Skip to comments.Southern Baptist Pastor Leaves Everything for the Eucharist
Posted on 05/01/2008 5:07:35 PM PDT by annalex
I grew up in a strong Christian home. My parents were, and still are, two of the most devout Christians I have ever known. They instilled in me not only the importance of knowing about Christ, but knowing Him personally. When I was 10 years old, I pledged my life to Jesus and was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. My teen years were filled with opportunities for spiritual growth thanks to the encouragement and example of my parents and youth leaders. When I was seventeen I dedicated myself to full-time Christian service. At that time, I assumed my future ministry would be that of a pastor. Therefore, I felt I needed a four-year degree in Christian studies and graduate studies in ministry. My family was not in a position to send me to a four-year private school, much less an expensive one, but my trust was in God. If He wanted me to be there, I believed, He would provide the means for me to get there. In what I can only describe as a miracle, I was awarded a four year presidential scholarship and found a job as a resident assistant, which payed for all of my expenses.
In college, I experienced a profound conversion of sorts. Having the opportunity to study under some of the brightest minds in the Evangelical world, I discovered a deep love for learning, especially Scripture, History, and Theology. I became so enamored in fact that I quickly gained a reputation for being a know-it-all. Unfortunately, I had earned that reputation with a head full of pride and a heart lacking in charity when it came to dialogue. I should explain at this point that I was discovering that because of the charism of knowledge, study came very easy to me. Things just seemed to be absorbed as if my mind were a dry sponge. There is nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that I was not tempering my newfound knowledge with humility and personal piety. This flaw would prove to be a major factor in my conversion.
I was so wrapped up in ministry preparation, language studies, and reading that I wasn't even looking for a woman. That's probably a good thing, because while I was distracted, God was preparing my wife over in the ladies' dorms. We met the summer of my freshman year while we worked at a youth camp. It was as close to "love at first site" as I can imagine. We took things slow and filled our non-work time with long walks, talks and Bible studies. I knew very quickly that this was the woman God had chosen to be my wife. We would be married less than two years later and begin our lives together.
Life wasn't super easy for us as we were new to married life, new to bills, and new to pretty much everything else. However, God helped us through our first years with few, if any, major problems. We also learned the importance of health insurance after my face was broken during a pickup mud football game. One thing we had been convinced of as a couple was that God was to be in charge of blessing our lives with children. As such, we did not use contraception, choosing instead to practice the billings ovulation method. Oddly enough, we were not the only ones at our Baptist school who felt that way. As I neared my graduation, God blessed us with the news that we were expecting our first child. Now I would be a father as well as a husband. Apparently, there were more lessons for me to learn outside of the classroom. In spite of a tough course load, three part-time jobs, and school related ministry opportunities; I still managed to graduate on time with a BA in Christian Studies and minors in both Greek and History.
Seminary life was exciting. We were gaining the reputation of being a magnet for top scholarship and theological soundness, which was something many Baptist affiliated schools could not claim. Once again, my desire for knowledge had me taking difficult courses and loving every minute. My professors were challenging my heart as well as my mind, and I'm forever grateful. In fact, their example, along with that of my college professors, led me to pursue a future in theological education. I believed that it was in the classroom and lecture hall that I would be most useful to God as a minister. While I was gaining all this knowledge and continually fueled by a desire to become a great teacher, I was also letting my growth in holiness decline. Daily prayer and Bible study became to me opportunities for lesson planning and sermon writing. I was looking at the Bible for its academic properties and neglecting much of my spiritual encounter with God in the Scriptures. Busier than ever, with a new baby, a new job, and with school, I was beginning to substitute activity for piety. But I didn't notice my mistake.
What I did notice was that my denominational "constituents", for the most part, were historically and theologically myopic. I vowed to myself that a major portion of my ministry would be to take Baptists back to the practices and beliefs of the Baptist founders, which, I believed at the time, to be synonymous with the beliefs and practices of the early Christians. In order to prove this, and to prove the historicity and rightness of Baptist theology and polity, I decided to study the earliest Christian writing I could find in addition to the Bible, namely the Church Fathers.
