Wednesday, June 18, 2008

My Faith Journey to the Catholic Church from Fundamentalism/Evangelicalism

This is about my personal faith journey and how I have ended up becoming Catholic. I do not like the term converted because I did not change religions.

This is not my "Christian Testimony" or how I became a Christian I posted that here in this post: First Half of My Christian Faith Journey and Christian Testimony

This is a story of how my family and I came to the Catholic Church. I am starting the story after my hubby and I were married. That was almost 22 years ago now.

When we were first married and started our life together, our first order of business was to find a Bible believing on fire for the Lord Church. The Church we were married in was in my hometown and not where we were living. We started attending a non- denominational Bible Believing Church (Many Churches call themselves that.) It had good preaching. It had awesome worship, both traditional and contemporary. It had great fellowship. I read my Bible all the time, but I also wanted to learn as much as I could, and they offered adult Bible study classes. Most Churches I have attended offer some sort of adult Bible study or classes. Well this Church turned out to be of the Pentecostal /Charismatic nature. I know after research there are some differences between Charismatics and Pentecostals, but I am lumping them together because their beliefs are similar. They believe all the gifts of the Spirit are very much alive and active today. They believe and teach in addition to water baptism there is a separate baptism of the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking with tongues. They of course used Scripture to back up all their teaching. Ok-- this was new to me. It is not that I don't think the gifts of the Spirit are in use today. I believe they are still in use, and active today. I Believe that there is no Biblical proof to say they ended with the Apostles, although I have read apologetics that will insist otherwise. I just had problems with the way they were being implemented in this Church. Everyone felt that they individually had the power to bind and loose things. They were always binding the devil. They were always claiming a word. They believed all who were baptized in the Holy Spirit (not referring to water baptism) were suppose to have the gift of tongues. I actually think they are really wrong about the second baptism in the Holy Spirit. There is One Baptism and it is a water baptism. You receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism.

Anyway, about this time I gave birth to my son. As you know he had some problems. Well this church was very much into healing. By his stripes we are healed. I believe that, but not necessarily like they understood it. We prayed for my son. The whole church prayed for my son. I knew God would heal him. I still believe God will heal him. God has done wonderful things already in his and our life and so many have been blessed. I could write tons on how our situation has blessed us and others. All things work for good for those that love God. I know that God will heal him in his own time either now, later, or in Heaven. Either way I am fine with that. However, it got to the point in this Church that they wanted to put him in every healing line that came along. I wanted to say we have already prayed for him. God will heal him in his time. I almost had to defend why I didn't want to put him in every healing service or prayer line that came along. Everyone in the church did pray for him. One poor young faith healer became so discouraged with our son he gave up faith healing altogether.

This Church did give us a ton of support and love with Richard (It is getting to be a pain to keep writing my son. His first name is Richard) They helped out in so many ways, especially when we had to fly far away for surgery and to see a specialist. They were right there with support and would have found us housing and everything if necessary. I knew many strong Christians in that Church. However, I never felt comfortable there. I also saw no benefit to praying in tongues. I tried it. I prefer to pray with understanding.

On to Bible Believing Church Number 2. This Church was a Church of God denomination. It also believed that the gifts of the Spirit were active today, but it wasn't quite as flamboyant as the first Church. It left those things more to private experience. They were very supportive and had good preaching, at least, so we thought. After awhile there was a scandal that involved the Pastor, the church secretary, and accusations of embezzlement. I never found out all details and I don't want to know. After that Pastor left, they had a couple of new Pastors come in and try to keep things together. That however, is not the reason we left. Rich was about 8 at the time and there was no place for him. He had kinda out grown the nursery. He really couldn't be in big Church with us. He is blind, mentally handicapped, and has autistic behaviors. So here he was still in the nursery. So the nursery teacher tells me that such and such church down the road is starting a special needs ministry to include kids and adults with special needs and to help assimilate them better into the Church family. She suggested we might want to check it out

Bible Believing Church Number 3. This was a Southern Baptist Church. I went to the Special Needs Ministry planning meeting. They wanted to start a ministry not only to help integrate special needs children and adults into the Church community, but also help the families. Many families cannot attend Church together because of the special needs child. One or the other parent has to stay home while one goes to church. So this is what they wanted to try and change. At the planning meeting they said they didn't even want the family members to be the volunteers for this ministry. It was meant to be a ministry for the whole family as well as the special needs family member. This was a very large Church that had the funds and means to provide many things to the special needs ministry. They were even trying to establish some group homes for the special needs adults. Now what did this Bible believing Church teach? Well they basically taught that the more miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit such as tongues and prophecy etc. all died out with the last of the Apostles. This church also taught that the wine that Jesus used
in the Bible was non-alcoholic. They taught eternal security- Or the stuck philosophy. "Once Saved Always Saved." They also had what I call Baptisty things such as no dancing, and no gambling (They wouldn't like Catholic Bingo nights)etc.

