Baptism, Whew!

What follows is a series of emails I exchanged with Doug Serven five years ago when I was trying to wrap my brain around all the infant baptism teaching in the PCA. I’m bumping it up here as a starter point for those of you who asked me about it this past week. Feel free to ask more questions in the comments and I’ll find someone who can answer them.

Megan: Doug, This is Megan, writing you with what is probably Presbyterian 101 basic stuff, but something I need some education on, if you don’t mind. Can you explain the baptism thing to me? I don’t even necessarily mean the infant baptism as much as the believer’s baptism and being sprinkled and whatnot. I realize that my Baptist upbringing has played a big role in developing what I’ve always thought to be scriptural baptism, but am now wondering if it is indeed scriptural, or simply the Baptist way.

Any insight you can send my way would be greatly appreciated. We’re going to be “Presbyterian” again in about 5 weeks and would just like to have something else to help develop my thinking in this area.

Doug: Megan – That’s a great question. Glad you asked. I hadn’t heard the news that you were going Presby again. Village Seven or somewhere else? This is going to be a pretty long answer, but mostly a first installment I suppose.

Hmmm… a few preparation thoughts. I grew up Methodist, so had seen a thousand babies baptized. When in college, I was Baptist, then EFree, then of course Countryside with JB. I’d say it took a good year or two for me to get my mind around inf baptism – it just seemed so contrary to what was right, what the Scriptures said. And then when we did sort of embrace it, we were in another quandary. Our church didn’t believe in it. And it seemed like we should be getting baptized in accordance to what our church believed, not off in a corner somewhere with Jimmy Covey and a bowl of water in our living room. So we held off. We baptized Ruth and Cal together in Lincoln. So I’m not saying that this is/was an easy process, especially if you’ve grown up Baptist all your life.

Also, don’t forget that you don’t have to believe in inf bapt to be a member of a PCA church. That can grow on you. Obviously, you will see many inf bapts and may or may not be able to handle it, but it’s not a requirement of membership. It is of elders and deacons though, naturally. That being said, I think it’s an important issue bc it gets at a lot of what I’m going to say below as to how we read and understand the Bible and also how we think of our children and their standing with God.

Megan: Why does the covenantal perspective matter with how we think of our children and their standing with God?

Doug: Why did God treat his people in terms of covenant from the beginning of time?

Megan: I don’t know.

Doug: Okay – but he did. The point is that for some reason he thinks that this is important and this is how he has always done things.

First question – is the OT and the NT essentially the same or essentially different? Between the time and pages of Malachi and Matthew, how much of the story of God’s people changed? Another way of asking – would the NT believers assume continunity or discontinuity with the OT? How you answer this question goes a long way in forming your opinion of many topics, inf bapt included. A continuity perspective would be considered “covenantal” (and of course there is not a complete continuity, ie, the New Covenant, Jesus, etc). A discontinuity one would be considered “dispensational” (and of course it is not completely different from their perspective either).

This question really matters, for it lurks under our reading of the same Bible like a culture – unnamed, unmasked, unacknowledged.

I’m assuming/arguing for a continuity/covenantal outlook on the Bible. We are the same people as those in the OT. Israel is the church of the OT. The church is the new Israel. We assume continuity when the Bible is unclear.

Megan: If I’m going to be honest here, I must say I’ve never really understood “dispensationalism” or why it did or didn’t matter. So I’m not having difficulty in switching from the Baptist belief there to the “covenantal” one.

Here’s another one of my problems, Doug. Growing up, I believed and trusted the leadership I was around (Baptist). I embraced their teaching. I went to college and saw some discrepancies, so I changed my thinking. That has been happening to me for the last ten years. What I’m afraid of doing now, is just switching to another denomination and again, believing and trusting the leadership, so embracing their teaching. The practical reality is that I can’t go to seminary. I am feeling on top of things if I even remember to have a quiet time, so pouring hours into figuring all of this out doesn’t really seem possible either.

Doug: Fill me in on what kind of changes you’ve made over the past ten years. You don’t have to figure it all out, like I mentioned. Glad you’re asking. Some of it comes slowly, over time.

Megan: Mostly all basic Baptist beliefs. From the views on election vs man’s choosing to dumb things like drinking and dancing. There are a lot of random things I was taught that are just someone’s personal moral code plugged into church doctrine. It took me a while to figure that out.

Megan: So what’s my responsibility here? Do I just put myself under the authority of those I believe God is leading me to do so (ie: Village 7) and then believe what they say? Am I really supposed to spend hours myself trying to figure this out?

Doug: I guess you need to follow your husband and trust that he isn’t leading you into heresy. After that, like I said, all you have to believe to join a PCA church is in Jesus as Savior. You can disagree with Inf baptism and the 5 points all you want. Just don’t get mad when they teach it and baptize babies. That’s why they’re teaching this stuff in the new members class.

Doug: So, God has always had a people for Himself. He called those people, formed them. But those people were always made of the regenerate and the unregenerate. There were the saved and the unsaved, both within the covenantal community. We would call this the visible and the invisible church. The visible church is made of all those who are members of the cov. community, marked off from the world in some way. The invisible church are those within the vis church who are the “true Israel,” ie, the elect, bound for Heaven.

Megan: I’m not understanding the difference between the visible and invisible church. Are some of them elect and some not? How can non-elect, non-saved people be in the same covenantal community with elect, saved people? I can see how they can coexist and be in the same community, but not in the same covenantal community. Are you saying the invisible church, the “true Israel” are unsaved, but still bound for Heaven?

Doug: Does God make a covenant with Israel? Are they the covenantal community? Is Israel the Old Testament church? What do you think that means? There were certainly nonBs in the OT covenant. A covenant is a relationship set up by God (usually administered by blood) where there are duties and blessings. It isn’t necessarily a saving thing, as in Salvation/Heaven. That’s why the OT and NT talk about the circumcision of the heart, of the New Covenant. So there are Bs and UnBs within a covenantal community. All of the people in the cov community receive blessings from God (manna, getting out of Egypt, miracles, etc), and cursings too for that matter (not getting to get into the promised land) – but not all within the cov community are Christians. Some are, some aren’t.

This is an important concept here and I want to make sure you get it. This makes you read the OT differently than the way it seems you are looking at things. This is covenantal verses dispensational theology (just so you know).

Megan: Okay, I’m understanding this.

Doug: Very good.

