the ability to do my best. But I still had no idea what that meant."
Today he does, however. In his second year of the Master of Divinity program at RTS/Charlotte, the blonde, blue-eyed thirty-nine-year old is known for his energetic commitment to the Lord, his desire to do God's will, and a passion to share the Gospel with his fellow man.
"When I first met Greg, he stood out immediately because of his enthusiastic interest in theology," recalls Dr. Douglas Kelly, Professor of Systematic Theology. "I have not had many students more thrilled with the truth of God's Word; his face literally shone during my classes. Along with his outgoing personality, I feel that whatever sphere of ministry he enters he will have a winning way with people."
GOD'S BOUNTIFUL GRACE
Greg's walk with the Lord today is a living testimony to the depth and richness of God's bountiful grace. Born in Pittsburgh to a retailing executive and a part-time nurse, Greg grew up never attending church. His life was shattered in the seventh grade when his parents divorced, and his mother began spending quite a bit of time away from home. With little or no supervision, Greg and his brothers and sisters fended for themselves. His baby-sitter was sports -- wrestling and football -- which was fortunate since they required discipline and commitment and left him little time to get into trouble.
At the University of Pittsburgh majoring in economics, Greg's life revolved around running track -- his relay team was ranked number one in the country for two years straight. But, spiritually, he was lost. That changed, however, during the second semester of his freshman year, when he met a girl on the track team and asked her out.
"She said no, but that she would tell me about Jesus," remembers Greg with a smile. "She shared the Gospel with me, and I asked a host of questions. Shortly thereafter I asked her how I could get what she had, and she said to repent and pray to receive Christ. And that's exactly what I did."
Through college, his faith continued to grow as he participated in Fellowship of Christian Athletes and different Bible studies. Upon graduation, he entered the field of investment banking and moved to California. Although based in Santa Monica, he lived out of hotels because he was on the road a great deal. The job was lucrative, but he could see that he was slipping in his walk with the Lord.
But God had plans to bring him back. One day Greg decided to call Jeff Luchok, one of his best hometown friends who had also moved to California. Once they had been inseparable, but during high school Jeff had become involved with drugs, and they had drifted apart.
"Imagine my utter surprise when he told me he was in Bible college studying for the pastorate!" says Greg, grinning. "He wanted to know what I was doing. I told him I was selling investments and not accomplishing much else. I believe that phone call was God's way of putting our relationship back together. Jeff invited me to his church and encouraged me to talk about the things of God with other Christians."
Through his friendship with Jeff, Greg could feel the Holy Spirit urging him to repent and renew his relationship with God. But he couldn't give up some of the worldly temptations confronting him. The final straw came on a business trip to Reno, Nevada. His appointment was on Monday, so, as was the custom, he arrived on Friday to do a little gambling. As he sat at the blackjack table, he thought, "If Jesus Christ were to walk into this room right now and say, 'It's time for my children to come home with me,' I would have to continue to sit here because I am so far away from him now." Immediately Greg left the table, went to his room, wept, and repented.
After that soul-searching experience, Greg began praying that God would take him out of California, since he didn't feel strong enough to fight the temptations he encountered there. Two days later his boss called him with the news that the company's Ohio representative had quit; did Greg want the job? With tears of joy and thanks to God, Greg accepted on the spot.
It was in church one Sunday while visiting back in Pittsburgh that he met his wife, Chris, who had come there to do her student teaching. They were married six months later in 1984.
Says Bob Hovey (RTS '95), pastor of Huntersville Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP), where Greg is currently interning, "One of Greg's greatest gifts is his wife, Chris. She supports him tremendously, making sacrifices and holding down the fort while he's at seminary. Her obvious love for the Lord shows in her active participation in the church and her outreach to those in her neighborhood."
After they married, Greg took a job with Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh and the two became very active in Bellefield Presbyterian Church; both taught Sunday School and Greg was on the governing board of the church.
In 1989 they moved to Tampa, Florida, where Greg worked in investment banking for two years. Then in 1991 he took a job with First Union Bank in Greensboro, North Carolina, which is where he really began to grow in his faith.
GOD TUGS AT MY HEART
Upon the Conovers' move to Greensboro, God providentially placed them at Christ Community Presbyterian Church (ARP), a large, fast-growing, dynamic congregation. Greg and Chris jumped right in; both were involved in Sunday School teaching and Bible studies, and Greg was elected to the diaconate. In all of this, Greg became increasingly certain that God was calling him to more than a job in investment banking.
"I had always had this tug at my heart, although never confirmed, that God was calling me to Christian ministry," he confesses. "In fact, I had always wondered whether God was calling me to missions, but I was afraid to ask Him, thinking He might send me to Africa or another strange country."
To find out, Greg signed up for a mission trip to Mexico sponsored by the church. But upon arrival south of the border, he had severe misgivings.
"Walking around that dusty town, I wondered , 'What in the world am I doing here?'" Greg recalls. "I didn't speak the language, I was fair-skinned with blue eyes and blonde hair. I had absolutely nothing in common with anyone there. I prayed that the Lord would just get me through the week so I could say I had done it. That was on Saturday. By Tuesday I had fallen in love with Mexico and the people and knew that God was calling me to missions for the rest of my life."
Doubts die hard, however. By the time he got home, Greg thought he might have imagined God's call. So he decided to wait a month; if the desire was still strong, he would make preparations for seminary training. A month later the urge was as powerful as ever. Again Greg was not sure. How could a college jock go back to seminary? The Lord would have to pave the way, which He did. Greg was accepted at RTS/Charlotte and enrolled in 1996.
While at RTS, Greg is gaining valuable experience in his internship at Huntersville ARP, one of the fastest growing churches in the denomination. Since Bob Hovey's arrival two and a half years ago, the warm, vibrant congregation has almost tripled in size, due in great part to Bob's strong biblical preaching. He has high praise for Greg.
"Greg has an uncommonly intense desire to minister and grow the church. His preaching is very relevant and clear. His children's sermons are excellent, usually an indicator of a good preacher. If one can communicate the message to children, one can surely get the message across to the parents."
Professors and students alike appreciate Greg's positive, enthusiastic spirit and his passionate desire to spread God's Word.
"Greg really cares about people," reveals Bob Cara, New Testament professor at RTS/Charlotte, "and is one of the most well-liked students in his class. In addition to being energetic and outgoing, he has a good theological head on his shoulders."
RTS/Charlotte student Fredy Ramos-Pulido from Mexico, says, "He is one of my best friends at the seminary. "I appreciate his burden for the people of Mexico and his zeal for evangelism. Even here in the United States he is reaching out to the Mexicans living near Huntersville ARP. He will take a group from that church this summer to minister with me in Mexico. He also wants to have a sports ministry to children using his athletic background."
Greg is counting the days until he graduates and can get on with the business of full-time ministry. Mexico awaits, or possibly a church-planting assignment. Wherever he is, his prayer will still be the one he's prayed for years: "Lord help me to do my best for you."
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Last updated 2-1-1999.