Coming to faith in the Lutheran church
I grew up Conservative Lutheran (WELS);
I don't think I missed 10 Sundays in 38 years. When I was in 6th grade, I knew I wanted to become a pastor, so
my whole focus of life was that goal. My folks didn't have the money to send me away to the pre-ministerial preparatory school,
so the lacking prerequisites added extra time to my college training at Northwestern College.
After graduation, I went to Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. My specific plans obviously were not God's plans and after
a couple years I returned home, as God had made it clear to me, that He did not want me to become a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran
Lutheran doctrine vs. the Word of God
to say: I certainly know and understand Lutheran doctrine. I studied it, learned it, and taught it in Bible classes,
from the pulpit, to Sunday school children, and to those in confirmation class. I
interpreted the Bible through the Lutheran filter and by means of Lutheran doctrine.
My folks are still Lutheran and still
attending the church we joined in 1968. My folks and I still have a great
relationship, but God has led me out of that denomination to a more correct understanding of the Bible. I am no longer a Lutheran not because of people,
or church problems, or politics, or issues with the pastor. I am no longer a
Lutheran because I couldn’t substantiate all of their doctrines and practices Biblically:
Corporate Confession and Absolution: The first issue I had to deal with was
concerning the weekly practice of the corporate confession and absolution found in the Lutheran Liturgy. At that time, I figured it’s a historical liturgy, and it is possible to look past the error and
appreciate it in the kindest possible way; and anyway, this might be the only time the people hear the Gospel, even though
it is mostly ritual (but it bothered me at every service--we had just sung a Hymn praising our God and then we acted as though
none of us had yet been redeemed, restored or forgiven).
Consubstantiation: The next issue was consubstantiation (the “in, with, and under”
of Jesus’ presence in the Lord’s Supper) which had to be believed
our “Lutheran” way only, or the participant was taking it in an unworthy manner bringing the judgment of God upon
himself. But I figured (at the time) who does it hurt, even if it isn’t
Biblically substantiated, most folks in church have never really studied their church’s doctrine anyway, and it just
keeps everyone “religiously” more seriously minded and carefully prepared to worship and receive communion.
- Sprinkling Babies vs. Immersing Believers:
Then came the Lutheran doctrine of Baptism. The Holy Spirit kept challenging me about everything I believed about Baptism.
(At this time, I was faithfully supporting my church, and had no desire to go elsewhere, I wasn’t reading or listening
to any teaching or theology which Lutherans would consider “heterodox”, I was directing the choir, teaching Sunday
School, heading up the Stewardship and Evangelism committee, going to all the Elders and Church Council meetings and even
redesigning and installing the new landscaping for our 50th anniversary celebration—I was single, so I had
extra time on my hands.)
Traditions vs. The Word of God: As I would read the Bible, I kept seeing things that didn’t support what I
believed. No one in the Bible was ever poured on or sprinkled with water in reference to baptism; and no babies were ever
baptized in the Bible (circumcision in the OT was only for Jewish men and male proselytes, and not for women or Gentiles);
no Bible passages as understood in their context specifically said that a person is granted Salvation when he is baptized
(not to mention the thief on the cross, who was promised by Jesus that he would be in Paradise with Him, and he never got
baptized); and no one was baptized who hadn’t first given some profession of faith. And then there is the Greek language
itself. The Greek word for ‘baptize’ always means to immerse. One
day during this time, Mormon missionaries came to my door and showed me a quote from a Classical Greek Lexicon (which I had
on my shelf of college textbooks) that baptism meant immersion. I dismissed them and the rest of the heresy they were peddling,
but I was now forced to really dig in the three different Greek Lexicons I had to see if it was true—they were wrong
about everything else but not the Greek. Now I had an issue to deal with, I looked
up all the passages and found no Biblical grounds for what I thought I knew about baptism, and what I had taught children
in Sunday School and Lutheran confirmation class.
with the Truth
it was between me and God! What was I to do? Finally, in a long quiet drive to work, with only questions in my mind, I cried
out to God: “LORD Jesus, if it is Your will; let me be baptized!” I
figured if I’m already baptized (sprinkled as a baby) then nothing is going to happen; but if I am not, then He is going
to have to figure out how to get me baptized. Not too many days after that prayer I got the answer. I had been daily driving I-17 and regularly passing by Calvary
Community Church. As you pass it going south on I-17, you see a lighted message board sign. (I had been praying for God to
use that sign as an evangelism tool even though I didn’t know anything about that church, because so many people pass
it daily. And God was answering my prayer, they had great Bible passages and catchy sayings and beautiful words of comfort
for all to see.)
