Britt and Julie Neel know what it’s like to pursue what the world has to offer and end up feeling empty every time. The Lord changed both of their lives in their early 20s, and now Julie and Britt serve and offer hope to young adults on the same journey they were once on years ago. Here’s how the Lord has been at work in their lives.
How did you come to know Christ?
Julie: “We both trusted Christ through The Porch, Watermark’s ministry for young adults. Together we pursued Membership, got into community groups, and we started pursuing purity in our relationship, as well. We were both living in Dallas and dating, but we didn’t know the Lord. We were out living the typical young adult lifestyle in Uptown – drinking and drugs. And that’s how we met. In this same time, a friend invited me to The Porch, Watermark’s ministry for young adults. I felt the Lord tugging on my heart at that time. I finally asked Britt to go with me. Through messages at The Porch, I understood the gospel for the first time. It was said in a way that I could really grasp it, and I placed my trust in Christ.”
Britt: “The first time I went to The Porch was the first time I heard Christians speak in a way that I could relate. The lifestyle that the speaker was describing, the feelings of emptiness – it was almost a mirror image of what I was experiencing at the time. It was cool to see someone like that on stage who was relatable. I had the wrong view that anyone that was going to be preaching at a church could not relate to my lifestyle, decisions, concerns, fears, or doubts about the gospel.
“It’s amazing what God will use to get you to Him. Our broken relationship and my completely distorted view of dating and relationships – that is the vehicle God used to bring me to Christ. In retrospect, I had the most broken and warped view of relationships, marriage, and dating, but that is what God used.”
How has God shown His faithfulness through your struggles?
Britt: “We were married in the summer of 2016. After a year or so, I confessed to Julie that I had been struggling with sexual sin and pornography. We both started re:generation, Watermark’s recovery ministry, together. From that process of admitting and confessing to her that I didn’t have it all figured out and that I was lacking as a leader, I was able to watch how God showed His faithfulness through her patience, humility, compassion, and understanding. The way she handled it was so supportive.”
Julie: “I didn’t know I struggled with co-dependency – relying on somebody else, specifically Britt, for my happiness and joy. That is something I struggled with, but through learning more of God’s Word and who He is more just showed His faithfulness in our marriage and in my life. I know Christ is the sole source of my fulfillment where I can go for comfort and strength."
How is the Lord using you and your marriage as you serve at Watermark?
Julie: “A friend invited us to serve at Awaken, Watermark’s conference for young adults, and we knew that was where we were meant to be. It took us back to where we were when we didn’t know Christ. A lot of the girls I met wanted to talk about dating and marriage. Now, as we serve at The Porch, a lot of the questions I’m asked revolve around who they are dating. I have the perspective to say, ‘Here’s what you want to look for… here’s what it’s like to be married to a godly man.’ I can be a guiding voice, because I’ve been there.”
Britt: “I encounter a lot of the same questions, too. For the guys, they are thinking, ‘How are the decisions I make now going to affect my future marriage?’ Those conversations can be pretty sobering. There’s an opportunity at The Porch for me to be encouraging, to share my own story, and to challenge the guys I talk to with their actions and behaviors.
“At first, we wondered if married couples had a place on the serving team for The Porch. But because we have a different experience, we have a different skillset. We could still understand and relate to The Porch crowd, because we were there at one point in our life. We are able to share wisdom from our experience with our knowledge of God’s Word.”
How has being in a biblical community impacted your relationship with Christ?
Julie: “One thing that has been huge for us in our journey with Christ was joining a community group. We realized and understood early on that we need to process big and small decisions with community. Letting them in to shine a light on things we are doing as a couple has been so helpful in redirecting our hearts back to Christ. Even now, we see the biblical community around us as the Lord’s provision.”
Britt: “Where I’ve experienced the most growth is simply through being humble and transparent with other believers. Living in community is giving God the biggest window and opportunity to work in us – as a couple and individually.”
How has your community group functioned in the midst of the global COVID-19 crisis?
Britt: “I would honestly brag on our group. We’ve stepped it up in terms of communication. It’s cool that we have the tools to figure it out. We’ve been pretty diligent with group FaceTime, a lot more texting – it’s amazing how technology can be used to glorify God or for evil. But, if you use it to aid you in friendships and relationships, it is glorifying God. During the shutdown, the reality is we have a lot more time, and we can choose how we use that time. As the world stops, people still want and need to connect, and you can use technology to do that!”