WHY I LEFT
Why I Left the Catholic Church
By Greg Litmer
The church of my youth was the Roman Catholic Church. As an infant I was baptized, sprinkled with water, and in the fifth grade I received the sacrament of Confirmation. I attended a parochial elementary school and high school. My classmates were Catholic, my friends were Catholic, and my teammates were Catholic. It was a comforting and insulated environment in which to grow.
I was taught that there was no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church and if anyone was saved without being a member of the Roman Catholic Church, it was due to Catholic truths that they believed. I was also taught, as are all Catholics, that the things we did and believed as Roman Catholics were the same things that had always been done and believed by all true Christians from the time that Jesus established the church to the present.
1. Changes in Catholic Teaching
The recognition of a need to change came gradually to me as the result of an event that took place in the years 1962-1965. That event was the Second Vatican Council. In the years following it, the face of Roman Catholicism was radically altered due to the teaching and direction that was adopted by that Council. The church of my youth; that timeless, comforting, guiding pillar of my life socially, intellectually, and religiously, was no longer the same. I found myself asking which Roman Catholic Church was the right Roman Catholic Church, the one before Vatican II, led by an infallible pope and teaching Magisterium; or the one after Vatican II? It was also supposed to be led by an infallible pope and teaching Magisterium. They were definitely not the same.
I will mention a few of the major changes that forced me to seek a single source of authority that had not, and would not, change.
2. Changing Rules about Communion and Fasting
One of the changes that can be associated with the direction of Vatican II involved the time of fasting required of a Roman Catholic before they can receive Holy Communion. As a child, pre-Vatican II, I was taught the following rules from the Baltimore Catechism. To receive Holy Communion one was required to fast from midnight to the time of reception.
The Fast was defined in this way, “To fast from midnight means to take nothing by way of food or drink or medicine after midnight.” The seriousness of this requirement can be seen in the book, Eucharist Law and Practice, by Durieux, page 179.
He writes, “It (the fast before Communion, gl) consists in this, that the communicant has not taken, since midnight, any food or drink or medicine, even the least possible quantity. It would be a mortal sin to receive Communion after having intentionally taken a few drops of water after midnight; even an error of good faith (for example, the taking of a drink of water at two o’clock in the morning because the clock had stopped at a quarter before twelve) does not dispense from the law.”
The only time a person could receive Holy Communion without the midnight fast was if they were in danger of death or if the Eucharist itself was in danger of injury or insult. Failure to abide by this fast was a mortal sin, the most serious of the two categories of sin in Roman Catholicism, according to the infallible” teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.
During and after Vatican II changes came concerning this fast. The time went from midnight to three hours. Then it went from three hours to one hour by the decree of Paul VI. The latest regulation is found in the Code of Canon Law which came into effect in 1983. Canon 919 says, “One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.”
How could that be? How could that which was a mortal sin cease to be a mortal sin simply because a group of men said so? What about those who had died with the mortal sin of not fasting from midnight before receiving Holy Communion still held against them? Were they to perish eternally in Hell for something that is no longer even a sin, much less a mortal sin?
3. Changing Rules about Church Attendance
Let me mention another change which was simply not reconcilable with what I was taught growing up as a Catholic. Prior to Vatican fl, Catholics were required, under pain of mortal sin, to attend Mass on Sunday. Again from the Baltimore Catechism, #282, “A Catholic who through his own fault misses Mass on a Sunday or holyday of obligation commits a mortal sin.”
Now Roman Catholic Churches throughout the United States have Saturday evening masses that serve as substitutes for Sunday attendance. Such a thing was unheard of before Vatican II. I remember very well the first time I heard of this new regulation. I was still a youngster and had attended a Saturday evening wedding that took place in a nuptial mass. At the end of the mass the priest told us that our attendance there took care of our Sunday obligation. As a young boy I was tickled by that news. It meant I didn’t have to get up and go to church the next day.
But in the years after, I came to wonder how that could be. How could it have been a mortal sin to miss Sunday mass, even if you had attended a nuptial mass on Saturday, one week; and not a sin at all the next?
These are just two examples of numerous changes that forced me to ask myself if there really was anything that didn’t change. Was there anything I could believe and be sure that it would be just as true on the day I died as it was on the day I first believed? From the gentle persuasion and sincere love of faithful Christians, I came to understand that there was.
4. The All-Sufficiency of Scripture
There were four passages of scripture that had a profound effect upon me, for I knew that I had found the answer. The first was Matthew 21:23-25a. “And when He had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him as He was teaching, and said, By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority? And Jesus answered and said to them, “I will ask you one thing too, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?”
What a question! All of those things that I had been taught growing up, where did they come from? Were they the product of heaven, or merely the product of uninspired men? But I had to know how to make that determination. Passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:3 supplied me with the answer. All scripture was “God-breathed,” and completely furnished us to every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). We had been given all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). The true source of unchanging authority for what we believe and practice in religion was found in the scriptures, for so the scriptures said!
In fact, I found in Revelation 22:18-19, that no one had authority to take away from or add to the words of scripture. Once the realization of the biblical concept of authority was reached, it took very little time to discover that the Roman Catholic Church, both the one before Vatican II and the one after it, bore very little resemblance to the church of the Lord revealed in the New Testament. Every session of Bible reading made it clearer and clearer that much of what I had been taught as a Roman Catholic had only men as its source of origin, and I knew that that was not good enough.