Doug: What’s the point of the unregenerate being a part of the visible church you might ask? Well, number one, it happens all the time, and also there are blessings and curses associated with being the cov community. ALL of Israel was released from captivity from Egypt – not just the believers. That would be a benefit for sure. We strive for a greater overlap between visible and invisible, but this will never be a 1 to 1 correlation. The normal Baptist is uncomfortable with this and doesn’t like it, ignores it.

Megan: This may be part of what I was asking in my earlier email. Is there any chance of someone being in the “covenantal” community, who thinks they are part of the church, but really aren’t, although to them and to everyone else they look like the visible church? They might be the invisible church? But then would they receive the same benefit as the rest of those in the covenantal community anyway? I’m sure I’m not understanding the visible/invisible thing.

Doug: This is what I was trying to explain above. In this understanding, there are four groups of people. The questions are what is a person’s relationship with Jesus and the Church.
No to Cross, Yes to Church
No to Cross, No to Church
Yes to Cross, Yes to Church
Yes to Cross, No to Church
In the context of our discussion here, everyone fits into one of these categories (and can change categories of course).

The two columns on the right are what makes up the visible church. These are the people who are under the authority of the church, members of churches, taking the sacraments, etc. They are the covenantal community. They are like Israel in the OT. But not everyone in church is a Christian. Some are not elect while others are elect and have not yet realized their election in space and time.

Where we want people to be is in Yes/Yes. That is the best place. The book Jaded makes the case that the bottom right place is fine too, but the Bible indicates otherwise. The top right corner are the people you don’t find many of in Oklahoma – more in the Northeast or in Nebraska. I’d say in Oklahoma you see mostly the top left and bottom right people.

We want to minister to people where they are and pray that God will move in their hearts to help them align the outside with the inside. Bottom left is what we’re praying for. That’s the place to be.

Does this help?

Megan: Yes. So if I’m getting this, you can have believers who are in the covenantal community, or visible church, or not in that. You can also have non-believers who are in the cc or not in that. Believers in either category are still believers and will still be in heaven when they die, but the proper place for the believer while on earth is as a member of the cc. Am I understanding that?

Doug: Yes, although I am uncomfortable with the Jaded book people. Augustine and others said, “there is no salvation outside of the church.” Depends on what he means by that, but a believer who is operating outside of the church should seriously wonder about that. Not saying he or she isn’t a Xian, but that Bs should WANT church, for it is the bride of Christ.
Now, if we know that there have always been (and I contend will always be) both the regenerate and the unregenerate within the midst of God’s people (and he does call this mixed group his people), his church , then how do we know what marks off that mixed group from the outside world? God gave us a mark for that – circumcision. Ouch. Why that? Much speculation, but essentially it was God’s choice to do so, and he is the one who said that every boy at eight days old was to be marked out as belonging to the cov community. No choice in the matter. Esau and Jacob. Isaac and Ishmael. Both in the cov community – one elect and the other not. Does this make sense?

Megan: So are you saying that there are unregenerate people in the group of people God calls his church? If they are in the group that God calls his own, then will they be in Heaven later on?

Doug: If you’re following, then yes, I am saying (along with the OT) that there are unregenerate people within the cov community. Within his church.

But of course, no, I am not saying they will be heaven. That is a connected category of course, but not the same thing. See above.

If you’re wondering about how can God call a group of people that are made up of Bs and unBs his people, then you have to grapple with the OT not me. Explain how it can mean anything else.
There are other concepts working than personal salvation all the time. That is a late American grid put upon the Bible.

Doug: Okay, the big thing here is what I tried to set up at the beginning. Do you assume continuity or discontinuity? Can you have a form change while retaining the essence of the thing? I believe so.

There are two sacraments, right? Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. What is the antecedent of the Lord’s Supper?



The Passover. Now the Passover is changed to a bloodless sign and symbol because the blood of the paschal lamb has definitively been spilled for the release of the people from captivity. This provides some extremely rich meditation on the Passover, by the way. It is the NT, changed bc of Jesus but retaining the same essence, sign and symbol of abiding love and fellowship for God’s people. Without understanding the OT though, you can’t really understand baptism. It is too shallow.

Now, here’s my big contention, the one that my Baptist friends cannot seem to buy, and that took me a long time to as well. What is the OT correlation for the other NT sacrament – baptism? Most will go into talking about the ritual washings and things like that, but will not find an equivalent that’s been changed. That should seem odd to them, but again, must assume discontinuity. But it has to be circumcision. Paul makes this connection directly for us in Col 2. Circum is the OT sign and seal of membership into God’s cov community. It is changed, in form but not in essence, bc blood doesn’t need to be spilled any more, and bc of the attitude of Gal that it is broader, ie, for boys and girls not just for boys any more.

Megan: Why suddenly are girls part of this now? If baptism is the NT equivalent to circumcision, why don’t we just baptize boys then? And why then do we still circumcise boys? Is there no spiritual significance to it anymore, just purely medical? Where does it say (and I’m not saying it’s not in there – I just don’t know where) that you don’t circumcise anymore, you baptize now?

Doug: The NT signs are greater and more inclusive than the OT signs. The blood signs are replaced since no more blood needs to be shed. Girls are now explicitly (instead of only implicitly) included.

There is no more sp significance to circum any more. That was dealt the final blow in Acts 15. Where does it say to replace circum with baptism? – that is my whole argument to you.

Megan: Okay, surprisingly enough I’m following this this time around. I reread your original answer here and my brain absorbed it this time. OT had to be about blood, NT not blood anymore because Jesus took care of that. Passover=blood, LS=same symbol, no blood. Circumcision=blood, baptism=same symbol, no blood. Am I understanding that?

Doug: Mostly, but for sure in regards to the two sacraments. There are covenants in the OT that aren’t bloody (cov with Adam for one), but in the main they all deal with blood as the sign and sealer. In the NT, on this side of the cross, the blood is no longer needed. And the New Cov is fuller in its expression (which only makes sense) in that it includes girls for one, and all nations (which was always in fact intended).

So, circum/bapt is the sign and seal for entrance into the cov community. The Passover/LSupper is the seal and seal for continuing and renewal in the cov community. (as an aside, in the three years I was in Stillwater, I never once took the Lord’s Supper. They did it once a month or once a quarter on Sun night. I didn’t EVER go to Sun night church, and I didn’t think that the LS was very important. Now though, I see it as very important and might even go as far and argue for weekly communion).

Megan: I’m not saying the Lord’s Supper is non-important, but I am asking why is it SO important? I mean such as you are saying we should do it every week? And I also wonder why is it something that has to be done as a whole congregation? I’m not suggesting that I want to do it with my girls here at home by myself or anything – but if our family did want to do this together (assuming later that all my girls are chosen ones), why couldn’t we do that? Wouldn’t we still be the church? Or is the church not merely believers, or believers in a family, but lots of families of believers and only when they are together?

