I postponed this post from last Monday due to more urgent topics. Over the next several Mondays I want to focus on some topics that were key in my journey into the Roman Catholic Church. Three weeks ago today Charlotte and I were interviewed by Marcus Grodi for the “Journey Home” program that will air on EWTN, Monday, September 10, at 8:00 p.m. “Desiring unity in the Body of Christ” was one of the things I talked about.
Unity in the Church, I now realize, was an underlying theme throughout much of my life. Two weeks ago I mentioned the book How to Go from Being a Good Evangelical to a Committed Catholic in Ninety-Five Difficult Steps by Christian Smith that I picked up and read at least three times. In February 2015 I continued to respond to his points: “Start to notice church fragmentation and disunity.” On February 16 I wrote the following in my journal:
I am a third-generation Pilgrim Holiness/Wesleyan. Most likely due to a song I sung as a child “The Happy Day Express” I had the idea that all Christians were a train that had Jesus as engineer and the closer the many churches were to the Bible, the closer they were to him in the engine. In my mind my denomination was right up there next to the engine. I felt sorry for people who were born into other denominations and were further back on the train.
As a young teen I wasn’t too worried about church fragmentation and disunity because my denomination was the product of a series of mergers, the most notably taking place in 1968 to form The Wesleyan Church. The theme of the merging conference which served as the logo of the church for years was “One: that the world may believe.” I took great pride that my denomination was playing an important role in answer to the prayer of Christ that we all be one.
At the age of 30 I found myself in Spanish language school with my family preparing for missionary service in South America. This experience brought me into contact with missionaries who were Christian and Missionary Alliance, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, Fundamentalist Baptists and even Oneness Pentecostals. We were able to have fellowship together, but we were always aware of our differences and tried not to talk about them. This became more pronounced as we interacted with some on the mission field who held us at arm’s length because of the differences we held over eternal security. That my denomination believed that “there is no height of grace from which we cannot fall,” cast doubt on the validity of my Christianity.
Some of the best years of our lives are those we have been experiencing most recently, being part of a non-denominational network of churches that for the most part seems to have captured the spirit of first-century Christianity. Yet even in this idyllic setting we have the challenge to bring people together from various backgrounds, experiences and denominations. So often we are trying to go back to see how Scripture can hold us together as we deal with the realities of doing church 15 years into the 21st century.
I have great love and deep respect for all that I received from my roots in The Wesleyan Church and also the fresh breath of the Spirit that I experienced in the non-denominational church we served with for eight years. One of the strong impressions that Jesus laid on my heart from the age of 12 was a desire to see his prayer answered, that his followers would be one so that the world would believe that the Father sent him. I came to recognize that that would not happen through either one of the wonderful church experiences I had been privileged to experience. This could only happen through the Church that Jesus founded. It came down to me being obedient to Jesus. I had to obey in answer to his prayer.