5. Reliance on God’s Unchanging Truth
There was family to deal with when I left Catholicism. When I rendered my obedience to the gospel of Christ and was immersed in water for the remission of my sins, my father, whom I owe so much and loved so deeply, told me that I made him feel like a failure.
Time softened that opinion, and for that I am thankful, but I knew what the Lord had said. In Matthew 10:34-37, he said, “Do not think that 1 came to bring peace on earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
I know that what I believe today will be true tomorrow. I know that no man can change the words of scripture. I know that the words of Jesus “are spirit and are life” (John 6:63).
Why I Left the Baptist Church
By Michael Jones
There’s a proverb that says, “a wise man learned from the mistakes of others; a fool learns only from his own.” When asked to prepare a short treatise on my conversion, I jumped at the opportunity to do so. There was a time in my life when I was a lost person who thought he was a saved person, just like Cornelius (Acts 10) and the “many” of Matthew 7:21-23. Anything I can do to help other people who are either personally deceived, or are working with those who are, I will always do.
Reared a Good Calvinistic Baptist
My immediate family didn’t attend any church regularly until I was about 12 years old. We began attending church when an associate pastor of the local Baptist church moved a cross the Street from us and invited our family to join them at services. Perhaps realizing that it was not wise to neglect the spiritual development of their children, my parents agreed to go, and my active spiritual life began. Having not really been involved in church earlier in my life, I really knew almost nothing about the Bible. I developed a strong spiritual interest, and I was eager to learn all that I could.
In my late teen years, I began to play guitar professionally in a Christian rock band. Also, I took a job working at the local Christian bookstore. Part of my job requirement was that I’d be very well read on the inventory within our store. As a result, even at the young age of about 18 years old, I had read probably hundreds of books on theology, doctrine, and Protestant Church history. I probably understood Calvinistic theology and Premillennial eschatology as well (or better) as the Baptist Church staff I attended. My reading would have been essentially what those in mainline protestant denominations or evangelical churches embrace.
I distinctly remember the day that I told my family of my desire to go to seminary and become a Baptist pastor. They encouraged me in that, and said that people had prayed for generations that a preacher would arise out of the family. The Baptist Church of which I was a member also encouraged me, and I began to do a considerable amount of work within the congregation. Ultimately, I began doing preaching work at Baptist churches, presentations before youth groups, and worked as an assistant to the Sunday school director.
While I was working with the Baptist Church, I was also attending a Baptist University in preparation for my seminary studies at Dallas Theological Seminary (Ground Zero for the modern Premillennial eschatology movement). It was fairly normal for me to give “faith only” invitations, work at evangelistic rallies, deliver sermons and messages, and teach classes involving sometimes intricate areas of Calvinistic theology and eschatology.
To be completely honest, most people attending Baptist churches don’t really know their theology. Baptist theology is deeply rooted in Calvinism, yet most Baptists would deny they are Calvinistic. The entire basis of “once saved, always saved” is that you cannot be lost, because you did nothing of your own accord to be saved in the first place! I was a little unique in that my reading schedule at the bookstore had resulted in me not only knowing what I believed, but also having a thorough understanding of exactly why I believed it. Further, I was extremely zealous and evangelistic in teaching the “truth” of Calvinism, and all that it contained: original sin, the impossibility of apostasy, unconditional predestination, etc.
(Although churches with Calvinistic theology are perceived as teaching “faith only” salvation, in truth they teach “nothing only” salvation. A genuine Calvinist would tell you that you have done absolutely nothing for your salvation—you were unconditionally selected before time began by God. A common Calvinistic line is “you did not choose God; God chose you.” Because this essentially makes all evangelistic activities pointless, this element of Calvinism is generally forgotten.)
My Beliefs Radically Changed.
I met a young lady who was attending the church of Christ in the neighboring town. We started dating, and I agreed to visit her church on Wednesday evening. When I got there, I was astonished to find that I disagreed with almost the entirety of their doctrine and theology. This was clearly not the “faith only salvation,” “once saved always saved,” unconditional Calvinistic theology that I embraced so dearly. In fact, I had determined that my new goal was to convert the entire congregation to the “truths” of Calvinism, and committed to attending their midweek Bible study every week until I had succeeded.
Because I was now attending their Bible study, the church there began a new Bible study on denominational error. As our study went along, we evaluated characteristic error taught within various denominational churches. Much of the error we were studying were things that I held very dearly as true.
Perhaps the very first element in my theology to fall was the idea that denominations were acceptable. Within most denominational churches, it is often accepted as a good trait that there are so many different churches to choose from. That way, people can always find a church that they agree with. Of course, the problem with this is it sets man as the ultimate arbiter of truth, rather than the scriptures. God’s expectation of us is that we conform ourselves to the truth of the word of God, not that we just move around until we can find people who agree to ignore the same portions of scripture (see Rom 3:4).
Much to my surprise, I found myself completely unprepared to deal with the rather pointed questions I was being asked about my beliefs. What about men with long hair who claim to be godly? (see 1 Cor 11:14). This was problematic for me because I was a long-haired hippie type playing in a Christian rock band. When asked about the frequency of which we observed the Lord ‘s Supper at the Baptist Church, I could only reply that we did so quarterly, four times a year, for no other reason than “that’s just the way we do it” (see Acts 20:7). When asked why I didn’t teach baptism was essential to salvation, I would rely on passages such as John 3:16, while admittedly ignoring passages such as Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38.