Doug: Why is it so important? Bc we only have two given signs and seals – baptism and the LS. That means that it must be pretty important. Why was it so important for the OT believer to continue the Passover meal? What’s the big deal? We have signs and symbols to make us remember and realize that our faith isn’t purely cognitive and intellectual. It is earthy, real, touchable. That’s why we need signs and symbols. How often to do it is another discussion. More often seems better to me than less often, but that is pretty flexible to the session of a church.

I don’t believe it is appropriate to take a private LS. That’s the position of the PCA, though many believers differ. The LS can become sort of a magical/mystical thing if we aren’t careful. It must be protected form that, and from a Catholic sort of meaning. The ordained pastor therefore protects the table from misunderstanding by guarding it (in a good way) by fencing the table and preaching the Word. It is for the church, not just for you. It is to be taken in the context of the cov. community at large. The church is not just merely a gathering of believers.

Megan: Surprisingly again, I think I’m following this. If I’m to view the Lord’s Supper as the NT version of the OT Passover, I need to view it with the same kind of importance that the OT people (and God) placed on the Passover? The main thinking switch for me here is that I have always been taught that the church is a gathering of believers. I can accept what you are saying on this, but if you would care to elaborate on that a bit more, it might help.

Doug: Yes. The Passover is tremendously important. Some might argue that the release from slavery in Exodus is the central thing that happens in the OT. This would put the Passover remembrance in a central role as well. You might want to meditate on the connections between the actual Passover and the LS (lamb, no bones broken, blood spilled and covers the home, takes faith, one for the many, etc).

The church is NOT merely a gathering of believers. That is a part of the church, but that is not the church. If you look at Matthew 18:20, which is the popular place where this notion comes from, you will notice that this verse comes in the context of church discipline, which goes up the ladder to the church elders and authorities. This other view (your current one) is the wrong headedness of the concept of the priesthood of all believers. That is intended to mean that we all have access to God. We don’t need priests to pray for us. We can have the Bible in our own language and read and understand it for ourselves. But you may not do whatever you want spiritually. There are authority structures in the church meant for your (and my) good that need to be followed. This has always been the case and the neglect/misunderstanding of this does great harm. It also does great harm when the authorities mismanage and abuse their authority of course.

You may be running out of steam more than me so I’ll wrap it up. If you can agree with the circum/LS parallel, then a lot of your questions are going to have to be questions you ask God Himself. Why do we baptize infants when they don’t have a choice? Ask God, for he said you HAD TO circum your boys when they were eight days old. God said that. I guess maybe Xianity isn’t quite as choice-based as we think. Etc.

Megan: So when we baptize infants, we are saying what? Are we saying we want them to be part of the elect and will raise them as if they were? What really is the difference between baptizing infants and doing a baby dedication at another denomination? We’ve done that with our kids – does that mean nothing? Or if we really wanted to be official we need to have all our kids baptized? And also, Mary, on her own initiative wanted to ask Jesus to forgive her sins sometime in the Spring. We didn’t push that on her, but walked her through her questions and then prayed with her when she asked to do so. I know she doesn’t understand all the ins and outs of what that meant, but I really believe she understands what sin is and what punishment is and what she needed to do with that. She hasn’t been baptized. Would she need to be baptized twice? What would that look like? Do children in the Presbyterian church not get baptized to show their profession of faith until they go through a class? What about the Lord’s Supper? After we prayed with M in the Spring, we allowed her to take part in the Lord’s Supper at our other church. Every time it happened, I would explain what was happening so she would know there was more to it than mid-service snack time. I think I read somewhere on the V7 website that children aren’t to partake of the Lord’s Supper until they go through some kind of confirmation classes. Why would this be so? Is the Lord’s Supper not to be taken by believers but only by certified believers?

Doug: When we baptize infants we are saying that we are placing them in the cov community and trusting in and praying for God’s promises to be realized in their lives. We don’t hold those over God’s head, but we believe them to be true and will raise our children according to that standing.

It’s hard to keep going when now we’re talking about your kids. I don’t want to step on toes.
Let me ask you – what is a baby dedication? Show me in the Bible where you found that and why it seems appropriate? What are YOU saying as per all your questions above?
I submit that your desire and inclination was a correct one, but that the church has just the thing you’re looking for, you don’t need to invent a new “sacrament.” I think it would be wholly appropriate to utilize the signs and seals of the church and baptize your kids into the cov. Then pray that they will realize that tremendous sign.

It’s great that M is talking about this. That’s wonderful. That’s what we’re talking about. Why would she need to be baptized twice? Only once, only once.

Megan: Okay, now this one is confusing me a little bit. I guess I was now thinking that you baptize children of believers to bring them into the covenantal community. But I was also thinking that once they do become a Christian, they are then baptized as a profession of that happening. Is that not necessary? If someone is baptized into the cc as a child, but before becoming a Christian, they don’t need to be baptized again later on? And I, though not baptized into the cc, but was baptized as a profession – am I a member of the cc and thus don’t need that particular baptism? And M, not baptized at all, but probably a Christian, would only need one baptism?

Doug: Now your question is making sense. From the way I see it, (just like circumcision in the OT by the way) a person is only baptized once ever. Baptism is meant to signify entrance into the cov community. That happens in two ways – by birth from believing parents or by profession of faith as an “adult.” You are too closely identifying baptism with profession (which you’ve been taught and trained for 30 years to do so it’s going to take awhile if you agree with me to retrain your brain). If you’re buying with me that baptism is the new circumcision, then you have to ask yourself if circumcision was based on profession. What did circumcision do? What was going on there? Did believers get circumcised again upon profession? No, they already bore the mark. When a man came into the community who had not been circumcised as an infant, what was he to do – profess his faith in Yahweh if he had it and get the mark.

Of course you have been baptized into the cov community and you bear its mark. The mark is not so closely associated in time. God puts to bear the spiritual significance of the mark in the way you are thinking of it even if there is a lapse in time.

What you’re suggesting is the classic “Anabaptist” thinking – that you have to be baptized again upon profession of faith. This comes from what I would call a misreading of the book of Acts, but hey. Like I said, I would have to be rebaptized to be a part of Bethel. Anyone who had been baptized whenever it was would be a member of our church (after stating the membership vows). Anyone who hadn’t been baptized at any time would need to at that point get baptized, and if it were a couple with children, we would seek to baptized their children at that point.
A bigger question to ask in this that might help you think about it is: what does baptism really mean? Why do we do it? If it’s for believers only, how do we KNOW they are believers? What if they’re not?

