How an agnostic computer lover became a pastor

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Laurie Kauer
James identified as an agnostic in childhood. Now, he’s a pastor for the First Baptist Church in Provo, UT (Laurie Kauer)

It was Easter Sunday, 1999, and high school student James Thompson sat in a church meeting with his relatives in Tampa, Florida. His parents had been invited to attend the congregation for the holidays, so he came along.

He watched as a group of children put on a performance about Christ’s empty tomb. A pastor started talking about Christ’s life and resurrection.

In a transformative moment; he was hit with despair. For the first time, he felt the only way he could be saved was if he accepted Christ’s grace into his life.

The meeting ended, and Thompson, an agnostic, became a Christian.

Thompson had decided in late grade school that religion was not for him. His parents were Christian and he attended an evangelical school, but after encounters with religious people, they seemed aggressive to him.

This belief came as he watched several evangelical students constantly put down those of other faiths. He thought those with religion seemed ignorant.

Wanting to define himself, he decided he was agnostic.

It was because of experiences with his preacher uncle that Thompson eventually lost his hostility towards religion, but he still didn’t self-identify as Christian.

That all changed during the church meeting in 1999. He said that it wasn’t just the message that stood out to him.

“Only the Holy Spirit can bring a person to faith and repentance. It presented the reality that I was a sinner,” Thompson said.

Laurie Kauer
James Thompson conducted a baptism as part of his pastoral duties. He finds ways to implement Christ and secular learning into his life. (Laurie Kauer)

Thompson did change some things about his life following the experience. He gained a desire to understand the Bible. He said that he used to be angry and very caustic, but after his conversion he started to become more peaceful.

“I remember several times saying he’s glad I didn’t meet him when he wasn’t a believer,” said James’ wife Pam, referring to his old anger issues.

His passion rested in the intellect. In fifth grade, his teacher brought an Apple computer to school. He enjoyed it, so he asked for a computer for Christmas.

He fell in love with computer programming.

He gained a love for Jesus, but he kept his love for science and learning from childhood. He gained a religiously-oriented education, but he found work as an engineer.

In 2011, he was hired by the Thompson brothers, two BYU graduates, to work for Orabrush, so he moved to Orem.

He later started working for Mavenlink in SLC as an engineering team leader. He attended the First Baptist Church in Provo when he moved to Utah where he became a pastor.

He now learns how to utilize his love for Jesus and science in both jobs.

“I bring a different perspective to the field of software engineering,” Thompson said.

Not everyone in Thompson’s field of work believes like he does, but he’s open with them about his faith commitments. Sometimes, he’s chosen to stand up for his beliefs, including one time when he left a job over an issue he didn’t agree with ethically.

At church, Thompson implements his love for knowledge and computer programming.

“Knowing him personally, he’s very organized and very detailed,” said Brandon Rodak, another church leader at Thompson’s congregation. “And I think that falls in line with his engineering background and computer programming.”

Rodak explained that Thompson has assisted the church with education. Thompson said he tries to teach youth that science and God can go hand in hand. Sometimes they aren’t interested in math or science, or they feel intimidated by it. He helped encourage one young man to attend college and continues to follow up with him.

Many in James congregation consider him more than a pastor. Here, he plays games with fellow pastor Russ Robinson. (contributed by James Thompson)
Many in James’ congregation consider him to be more than a pastor. Here, he plays games with fellow pastor Russ Robinson. (James Thompson)

Many of the congregation members love how Thompson is a “geek”. He enjoys in-depth conversations about Star Wars. He has a collection of a few hundred comics, and he owns more than 170 Marvel movies.

James isn’t sure how his life would’ve played out if he hadn’t been converted Easter 1999. He’s confident he would’ve had the same career, but he thinks he would have spent most of his life alone.

Now, he has Pam, five children, and a congregation of friends.

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