Then one Thursday as I drove by after work the sign said “Saturday Worship 6:00
P.M.” and it hit me hard like it was for me. Well, I had no interest in
church shopping and I didn’t want to offend any of the kids in my class if they would ever find out I was breaking our
fellowship principles by ‘worshipping around’; so I tried to forget it.
Friday, I didn’t want to even look at that sign, but the curiosity got to me and just before I passed it I glanced
at it and had the same message of ‘Saturday Worship 6:00 P.M.’ “It’s either stuck, God’s trying
to get my attention, or I’m crazy;” I thought.
On Saturday morning on my way back from work, I was going to have to pass that sign again.
I resolved not to look, but, just like when you see a scary movie, you just have to peek, and there it was again “Saturday
Worship 6:00 P.M.” Now I fought with myself and by 5:30 I determined not to go and felt peace in not going, but then
five minutes later I threw on my church clothes and went. It was a contemporary
worship service and Pastor Mark Martin preached a beautiful sermon and lots of people got saved. Yes; got saved…Lutheran
Doctrine calls that “Decision Theology” but I saw them and it was no manipulation or an emotional appeal; those
folks heard the Gospel and Believed! I was really blessed and I saw God working there in dramatic ways, it was beautiful!
After the service Pastor Mark gave the blessing, then said, “If any of you haven’t been Biblically baptized
we are having baptisms tomorrow night, just come by 5:30 and we’ll supply the towel and scrubs.” That’s why God brought me that night, so that I would have absolutely no doubt as to what God was
showing me—He gave me the opportunity to be baptized. I fought with myself after “my” church Sunday from
that morning until 5:00P.M. I finally gave up. I was tired and battle-weary and pitied myself for acting stupid and thinking
such “sacrilegious” thoughts, then I think I fell asleep. Five minutes later I threw on my church clothes and
went, waited in line to fill out the paperwork (a good questionnaire to see if the person who is being baptized is really
saved). I didn’t know where this church stood on any doctrinal issues, so when I filled out those questions I prayed
over every answer. So I got on my scrubs, got my towel and waited…I was
#64 that evening to get Biblically baptized (by immersion). Before the baptisms were about to start Pastor Mark read my answers
to everybody (he has never done that before or since). God changed my life
that night – I already knew that I was saved, but now I felt no shame or guilt, I was excited to go to church, and I
was in love with Jesus like never before!
in Jesus Christ
then began that difficult season of being led from one shepherd’s flock to another. After my baptism (July 12, 1998)
I began attending Calvary Community Church every Wednesday night, Saturday night, going to my church Sunday morning, and then coming
back to Calvary for the Sunday night service. During this time Pastor Mark was confirming
what God had been showing me in His Word over the last few years—things which I was afraid to believe, afraid to accept
as mine. But my life was in turmoil, feeling at home at Calvary where everybody was just
like me wanting to share what Jesus had been doing in their life that week; yet still a member of a church that considered
it a sin to pray with someone of a different faith.
one Saturday night Pastor Mark gave the opportunity for membership. I joined that night and had the painful task of asking
to be released from membership from my Lutheran church the next morning. I was literally dying to my identity as a Lutheran,
it was like having a divorce from everyone I had known for the last 30 years; it was painful and dark. The next day, a Monday
morning, at 6:00 A.M. before I went to work, I went to “Morning Watch” (the opportunity for morning devotional
time in the Sanctuary at Calvary). God met me there in my brokenness with what I can only
describe as waves of love crashing over me. Following that experience, I realized
I had finally died to Lutheranism and I was finally free from the shame of not becoming a Lutheran Pastor and all that went
with it. Now I was completely free to serve my LORD doing anything; and I was excited with every new opportunity that God
put in my hands.