Doug: If someone hasn’t been baptized as an infant, then he or she would probably talk to the session and demonstrate God’s working of salvation in his or her life and then be baptized. That could be at age 6 or 60. There isn’t like “one way” to do it.

In my opinion, it’s not up to a family to decide if a child is ready or not to take the Lord’s Supper. They can obviously determine that that child is ready to talk to the elders – but they make the decision (graciously of course). The way it’s worked for us is that we did the same thing in talking to our kids about it every time it happened. Explaining it. Then I contacted the pastor and told him that I thought Ruth and then a few years later Cal were interested in taking the Lord’s Supper. Mike came over and asked questions. Some of them were really easy, and others were more complicated. But they talked about it. I think maybe he said that he thought Cal should wait a few months. So that was fine. But they were both administered to the table, which was pretty cool, and we felt good about it since it was through the leaders of the church taking an interest in the faith and growth of our family. Larger churches may have to go to some sort of more programmatic way to handle this, but I’m sure an appointment with a pastor would be great. Some kids figure all this out at age 5 or 6, and others not until they are 12 or 15. There is not “age,” but all is dependant on an understanding able to be articulated at some level. Not a theological paper, but being able to explain what is happening (the children’s catechism is good for this).

Megan: Okay, this is new too. I’ve always been taught that anyone who is a believer can take the Lord’s Supper. So what would you tell a family who has been attending a different church and their professing young kids had taken part in the Lord’s Supper there and now they are coming to your church? What do you say to the 5 year old? I’m just curious to know how to handle this with M

Doug: Anyone who is a believer may take the LS. However, it is best to “examine” him or her to make sure they can discern the body and blood, as per 1 Cor. 11 (this was a part of my balking in my 20S blog earlier). That is the job of the parents and the elders working together. There is often a rushing to the table bc it is seen as a mystical place – but there can also be an unhealthy delay in allowing the table to children.

I would counsel you to stop taking the LS with M and talk with the elders in your church about it. Of course talking with her about it and not making it a huge deal. Of our kids, two take and two don’t. Drew may be ready soon (he’ll be 5 in Sept) but I’m not entirely sure when it will be. That’s okay. I want him to participate fully in the sacraments, but on the other hand I don’t want him to take it without understand it at a basic level. Can I perfectly tell when that would be? No, that’s why we have elders to help me shepherd my family and they shepherd me in my shepherding. I would wait and talk to your elders. That would be submitting to their authority.

Now, if you’re going to balk at sprinkling as opposed to immersion, then we have a whole other discussion, but that doesn’t seem particularly germane to this one here.

Megan: I do have questions on it, although I’m not convinced it really matters – but does it matter one way or the other? Why or why not?

Doug: A few parting comments:

I’ll bet most baptistic churches do a baby dedication, something that assuredly isn’t anywhere in the Bible. What is the motivation for that? I would contend it is a waterless baptism, which is sad when we have something that does exactly what the family and church wishes.

Megan: Why is this sad? If the intention and motive is the same, and there is no clear directive to do otherwise, what’s the difference really?

Doug: Is there no clear directive to do otherwise? Couldn’t we say that baby dedications are at least non-Biblical? Where did they come from?

Most Xian and even baptistic confessing families treat their children covenantally even though they confess to the otherwise. They can’t help it.

Believer’s baptism is an extreme misnomer. Profession baptism would be better. No one can know the heart. There have been thousands, nay millions of “adult converts” who were baptized and were never regenerate. This creates serious confusion, the very thing the earnest Baptist wishes to avoid.

Most balking at inf bapt is a good desire not to be Catholic, which would be to believe that the baptism does save the child. No PCA person would say that. The Catholic understanding of ex operate operato is wrong. But that doesn’t negate the proper use of the same sign.
All inf baptizing churches also believe in adult baptism if the person wasn’t baptized as an infant. We did a mother and her daughter a few months ago, which was beautiful.

Megan: Why would you do this? I’ve been baptized for “profession of faith.” As a Christian, am I not a member of the covenantal community because I’ve not been baptized as an infant?

Doug: Huh? Not following you here. Neither the mother or daughter had ever been baptized, that’s why they did it together (not sure if that was clear).

If you have been baptized and are a member of a church, then of course you are a member of a cov community. However, many, many Baptist churches would say that I am not, since I was “only” baptized as an infant. I would not be allowed to be a member of Bethel Baptist church in town here until I was baptized by profession.

Megan: Okay, I guess I asked this again just above. But I think my question now is – is baptism for the sake of profession a non-biblical concept? Why would you only need to be baptized for covenantal purposes and not for profession? And do Methodist churches who baptize infants do it for the proper reason?

Doug: You do baptize upon profession when we’re not talking about infants, and this baptism is a mark that you are entering the cov community. This happened in the OT, and it is what you see happening in the NT (the baptisms in Acts all had to do with adults converting to Xianity – but then the text indicates that they went home and baptized their families).

WHAT DOES BAPTISM MEAN? WHAT DID CIRCUMCISION MEAN? WHY DO WE DO IT/THEM?
You are separating profession and cov purposes for an adult that betrays that you’re not completely following me. That’s cool. Ask again. The cov community and eternal salvation are not entirely different and not entirely the same. Don’t separate them so far that they don’t have anything to do with each other. Being a member of a church is important. It is vital. It is necessary. It isn’t salvific. But neither is it just something you do to pass the time and get built up and find small groups and help you train your children. Being a part of the cov community is really, really, really, really important. And how do we know who is a member of the people of God? The OT says circumcision is the way. So is baptism the way.

Methodist churches do retain the understanding of the cov community, though I would think it would be difficult to find anyone there who understands it and could engage in an email exchange like this one. I could be wrong though. They have the proper form though, and treat their children like real members of the cov community.

I would contend that the “believer’s baptism” tends to focus on the person and his or her profession, while the inf baptism tends to focus on God and his promises to his people.
I think Jesus was baptized as an ordination to priesthood, like you’d find in Leviticus. He was the right age, performed the duties of a priest, and hadn’t done any ministry before that point that we know of. There are all kinds of sprinkling baptisms in the Bible.

Megan: Just curious – where are the sprinkling baptisms in the Bible? I’m sure you are right, just I don’t remember reading about them.

Doug: Read Hebrews. There’s all kinds of sprinkling going on in the Old and New Testaments in relation to God purifying things.

Okay, okay. That should get the wheels turning. I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you.
Fire back any questions you might have. That would be helpful.