I did not understand the principle of the homogeny of scripture (John 10:3 5; Acts 15:15), and was genuinely surprised to learn that I had significant holes in my Bible knowledge.
I had preached, taught, and performed concerts in and around Baptist churches for years. I was attending a Baptist University. I had at this time read extensively on doctrine and theology. I had been formally educated in Biblical languages. But one thing I had not done was actually read the Bible much. Amazingly enough, I had logged thousands of hours in studying about the Bible, but comparatively little time actually in the Bible itself. I began to see where my studies had almost systematically avoided large segments of scripture. You can imagine my shock when someone read me James 2:24. I think I probably responded somewhat like Martin Luther, and thought to myself, “that just doesn’t belong in the Bible.” I was amazed that I had never seen that before.
I remember sitting in a Baptist worship service when the senior pastor’s wife went to the pulpit and proclaimed, “Many people are proud to be Christians. But I want you to know, that I’m proud to be a Baptist.” I remember exactly where I was sitting. I will never forget it. Never. I was absolutely devastated. I remember thinking to myself, “This is so wrong! We have a woman preaching about how proud she is that we have divided up the body of Christ. I just can’t do this anymore.” I determined right then that I would not be a Baptist pastor. Instead, I changed my plan to pastoring a nondenominational evangelical church. I was making progress, but I still wasn’t there yet.
My plan to “convert” the local church of Christ was not going as I had intended. Instead, I found major tenets of my theology being shot down one right after another. Clearly man had a free will, as God had given men many occasions to make a choice. It was also evident that the Bible taught about a faith that did not save. Even with my Baptist Church invitations, I appealed to Romans 10:10 which teaches the necessity of confession. For years I had managed to miss that faith plus confession did not equal faith only. Our salvation was not unconditional, but was very conditional upon an obedient faith.
And then I had the night at the church of Christ that I will never forget.
I was sitting on the back row, when someone in passing read 1 John 3:15: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” This was the straw that broke the camel’s back! I remember feeling somewhat shell-shocked at that passage. I had to have been visibly stunned. I turned to the person next to me and said, “Do you realize that this passage says if you are a murderer, you don’t have eternal life?” She said, “Of course, everybody knows that.” I replied, “You’re wrong —everybody doesn’t know that.”
Within Calvinistic theology, once a person has eternal life, it can never be forfeited. I had already determined that man had a free will. Therefore, I knew it was within the realm of possibility for a Christian to choose to commit murder. And if that Christian could choose to commit murder, 1 John 3:15 said he would not have eternal life. “Once saved, always saved” was now gone. I had pretty much come to the conclusion that 80% or more of what I believed was not true.
I spoke with a preacher at the church of Christ, and told him my concerns. He pointed out that I took passages out of context in order to support a position I had already decided upon. To avoid this problem, I read through the entire Bible in essentially one sitting over the course of three or four days. Thereafter, I went back to the Baptist Church and told them I was leaving. My final stop that day was for scriptural baptism (Titus 3:5; Col 2:12). I am now privileged to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
Again, I would be happy to help anyone to overcome the same issues that I had in my life. Please let me know if I can help.
Why I left the Methodist Church
By Earl E. Robertson
In my early childhood my father and mother ceased faithfulness to the Lord and, during this period, mother insisted I go to a nearby Methodist Church. She said it would help me be a better person in life. This influence only caused me to surrender to the teachings of this denomination. I was energetic in the work of this religious order, and tried to influence others. In these early impressive years parents should exercise much care for their children’s regimentation to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4)
1. The Human Origin of Methodism.
The Methodist Church developed in the movement led by John Wesley early in the eighteenth-century Evangelical Revival in England. Wesley was an Anglican priest and felt the Anglican Church lacked piety or “scriptural holiness.” What he started was called a Society at the beginning, but this culminated in the Methodist Church. Seeking holiness or a closer walk with God they used various “methods” to achieve their objective; in derision their enemies called them “Methodists.” These “methods” were employed in trial and error looking for the ones that worked to their advantage. These various local societies of humans used whatever they thought might lead to the degree of holiness to satisfy themselves.
The Methodist Church has never claimed to be the church founded by Jesus. Its early mission was to “spread religion.” Their historians say, “Coming late in the history of Christianity, it was able to profit by the experiences of other Churches,” so, confessed to be too late to be the church established by Christ. (The meaning of Methodism, 25). The same author says, “It cannot claim to be ‘the Church,’ because everybody knows that it did not come into existence as an organization until 1739” (Ibid., 127). Being human in origin it possessed the inherent right to change its doctrine at the will of its founder, and this became the reason for early defections by many of its most noble and able preachers.
It is true that Jesus founded his church on the first Pentecost following his resurrection from the dead as promised by the prophets of God and affirmed to have been fulfilled by the apostles (Isa 2:1-4; Acts 2:1-47). This church is identified in scripture as the kingdom of God (Matt 16:18-19; Col 1:13), and the body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). This church of Christ and the Methodist Church are two different churches; one acting under the authority of the New Testament and the other under the authority of The Methodist Discipline. From the fundamental fact, the earliest problems I experienced were created: why create a church that is human in origin and function when Jesus already has one that he built and controls? In studying the Bible I began to see our church and our actions were outside the scripture. This is troubling to one who believes in doing only as the Bible teaches (Col 3:17).