I had first met the Fathers in college as translation work in advanced Greek classes. Translation of extrabiblical Greek texts honed our skills and eliminated our "crutch" of cheating on translations for which we had memorized the English scripture verses. I first met Saint Polycarp and was so intrigued by him that I wanted to read more. In seminary, I would read the writings of St. Polycarp, St. Clement, St. Ignatius, St. Irenaeus, and St. Justin Martyr. My studies of the Fathers would reveal to me a sacramental Faith, a tangible Faith, a structured Faith, a faith that I was having trouble reconciling to my present denominational affiliation. But my patristic studies would have to wait because shortly after the birth of our 2nd child, I had found a pastoral ministry opportunity to be an associate pastor of youth and education near my hometown.
Church ministry was great because it helped force me back into the devotional practices I had been only weakly observing. Aided by the forceful words of men like John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, and CS Lewis, I was challenged to adopt the principle of "incarnational" living. I wanted the truth to be so ingrained in me that it permeated every portion of my life. This proved to be my final undoing, but at the time, it was spurring me to make changes in my life. Still, I held some things back from God, including my role as a father. I was so busy studying and doing ministry work that I wasn't making time for the kids or my wife, so busy that I didn't even notice my neglect.
In my studies, I continued to read the pre-Nicene Fathers of the Church. The spiritual might I saw in these men showed me that I was lacking something in my life, but I couldn't place it. What I was realizing, however, was that their Church and mine looked totally different. They had an authority structure, bishops, priests, and deacons. They had a liturgy that was rich in beauty and meaning. They had sacraments, most especially the Eucharist. It was the Eucharist that intrigued me most. The more I read, the more I became convinced that Christ was not speaking figuratively in John 6 at Capernaum or in the Upper Room. I was convinced of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, something we as Baptists did not have, but that I wanted.
What I saw in my future was a life as a Catholic, but that couldn't happen yet. I still had way too much ministry to accomplish. I decided to shelve the "Catholic thing" so I could concentrate on finishing my work there. I figured that after five or six years I could step down quietly and pursue my Catholic studies then. I had no desire to cause a scandal. In fact, to make sure no "papist" teaching came out in my ministry; I made a point to provide my senior pastor with copies of all my lessons and sermons before I taught them. It was important enough for me to finish my ministry agenda before pursuing anything else. In fact, I told no one about my desire to know more about the Catholic Church. I studied on my own time, alone, to see if the ancient Church and the modern Catholic Church were one and the same.
My search was very lonely. There was no one I could talk to because if word got out that I was even considering the claims of the Church, I could easily have lost my job, putting my family in jeopardy. I wasn't willing to risk that, even though I was becoming more and more convinced of the Catholic Faith. After a while, I found myself going to Eucharistic Adoration at the Catholic Hospital during my hospital visitation rounds. I set up appointments to talk with priests "under cover of darkness" because I had questions. But I still had no one to share with. I was alone and, quite frankly, terrified of what the future might hold.
I stumbled upon the Coming Home Network almost by accident and was encouraged to find that there were other ministers like me who were asking questions. I found two friends with whom I felt comfortable sharing my struggles. One was a Baptist pastor, like myself. The other was a recent convert from an Evangelical Free background. They became my prayer partners and my sounding boards. When I finally got the nerve to call CHN, I was encouraged by Jim Anderson, who not only talked with me, but also provided books and study materials to aid me in my search. I thank God for the Coming Home Network. I didn't feel quite so alone anymore.
Things continued smoothly, just as I had planned, until we had to travel to California for a wedding. The wedding was beautiful and San Francisco was amazing, but something was not right with me. God was pressing His thumb upon my heart and I noticed it. The whole time we were there, I found myself in constant debate with Him over the state of my spiritual life. The night before we were scheduled to leave, God had His final say with me in what I can only describe as an emotional confrontation. He revealed to my heart, in no uncertain terms, that I was shipwrecking my life. He clearly showed me that my heart was not with my wife or with my children, but with myself and my activities. I was a shallow and selfish man who blamed his ministry for not having enough time to read to or play with his own kids or spend time conversing with his wife. I was living my dream as a teacher, but I was failing to practice the very truths I taught. I was living a lie and I had no excuses.