Suggested Resources in order of helpfulness: To a Thousand Generations, D. Wilson
Baptism Video (can’t remember its name), R Pratt, can find a www.goodtheology.com – this is very helpful monergism.com

Children of Promise, Booth

Megan, I hope this helps. I’m not sure if it does. Let me know. We can also talk on the phone.

Keep asking.

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Here is the Church and Here is the Steeple…(pt. 6)

This is the recounting of my 18-year journey to the PCA. Here are parts 12, 3, 4 and 5

So, after all the sagas of the past few years, why the PCA? It’s a question I still ask, probably because I used to be in the “reformed baptist” camp. There was a period when we considered going outside of the PCA, even here in St. Louis, but the denomination seems where we’ve been led and where we belong. For us, the reformed systematic best makes sense of the Scriptures, and its focus on the melding of the indicatives and the imperatives of the faith are what my recovering legalist heart needs on a weekly basis.

Before our family moved to Maplewood last July, the girls and I had gotten to know several families in our new neighborhood through various homeschooling events. A majority of these families went to a neighborhood PCA church right up the street from where we are now living (we had visited this church during our first almost-leaving experience 2.5 years ago and I was ready then to switch, but, as I said, we didn’t feel the freedom from the Lord to do that then). As this year has passed, our family has gotten to know these families even more, and whereas the girls knew many people at Church D, they had real friends in place at Church E. Thankfully, so did I.

Here’s the thing about me and friendships: they are hard to come by. I’m not the type who needs lots and lots of friends, but to even have one with the potential of becoming close is very important. I certainly had a friend like that at Church D (and am still good friends and plan to continue to be so), but being at the tail end of our time of serious life transition meant that I needed friends who were planted (or planting) here, with no immediate moves on their horizon.

I also desperately needed someone who would be in the homeschooling trenches with me. In light of this need, Church E seemed like a good fit because of the aforementioned already-established friendships. Two of them are part of our weekly Classical Conversations group with us; the others we see fairly frequently at various social gatherings we sometimes attend. In leaving Church D, it seemed obvious (for community reasons, at least) that Church E should be the first place we’d visit.

Church E is where we’ve been now for three months. The girls, who struggled with yet another transition in their young lives, were thrilled by the fact that the first Sunday we went to Church E, their two good friends from our Classical Conversations group were waiting for them at the front door. They took off with these gals and we didn’t hear another word about it (actually, we did hear about all the other kids they knew there and how excited they were to be in church with them).

Going to Church E isn’t this magical experience of “Ooooo, it’s the perfect place for us. Don’t we just fit right in here?” Not at all. As we’ve learned far too well firsthand, there is no such thing as a perfect church. The thing that is different here is that my kids’ level of comfort and familiarity is not directly tied to my own; in this regard, they are helping me, and I can feel the healing that comes because of that.

This period of anonymity is nice, too. Besides those we knew before arriving at Church E, few really know us or about us. Nobody is asking Craig to teach anything because of his Nav background or his book; nobody is offering me a contract with a blood-filled pen to step into teaching a children’s class. So far, we’re being allowed to be…and that’s been nice and needed.

While we don’t want to stay in the realm of simply being, that’s where we find ourselves right now, and this is what we need to heal from the past in order to ready ourselves for the future – a future we hope will be one of true community with those in this church. We hope this will be the church our kids will come home to during college…maybe later get married in…maybe one day call home.

Guess Who I Saw Yesterday?

George Clooney in St. Louis

Jealous? Don’t be. Instead, laugh at me and my friend Erin because we (along with all our kids) walked up our street and over a few blocks to the movie set of Up in the Air yesterday, George Clooney’s next film, shooting here in St. Louis.

Really we went just to see the set, but when we got there, they were actually preparing to film, so we stayed. And stayed. And stayed. We were eventually rewarded with a front row seat to see the shot take place. Here’s Jason Reitman, the director:

Jason Reitman in St. Louis

And here’s the fancy little director’s tent with Up in the Air on the chairs:

Director's Tent

And here’s the guy putting some finishing touches on the fake snow (the scene was set in Wisconsin, thus the snow and why all the cars had Wisconsin license plates):

Fake Snow Blower

Really, seeing George Clooney wasn’t that big of a deal for me (at least certainly not as big a deal as it was for the 60-year-old woman screaming at him to take his shirt off). Erin and I both agreed that we would have much preferred to have seen co-star Jason Bateman, but only because we thought he was cute when we were, like, 11. He wasn’t there, though, so we had to settle for George.

Loved you on ER, George…fifteen years ago, that is. Enjoy St. Louis.

Clooney 050

Here is the Church and Here is the Steeple…(pt. 5)

This is the recounting of my 18 year journey toward the PCA. Here are parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Colorado Springs had only two PCA churches that we knew of when we lived there. One was the ginormous Village 7; the other the very small Grace. I believe (though I could be mistaken) that V7 was planted by Grace many years before. Anyway, not a lot of options if you wanted to be in a PCA church.

Not so with St. Louis, which is the Baskin Robbins of PCA churches: you pick the flavor you like best and presto! Presbyterianism on a cone. About the only thing going for us when we moved here was that we’d finally realized we fit most closely in the PCA, so that took a bunch of other denominations off the table for us from the beginning.

Craig had a contact at one big church (Church A) who actually knew about Craig because of his book and one of the associate pastors asked him to teach their twenty-something Sunday School class for the month of June. That answered part of the “where should we go first?” question. Craig had met the senior pastor of Church A before, and this pastor actually offered Craig a paid internship at the church. This pastor was an amazing preacher/teacher, and sitting under his teaching consistently would have been wonderful.

I, however, had a hang-up with my perceived wealth of the church. I’m not proud of that, but I struggled seeing all the women dripping in jewels every week with their designer everything while I wore the same dress each week with my beat-up sandals. It was a pride issue, but as I thought I would continue to struggle with it, I suggested we at least try out few other places before deciding.

We went to Church B next – small and in an old building in the middle of a neighborhood. Good church, extra-long service. Nice experience, but not sure it was for us.

Church C was another of the mega-churches in town – large, suburban, and very white. We went on “name-tag” Sunday, which meant that that Sunday we were greeted by pretty much everybody, which was strange and a bit cheese-ball. We sang a U2 song in the service and our kids were served a helping of Brother Bob and Pastor Larry. This one wasn’t the right one for us, either.

The next Sunday we went to Church D. I have no idea what exactly happened that morning to cause this reaction, but when Craig and I both walked out that morning, we felt this was the one. I don’t think we even went anywhere else again. We joined this church two months later, Craig began teaching Sunday School, and I also began teaching Sunday School. We also began what would be a long, good, hard, wonderful, hair-pulling, fabulous, heart-wrenching church experience.