2. Human Doctrines vs. the Bible
I left the Methodist Church because it teaches justification is by “faith only” (Discipline, Article 9, p. 13), but the bible says it is “not by faith only” (James 2:24). The Bible emphatically teaches justification by faith, but not by faith only. God demands faith in pleasing him (Heb. 11:6), but faith that does not act is not saving faith. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Belief only is not what Jesus said. He requires both belief and baptism for salvation. The Methodist Church does not teach what Jesus taught for salvation.
This fact was vividly impressed upon me in a sermon preached by J. Ermin Poer on the conversion of the eunuch in Acts 8. Carefully he showed how the eunuch, after having had Christ preached to him from Isaiah 53, came to believe that Jesus is the Christ, confessed that faith openly, and was baptized into Christ for the remission of his sins (Acts 8:34-39). I read along as Poer read aloud this account of a New Testament conversion, and I then was convinced of its accuracy; I was cut to the heart like those at Jerusalem on Pentecost (Acts 2:36-38)s. Just as the eunuch “went on his way rejoicing,” so did I following my scriptural baptism!
Furthermore, the Methodist Church grants choices in modes of baptism, but the Bible uses the term “burial” for baptism (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12). Burial shows the action of the word baptize. The Bible simply calls it a burial. Pour and sprinkle do not meet the lexical and definitive demands in the word baptize. When the evangelist Philip baptized the eunuch the Bible says, “both Philip and eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him … now when they came up out of the water” (Acts 8:38 NKJV) This action is as W. E. Vine state's: “baptism, consisting of the processes of immersion, submersion and emergence” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 1, p. 96). It is down into the water and a coming up out of the water; it is a new birth. Pour or sprinkle are mere substitutes for what God says, and when either one is used God is not obeyed at all.
The Methodist Church sprinkles babies and calls it baptism. Our Lord shows the one to be baptized is one that believes and repents of his sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:36-38). A baby can do neither. The Discipline taught up to 1910 that babies are “conceived and born in sin” and needed water sprinkled on them to enter the kingdom of God, but following this date the creed was changed, saying, the baby is “conceived and born in Christ,” and this statement is used in the stated ceremony of the sprinkling (baptism). After all this The Discipline informs us that baptism is not essential for salvation, though Jesus and the apostles said it is (John 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21).
3. Changing Human Doctrines vs. Unchanging Divine Truth
Across the years The Discipline has changed often, but the Bible continues to say the same thing on every subject (Psa 119:89, 1 Pet 1:22-23). Instrumental music in worship disturbed me after I was challenged to give a biblical reason for using it. I soon was forced through my own studies to say I couldn’t find in the Bible authorization for it. At this time in my life I did not understand and appreciate the fact that what the church Jesus built does in worship it must have Bible authority for (John 4:24).
This where the problem with instrumental music became my problem. The Bible says, “Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). The action in the verbs singing and making melody have the human heart as their direct object; inspiration names the instrument on which the music is made - the human heart. “Music” is generic; “sing” is specific. The Lord was specific when he names the species of music - sing. The Lord’s statement authorizes only what he named; the use of any other species of music is an addition and is without divine authority (1 Cor 4:6, Matt 7:21-24). Being satisfied with exactly what the Lord teaches on worship is the acceptable attitude one must have toward his authority (2 Tim 1:13). Being unable to find Bible authority for instrumental music in worship, though The Discipline teaches its acceptance, I was convinced to leave the Methodist Church.
I then wanted to go to heaven, and still do, above all other objectives. I am convinced that in order to make this transition I have to be honest with myself and with God; I must reverence him and his word (Luke 8:15; Isa 66:2). This honest conviction moved me to commitment; commitment to walk by faith that comes from God’s word (Rom 10:17) demanded my departure from the Methodist Church to fellowship in the body of Christ which is his church (Eph 1:22-23; Rom 16:16).
Why I Left the Lutheran Church
By Brent Forsyth
“From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psa 119:104). I have discovered in my years in Christ that some brethren don’t like articles on denominations, especially ones that show by the Bible what might be wrong with them. This is not an article designed to “bash” anyone in the Lutheran Church. It is not an article that denies that there are good people within the Lutheran Church.
However, when it comes to one’s eternal destiny, it is not a time for pride (James 4:6-10). I am thankful that a family of Christians took the time and cared enough about me to show what believing in God and the Bible was really about. Hopefully, my story will help you in teaching your neighbor from the Lutheran Church.
My parents enrolled me in a Lutheran school in California starting in kindergarten. They also attended the large Lutheran church located right next door. I remember learning over the next six years the biblical stories of Joseph, Abraham, and Moses. I recall the people at church always being friendly and smiling. The teachers were topnotch and every morning began with a Bible lesson. I would worship with about a 1,000 people each Sunday. We had an organ, choirs, handbells, trumpets, sermons, and pastors who wore white robes with colorful sashes around their necks. I grew up with kids that didn’t use four letter words or listen to music with disgusting lyrics. I had teachers that, when someone was bad they didn’t get sent to the principal, but to the corner to pray for forgiveness (who would you rather talk to—the principal or God?). At age seven I went through “Confinnation” classes. I’m not sure what all that was about, mostly memorizing stuff so that at the end I could take the Lord’s Supper.