who finds a wife, finds a good thing and receives favor from the Lord"
that time, God has given me many opportunities to serve Him by loving and serving His people. He
has given me ‘on-the-job, hands-on, learn-by-doing’ pastoral training. For a few years, I would spend approximately
20 hours a week there at the church campus, in addition to working my full-time job. During
this time, I had been asking God to bring me my wife. In May 2002, I was asked to
lead a break-out session for the annual men’s retreat called “One Man Single and Serving.” I was happy to
do it, but I still asked for prayer at the prayer meeting I was attending on Sunday night after church. There were regularly
about eight of us there on any Sunday given night, praying specifically for the persecuted Church worldwide. The person who
prayed for my request that evening was a voice I hadn’t remembered hearing before, and the person was someone I really
hadn’t noticed before. But when she prayed for me, she got my undivided attention! Wow, what a spiritual force to be
reckoned with: I was blown away. I noticed her then! After the prayer I just
had to look at her, but in that glance she thought she had offended me. So I thought that she didn’t like me. But I
prayed like crazy for her from that moment on, and was seeking God’s will regarding her.
A few months later I was asked to lead a worship team for an Adobe
Mountain juvenile detention facility outreach. Well, my previous team
couldn’t make it so I again asked for prayer at that Sunday night prayer meeting. After the prayer Kathy (that beautiful
spiritual dynamo) came up to me and told me that she had been on the worship team at her previous church and would be pleased
to help me if she didn’t have to work. Every bell and whistle went off in my brain and I wanted to invite her to every
ministry I was doing. But her schedule only permitted her to join my worship team for Adult Bible class on Friday nights (the
team I was to take to Adobe Mountain).
We ended up not doing the outreach because they were on lockdown, and on the next opportunity she was out of town. However, in the ensuing months, as we came to know each other, we both clearly knew God’s leading
in our courtship. We were married on Rosh Hashanah, September 27, 2003.
the year we were courting, and especially in the premarital counseling class, God challenged me to take a year sabbatical
from all ministries. Many people could not understand why I would consider such a thing, and some of the pastors were disappointed
in my decision. However, I knew I needed to be obedient and leave it in God’s hands. It was beneficial for Kathy; because
she needed to see that I wouldn’t abandon her for the “mistress of ministry” (her ex-husband had been repeatedly
unfaithful during their marriage and finally moved in with his girl friend). I also needed to know that my identity was in Christ and not what I did for Him.
I had also watched many ministry-minded men at our church become disqualified for ministry as their families disintegrated.
I had waited 43 years for my wife and I wanted nothing to ever be a wedge in our marriage, not even public ministry.
that year Kathy had to go out of town on business for the job she held at that time, and during one of these upcoming trips
I was asked to substitute teach for one of the pastors. After praying about it, I felt at peace with “breaking the sabbatical”
since I would not be stealing any time from Kathy. For the next few months I was getting asked to teach regularly and each
time, Kathy ended up going out of town. Finally I just said yes every time I was asked, and sure enough, God would work the
circumstances such that she would have to go out of town at that exact time. That
year refocused my ministry to what God had called me to do: teaching His Word to His people.
"Do you love Me? Feed My sheep"
On December 10, 2000, during an intense time of Bible study preparation, feeling
like I had nothing from God to share with His people (for a class I would substitute for), God clearly spoke to my heart telling
me that I was a pastor. It was not a “glorious” moment as much as it was a chide to live in that identity to which
I was called. My priorities changed that day, my choices, preferences, interests, and focus changed out of the fear of the
LORD. New opportunities opened up for me to serve God’s people in every aspect of ministry (one at a time)—on
the job training rather than the theoretical of the Seminary.
In the early spring of 2006, during the Adult Bible Study in which my wife
and I were serving, I was encouraged by God by a strong impression to “be about my Heavenly Father’s business.”
I didn’t know what, when or where; so I began praying about it. In the beginning of 2008 God said “Start it.”
I still didn’t know what, when or where, but I knew it felt soon. By February I knew that I was to just start from our
home. I was thinking a couple months down the road to figure it out and to get our house switched around to accommodate more
people and their children, etc. Then while I was doing deliveries for work God convicted my procrastinating heart and (ready
or not) we had our opening service on Resurrection Sunday, March 23, 2008. It is my desire to love Jesus by "feeding
His sheep" and equip His saints to go and do the work to which He has called them faithfully until He returns. The Spirit
and the Bride say "Come!" Maranatha, Lord Jesus!!!