My life in the evangelical world was much like that circle. I endlessly went round and round, never able to get out of the lane.
I was getting desperate, and I realized I had to take my chances, dart into the outer lane, and head out a side road. But, which road to choose?
One road sign said “non-denominational”. I quickly decided that was not the way for me. Even if the current pastor seems to be teaching the Kingdom, he could change his philosophy or theology at any time. I also know all too well that pastors can disappear at a moments notice.
The next road sign said “Baptist and Methodists”. The road was very wide, and most all the traffic was exiting onto this freeway. They are located in every neighborhood in my town. Although I believe there are many examples of Baptist and Methodists that teach the Kingdom, in my area of the Southern United States most are either teaching abundant life or some form of fundamentalism. I decided not to take that road.
The next road sign said “Pentecostal”. In my town, this road too was quite wide. I remembered that abundant life living has taken over many of the Pentecostal churches. Even those who have not gone down the abundant life path could switch at any time.
Finally, the fourth and final sign said “Historical denomination”. A quick glance showed that the pavement was a bit dated, and a few weeds were growing in the cracks. Taking a chance, I darted out of the circle and headed down this road. At first, I didn’t see too many cars or SUVs on this road, but as I drove I started seeing more traffic, some bicyclists, and even some pedestrians. Even a cane or a wheelchair was seen here and there. The pace was much slower, and I slowed my car to match the traffic speed. The drivers were much older, but I saw small gatherings of people of all ages. I saw signs of the sacraments and heard people reciting the Nicene Creed. Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal, and other Anglican churches were all located along this road.
My car was running low on gasoline, and I needed to stop. I saw a Presbyterian church. It looked intriguing and I like Presbyterians, but I had just left a very bad experience with a Calvinist Baptist Church. I now understand this was very different from traditional Presbyterian, but I was so upset by the Calivinist experience I decided not to stop. If I were to start over on my drive, I would probably have stopped.
My wife was travelling with me, and I knew she was not ready to take a break on a side road leading toward Rome. Likewise, a side road saying Orthodox was a bit too much for us. I secretly admire those brave enough to head down those roads.
I saw a parking lot saying “Episcopal”. I hesitated. I have never visited my local Episcopal church, but my feelings were that perhaps it was too far towards Universalism for me. I now regret making that judgement, and like Presbyterian, if I had it to do over I would have stopped for a visit.
I knew someone at the local Anglican church associated with a more traditional branch of Anglicism, and I was very intrigued. I still am. But, a sign said they were moving to a location farther from my side of town and I was running out of gasoline.
I saw a friend who had a business on this road. We stopped for a visit. His business was located across the street from a Lutheran church. As we talked, I heard the bells ring, and wondered what the service was like.
We decided to stop the car across from the Lutheran Church and make a visit. We attended the traditional service, and we recited the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. The next week, we attended the contemporary service, and although we do not often cite the Nicene Creed, it is recited on occasion. Most importantly, they practice communion most every week. I was impressed with both the Pastor and Assistant Pastor. I never heard either teach even a hint at abundant life. Both have alluded to their own struggles.
We attended the “New Member’s” class, even though we were not ready to join. We had a interesting introduction to the church. Most importantly, the class was designed to introduce us to the Church Council. I was very impressed. Years in the wilderness had left me weary of churches without any kind of Council.
We kept attending, finally joining a small group on Monday nights. A small group is most all it takes to get me hooked. With a small group to talk with each week, I was hooked.
I didn’t get a voice from God telling me where to attend. I exited the traffic circle down the smaller and rougher road. I watched as I traveled down the road, and I visited exactly one church, and ended up at the one church.
This is the road I have traveled, and the spot along the road where I stopped. I could have stopped at other destinations along the road, but I have arrived, and my car is out of gasoline. I hope to rest for a very long time.