Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This Is My Story Part 2

I should mention that there were other factors contributing to my journey as well. First, there was a desire to study worship. As Pentecostals we were known for worship. That is, we had exciting times of singing and preaching. But I knew worship needed to be much more than that. My discovery of early Christianity gave me some insight into early Christian worship. I quickly found that it was not the "free church" model that I had always experienced. It was liturgical. I had always thought that the Church began with free, spontaneous, Spirit-led worship like we had only to degenerate into liturgy by the end of the first century or so. But second century worship shed a lot of light on New Testament worship. It was clearly liturgical. Suddenly a lot of passages of Scripture came alive as I realized they were liturgical references (this is especially true of books like Hebrews or Revelation).

A second influence was the Catholic Catechism. I lived in a very Catholic city. I felt that in order to reach the people I would need to "expose the errors" of Catholicism. To do that I wanted to use Catholic material. So I purchased a book by Pope John Paul II and the Catechism.

I remember one afternoon reading through an extended portion of the Catechism on the Creed. Everything flowed together so beautifully. I read for about 2 hours. When I was finished I sat back and thought, "That's the most beautiful thing I've ever read." I was shocked by my own reaction. It wasn't supposed to go that way. But I couldn't help it. Everything was so well thought out and explained so clearly. We had nothing that profound. I wanted something like that.

All of these things were coming together to create in me a longing for something far beyond myself and my experience. I began to study much more. I got more books and read a lot on-line as well.

During this time we had an occasion to visit a Catholic Church for their Vigil Mass on Saturday evening. I had mixed feelings about going. I thought the worship would be dead and I almost wondered if we would somehow be sinning by going. But I also wanted to see what it was all about.

As the Mass began I quickly realized that these people were acting out what Justin Martyr had written about in his First Apology. I was seeing second century worship unfold before my eyes. I thought to myself, "Oh my goodness, they're still doing it!" I had no idea. I was enthralled. But as I looked around, most of the home folk didn't seem as thrilled about it as I was. I thought to myself, "They don't know what they're doing- they don't realize what they have!" But I was hooked. I had seen something that I thought was lost. Now I wanted to know how I could have a part in it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

This Is My Story Part 1

So much has happened to me over the last several years. I have often thought that I should write it all down. So this is my first attempt at that endeavor.

It was 1991. My wife and I had been married a couple of years and we were both working for a Christian bookstore. One of the great things about this job was that we were encouraged to read the books in our spare time, or even borrow some periodically. This helped us to know what we had and give recommendations to our customers. I am an avid reader and this was practically paradise for me. One day I found a book called Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up by David Bercot.

In this book, Bercot makes a great case for using the early Christian writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries to help us better understand the New Testament. These writers lived closer in time to the apostles, they spoke the same language, and lived in the same culture. Some of them even knew the apostles. They were heirs to the living tradition of the Church. In many areas of belief that have divided so many Christians they stood firm in one faith. With this kind of unity and consistency, I felt that I had to know more. In addition, these men lived such exemplary Christian lives- and they were typical of their age. I was so enthralled with it all that I wanted to know more.

However, finding out more took a considerable amount of time. Meanwhile, I was content with the little that I knew of this early Christian era. For one thing, most of their beliefs agreed with mine already. So I was encouraged that I already had an ancient Christian faith. But there were some areas of departure. I wondered what to do about those.

Ministry took me away from the bookstore and over the years I was really too busy to give a lot of time and attention to the early Christians. Finally, I became a pastor in a small Pentecostal church. I was thrilled. I knew God had called me there. I rejoiced in preaching the word and getting to know my new congregation. I loved the new community that we were a part of and God was opening many doors of opportunity for us.

In the midst of it all, my hunger for early Christianity was renewed. As a pastor I wanted to pattern my ministry after the early model. I thought I already knew what that would look like. I found out that Bercot had finally written a sequel to Heretics. So I went out and bought it.

In Bercot's new book, called Common Sense, he was even more up front about calling us to use the early Christians as commentators on the Scriptures. His argument made, well, common sense. How could we rely so much on later commentators, or even our own opinions when we are so far removed from the historical and cultural context of the New Testament? Instead, why not rely on the immediate heirs to the apostles? I couldn't argue with the logic. Furthermore I was really impressed with the example of these men, as I mentioned. Then I also thought that these were the very people responsible for keeping and assembling our New Testament. We trusted them to give us the Scriptures. Couldn't we trust them to interpret it for us?

After quite some time of struggling through with this, I asked myself two critical questions. First, how do I know that what I believe and teach is right? I had no answer. At first I thought I could say it was in the Bible. But all Christians say that. Then I thought about commentators. But anyone can write a book. Then I thought about denominations, seminaries, theologians, and professors. But all kinds of denominations have those and still no agreement. I was left with nothing. In the end I saw that my so called reliance on Scripture was nothing more than my reliance on my tradition and opinions about Scripture.

Secondly, I asked myself, "Am I in a position to teach the Fathers (the early Christian writers), or are they in a position to teach me?" Did I have more wisdom than they after 20 centuries of Church history to be able to look back and see their errors? Or were they the ones with the wisdom who stood together in a unified faith only one, or two, generations removed from the apostles? To me, the answer was clear. They were in a much better position to teach me than I was to teach them. With that, I determined that it was time I took a serious look at what it was they taught and how it interpreted the Scriptures.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I was born and raised in the Assemblies of God, a denomination of the Protestant Pentecostal tradition of Christianity. For a while I was a minister in this denomination. However, at one point I was introduced to the writings of the Church Fathers. I found a level of faith and practice that was revolutionary, profound, and consistent with everything I had read in the New Testament. This set me on a journey to re-capture this ethic. In the course of time I left the AG and joined a new denomination called the Charismatic Episcopal Church. There, I learned more of the ancient faith. I thought, prayed, and reflected further on my journey. I briefly held ordination as a priest within this group. But I was still searching. I knew I was still looking for something more. Eventually I came to believe that I was looking for the Catholic Church. And so I continued to study, pray, and have conversation. I was recently received into the Catholic Church with my family. But my pilgrimage continues.

I no longer feel that I need to find another church, or tradition. I am convinced of the truth of the Catholic Church. I believe with all my heart this is the Church that Christ founded. It is the one, true Church. That is not to say that truth cannot be found outside of it. But, simply, I believe the fullness of truth resides here. However, having said that, I still long for the radical lifestyle lived out by those early Christians and imitated by countless saints through the ages.

In my short time within the Catholic Church, I have found many exemplary individuals who have borne witness to me of this ancient and precious faith. Yet, I am painfully aware that in the main there are a number of areas where the ancient faith and its modern (read popular) practice part ways. It is here that I still find myself on a pilgrimage. For I want nothing less than the complete imitation of Christ, and full communion with Him. I long for a complete integration of my faith such that my thoughts and actions will mirror His in this present world.

I intend to use this blog as a means to place in writing what I am feeling or thinking. I invite you, my readers, to feel free to interact with me if you so choose.