I am not going to sit here and tell you that I ever expected to be in a church without problems or sin; to say that would be to expect to attend a church without people. Thus, when issues began to arise, we did our best to handle them biblically. We spent a lot of time talking to people rather than about them; we employed the principles of Matthew 18; we cried (okay, I cried).

I also laughed too. We met a lot of really great, really wonderful people at this church. These people were what made us pause when, 2.5 years into this, I began really struggling with some things that were simply out of my control, but not out of my path. I began crying every Sunday at even the thought of going to church. I was afraid of some of the people. I was drained by trying to use my gifts, but being thunked on the head for doing so. I told Craig I felt like I was in a human game of “Whac-a-Mole” and I was the mole. Do what you want to with that analogy – maybe I really was a mole. I began to think so, at least.

The godly people at the church who had spent time with us and whom we as a whole family loved walked us through this process. With their blessing, we decided to begin looking around a little. I withdrew from my teaching position and began teaching the girls Sunday School at home, going in for church afterward. Three months into this, however, neither Craig nor I had any peace about leaving: we really sensed God asking us to stay another year.

We did so. We put the girls back in Sunday School, Craig picked up another round of teaching, but I stayed away from teaching because of my fear of those over me. That fall I was asked to resume. With some trepidation, I consulted with Craig and we agreed for me to re-enter. We started helping with the Wednesday night kids’ program and were really doing the best we knew to serve how we could.

And then came another round of the rubber mallets. It had been a year since I’d been crying on Sundays, but all of that tension resurfaced and I began feeling it physically again. I started praying that God would renew my heart for the church or he would guide Craig’s away. I had done more than my share of complaining; I didn’t want to nag Craig away from the church, but I was hurting. I begged God to use all of this for good, but I continued to struggle.

And then it happened. When I least expected it, and on the heels of a Sunday morning congregational meeting that I didn’t attend, Craig told me that he’d decided it was time for us to move on. He said I should tell those I needed to regarding my teaching position that at the end of December we would no longer be at Church D.

We spent 3.5 years there. Now if you’ve read my whole long, sordid church history, you know that 3.5 years was really a long time for us to be somewhere. It was the longest we’d been anywhere during our whole married life together; as a result, it was the hardest one to leave. As much as I felt tension and even fear in being there, I felt more that we were betraying friends we loved there by leaving.

I do not know what going through a divorce feels like, but I can only imagine that we experienced something similar to it, at least emotionally. But it didn’t only affect us, it also affected our kids. While too young for the first half of our married church history to really know any different, they were now old enough to be affected by change as well. We were worried that yet another transition might push them too much, or might make them begin to doubt things that we said we believed.

So we prayed. A lot. And this past December we sat them down in our living room and began to tell them a story. A story of sadness, but one of hope. We told them we were moving again. And we cried with them. And then we told them we had a plan that we hoped they would trust. They looked at us with questions in their eyes and we told them where we planned to go next.

Click here for part 6.

Spring Broke

Thoughts on spring break are up on WORLD Online. I should amend them, though. Craig is not feeling well, so we came home yesterday in the midst of chaos.

All those people who told me that dust would be everywhere – and they meant everywhere – they were right. Dust is everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

Dave the bookshelf guy has now become Dave the ceiling fixer guy. He told us we officially have more dust than any he has ever seen. It could be because someone in the past decided a good way to fix the ceiling would be to plaster it and then drywall it. So instead of one round of mess we have twice the fun.

That’s what this house has been every since we moved in. Twice the fun.

Probably not going to be able to paint this week because it will take three days for the ceiling project to wrap. And then Craig has to go back to school on Monday. We all do, for that matter. It should be fun doing school here. All the furniture is crammed into the dining room and completely covered in dust.

Anyone want to join us for dinner?

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For as long as I can remember, I have lived on a school-year calendar: The bulk of the work takes place September-May, with a long summer break from June to August, a two-week Christmas break in December, and a week off sometime in the spring.

Now that I’m in charge of the school-year calendar, I continue to fall into that same routine. Part of it is out of functionality—my husband, Craig, is a school teacher, so it makes sense for all of us to take time off when he does–but part of it is out of sheer necessity, as this homeschooing mama needs a break.

This week, as we are on said spring break, I took my girls to Oklahoma to visit my parents for a few days while Craig plays Bob the Builder on a renovation project at home. I brought nothing to do, and part of me is going insane having nothing to do. The other part of me, however, is slowly—very slowly—starting to relax a bit . . . and that’s what I need right now.

My problem is that I don’t rest when I should and can’t turn my brain off to get a decent night’s sleep. When I can’t sleep, I think of Psalm 127:2: “. . . for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Uh-oh.

Now don’t worry: I know better. I’m not sleeping not because God doesn’t love me; I’m not sleeping because I don’t know how to enjoy his good gift of rest. Perhaps if I were to more faithfully submit to God’s (and my husband’s) call to weekly Sabbaths, these longer breaks would be the blessings they’re meant to be instead of the burdens I sometimes feel they are.

When I’ve rested as I should, I’m usually ready to return to the work to which I’m called. I know that is true for this week, and I think it would be true for every week . . . if only I would rest as I should.

How about you? Do you take a proper weekly Sabbath rest? What’s your philosophy on taking breaks from the school-year calendar/mentality?

Here is the Church and Here is the Steeple…(pt. 4)

This is the recounting of my 18 year journey toward the PCA. Here are parts 1, 2, and 3.

The reason we left Village 7 was simply not being able to plug into the community the church offered. It was very hard to during that season of life, and our lack of intentionality led to a disconnect with the church.

There was an Evangelical Free church right in our very neighborhood and we knew a lot of people who went there. We attended a couple of services and were thrilled to have people to talk to afterwards, people who already knew us. It wasn’t “work” to get to know the people there. Sometimes you are willing to sacrifice teaching for community, and this would be an example of our having done just that.

We plugged into the church more than any we ever had. Craig taught several rounds of Sunday School classes. I taught in the toddlers class. We joined the weekly homeschool co-op (our oldest was just in preschool, but it was something to do each week so we did it). We enrolled in Awanas, attended VBS, you name it, we were there. Daughter #4 was born while we were here, and we had her and #3 dedicated while at this church.

We stayed there longer than any other church we’d been at so far, but slowly I began a spiritual decline. The teaching lacked depth; the services were shallow. I started getting antsy. I felt like I was dying a slow painful spiritual death.