The Lutheran Church taught me that the Bible was the inspired word of God. I learned that Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sins. I was educated that God created marriage between a man and a woman. I learned about the Godhead, which is usually termed “the Trinity.” With all these positives one might wonder why I ever left.
Where is the True Church of the Bible?
Among all the positives, there was one big negative—I learned the Lutheran Church was not the church Christ built (Matt 15:13; 16:18; 28:20). I discovered this from my neighbors, who were simply Christians, who invited me to study the Bible with them. The Bible study didn’t just happen overnight. Instend, it came about because we had developed a relationship with each other. The father would invite me to play basketball with his friends from church. The mother would invite me over to talk. They had a daughter a year younger than I who I was hoping to date, but that was not in the cards. The reason I was willing to study the Bible with them was not just because I wanted to learn more about God’s word (I really did), but because I knew they cared about me. I have since learned in my own studies with others that developing relationships and trust with unbelievers is often the first step to converting someone (1 Cor 9:19-23). Some might call this “relationship evangelism” (Acts 19:3 1).
I can’t say that I remember every lesson they taught me, but I remember that first one. I recall I was quite excited. I was going to impress them, showing how much I knew about the Bible. I even brought my Lutheran Catechism along. I had never really used it before, but I was Lutheran so I had to take it, right? In the end, I was shocked to find out that I didn’t really know that much about the Bible. They took me through a summary of the Bible and then started showing me where all the denominations came from. I use this same lesson today, though I don’t start with it (see Mark 4:33).
That was my introduction to the church of Christ we read about in the New Testament. In the Lutheran Church I had been taught that everyone is different, but everyone is okay as long as they believe in Jesus. The Lutheran Church was very casual when it came to the Bible. They taught it, but whether you actually followed it was up to the individual. In fact, the only thing they really kept track of was your contribution.
As I studied with my neighbors I began to compare both religions. I attended the Lutheran church at 8:00 in the morning. Then I would drive over to the church of Christ by 9:30 for Bible class and worship and then back at 6:00 p.m. I started to see that God has given us the Bible to follow faithfully—not casually. It is our standard—not a general guide.
Respecting Bible Authority
Here are some of the passages that helped me the most to learn the importance of carefully following God’s Word:
1. Galatians 1:6-10
I saw that no one has a right to change the gospel, not even an angel. As I looked at the Lutheran Church I had to admit that there were many manmade traditions. Matt. 15:1-9 also opened my eyes in this regard
2. Revelation 22 :18-19
This enforced to me that no one is allowed to ignore or add commands to God’s word. Again, there were things in the Lutheran Church I simply could not find in the Bible and some things in the Bible I couldn’t find in the Lutheran Church.
3. Leviticus 10:1-3
This is the account of Nadab and Abihu offering up strange fire to the Lord. As I saw that God took their lives for profaning only one thing in his divine plan. It made a big impact in me. Soon to follow were lessons on the true nature of Christ’s church and Christian responsibilities to God.
All along was the issue of baptism. I even remember going over to my neighbor’s house to ask them if they thought I should be baptized again. Though I was sure I would be one day, I wanted to investigate this closer. I was baptized as a baby in the Lutheran Church. Here it was to be the happiest day of my life and I couldn’t even recall it (though I did have a picture to confirm it did happen). In The Lutheran Catechism the question is asked, “What is baptism?” The answer is, “To baptize is to apply water by washing, pouring, sprinkling, or immersing.” A careful study of baptism in the New Testament proved to me that “sprinkling,” practiced by the Lutheran Church, was not biblical baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom 6:3-5; Col 2:12; Tim 3:5; 1 Pet 3:21)
Another question posed in The Catechism was, “Who is to be baptized?” The answer, “Those that can receive instruction are to be baptized after they have been instructed in principle doctrines of the Christian religion.” That sounded good, but then why was I baptized as a baby? The answer was found in this question: “What about children?” The answer is “Infants are to be baptized for they are included in the words of all nations (Matt 28:19).” A sub-point to that answer is what really blew me away “Infants too can believe (Mattl8:6).” That was news to me; I couldn’t even remember my baptism, let alone believe!
What really troubled me was the answer to this question:
“Can anyone be saved without baptism?” The answer, “A person can be saved if they believe in Jesus Christ before their death.” I knew that wasn’t what Jesus said in Mark 16:16.
Overcoming The Final Obstacle
Yes, I was ready to be baptized, but there was still one obstacle— my family. I was around twenty years old when I began studying with my neighbors. I was old enough to make my own decisions; however, like many, I found it difficult to leave the fact that I was “Lutheran.” It really does become an identity. It is not just turning away from a church, but from family as well. How could I no longer follow the “family” religion? How could I tell my parents that I was baptized when, in their mind, I already was? How would I explain missing a family get-together because I wanted to be with my brethren worshiping God? For those who have been in the church for many years, it may be difficult to understand why it takes some so long to be baptized, but this is a big part of the delay.
It’s not that I didn’t love God; it was being committed enough to make a complete life change. Isn’t that what baptism is really all about? I finally found the strength through Christ to respond to the invitation and remember being splashed with hugs and kisses from the brethren (1 Pet 1:22).
