If you’ve followed my blog or any of my social media platforms over the last few years or if you’ve spent much time around me during that time, you’ve probably noticed a difference.
I’m no longer protesting.
Here’s what I mean.
I grew up in a religious home. I grew up in a Protestant home. I grew up in a home that routinely criticized and even called into question the faith of people who were not Protestant, specifically those who were part of the Catholic Church. I want to be clear here. I’m not bashing my Protestant parents or relatives. I merely want to relate my experiences and perhaps it will resonate with you as well.
My “faith” meant almost nothing to me as a child and teenager. I didn’t understand most of what was talked about. I was “saved” at some point around the age of 8 because I said some prayer one Sunday morning, the “sinner’s prayer.” I have no memory of it but know I said it and made a “public profession of faith” and was baptized at some point soon thereafter.
It was not until many years later that I actually came to a saving faith in the person of the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
Since my conversion and re-birth, I have walked a bit of a winding road. It has taken me through seminary (at a Baptist seminary), church planting, leaving the Baptist practice and becoming Reformed (Presbyterian), re-planting a church (tried to), completing the ordination process in the Anglican Church of North America to where I am today.
What has led me here is what I’d like to talk briefly about before launching into a series of posts about the beliefs and practices of the Church catholic.
I came out of Baptist seminary knowing beyond a doubt that I was not Baptist. It was a bit ironic to me that my professors encouraged us to love and read and study the Bible. But when I began to do the very thing my Baptist professors encouraged me to do, it led me away from the Baptist practice. There were things in the Scriptures that my Baptist friends simply could not answer for me or, if they did, I found their answers to be unsatisfying or explained away.
I’ll give you an example; actually I’ll give you two. The first was baptism. Baptists, of course, believe that baptism is only for those who have made a “public profession” of faith in Jesus. Nothing wrong with making a public profession of faith and being baptized but that didn’t seem to square (at least in my mind and reading) with most of the accounts of baptisms of converts in the book of Acts. Those accounts almost all involved household baptisms. Hmm….that seemed odd to me that members of the family of a professing Christian should be baptized without making a “public profession of faith” in Jesus. So as I dug deeper, I found myself in previously uncharted waters. I was developing what I believe is a more robust and biblical view of covenants and how those play out in the life of God’s people. Thus I became “reformed.”
The second example was the offices of the Church. I began an in-depth study of 1 Timothy in preparation for a sermon series I was going to preach at our church in Nashville (I was the lead pastor of a re-planting effort). As I began my exegetical work, I was a bit surprised to find that Paul uses three distinct Greek words for offices of the Church. He used the word ‘episkopos’ which is best translated ‘bishop’ or ‘overseer.’ He also used the word ‘presbuteros’ which is best translated ‘elder.’ And he used the word ‘diakonos’ which is best translated ‘deacon.’ I found that to be shocking to my formerly Baptist sensibilities. You mean Paul was advocating for three offices, not two?!
That led me to doing some study on the early Church. I thought, ‘Okay, these terms have been hotly contested for many years now. So, how did the earliest leaders of the Church after the Apostles take the meaning of these words?’ I was supremely surprised to find that they all, and I mean all, took it as three offices; bishop, presbyter and deacon. That was jarring for me.
You have to understand…actually, if you’re Protestant, you probably do understand. I was taught from a very young age that anything that looked or smelled or sounded remotely Catholic was evil. Not just, ‘Hey, this is how they do but we do it differently and that’s okay.’ No, I was taught that anything connected to Catholicism was evil.
This discovery about the practice of the early Church shook me to my core. I could not reconcile what I had been taught with either what the Bible said or with the practice of the Church. I didn’t know what to do. So I made a decision that has forever changed my life and the practice of the faith that has been handed down to us.
I went back to the beginning.
I wanted to know what else I had always been taught was contrary to the teaching of the early Church. I had to know how deep it went for me. So I went back to the beginning. I began to study the early Church and her writings. I began to read what we call the Fathers; mostly the Fathers of the early Church, i.e. the first 6 centuries of the Church. What I found shocked me and shook me.
I want to encourage my Protestant friends. Some of you have found modern Protestantism to be lacking in some things. I mean, when churches are dressing people up in movie costumes and having concerts that they call “worship” we’ve drifted a wee bit from a biblical practice so I get it. I want my discouraged Protestant friends to know that there are deeper wells out there. The wisdom of the Church in her reverent worship practices is out there for you. The water is warm.
