Getting to Know the Elders: Steve Schatzman
Here at First Free we believe God has given the church elders, men who have been chosen by God to know, lead, feed, and protect his flock. Over the next year, we’d like to help you get to know our elders better through an in-depth interview with one of our elders each month. This month we’re talking to Steve Schatzman.
Tell us a little about yourself and where you grew up.
I was born in Austin, Texas, and am the youngest of four boys. My father was in the Army and I had moved six times by the age of nine. I call Albuquerque, New Mexico, my hometown and graduated college from the University of New Mexico. I met my wife, Daina, in college, and we married in 1993. We have two adult girls and a son-in-law: Molly, a freshman at John Brown University, and Emma who is married to Everett. I work at Textron Aviation as the General Manager of the Wichita Service Center.
So what brought you to faith in Christ?
I was raised in a religious home, but was uninterested in spiritual things. At a young age I struggled with self-worth and fitting in, perhaps not unlike most kids during the awkward stages of growing up. I found drugs and alcohol gave me the sense of confidence I was searching for … at least temporarily. I continued to abuse drugs and alcohol through middle and high school and became very isolated and depressed. My life hit bottom on May 23, 1986, when I attempted suicide.
I finally admitted I had a drug and alcohol problem and entered a drug treatment program. During treatment I had to complete the second step which states a person, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” My counselor said I needed to pick a higher power and trust that higher power for my recovery. I asked my counselor, “What higher power I should pick?” to which he replied, “Whatever higher power you want. Some people pick the God of the Bible, or Buddha, or the AA meeting they attend.” He said, “If I were you, I would list on a sheet of paper the kind of characteristics you want your god to have and trust those characteristics.” So, off I went to work on my second step, listing on a piece of paper the character traits of my higher power. I realized how crazy it was, at the age of 16, to create my own list of character traits of the god I was to trust to keep me sober. What if I changed my mind? I needed something more reliable, something not based on my own ideas. Three years prior, my older brother shared the gospel with me. Recalling this conversation, I decided to trust the God of the Bible. When I had questions, I could always turn to the Bible for answers. I returned to my counselor the following week and communicated I wanted to trust the God of the Bible as my higher power. While I had very little theological knowledge, I knew I needed God in my life, I was a sinner unable to stay off drugs or alcohol on my own, and if I continued my current path I would likely die.
How did you end up at First Free?
Daina and I were on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru) and moved to Wichita in 1996 to help start the ministry at Wichita State. We were looking for a good church and were referred to First Free. Tom Macy was one of the first people we met in Wichita. We visited the church and enjoyed the teaching. A huge influence to getting involved at First Free was the relationships we made in a young married Sunday School class comprised of about twenty-five couples all in the same life stage. We connected well and supported one another.
When did you become an elder?
I became an elder five years ago. I was humbled to be asked to be an elder and it is a privilege to have the responsibility to help provide direction for our church.
Do you have any words of encouragement or exhortation for First Free?
Find someone you can be open and honest with about your struggles, failures, and where you see God working. We do a good job putting up a façade that all is well in life. Having people I can be real with has been instrumental in my personal growth and walk with the Lord. I’ve come to learn that other people can’t hold someone accountable, and we need to seek out relationships where we hold ourselves accountable to others. These relationships have proven to be mutually beneficial and a blessing in my life.