I wept all night before finally asking God, "What am I supposed to do now?"
"You're going to have to resign."
"But I don't want to resign."
"If you don't step down on your own, I'll remove you myself."
"What am I supposed to do for a living? How will I support my family?"
That was all I remember before crying myself to sleep. It was a deep cathartic cry because my hard heart was finally seeing the message God had been trying to get through my thick skull for almost eight years. He was trying to help me get my life together, not just my personal life and my family, but my eternal life and the eternal lives of my wife and kids. I had to obey. Yet as scared as I was, I had a calm peace that kept reminding me to trust God. I didn't say a word to anybody about this or my decision until I was in the car with my wife, driving from the Memphis airport to our home across the state. We were able to have a seven hour discussion of all God had been showing me. I asked for her forgiveness and for my kids forgiveness, and I made a commitment to earn their trust and win their hearts.
I still had to resign. There were no flashing signs or helpful books to guide me into the unknown. However, I did find strength from my friends at the Coming Home Network. I also found a job. God was reminding me again to trust Him. The resignation itself wasn't that hard, because I had the confidence that I was being obedient. I was determined to be the man God wanted me to be and not to occupy a leadership position until I demonstrated true leadership and not mere academic acumen.
To shorten this story a bit, after resigning and relocating for my new job, I was able to meet with a priest for instruction and formation as a Catholic. I knew that the answer to my spiritual hunger was the Eucharist. On Christmas Eve 2002, my wife and I were received into the Catholic Church. Since then, I have been growing, sometimes by small steps, but sometimes by great leaps. Most precious to me are the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation. God has heaped His grace on me and I can see a change in my heart. He has brought balance into my life. He has saved my marriage. He has reconciled me to my children. He has also, a little at a time, allowed me to resume ministry, this time as a lay catechist and evangelist. I still have my struggles, as we all do, but now I have something I did not have before, hope. I have hope for the future and strength for today through the Eucharist. God continues to teach me to trust in Him and to depend on Him. Through the Sacraments, I continue to grow in my faith, hope, and charity.
Believe it or not, folks, that was the short version. God probably has reserved a crown for you in Heaven just for persevering through my tale. I'm happy to discuss my journey with you, and I'd love the opportunity to pray for you as you search. I'll leave this post with a closing comment.
People have asked me, "Was it worth it?"
Last edited on Fri Jun 8th, 2007 10:32 am by Polycarp
Not necessarily either. One can simply decide the Catholic Church’s theology is not as correct as Protestant theology. I know one person who thought so.
I don't think that salvation is the same as conversion, and I don't view conversion as a one-time act. Please see my 93 on this thread. I think that we was on a Christian journey of faith since childhood, and it lead him to the Catholic Church because that is the logical summit of any conversion to Christ. But I do not deny that the process of his sanctification started in the Baptist community where he grew up.
I doo not think the Reformers were that interested in the Scripture. I disagree that Protestantism is faithful to it. The overriding desire of the Protestant reformers was to get rid of clericalism, which they saw as a bad thing. Logically, they had to propose another source of authority and so they invented the superstitious concept of sola scriptura. Then, they got to the task of finding interpretations of the Holy Scripture that were not pointing to a sacramental hierarchical Church. That was done by elevating some verses out of context, ignoring others and discarding a whole section of the Bible as not inspired. The scripture read in context, literally, verse by verse does not contain any contradiction with either Orthodox or the Catholic Church of today, and it contains plenty of contradition with several important Protestant doctrines. For example, both Sola Scriptura and sola fide are directly controverted by the Scripture and require amazing trickery of Protestant exegesis to explain away.
You are very welcome!
It only needs one.
Second Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians
"15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter."
I don't see how it can be stated any more plainly than that.
If that's what you thought Catholicism is, you obviously didn't learn much while you were there. I suggest you take a gander at the "Catechism of the Catholic Church", and check out scriptural references therein.
Would it be that everyone would realize this, Catholics included. Early Christians practiced the Christianity described in the bible and practiced by Christ. The identifying practices, the practices that differ the most from modern Christianity are the observance of the Lord's sabbath on the 7th day and the observation of the Lord's holy days, the same ones practiced by Christ while incarnate and then taught and practiced by gentile and jewish converts to Christianity.