Craig didn’t feel this as much because his role at Glen Eyrie placed him under good teaching often through the conferences he was planning. And whereas he gets fed by feeding others, I just get drained by it.

We discussed our situation many times with one particular couple. They were on Campus Crusade staff and had Mizzou roots along with Craig, so there were several levels of commonality on which to hinge a friendship. The counsel I, in particular, received, though, was to stay in the community we’d developed there, but to seek better teaching from radio or internet preachers. This suggestion didn’t sit well with me. I have nothing against sermons on the internet, but I don’t particularly think they should be one’s dominant source of worship through the word.

I started crying a lot when thinking about going back. Craig began realizing my decline was serious. We discussed the options in-depth for several weeks and came to this conclusion: we couldn’t go there if I were to have any hope of spiritual sustainability. About two and a half years after we joined this church (and yes, we had joined this one), all we could think about (okay, all *I* could think about) was the teaching we’d left behind at Village 7. We decided it was time to go back.

We had a small problem, though. We committed ourselves to teaching the toddlers class as a couple throughout the whole summer, and we didn’t want to go back on our commitment. That month of August was one of the longest Augusts we’ve lived through (longer even than the one in which daughter #2 was born on the 28th!). We started going to the E-Free church in the mornings to teach the toddler class and then speeding across town back to V7 for the worship service.

When September rolled around, we knew this would be the last time we played with the churches of Colorado Springs. We sat through the membership class and took the membership vows that very month. It was one of the most relieving months of our whole church existence. We were in the process of wrestling through the infant baptism thing; I was wrestling with all five points of Calvinism. But it was where we were supposed to be and we knew it. It was good.

Then the very next month Craig took me out for coffee. While sipping my hot chocolate at Starbuck’s that morning he spilled the words I never in a million years expected to hear. He said he’d been thinking about starting seminary. In St. Louis. Next fall, but moving in the spring. What did I think?

What did I think? It was a question I would not fully be able to understand the answer to for another four years, but the part of me that seeks out and thrives on change was completely for it. Yes! Let’s do this! Let’s start something totally new! In St. Louis!

And then I remembered: we just joined the church of our dreams. What about that?

Well, St. Louis is Presbyterianland, after all. Surely we’ll find another one once we got there.

Click here for part 5.

Extreme Home Makeover

(With emphasis on the home part and not on the extreme or the makeover). This would be more like Extreme Living Room Demolition. There we go.

Craig sent me two more videos which I am unable to post at the moment, so instead I’ll give you the photo tour of his handy work from yesterday:

Here is the ET-like enclosure. Craig works better when he can pretend he is in a sci-fi movie.
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Here is the bane of our existence, made a little bigger for some reason I do not know of:

100_1611_2

Here is the ceiling minus the drywall but with the lathe (did I even spell that right?):

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Here is our newly redone floor:

100_1617_2

And the open ceiling. Craig likes it like this and is thinking about leaving it open, but painting it. We’ve heard that might not be okay with the city code inspector, though, and believe me, we have no desire to get into another round of anything with the city code inspector. Ahem.

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Here is the answer to the question, “I wonder if we could ever open back up the fireplace somebody enclosed at some point in time.” The answer: No.
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Here is the Church and Here is the Steeple…(pt. 3)

This is the recounting of my 18 year journey toward the PCA. Here are parts 1 and 2.

After spending eighteen months in a church we loved and getting to know people and really plugging in, leaving this one was harder than leaving any of the others had been. It was our first real taste of committing to a church and feeling the disappointment that comes from having to walk away from it for legitimate reasons. Still, it was the decision that had to be made, so we made it.

We went to a variety of places that fall. One place we went to was what you might call a “postmodern” church (incidentally, it was also another Baptist church, though you would NEVER guess it by the worship services that we attended). It was weird; it was non-traditional; it was new. I was sort of drawn to it (surprise), but Craig was the one who hesitated, as he wasn’t sure this was the right place for us to go. Our one-month foray into postmodern church came to an end.

The next place we landed was another MacArthur-endorsed church in town. This really could have been a good fit for us, as in style and theology it was very similar to the church we had just left after eighteen months. Actually, it was too similar – most of the people who left our previous church moved over to this one, and it felt a little too much like we were siding with those who left over the “issue” when we weren’t. It was awkward. We stayed about a month and then moved on again. I can’t remember all the little one-time visits we made to various places, but to be honest, when you don’t have a church home and you do have a 2-year old, a 1-year old, and are 6-months pregnant with #3, sometimes you just don’t go. I imagine there were several weeks worth of not going thrown into the mix as well.

Somewhere in there, I attended a play at Village 7 Presbyterian Church. I had absolutely no understanding of PCA versus PCUSA (my only knowledge of Presbyterians was that they baptized babies, ordained women, and did other things that rode on the liberal line of what was and what was not acceptable to my Southern Baptist roots). When I attended the play that night, Anne of Green Gables I believe, I picked up some pamphlets on the church. I can’t remember if it was the pastor or another staff member who said a few words at the beginning or the end, but somebody said something that made me think we might have more in common with these “liberal” Presbyterians than I had thought. I brought the info home to Craig, who had a better understanding of the differences between these two branches of Presbyterianism. Upon realizing Village 7 was in the PCA and getting a cursory explanation of what that meant, we decided to give that one a shot.

We loved that church. The pastor at that time was a great teacher. The church was humongous, yet he remembered every name. Somehow he managed to connect with us – though we were new, though we were unsure of what the heck we were doing – and his intentionality brought us back again and again. The style of worship was a good fit and we lined up theologically. We were one month away from welcoming daughter #3, and it was a genuine relief to just have a place to go, so there we went. But we didn’t become members, as we still had hang-ups with the whole infant baptism thing and weren’t in a good place to begin investigating it.

When we started going to Village 7, we were living in our third home in Colorado Springs and the first house we bought. Ours was a great centennial house that we absolutely loved, but it was smack dab in the middle of an America’s Most Wanted neighborhood. The police helicopters circled our neighborhood so often (and low enough to make actual eye contact with those inside), that we got to where we would go outside and wave at the police officers who were flashing searchlights through our yard.

Several months after #3 was born, we decided maybe that neighborhood wasn’t the best one in which to raise little girls, so we moved to the far west side of town, just five minutes down the road from Glen Eyrie where Craig spent most of his time. This move was great for seeing Craig more, as he came home for lunch almost every day and could be on call on the weekends from home rather than having to go in all the time.

