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My Church History

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Friend of Discernment
Last updated
January 2, 2010

Raised Catholic:

I grew up in a devote Roman Catholic Church extended family with 2 priests and a nun who pursued life time service to the church.

My earliest memories were of our old church building on a college campus with ornate alters, stained glass windows, pipe organ, statues and Sistine like murals painted on the ceiling.  It was a wonderful work of beauty.  The priest spoke in Latin most of the mass except the homily. I wasn’t aware that there were other languages and didn’t know why I couldn’t understand what he was saying.

From there our parish built a school and gym.  The gym served as our sanctuary for the next 11 years and was the exact opposite of our first building.  Vatican two took place about that time and we became a bleeding edge church, the first in town with guitar masses!  This was radical.

I attended the school from 1st to eighth grade. 

In first grade I made my first communion.  I was taught that the bread and wine became the body and blood of Christ.  The extra hosts were stored in a tabernacle (a small box) on the altar.  I remember staring at that box many times during mass, my eyes fixed and glazed on it, trying to comprehend that fact that God lived in that box!  When I would go by it I would bow down, (genuflect) to it.  I took this very seriously.

I remember Fr. Scheoder teaching us evolution in 2nd grade.  A fact that I would much later in life find amazing the Church to this day still endorses.  I vaguely remember trying to figure out how this squared with the creation story, but he must have explained it in such a way that I never really questioned it until well into adulthood.

I felt I was a devout Catholic growing up.  I paid attention to the sermons and developed a sense of right and wrong and of justice.  I tended to have judgmental attitude and resented the non-Christian like way kids picked on one another, especially me!  I did not hold back from letting them know which just made things worse.

Fast forward to confirmation: 

I attended confirmation class when I was 17 years old.  I took it very seriously.  I remember being bothered by those who were taking it because their parents made them take it.  The whole point was to confirm to the church that this is what we believe and accept of our own volition.   After confirmation most kids stopped going to church or did so reluctantly.   My friends were talking about doing unmentionable things with girls and drinking and other stuff I knew was wrong and how fun it was.  I began to question whether there was really anything to what I believed or not since it made no difference to others who were raised the same as I was. 

My Testimony:

It was at that time I went down to the river behind the old gym at St. Norbert’s college and talked to God as I would talk to a person.  I remember saying something to the affect of “God, I see what my friends are doing and I think it is wrong.  I am trying to do the right things and feel like I don’t belong.  Am I just kidding myself about this God stuff?  If you are the creator of this world, and who they say you are, reveal yourself to me in a way that I will know for sure.” 

Nothing happened, but I had the feeling I was heard.  I was reading a book at that time that I would NOT recommend, called “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale.  I remember very little of the book, but I remember the verse “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”  (Phil. 4:13).  This was the first verse I memorized.  It also talked about answered prayer.  Shortly thereafter, I prayed a prayer one night to God for 3 things.

1. That my Mom who was having a lot of trouble sleeping and was quite crabby as a result would get a good nights sleep. 

2. That God would show me that He was real

3. For a girlfriend.

The next morning my Mom came down stairs while I was eating my oatmeal and said “wow, that was the best night’s sleep I have had since I can remember”.  I picked up my jaw from my oatmeal after realizing that God answered my first prayer emphatically!  In a few days I was invited to Great America (amusement park) by my friend Mike.  It turned out that we were going with his cousin Terri.  I hit it off with Terri that day and fell in love.  We started dating right away.  This was the second prayer answered.  (I was not very outgoing and having a girlfriend was really and answer to prayer!)

After a week or so, she asked me “Are you a Christian?”  I answered, “Of course I am, I’m Catholic!”  I thought it was an odd question as though I might be Buddhist or Hindu.  I don’t remember exactly how she replied to that, but she shared the Gospel with me and the truth of it struck me like a 2x4!

I always worried about if I were to go to heaven or not.  I wasn’t sure that even though I tried to be good, that it was good enough.  In fact I believed what the Catholic Church taught.  You could know, or at best after some indeterminate time in purgatory paying for your sins, you would eventually get to heaven.  This gospel sounded too easy and too simple.  It didn’t square with what I was taught.  But somehow I knew it was true.  I had to reckon like the apostle Paul that all my works in the church didn’t matter.  I was only going to be saved by the work of Christ on the cross. 

It took three months of letters, tracts and phone calls before I finally accepted that fact that I was a sinner and that I needed to give my life to Christ.  I had just finished reading “My Heart, Christ’s Home”, a tract for Lordship, which convicted me at last to yield to my life to God.

I felt only the peace of knowing that I did the right thing and believed that at this time, I was sealed with the Holy Spirit. 