The years following my baptism brought great growth in faith and God’s word. Through the love and encouragement of a great congregation I grew to lead prayers, teach Bible class, and preach sermons. Today, I have been preaching for eleven years (two of those in Romania). I married a wonderful Christian wife and have three children I am trying to bring up in the Lord. I often wonder what my life would have been if Christians had not taken the time to care, love, and teach me. The people in the Lutheran Church were loving, sincere, and dedicated, but didn’t compare to my brethren who put God first and self last (Luke 9:23).
Why I Left the Pentecostal Church
By Larry Sharpe
I grew up Southern Baptist. At 12, my family became involved in the booming charismatic movement that believed in modem miracles and tongue-speaking. We began attending a Pentecostal congregation of the Assemblies of God.
Imagine the “culture shock” of going from a sedate Southern Baptist church to a shouting, clapping, tongues speaking, “holy roller” church. At our first visit, I was terrified. A man was circling the auditorium shouting. There were people everywhere speaking gibberish, and I was ready to leave and never return. But, we kept attending. The more we attended, the more we got used to it, and it became home. I enjoyed going and became active, often giving my “testimony.”
I sought the “gift of tongues,” which, eventually I received (I thought). I never questioned my religion or experiences much. They were real to me. My emotions backed up what I believed to be true. In my late teens, a young family moved next-door to us. The wife had grown up Nazarene, and her husband was “heathen,” but was “converted” by his wife to the Nazarenes. J.R. and Sue Bronger were great people, and we became good friends. They were zealous in their religion, so we had common interests.
J.R. became the basketball coach for the Nazarene church he attended, and he asked me to play for him. I went to church with them some, but still attended regularly the Assemblies of God.
1. The Influence of the Truth
Then, things began to change with J.R. He began to listen to a Louisville radio program, broadcasted by the South End Church of Christ with Ken Green. He pointed out errors in denominationalism from scripture. In time J.R. became convinced he was not saved because he had not done what the Bible taught in order to be saved (Acts 2:38). He believed in God and had obeyed Nazarene teaching, but had not done what the Bible said to have his sins washed away (Acts 22:16).
He eventually was immersed into Christ for the remission of sins. J.R. had now left denominational error and was baptized into Christ and added to the one church or body of the saved (Eph 1:22-23; 5:23,26). In his zeal he wanted to convert
his family and friends. When he tried to help me, I became angry. He told me I had not been saved because I, too, had not obeyed the Bible. And, I was in error in many ways, my soul being in danger.
I told him he could keep his new-found religion. I was just fine, thank you. There were times I was hateful with him. To his credit, J.R. kept his cool (Pray 15:1). Later, he told me there were occasions he wanted to pinch my head off.
But, how could I not be saved? I was sincere. I thought I was doing God’s will, and I felt good about my beliefs. How could I be wrong and lost? Are not all good people of every denomination going to be in heaven?
My journey began. I did not give in easily, and resented J.R. even though he was my friend. Some of the Pentecostal members would say negative things about the “Church of Christ.” I was confused. There was a great struggle in my heart. These new teachings seemed too narrow. I had never heard this before. In time, I fully surrendered to Christ. It was not easy but it was right.
And this article is written in the hope of helping people “come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). Christians should reach out in love and concern for people.
2. Fully Following God’s Will
One of the biggest reasons I changed was because it does matter what we believe and how we approach God. Most denominations teach that all good people of every “Christian sect” will be saved. They say: “Doctrine does not matter as long as you are sincere.” But, the Bible stresses over and over the importance of what we believe and how we approach God (Matt 7:13-14, Luke 6:46, John 8:31-32, Heb 5:9). That is as fundamental as any teaching in God’s word.
God is holy and we must approach him as he directs (Lev 19:1-2; 1 Pet 1:15-16). The Lord struck Nadab and Abihu dead for their sin of offering “strange fire” which he had not commanded (Lev 10:1-3). And Jesus said in Matthew 15:9 that worship could be empty, or vain. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus states that many in the last day would be rejected even though they claimed to do things in his name. But, he will tell them he never knew them because they worked lawlessness. They did that for which they had no authority.
We Pentecostals were big on the “name” of Jesus. We would say, “In the name of Jesus we do this, or bind that, or cast out Satan.” But, “in the name of someone” means to do that “by their authority.” If someone stole your checkbook and began to write checks “in your name,” they would be signing your name but would not have your approval or authority. So, just because we use the name of God does not mean we have his approval. We must go to scripture for all we do (Col 3:17).
God emphatically states, “Do not add or take away from my word” (Deut 4:2; Prov 30:5-6; 2 John 9; Rev 22:18-19). There were dire consequences when people acted without authority from God, such as Saul’s partial obedience (1 Sam 15) or Uzzah’s death when he irreverently touched the ark without authority (1 Chron 13:1-13; 15:1-3,13-15). I never heard this before. It does matter how we approach God! He says doctrine is important (1 Pet 4:11; Mark 7:1-13).
3. Following God’s Way of Conversion
Another reason I left is because I had not done what the Bible said to have my sins forgiven. I was always taught baptism had nothing to do with salvation. The denominations teach salvation by “faith only,” or by “praying through” at the altar, or by saying “the sinner’s prayer.” They teach that a person needs to be baptized, not to be saved, but to show they have been saved. I had been immersed as a Baptist and a Pentecostal, but not for the forgiveness of my sins, which the Bible teaches (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet 3:21).