It was bad, however, for getting to Village 7. When you have three kids three and under and live 30 minutes from a church as large as Village 7 was (and still is), it’s very hard to get yourself to all the things you really need to get yourself to become a real part of the church. Wednesday nights were difficult; Sundays were so very long (I remember packing lunch in the car each week so we could feed the girls on the way home – if we didn’t, they would fall asleep as soon as they hit the car seats, nap for 20 minutes, wake up hungry, eat lunch and not sleep again the rest of the day). Though I plugged in with a monthly women’s group, we still didn’t know very many people in the church.

After about nine months, it seemed too much of a burden to get there. Sadly, we found ourselves making excuses to stay home, certainly on Wednesdays but even on some Sundays.

You probably see where this is going: yes, we ended up leaving that church, too.

Where did we go next?

Click here for part four.

Here is the Church and Here is the Steeple…(pt. 2)

This is the recounting of my 18 year journey toward the PCA. Part 1 is here.

Being on staff with The Navigators was a good fit for us during the years we were with them. Most of those years were spent helping run their youth camp, Eagle Lake. Most of our closest friends then all met each other at camp during that time, and we all got married within three years or less of each other, beginning our families together as well.

The Navigators filled the community void we missed with the church. I’m not saying this was a good or right thing, and this particular recounting of my spiritual history is not about pros and cons of the parachurch/church. It’s just that I can’t tell my church story without inserting some of my Navigator background into the mix.

Being at Eagle Lake took us out of normal society for a good 3-4 months every year. In addition to his program director responsibilities, Craig organized the chapel services at camp, scheduling various speakers (mostly older Nav guys), and leading the worship every week. It was what we knew and what seemed to work at that time, but it also made it hard to plug into a church intentionally during the rest of the year.

When we left the aforementioned Calvary Chapel church with our 2-week-old baby, we didn’t know where to go. We lived smack dab in the middle of Colorado Springs, so location wasn’t a big issue, as we could get pretty much get anywhere within 10-15 minutes. There was a Southern Baptist church within walking distance of our rented basement apartment, so we tried going there.

This lasted about five weeks, but boy, that pastor put the “Southern” in Southern Baptist. A couple weeks after we started going, two couples from the “couples class” visited us and tried to entice us into becoming members by telling us about their monthly game night. Little did they know that Craig has an allergic reaction to group games, so when they left I knew they had inadvertently sealed the deal on our decision not to go back.
We putzed around with various other churches as groggy first-time parents with a newborn during those winter months. Then May came and we moved back up to Eagle Lake. By the end of that summer, we started to remember that we weren’t really going anywhere for church and maybe we should begin thinking about it again. As we both liked John MacArthur, I sent an email to Grace Community Church in California to ask if they knew of any like-minded churches in Colorado Springs. Indeed, they had a recommendation. We went the first Sunday we were back.

Craig, being the more discerning of the two of us, has always been slower to warm up to the various churches we’ve attended. I, the change-monger of the two of us, warm up quickly to just about anywhere, and then crash hard later. We joined this church and did our very best to get involved: we joined the couples Sunday School class and had people over for dinner. I attended the Tuesday morning ladies bible study. Daughter number two was born while we attended this church, and we had both girls dedicated there. I thought this would be our church forever.

About eighteen months after we started going, an issue came up between the two pastors that caused a church split. (The issue isn’t important to the telling of this story, so I’ll leave it out of the equation; suffice it to say, we did not leave that church over that issue or over the split). As the elected elders were completely ineffective (by their own admission), Craig met with both pastors on more than one occasion to try to help mediate the conflict. All this hit the fan and nothing was resolved when May rolled around, so we (gratefully) packed up for the summer and moved to camp. When it was August again, we moved back down the mountain and on to another church…or another church hunt.

Here is the Church and Here is the Steeple…

we sure are cute for two ugly people

Church. Churchitty church church. If you type it enough the word becomes absurd (it could also be my state of near-exhaustion and near-inability to sleep…sigh).

I’m in the mood to tell a story – a story of struggle and seeking and continued struggle and continued seeking. A story of a girl who has been on the hunt for a church home since 1991. I kid you not. That’s 18 long years in case you needed help with the math there. 18.

What follows is part one of my 18-year journey.

I have no real idea what started my discontent with where I was as a high schooler. Okay, maybe I do. We went to the same (Southern Baptist) church for a long time. I have a lot of foundational truth cemented in me because of those years and hold no regrets about that whatsoever. Unfortunately, I also had a lot of unhealthy legalism cemented in me because of those years, and have had to choose to not feel regret over that. To be fair, there was much in me that naturally gravitated toward legalism; rule-following is one of my spiritual gifts (followed closely by rule-imposing). Ahem.

During my last year of high school, I started hopping around a bit. The church we went to was a good thirty-minute drive from our house, so saying that I wanted to check out a couple of places closer to home made practical sense. I hung out with the youth group at a Mennonite Brethern church for a bit because I had friends there. I tried out a local Southern Baptist church nearby, but the kids who went there (and who I also knew from school) had all gone there their whole lives, and I was an obvious intrusion into their Sunday night status quo, which didn’t work out for me at all.

I pretty much ended that high school year sticking with the church I grew up in, but dissatisfied. There was more out there than the list of rules I’d been living by; I just didn’t know where to go to find it.

When I got to college the next year, I did what I knew: I tried out every Southern Baptist church in town (and in an Oklahoma college town, there are a lot of them). I went to all of them for several weeks. By my second semester, I’d finally settled on Countryside Bible Church, as a lot of my Navigator friends went there and it became a sort of home church for me during those years.

When Craig and I married in 1996, we lived in Colorado and were on Navigator staff. He grew up (and then out of) the United Methodist Church back in Illinois, and had been attending a Calvary Chapel in Colorado Springs. The pastor at that time was a really good teacher, so that’s where we stayed. Unfortunately, Calvary Chapel was a “no-membership” church, which also sort of translated to “no accountability.” It also translated to the door greeter welcoming us to Calvary Chapel, “Is this your first time here?” every. single. Sunday. That got old.

Two years later, our first daughter was born. When she was two weeks old, we took her to church, but when we walked toward the sanctuary, we were stopped and informed we couldn’t bring the baby in so as not to be a distraction to the preaching of the Word. They said we could put her in the nursery (if you think I’d ever put my first two-week old baby in any nursery, think again), or there was a nursing room at the back of the sanctuary. I had this flash forward of spending the next many years in a nursing room while our kids were forced into a children’s church program. We walked out and didn’t go back.

From there the story gets sad. I’d never wanted to be one of those consumeristic church hoppers. By intention, we weren’t, but in practice, I guess we were.

Click here for part 2.