Looking back I believe that God was with me my whole spiritual journey to that point, I followed the light I had.  God heard my prayers and the second prayer was answered that He WAS REAL!

Discipleship/Navigators, Leaving Catholicism:

I was angry with the Catholic Church that they had put such obstacles to the simple gospel.  I recall talking to a priest asking him about this.  He was not prepared to deal with me and I was quite upset during our conversation.  One of the key points was that of knowing I was saved.  The Catholic Church taught you could not know.  I used to think that those who said they were saved were prideful and deceived.  This was logical if you believe you have to work or earn your salvation, who could know.  But when I realized that it was not my work but the finished work of Christ on the cross that saved me, there is nothing to boast about.  (See Eph 2:8,9)

I started going to a Baptist church.  It was an amazing experience.  Most people in the Catholic Church I attended at the time seemed dead and attended because it was mandatory.  In this place people were singing loudly and enthusiastically and seemed to be there because they wanted to be there.  There was no mindless repetition of the same words week after week as in the Liturgical Catholic mass.  Prayers were made up spontaneously from the heart rather than flowery prayers read from a book accompanied by a heavy sigh.  I knew the Spirit was alive in this place. 

For my parent’s sake, I did not leave the Catholic Church right away.  I was afraid of there reaction.  I went to mass every week and when I could I went to the Baptist church. 

Later at UW-Madison, I attended the Catholic Church there for a couple years.  It seemed more alive, but they still hid the gospel. 

Terri’s Mom challenged me to read through the bible by reading 3 chapters a day and I would finish in about a year.  Terri recovered her old hardback King James Bible and gave it to me.  I faithfully read it through and learned a lot, but still much was hard to understand.

I started getting involved with the Navigators late my sophomore year.  There I went through the “Design for Discipleship” series and learned a lot about basic doctrines of the faith.  This really grounded me for my life in Christ.   The more I learned the more I realized that the Catholic doctrine was unbiblical.  It became increasingly hard to attend mass, trying to filter out the bad from the good.  Eventually I found out about the bus ministry to a local Baptist Church and began attending there.  I was Baptized by immersion there my last year in school.  My pastor was the one to help me decided to leave the Catholic Church saying “you will reach more Catholics outside the Catholic Church than inside it”.  Judging from the number of ex-Catholics in the churches I attended, I believe it.

Evangelicalism (then):

When I graduated and moved to Illinois, I became involved with the Evangelical Free Church.  I knew some fellow Navigators had gone to an Evangelical Free Church in Madison, so I felt this was probably a Bible believing church. It was a very good church and I met many friends there, a number who were like me in trying to grow in Christ.  I liked the stance they took “major in the majors, minor in the minors” as a guide for dealing with differences in minor doctrinal issues without destroying the common bond we have in Christ.  I studied a number of these differences in school and felt it best to stick with the core doctrines like the Trinity, salvation etc. and not be tied down to division on other minor debatable issues.

Moving from the Chicago area to Rockford I remained with the Evangelical Free Church (Where I met and marriedmy lovely bride, Jannelle). Again the teaching was sound and the style was traditional.  At some point they adjusted the first service to use more modern type choruses and songs.  I preferred the traditional service but felt the other was fine too.  I knew from stories about missionaries how tribes and peoples adapted their styles and language to their worship service.  I knew there was nothing sacred about the organ; in fact they were radical when first introduced.  Some accommodation to a culture seemed to make perfect sense.  We are all created in God’s image and reflect the diversity of His creativity.

One of my favorite Pastors was one vow shy of being a Catholic Priest at one time.  He became a believer and eventually an ordained minister in the Free Church.  One of the things I respected him doing was to bring one element, probably from his Catholic upbringing to the church and that was to enter the sanctuary quietly with reverence and respect as though it were hallowed ground.  Now I know as a believer God dwells in the hearts of those who believe in Him and not in some building, still, as we gather as a body to worship the King, we should do so with an appropriate attitude.  In the quietness before the service we can prepare our hearts, confessing our sins to worship Him unencumbered.  It is difficult to do that in most churches I have attended with noisy conversations going on around me.

After about 6 years at this church we look into the possibility of moving to an outlying area where a new Free Church was going to be started.  We prayed about it, but before that ever happened, God had other plans for us.  We went through the trials of getting pregnant and then losing our first born to some genetic disease.  During our second pregnancy my job was going to be eliminated.  We ended up moving to Milwaukee area soon after our daughter was born.

A Willow Creek Modeled Church:

Upon arriving we wanted to find a church in our denomination.  The closest one was on the south side of town and we were on the far north side.  We called that one and asked if there were any new startup churches.  The secretary was excited to report that a new church just started the previous weekend and was meeting at the YMCA.