Question: Do you believe a person must be in Christ to be saved? Is that not what the Bible teaches (2 Cor 5:17)? So, how does a person get into Christ? Galatians 3:27 states we are baptized into Christ. Now, how can a person be in Christ before baptism? If he is not in Christ, he is not saved. That is a logical conclusion. The New Testament teaches faith, repentance, confession (Rom 10:9-10), and immersion in water to have our sins cleansed (Rom 6:17-18,4-6). I had never heard that before. If I had not done what the Bible said I was still in my sins. That is when I began to look more critically at my experiences and feelings. If my experiences were not lining up with the word, then which is wrong? My emotions or God’s word?
4. The Original, Undenominational Church
Something else which caused me to leave Pentecostalism, though it took a long time to see, was that in the New Testament there were no denominations. There was no Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, or Pentecostal churches, etc. I had obeyed adulterated Baptist and Pentecostal teachings, but had not obeyed pure Bible teaching. Those doctrines put me in those churches, but I was not yet in Christ, and added to his church body of saved people (Acts 2:38, 41, 47: 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22-23). Biblically, the church of Christ is the saved. As people were immersed into Christ their sins were forgiven and they became part of the New Testament church (Mart 16:18). There was only one church body (Eph 4:4). These folks from the church of Christ were trying to get me to leave denominationalism, the churches of men, and simply be a Christian, a part of the Lord’s one church. God wants us to be united in Christ, not divided (John 17:20-2 1, 1 Cor 1:10). Here were some people who were doing things according to the New Testament, and that began to appeal to me.
5. Trust God’s Truth, Not Your Feelings
It’s hard to let go of long-held beliefs. We cling to what is comfortable. Those emotions, feelings, and “experiences” often take precedence over the word of God (Rom 10:2). Emotions are a big appeal of Pentecostalism. It was hard to let go. But the word is our objective standard. It will judge us in the last day (John. 12:48), not our emotions, or religious experiences, because these can be misleading (Prov 14:12, Matt 7:22).
A newspaper article a few years ago stated there was a “Flat Earth Society.” The 2,800 members believe the earth is flat. Suppose you were trying to convince a member the earth was round. You show pictures of the earth from space as evidence. But then they said, “I feel in my heart the earth is flat.”
Even if their emotions back them up, the evidence does not. They are wrong, period! Do people not do the same thing with the Bible? Here is what the Bible says to do to be saved, and people have not done that. Who is wrong? Paul was once deceived. He thought he was right with God when he was not (Acts 26:9; 1 Tim 1:12-17). Paul said many of the Jews were religiously zealous, but lost (Rom 10:1-3). The heart can be deceptive (Jer 17:9)! If you want to believe what you are taught is true, your emotions will back that up. In Genesis 37 Jacob thought Joseph was dead, but he was not. Jacob mourned as though he were. His feelings confirmed the erroneous information. So, trust God’s word, not your feelings (Prov 3:5, 14:12)! It alone is truth (John 17:17).
Miracles (divine intervention suspending natural law) have ceased (Zech 13:1-4). God is still all-powerful, but he is today working providentially. The miracles of the New Testament were temporary, confirming Jesus was the Christ, and the apostles were his messengers (John 3:2; Acts 1:8). When the New Testament revelation was completed (1 Cor 13:8-10), miracles ceased (Mark 16:19-20; Heb.2:3-4). The New Testament is complete (Jude 3, John 16:13). The word is what we need to guide us (2 Tim 3:16).
As a Pentecostal, I never saw a miracle like the lame or blind healed or the dead raised. They came unhealed and left unhealed. One of the greatest “miracles” of Pentecostalism was that I did not have the eyes to see the truth (2 Thess 2:9-12), but let the power of suggestion and emotions blind me.
May the good Lord help us all to see his truth. Glory to him!
Why I Left Liberalism in Churches of Christ
By Rodney Pitts
“Hold fast to the pattern of sound words” (2 Tim 1:13). The differences between liberal and conservative churches of Christ are widening every year. Once these differences would likely be perceived only by checking a church’s budget to see if it supported certain human institutions to do the local church’s work, such is not the case today. What began about 50 years ago as small departures in the areas of the organization and work of the local church has resulted in many liberal churches today being on the fast tract to all out apostasy from scriptural authority.
Although this may sound harsh, the proof is abundant. In recent years a very large number of “Churches of Christ” have begun building and maintaining gymnasiums, providing for all sorts of recreational activities for their members, discarding “traditional” worship and adding instrumental music to their services, having fellowship with denominations, and even denying the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins.
As these differences grow more apparent, you would expect members of “conservative” churches of Christ to be aware of these differences and their significance. Yet, with each passing year fewer and fewer have a clear understanding of these issues about biblical authority regulating and limiting the collective work of the church. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col 3:17).
Because of the desperate need for a better understanding of these differences and because of my own departure from liberalism, I would like to explore some of the major reasons why I left liberalism.
1. Liberal churches of Christ are heavily involved in the Social Gospel.
One of the first issues I had to face was the question of whether the local church has biblical authority to provide social/recreational activities for its members and others. In looking back, I am convinced that this should be the first place to start any discussion with institutional brethren (Matt 21:25). For, if they cannot be convinced about this error, they.are not likely to be convinced of any other.
I sought to defend church sponsored recreation by claiming it to be biblical “fellowship.” I believed, like most of these brethren, that since fellowship is basically defined as “sharing,” church recreation and social activities were authorized as a form of “sharing” among Christians.