I studied and studied the Bible to try and figure out which Church was dividing the word of truth correctly. I still do. I have prayed fervently for years to find the Church that Christ wants us to be in.

So all the while, I had issues with these different things, I still loved the Special Needs Ministry. It was awesome. They had a classroom for the younger age kids. A classroom for the older kids, and a
classroom for adults. If the special needs child could attend big Church, or a regular Sunday school class with some assistance that is what they did. They had volunteers they trained (usually kids from the High School, but also many adults) that "shadowed" the special needs kids, and helped them in the regular settings. If they had more extensive needs like Rich's, they had special classrooms and curriculum for them. This enabled parents to attend the Worship service together. This ministry was started by the most loving caring couple that I have ever known. They were some of the strongest and most faithful Christians I have ever known.

We were at this Church for about 8 years. We went to Church every Sunday morning and Wednesday night. I taught the 4 year old Sunday School Classes during the early morning time slot. I taught 5
th grade for the Mission Kids program on Wednesday evenings in the summertime. We were active in small groups, and adult Bible study too.

Another thing that bothered me about this particular Southern Baptist Church was that, in the 8 years we had been going to that Church, we had
communion probably not more than a dozen times. Every other Church I had ever been to, had it weekly. Not this Church. They almost never had communion on Sunday mornings. From what I heard, it was always offered on Sunday evenings, but we didn't go on Sunday evenings. They had it on Wednesday nights occasionally too. I remember thinking that communion was treated almost like an after thought.

Moving on to Bible Believing Church number 4? This was our Church hopping phase. We moved further north. This was closer to where my husband's new job was. We moved into the bigger house and all that. We moved to a great school district. Rich could finally attend his neighborhood school and still get all the special needs services that he needed. (you can see my post on Why We Didn't H
omeschool if interested)

Now to find a Bible Believing Church? Around us there are about 5 big Churches and some small ones. There was; a large non-
denominational Church I would say was Pentecostal in nature, a large Methodist Church, a tiny Lutheran Church right next door to the large Pentecostal Church, a tiny Presbyterian Church, another midsized Southern Baptist Church, and another very tiny non-denominational Church more along the lines of fundamentalist. (There was also a big Catholic Church, but we will get to that later)

We tried most of them. They all were Bible believing. They all taught something different, and ALL used the Bible to back up what they taught. This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some of the differences off the top of my head.

Denom Pentecostal Style Church: Believed adult baptism only, Baptism in the Holy Spirit with evidence of speaking in tongues, (Very similar to the Church we first attended when we were married)

Methodist Church: Believed in infant baptism, Does not believe in once saved always saved. Am
illennial, Communion symbolic.

Presbyterian: Believes Infant baptism, Believes in Eternal Security, but differently than the Southern Baptists, Communion symbolic.

Lutheran:- Similar to Catholic, Infant Baptism,
Can fall away from the faith, Real Presence in the Communion but technically a little different than the Catholics.

Evangelical Non-Denominational Church: Adult believers baptism only, Pre-Wrath Rapture (As opposed to a strict pre-trib rapture), Eternal Security (Once Saved Always Saved), Very legalistic

Church of Christ: Adult believers baptism only. Conditional Security (A Christian Can fall away from the faith), Works cooperate with faith. Baptism necessary for salvation

We Church Hopped for about 3 1/2 years. Hubby didn't like any of them. My brain was reeling trying to study the Bible and determine which was the true Church. What is the Biblical truth? Which church was rightly dividing the Word of truth? There was no unity among any of these Christian Churches. Where was the Church Christ
founded? Where was the Church the Apostles started? Which one was the Church with Authority? Which Church is it that the Gates of Hell will not Prevail Against? Which Church is the Pillar and Foundation of Truth? Which one has the guidance of the Holy Spirit?

Some say well they all agree on the basics. I wonder-
Hmm is Communion a basic? Is Baptism a basic? Where is the One Faith? Is Eternal Security vs. Conditional Security a basic?

I wanted answers. So I decided to go back to the beginning. What were the first Christians like? What were the first churches like? When did they go from worshiping in homes to larger more communal worship? What were the churches like that the Apostles founded? What did those early Christians believe? Did they just baptize adults or did they also baptize infants? Did they pour, immerse or both? I can't ask Jesus directly. For instance, I can't say "Hey Jesus what did you mean when you wrote this?" or "Apostles what did Jesus really mean?" I always ask in prayer and have received many answers and I believe he has been guiding me all along and has lead me to where I am at now.

