Wednesday, December 7, 2011

(I Was) Dying On The Inside

My wife and I were teachers in a rural area. By rural I mean there were 67 students K-12 at the school we taught at. Stereotypically in a community of this size you can typically count on finding a Roman Catholic church and a Lutheran church. If there is a third option it's going to be a wild card. We had three options in our little community. Roman Catholic, ELCA Lutheran and Methodist. Yeah.

Knowing that my wife and I both had secure jobs and health insurance at that time we felt that it was now a "safer" time to consider starting a family. Knowing that eventually I was going to be a father I knew it would I was going to have to lead my children and see to their Christian instruction. It would probably be a good idea to have theology figured out. My background to that point was Alliance/Baptist/Lutheran. What a hodgepodge situation. Not long before this however, I asked my father what next couple of books were that every Christian guy should have, after the Bible of course. "You need a copy of the Book of Concord and Walther's Law and Gospel." And so it began.

I sought out to find a group of people that I could delve into the Bible and theology with, to make this learning experience fun and interesting. I soon discovered that my options were rather limited. We ended up driving an hour to attend an American Baptist Church. After our daughters were born we attended a different Baptist church that was only 15 minutes away. In both instances it was because we had friends who attended those churches. I was noticing that my theology was changing, and it was really veering away from Baptist theology.

It was difficult to talk to anyone in our community about this. It was difficult to discuss anything beside 1 1/2 in deep theology with anyone that wasn't from a Rick Warren or Joel Osteen book. I was beginning to feel alone on this theological journey that God was taking me through.

Armed with my bible and my blue copy of Walther's Law and Gospel I went at it alone, discovering things that would shake my world. Evangelicalism had taught me wrong. Walther was revealing and undoing years of misused "evangelical" law preaching. I did my best to discuss what I was discovering with my wife. She really tried her best to keep up with me and was sorry that she just couldn't. About once a month I'd call my father, who was raised in the old ALC, with questions from my Walther readings as well as from readings from the "2nd Edition" (Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions). I hungered for conversation, discussion, camaraderie with men who could answer my questions, to help me dig deeper. My understanding of the concept of "digging deeper" was even changing. One day it finally hit me when trying to reconcile Walther and evangelicalism, election vs. decision, depravity vs. free will, infant baptism vs. dedication.....I was becoming Lutheran, and I needed to know what that meant.

My brother and my father told me about a great men's group that they had been attending. The pastor of the local LCMS church was hosting a monthly "Lutheran Confessions Reading Group." I'd read about these groups on a website I'd come across on my search for answers on the net, on site called "Steadfast Lutherans". These guys would read through the Book of Concord, using "Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions" and discuss it. This was exactly what I was looking for! The problem was the closest one was 3 hours away at my hometown. I searched for other possibilities.....nothing....I was dying on the inside. 

I continued reading Walther in solitude, realizing all the more just how badly evangelicalism had taught and influenced me. I was saved by Christ, and was kept saved by Christ. He saved me completely. I didn't have to live in fear, wondering if I'd lived a good enough life to "make the cut." The "good stuff" I do isn't even good stuff. It's garbage. And the stuff that I do that actually is good, isn't even of me but is of Christ. I didn't have to live perfectly to please Christ. He'd lived the perfect life for me. The things I did now was no longer done that Christ might love me more, but done out of gratefulness for what Christ had done for me. I shared all these things with my wife. She was beginning to come along on this journey with me.

Later on I would end up in children's ministries in a different area. My wife and I are members of a Confessional Lutheran church. I'm blessed to attend both weekly and monthly Lutheran Confessions Reading Groups with a great group of guys. I get to "geek out" with my pastor and our elders over Walther, Pieper, Luther, Issues Etc. and Worldview Everlasting. (Glad you're back Pr. Fisk!) I'm no longer dying on the inside. I'm so thankful for my father, my pastor and the pastor of the local LCMS church who continue to encourage me to study and confess. I owe these men so much. God has used them greatly.

I'm sure there are other guys like me out there. And the more I thought about, I'm sure there are pastors out there too who have experienced similar things. They'd love to have a study the Lutheran Confession Reading Group. They'd love to have discussions like this with their elders, with their parishioners, but no one seems to care. They've got their 1 1/2 inch deep understanding of "just love Jesus and do your best to live a Christian life" theology. I think those pastors probably suffer more than what I did. They are called men who long to see the Gospel work in the lives of their parishioners but grow weary when they wonder if what they do makes a difference or if anyone really cares.

If you're a layguy like me, who had similar circumstances like me, I would really encourage you to talk to your pastor and the other men at your church. Minister to each other. I know that in many cases, groups like the Lutheran Confessions Reading Group minister to both the parishioner as well as the pastor. Other guys, as well as your pastor, could be dying on the inside. Who knows? God might use your question to administer the Gospel.

Grace and Peace.

Jesu Juva,
Soli Deo Gloria

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