This seemed like a calling from God, fulfilling what we prayed about in Rockford to be part of a startup Church. 

Our new church modeled itself after Willow-Creek in Barrington Illinois.  I had attended there several times in its early years while in the Chicago area.  My wife’s aunt attended there as well.  This style church extended the idea of being “culturally normative” to reach the lost of the community to a somewhat uncomfortable extent.  I knew the intent was to get people to church where they could preach the gospel through relevant messages.  Once becoming believer’s they would be invited to become part of the “new community” where they could participate in the Wednesday night services.  These services were for worship and equipping of the believer in Christ.  Since Sunday was not considered a worship service, but and outreach service, guidelines for the service were different.  We used contemporary Christian music, drama every week and topical life type messages.  Many came to Christ at these meetings.  There were however many times I didn’t feel comfortable about the content, specifically some of the post Christian Amy Grant type music and Church lady skits were a guy dressed in drag of the fashion on Saturday Night Live etc. Because it was an outreach and not worship, I went along with it.

Wednesday nights were different however, low key and concentrated on more substance than form.  The highlight of those services were when we met in the Presbyterian Church were I had the privilege of preaching from time to time being able to use my spiritual gift of teaching.

This church was a small congregation that suffered from trying to do too much with too few people.  It also suffered from a lack of mature believers, in both the elder positions and leadership.  The pastor tried to oversee everything which had its negative repercussions.  It really had a premature start and suffered throughout its existence.  Under the burden we stopped the Wednesday night services and change the Sunday format a bit to more of a worship service.  Still, engrained in the outreach mentality Sunday morning, the evangelistic elements remained and things I felt inappropriate for a worship service remained. 

In all the years we reached people for Christ, we were unable to disciple more than a few.  Most would leave for bigger churches that had more to offer.  My hope is that they were discipled there and matured in Christ.

My wife really struggled at Stonebridge starting within months of attending.  We stayed 8 years and burnt out.  At times I wished I had listened to my wife at the beginning, but I felt that it was a call from God that we were to be there and to serve there.  God did use that time for growth in me and in the others we served with.  Leaving there when we did was absolutely necessary for the urgent well being of my family.

Home schooling and a move toward conservatism:

During this time I was introduced to the idea of home schooling.  This to me was a radical idea.  A husband and wife that home schooled were former members of Willow Creek and now members of our church.  As time went on they became more conservative and questioned the approach the church took.  Eventually they left as well.  But the home school idea was picked up by my wife.  I was reluctant to do this for all the stereotypical reasons given.  I attended my first home school conference and heard guest speakers like Christopher Klicka present strong reasons why home schooling is the right choice for those wanting to take serious the admonition of Deuteronomy 6 to raise up our children in the Lord.  Father’s are responsible for insuring the education of our children.  Simply sending our kids to public schools and abdicating all teaching is not a fulfillment of our God given responsibility.   Other lessoned learned were about raising a godly seed and multi-generational thinking.  This requires great thought and deliberate action and does not come about automatically.

Home schooling was just coming out of the pioneering days when we started. We didn’t know many who home schooled.  We were considered an oddity and still somewhat are today.  Most Christians who home school are doing so to keep the values of the world as taught in the public schools away from our children.  In doing so we are practicing a form of separatism.  We do not believe we are to send out our children at impressible young ages into the world as missionaries.  They need to be trained up and fully grounded in the Lord.  This sometimes sets us at odds with many Christians who do send there kids to public schools.  Home schooling is not easy and takes a lot of commitment.  The only reason I do it is that I have a strong convictions that this is the right choice.

Back to traditional church:

During our "Willow Creek type church" years my daughter and later my son started attending the AWANA program at a more traditional style church as ours did not have the where-with-all to put such a program on.  I really liked a traditional styled church.  The AWANA program was excellent.  It had a mixture of hymns and choruses.  The final song after the sermon was a rousing hymn with piano and organ.  The Benediction by an elderly Pastor was like the blessing of a father to his children.  We recovered that year and have served there ever since.

First Alliance had just lost there pastor weeks before we attended.  We had many good interim speakers and eventually an interim pastor.  He was a professor of Greek and Bible at Moody and an expository preacher.  He unfolded God’s word in memorable ways, first through verse by verse teaching from a book of the bible, explaining the various types of speech (I never knew there were so many!) and applications back with examples of stories from his own life and experiences with students at Moody Bible Institute.