The way to get the answers to these questions is to see how the early Christians understood what Jesus and the Apostles taught. What did they believe? These early Christians were taught by the Apostles who were in turn taught directly by Jesus. Many early documents, that have been preserved, that were written at the time of Apostles show what these early Christians believed and how they interpreted Jesus's words. These documents aren't considered scripture. Think of it as more like finding ancient Church bulletins, Ancient Church service outlines, the Pastors notes, or music hymnal. These things aren't scripture, but you can learn what the early Christians believed. The Didache is one of these documents written about 60-70ad. Written within the time of the Apostles or very close to the time of the Apostles. It is basically a handbook for new Christians. Then there are the writings of the Early Church Fathers such as St. Augustine. You will be surprised at the answers you find. The early Christians did believe in the real presence of Christ in the communion bread and wine. They believed in adult baptism for adult converts, but they also believed in infant baptism for the children of Christians. That is not unbiblical and does not go against scripture. (but that is a whole other study) Adult Believers Only baptism was something that was not even heard of till centuries later and actually the majority of Christian churches still believe and teach infant baptism. It is only the Churches that have come out of the Anabaptist movement that don't) These are just a few of the things I discovered. There are so many more. Each would take volumes to write about.

So here are my conclusions thus far: (Always subject to change as I am still growing and learning): The Bible is Not clear and you can't understand it without some understanding of history, and ultimately Church Authority and Sacred Tradition. To do so has led to hundreds (possibly thousands) of differing Christian groups, who all interpret the Bible differently. So which is the Church that has Authority given to it by Christ? Which Church has preserved the deposit of faith both oral and written? Which Church can prove Apostolic Succession? Which Church has been the most influential on the growth of Christianity throughout history? Actually I believe there are 2 main groups. The Catholic Churches (all the rites not just Roman) and the Orthodox Churches. Anyway after much Bible Study, Study of Early Church History and Sacred Tradition, and addressing the many misconceptions I had about the Catholic Church, I can truly say I was surprised by the Truth

Bible Believing Church # 5 The Catholic Church
As you have gathered by now my family has been attending the Catholic Church for about 2 years. I was received into full communion Last Nov. Hubby will be received into full communion this July. DD will be probably this Nov. And the boys will be baptized here shortly. 

(I originally wrote this post in June of 2008- Update: I was received into full communion November 2007, My husband was received into full communion in July of 2008, My daughter was received into full communion Nov. 2008, and both my boys were baptized in February 2009)

Side note: ( we have learned recently that that wonderful couple I mentioned earlier who started the Special Needs Ministry in that large
Southern Baptist church we were at have since returned to the Catholic church)

So that is me plain and simple. This is where the lord has lead and I will trust him.

So that is my story. It is not the complete story, and there is more to it than just that but that is the summary at least.

If you actually read this extremely long post thanks for listening. :-)

Sincerely, Deana

First Half of My Christian Faith Journey and Christian Testimony

Also Added
My Reply to the Question:
What did you study to bring you out of the Southern Baptist church and into the Catholic faith?


a soldier's wife said...

Thank you so much for sharing part of your journey with us!

Deeny said...

Thanks a Soldier's Wife. I went to you blog today too. I wanted to ask you a quick question in private, but i saw no email address. Likewise I don't wish to make mine too accessible on my blog but I would like to give it to you. If you would like to email me so I can email you back with my question in private that would be great. if you would prefer not to I understand. Sincerely Deana

amarch said...

Welcome home Deana.
My daughter fell into the same snares of the Boston Church of Christ. Please remember her in your prayers. Her name is Mirielle. May God bless and keep you and all your loved ones. Peace be with you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deanna, I'm Junebug999 (Darla) from Catholic Answers. I read every word of your Faith Journey. My journey has been very similar. It's a special blessing and special grace that God has led us to his Church.

God Bless you and your family,

D'artagnan said...

Great story, thanks!

I find many who leave the church because of an "event" (argument with a priest, someone cheated at Bingo, etc.), but I have never met anyone who left because of Truth.

maligaya88ktk said...

What a wonderful story. :-) Also just wondering whatever happened to the wonderful couple you mentioned in your side note? Do they have story to share and hope it is available. God bless.


Christopher Bradley said...

This is an awesome story...I think sometimes it takes a serious of events like yours to find the Church. This seems tragic on the surface, but believers like yourself tend to be more "faithful" when you at last find the correct path.

I would love to share my story of the Road to Catholicism with you.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story! How many millions of others who've been through the same thing but haven't received the grace to become open to Catholicism! I thank God for your becoming Catholic and the enthusiasm with which you share your faith with others.

Fr. Phil