There are, however, serious problems with this approach. For, the argument itself involves the error of reasoning from spec~fic examples of “fellowship” back to a generic, howbeit unspoken, command for churches to “fellowship.” And, once this “unspoken” generic command is assumed, the door is open for churches to apply it however they see fit, including church sponsored recreation.
Although the Holy Spirit used the word “fellowship” to describe the sharing, or oneness, that takes place in Christians’ communion in worship (Acts 2:42), in the helping of needy saints (2 Cor 8:3-4), and in supporting the preaching of the gospel (Phil 4:16), this in no way allows us to reason back to some generic command to social “fellowship” that God never revealed. To reason this way would be like assuming that because the Greek word psallo, which means to “make melody,” is used to describe what is to take place in the heart of Christians when they sing (Eph 5:19), we are at liberty, therefore, to assume that there is a “generic” command to psallo that we can apply as we see fit, including “making melody” on mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the church.
Fellowship, when found in relationship to the local church, is always spiritual. Nowhere is it used to refer to recreation or coffee and doughnuts. When this is coupled with the fact that there is no command, example, or necessary inference for the church to provide recreation for its members, we are left with the conclusion that to do so is to add to God’ s word, to act without authority, and to sin by presumption (1 Cor 4:6; Rev 22:18- 19).
2. Liberal brethren do not acknowledge the Biblical distinction in the work of the individual and that of the local church.
When those in institutionalism seek to defend their many extra-biblical projects, it is commonly argued that “whatever the individual Christian can do, the local church can do.” In other words, if God allows an individual Christian to do something, such as providing recreation for the family, etc, then the local church can provide it as well.
While this approach may sound reasonable, its logical and biblical errors are many. For, although the individual Christian is allowed to marry, go on vacation to Disneyland, pay for cable TV, buy sports cars, etc, a local church cannot use its treasury to provide such things for its members. Will anyone argue that I can just go to the local church and get funds for my vacation out of the treasury? If not, then what the individual is allowed to do says nothing about what the local church is authorized to do!
Others, however, realizing the problems with this approach, try to defend this lack of distinction by arguing that “whatever an individual Christian is commanded to do as a Christian, the local church can do.” Now, this may seem more reasonable; but it riddled with problems as well. For, the individual Christian is commanded to involve himself in some sort of profit-making enterprise so as to have something to give to the needy (Eph. 4:28). Simply because an individual Christian is does in no way give authority to the local church to run a business to help the needy. The local church is only authorized to receive funds through free-will giving (1 Cor 16:1-4; Acts 4:32-35, etc).
In addition, this lack of distinction denies the plain teaching of 1 Timothy 5. Here Paul makes it clear that the individual Christian is to care for his/her widows so that the church may help “widows who are really widows” (5:1-4). He goes on to say that “if any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows” (5:16). If the local church can do whatever the individual Christian is commanded to do, this passage becomes meaningless! Thus, to deny this distinction is to deny the teaching of God’s word.
3: Liberal churches of Christ pervert the role and limitations of elders.
God intends for every congregation to mature to the point of having its own eldership (Titus 1 :5ff.; Acts 14:23). I say “mature” because all who would be elders must “grow”to meet stringent, yet divinely issued qualifications (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Once appointed, God has limited an eldership’s oversight to the affairs of the “flock of God which is among [them]”(1 Pet. 5:1-4; Acts 20:28). In other words, elders are limited to overseeing the work of the church of which they are members.
Institutional churches, however, ignore the role and limitations of elders through their practice of the “sponsoring church.” In this arrangement, an eldership moves from its God-given role of local oversight to act as a “board of directors” over a “multi-church” project. Such projects involve a team of churches united together under the oversight of the sponsoring “eldership” to accomplish a work far bigger than a local church’s budget can afford and larger than any one church can accomplish. As such, the sponsoring church willingly becomes dependent on these “funding churches” to have enough money to complete this project, while the funding churches willingly submit to the oversight of the sponsoring eldership in relationship to this project.
The end results are twofold. First, there is an obvious compromising of God’s limitations placed on elders to “shepherd the flock of God which is among you” (1 Pet 5:1-4). For, a sponsoring eldership oversees the work of a “team of churches,” for which they have no biblical authority. Second, there is a loss of autonomy, or self-rule, in the area of this project by these “funding churches.”
Some try to deny this loss of autonomy by arguing that churches willingly participate and can withdraw from this “team” at any time. Yet, this answer is insufficient. For, autonomy can only be given up “willingly.” Consider the following illustration. When a boy chooses to join a baseball team, he is choosing to submit to the will of the
coach in that particular area of his life. Although he can quit the team at any time, as long as he continues to be part of the team, he willingly gives up a portion of his autonomy to the coach. Such is also the case for the “funding churches” in the sponsoring church arrangement.
Although there are many other reasons I could cite, it is my hope that these will suffice in calling attention to some of the serious problems of liberalism in churches of Christ. Although I continue to study these issues regularly, and I encourage all to do so, I am convinced that a great many practices of these churches are in contradiction to the plain and simple gospel of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, it was necessary that I “come out from among them” that I might serve the Lord in purity and truth. And, I implore all who might read this to study these matters carefully and take the same stand for the truth of Christ. “If you abide in my Word, you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:32).