I want to encourage my catholic friends, both Roman and otherwise. Some of you may not know why you do some of the things you do in worship or what it means or where it came from. You may not understand exactly what’s happening with all the symbolism and ritual. I want my catholic friends to know that those same deep wells are for you also. Go back and read and study as to why we do the things we do. Test what you do and say and believe in the teachings as they have been handed down from the beginning.
My prayer is that we may all be one again.
I fear we may not see that day until our Lord returns.
But we can all strive for it; for His glory and our good.
Soli Deo Gloria!
It’s been about 6 months now.
About 6 months ago, the rug was yanked out from under me and my family and our world blew up in our faces. We had moved to Nashville in October of 2017 for me to pastor a church here. Upon our arrival and surveying the life of the church, it became apparent that new vision was needed, new life and a fresh, deep breath of air had to happen.
So about 6 months in, I cast a vision for the elders and the church to relocate and replant the church. The vision was not received well and, for the next few months, the elders and I debated it and prayed about it. In the end, they voted unanimously to relocate and replant the church. We announced it to the body and set a tentative date for moving.
And that’s when things blew up.
I didn’t see it coming. I should have. I mean, I had spent almost my entire adult life seeing and anticipating danger and reacting to it. But I didn’t see this one coming. One by one, the members of the church either just quietly stopped communicating or announced to me that they were leaving and would not go along to be part of the re-plant. I was shocked. I felt like I had been gutted and left bleeding on the floor.
There are many details to the story that will go unshared but suffice it to say, it was excruciatingly painful for me and my family. There were some that remained but very few, not enough to have a core team for a new plant. The elders met with me to inform me that they were giving me a severance and then they too walked away.
The last 6 months have been excruciating for my family. I cannot count the tears, the angry prayers, the sleepless nights. Praise God for those who have continued to love us and support us during this time. Praise God for a godly counselor who has helped us work through the emotional devastation that has come from this.
But now, I find myself at a crossroads. And, for the first time in my life, I don’t have a plan. I don’t know what to do. I knew, for 16 years, what I was doing and going to do as a police officer and I had a plan. I knew as a business owner what I was doing and going to do. I knew as a pastor and church planter what I was going to do and I believed with every fiber of my being the vision that God had placed before me.
But now I don’t know.
Being in the unknown is not comfortable for me. The lack of confidence I feel is unlike anything I’ve ever known and has and is impacting every aspect of my life. The unknown is uncomfortable. We are a people who want to know.
But we really don’t know, do we? We have our plans and our dreams. Sometimes those plans come through and sometimes our dreams come true. But sometimes they don’t. Maybe this is you right now. Maybe you’re like me and you’re standing at a crossroads and you don’t know where to go or what to do. If you’re like me in this, I want to offer you some comfort. At least, these are two things that have comforted me. One of the things about confessions and creeds of the Church is that, like Scripture, they answer many questions for us.
The Heidelberg Catechism begins,
“What is thy only comfort in life or death?”
The answer: “That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation; and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.”
What unspeakable comfort this brings to me! I am not my own but belong to my Saviour Jesus Christ. Not only do I belong to Him but He is faithful and He has, by His blood, justified me and restored me to a right relationship with God the Father. He has defeated the power of Satan and will preserve me unto eternal life and indeed, makes me willing and ready to live unto Him!
What comfort and joy and hope this gives those who are in Christ!
The second thing I want to point out that has brought me comfort is from the prophet Hosea. Hosea 6:1 reads,
“”Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.””
Right about now you may be thinking, ‘How is it comforting to know that God has torn me and struck me down?’ I have thought the very same thing my friend! Why has God allowed this to happen? Couldn’t He have stopped all this pain? Why didn’t He stop it?
Truth is I don’t know why. I don’t know why God allowed this to happen to us, why He didn’t stop it. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know why God allowed to happen to you what happened and I don’t know why He didn’t stop it.
But what I do know is that, if we will turn to Him in faith, He will heal. If we turn to Him, He will bind us up. This is His promise to us; that He will not turn away from those who seek Him. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have pain and discomfort. It doesn’t mean that He’s going to help me find a job and another purpose. But what it does mean for me and for you is this:
He will heal. He has promised.
Let us, together, turn to our only comfort in life and death; that we belong body and soul to our Lord Jesus Christ!
Soli Deo Gloria!