We called another pastor, who stayed less than 2 years.  He was a good man but I had trouble with his using various translations to make his point.  At this time a paraphrase of the bible called “The Message” by Eugene Peterson became popular.  David use this quite often.  The Message is a paraphrase of the original Greek, trying to capture the intensity of the original language as it would be grasped by the speakers of its time into modern vernacular.  Often I can’t recognize passage from the message, but when I hear it in almost any other translation I immediately recognize it.  While it may bring out a fresh aspect of a passage, it has been horribly abused by anyone trying to teach any doctrine they want.  They will find a few words in the paraphrase to support their own wild assertions.

The church was without a pastor for two more years.  The previous interim pastor taught again for a short time. 

The current pastor came in January of 2004. He was the youngest pastor I have ever sat under and the first younger than I.  This is bound to happen to everyone at some point.  About the time he came, the church was just about to start a “40 Days of Purpose” campaign based on the book by the same name by Rick Warren.  Before it started I heard a report warning about it.  I got a copy of the book and read half of it before we were to start it at church.  I was horrified at what I saw.  The abuse of “The Message” was typified in this book. Rick Warren had ideas all worked out and then sought a few phrases from every paraphrase he could find to support it.  These verses are often taken out of context. His gospel of salvation was no gospel at all. It was all human centered psychology, appealing to the flesh for meaning and purpose in life with a Christian veneer.  I read the entire book and added my editorial comments in the margins.

I approached my pastor on this shortly after he started but said that it was approved by the leadership before he got there.  He acknowledged my concerns but didn’t want to do anything about it.  I can’t fully blame him as a new and young pastor to the church.  I do question why the elders didn’t more carefully screen the material or use discernment.  I also approached another Elder who agreed, but basically said “the train has left the station” and there was nothing else to do.

At this time things started changing, out with the old, in with the new.  First the organ went.  (not vital but an interesting fact) The lady who played the organ was not told why, but just that she was not needed anymore.  Eventually she left.  I feel bad for her.  Years of service just put to pasture.  The elderly pastor's benedictions went away too.  Many missed them.  It was like old school is not in vogue anymore.   I realize things change, but nothing was communicated to anyone, changed just mysteriously happened.  When a church changes its methods, the need should be explained, all parties affected should be consulted, and the congregation made aware of what is going on.  Instead it is all under the rug.  We went to three services, one of which could have been left as a traditional service, but that was rejected.

I had hoped that nothing more would come of Rick Warren’s influence and for a time nothing did.  Rick Warren has many follow up programs but none were mentioned. 

A little over a year later another Rick Warren program was going to be introduced called “Celebrate Recovery”.   (See “The Berean Call” newsletter about a first hand review of CR at .   While the people involved with this program are sincere in there desire to see people freed from there addictions, they are really using the worlds methods. 

The issue is not whether we should minister, but how we should minister: man’s way or God’s way? Man’s way, or a mixture of biblical teaching and ungodly counsel, is contrary to God’s way. Man’s way leads to death. Applying Scripture to man’s way leads to a slower death, akin to what would result when pure water is added to a toxic drinking fountain. We desperately need to take heed to God’s admonition through the Prophet Jeremiah: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer 2:13). TBC”

I was not aware of it at the time but another who held my same concerns desperately tried to warn leadership but was ignored.  If fact the elders were sidestepped in the introduction of this program, which is alarming to me.  Again this program uses the technique of man’s ideas backed with phases selected from various paraphrases’ often out of context.

In 2006 we left First Allance to attend Brookside Baptist Church.  It was like coming home.  All that I had learned about the pastor was expositorly teaching out of Ephesians.  The worship service on Sunday morning was designed for the Glory of God in all things and for the building up of the saints through the ministry of the Word of God..   I would have loved to stay there, but God had other plans.   Two years later, through a transfer at work, we moved to rural South Carolina.   

The church hunt goes on still after a year and a half.  We tried many Southern Baptist Churches but found that church is just part of the culture in the Bible belt and spiritual maturity was lacking or the churches were dying.  Some we attended we felt like the youngsters of the church (I am 50).  We did settle for almost a year at a conservative Presbyterian (PCA) church.  I loved the preaching there and the people were great.  It was a startup church but very different from the Willow Creek style one we attended before.

It was a "Reformed' church holding to much of the teaching at the time of the Reformation including the Westminister Confession.  Most things were great there and Biblical.  I did much research into what Reformed was all about.  Some doctrinal positions however I differed on.  These were not make or break, but significant enough to make it difficult for me to use my teaching gifts without being stiffled or undermining the churches position.  

We are now looking at an Independent Baptist church that runs the school my son attends.  It is not ideal from my perspective, it is alive and teaching from the Bible.  We will see.... 


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