While Catholicism has at least an excuse (the belief in holy tradition) for not practicing first century Christianity, Protestants have no such excuse. They instead pick and choose the traditions of the Catholic church which they want to observe.
Thank you for your replies. From what you say, though, you show yourself to be less concerned with what the man says than where he eventually ended up. As such, I can accept your position as an ardent Catholic defending what is supposed to be a conversion story.
Unfortunately, this man’s account leaves me no insights into the miracles of faith he has found - only blatant hypocrisy and a pathology of the self-serving ignorant life he left. To debate Catholicism and it’s extra-Biblical justifications would be an entirely new thread.
Thanks for your insights and time just the same.
I know that those stories are also out there too. But there is a far greater number of those who disagree and leave the Church and remain Christian. I am related to many who fall into that category.
It is my perspective, no offense, that the term “Christian” defines what you believe, and the term “Protestant” defines that you protest Church teaching, or in other words, don’t believe. However, this rejection is of Catholic Church teaching, not Christ.
If your reference is to the celebration of the Lord’s Day on Sunday, that is biblical. After the Resurrection the disciples met Him on a Sunday, and then on the next Sunday, and so we do the same thing to this day.
Interesting that this is a classic repentance and conversion story and you chose to malign the penitent.
***Can we first define Sola Scriptura as that the Scripture, by itself contains all that a person needs to know in order to be saved and to live a life of good works.***
Of course not.
Sola Scripture is the philosophy that all instruction, theology and religious information comes directly from the words of the Bible. Anything not found expressly in the Bible is not to be considered. That is the idiocy of sola scriptura.
***There was no robes***
Yes there were. That’s what they wore in those days.
No, the practice was face to face confession.
Yes there were - not that many in the beginning, but they had a lot of drawings and paintings.
You might want to research just a little more. Representations of the Chi-Rho were everywhere.
***and a hierarchy longer than the Presidential ascension list.***
A 2000 year old organization has a succession list a little longer than one that is just formed.
***The stuff mentioned were thought of by infallible men who thought it would endear them to God instead of focusing on His Son.***
Who are these infallible men?
***If it makes you feel better to admit your sin to a man then power to you as long as you make it a point to talk to the Lord directly as He commands.***
If you’re going to make statements like that, then you might want to make sure that you follow ALL of the commands of Jesus including eating His body and drinking His blood.
“Anything not found expressly in the Bible is not to be considered. “
Not true. Other information may be considered, but that information is never the final authority about any doctrine, Scripture is.
“That is the idiocy of sola scriptura.”
Careful who or what you call “idiot”...
“And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.”
***Other information may be considered, but that information is never the final authority about any doctrine, Scripture is.***
Under the doctrine of Sola Scripture, only Scripture is considered. You must get your story straight.
***That is the idiocy of sola scriptura.
Careful who or what you call idiot...
And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.***
And this applies how?
“Under the doctrine of Sola Scripture, only Scripture is considered. You must get your story straight.”
Every definition I’ve ever seen referred to Scripture as “the final authority of Christian doctrine.” By defining the final authority it is implicit that other, extra-scriptural sources of authority may be considered - but if those sources disagree with Scripture, Scripture prevails as the final authority.
“And this applies how?”
Jesus authoritatively that man lives by the word of God - the Scripture.
That is a very high view of Scripture. Jesus ALWAYS appealed to Scripture as the final authority - excepting his own authoritative pronouncements. He regularly dismissed Jewish tradition as being a worthless addition to God’s word.
Jesus opinion of Scripture (always positive):
Jesus opinion of Tradition (always negative):
In Jesus ministry, he was Sola Scriptura. That’s why you need to be cautious regarding what or who you call “idiotic”.
***In Jesus ministry, he was Sola Scriptura. Thats why you need to be cautious regarding what or who you call idiotic.***
I understand that you might be mixing up OT and NT. Jesus referred to the OT (including the Deuterocanonicals). The NT wasn’t put together for 300 years after His ascension.