I feel blessed to be able to say I was raised in a Christian home. My parents had me baptized in the Episcopal Church as an infant [an act of faith on their part that I would not fully understand nor appreciate until I studied infant baptism after the birth of my first child 31 years later. I’ll share more on this later]. I attended the Episcopal Church until I was 14.
One of the blessings of being raised in this Christian home is the fact that I can’t remember a time in my life that I did not believe in Jesus and desire to love God with all my heart. I don’t have a “date of salvation” or a “first time salvation experience” that many Evangelical Protestants believe you must have in order to be born-again. At least I don’t have a date that I can personally recall; I was just raised to believe and by God’s grace I did.
That isn’t to say that I don’t recall significant times in my life where I made public professions of my faith and took personal responsibility for this faith I was raised in. Nor am I saying that I haven’t fallen. Sadly I’ve sinned and given in to some serious temptation in my lifetime but I can honestly say that by his grace I’ve never said to myself or to Father “I’ve had enough of this Christianity stuff and walked away.” I’ve always believed and wanted to love God with my whole heart. Notice I said the word, “wanted,” because, like Paul talks about in the book of Romans, I haven’t always done what I wanted to do and fulfilled this desire to follow after the Spirit. But the Holy Spirit is faithful and He’s brought me to a place of repentance each time.
So, I’m thankful for parents who sought after God. They took us to church every Sunday and were examples of unselfish service to the church. My mom was and still is a faithful woman of prayer and study. I remember as a 13 year old finding out that my grandmother died. Following the example that had been set for me, the first thing I did was pray and read the Bible looking for comfort. I know now that the most important factors in the early faith formation of children, besides the Holy Spirit, are the parents. And I was blessed with a mom and dad who did their very best with what they knew in order to raise me in the Christian faith.
***From Episcopal to Charismatic***
My first experience with “changing” churches and denominations came when I was 14. My older sister started attending a non-denominational church (the word non-denominational is really a misnomer for any church; it might be better to say it was not a main line denominational church). My parents eventually allowed me to attend with her and then they joined us as well. This church was started by a man who was “saved” during the “Jesus Movement” of the 60’s and 70’s. He was a charismatic leader in terms of his “style” and the church by definition was a charismatic church. This was quite a departure from the liturgical worship in which I first learned to love Jesus.
Although I was eager to attend this church it had little to do with the “worship style.” Instead it was about a crossroad in my faith journey. I was a freshman in high school facing all the challenges and temptations that teenagers face. I remember thinking, “Ok God, if everything I believe about Jesus is real then I need some help.” For me, this church, with its youth group and the youth leaders who loved us, was an answer to my cry. So while I certainly enjoyed the “lively” music at this new church, music and the worship tradition weren’t the issue. Upon reflection it was more about the lack of supporting ministries for teens at the Episcopal Church we attended. I will forever be grateful for the seeds planted by the Episcopal Church and for how its liturgical worship taught me a holy reverence for God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In this charismatic church, my love for God’s written word was nurtured. I grew in my faith and in my love for Jesus. I was a part of a fun youth group and I had a youth pastor who showered love and acceptance on each of us. I soaked up the teaching from my pastor and my youth pastor. But it was my youth pastor who had the greatest impact on me.
Over the years that he served as a youth pastor he became more and more “reformed” in his interpretation of Scripture (eventually he would come to subscribe to the “five solas” of reformed theology and base the founding of his own church on these doctrinal principles). Naturally he taught us (the youth) the things he was learning and naturally I followed the teaching of my spiritual “big brother.” I never “directly” questioned or challenged what I was being taught. If I read something in the Bible and it didn’t seem to line up with what I was being taught I would call my youth pastor who would interpret the Scripture for me through the lens of reformed theology. It was not long before I too was reading R.C. Sproul and other writings that fell in line with reformed theology. And when studying Scripture I too would interpret it through the lens of reformed theology. While I would eventually depart from the tradition of reformed theology, I hold a very special place in my heart for my fomer youth pastor. He really loved me and the other youth. And he encouraged us to love the written word of God and to study. I attended this church for seven years until…