Simple Conversion, Great Expectations

The Following is a conversion testimony from Gabriel.  Although Gabriel has never been officially connected to Mars Hill he has worshiped there and considered becoming a member.  Gabriel was received into the Catholic Church as an adult and is currently preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage.  As you will learn from reading his message below, his thoughts about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill are very similar to ours.  We expect to see more from him in the coming days, weeks, and months.  Enjoy! 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word as with God, and the Word was God.  God became flesh and dwelt among men.  This is the Incarnation and the beginning of my salvation story.

Eight hundred years later, two brothers named Methodius and Cyril were born into a large, prominent Christian family in the ninth century in the city of Thessalonika.  Their Father was a military man for the Byzantine emperor (Eastern Roman Emperor, but Byzantine sounds cooler) and died when Cyril was only 14.  Given their Christian upbringing and being afforded a great education, the two brothers went on to accomplish many wonder things for the Kingdom of God.  They must have wondered how God could have used their works for His glory given that they met many setbacks due to political arguments and agendas.  I suppose some things never change.

In short, these two men became missionaries and brought God and the Church to the Slavs, a people consisting of several central European nations.  They did saintly things such as translating the Church services, the Bible, and the writings of the Church Fathers into the vernacular language.  Actually, Cyril created a script for the language of the Slavs so that Church material could be written down and translated.  The Church in the Slavic nations eventually flourished and God’s work was recognized through them long after their death.  To be sure, this is a depressing yet simultaneously encouraging thought.  The Church here resembled that of the Church in Byzantium and Eastern Christianity.

Like Methodius and Cyril, I too grew up in a Christian household who was predominant in the community.  Thankfully and unlike the two Saints, my father is still alive.  More specifically, I grew up in an Evangelical household.  I am thankful for my upbringing and for my godly parents. Without them, I wouldn’t know God, nor would I have been equipped with the tools to set out on my journey with the Trinity and with the Church.  I do not have a theatrical conversion story where I became “saved.”  I was never rebellious and remained the good pastor’s kid (for the most part).  This resulted in an identity crisis, unsolved questions, unfair expectations, and a spiritual deadness within me.    I was baptized at a young age, but able to understand the Evangelical view of baptism.

Discrediting one of the Protestant pillars of faith of Sola Scripture initiated my journey to find a Church claiming continuity with the Apostles’ doctrine and worship   Having been brought up to understand that Creation occurred in a literal week thousands of years ago, my studies in biochemistry and genetics questioned this approach to the Creation, and for good reason.  The two are incompatible.  While coming to terms with evolution and my faith, I slowly began to understand that the Bible could be interpreted in any way you wanted it to be.  You could make it say what you wanted it to say.  Naturally, the next question that came to mind was, “which way is the correct way to interpret the Bible?” Additionally, my then girlfriend, now a wonderful fiancé, was a devout Roman Catholic grounded firmly in her faith.  Figuring I had a tough process of converting my stubborn girlfriend, I began to arrogantly look into Roman Catholicism.  While coming across many blockades within the Roman Catholic faith and finding many foreign doctrines and practices of historic Christianity in Protestantism, my confusion grew.  I came across the Eastern Orthodox Church and discovered an ancient and foreign way of life, theology, and spirituality.  Looking at history from another point of view began to fill many gaps.  As I contemplated becoming a member at Mars Hill, the fact that no one there could accurately and satisfactorily answer the questions of where the Bible came from and how it should be interpreted still resonated powerfully within me.  After talking with one of the local Mars Hill pastors, I was encouraged to seek the Eastern Christian faith and set out on a spiritual journey.

You may be wondering as to why there is an unnecessary amount of information here.  When giving my conversion story, it is impossible just to talk about my individual conversion without mentioned my spiritual family.  No one is saved alone.  You are saved in community but damned alone.  My salvation story begins with the Incarnation, has been worked through all the saints throughout the ages, and continues to work though my relationship with Jesus and the Church.  Sts. Methodius and Cyril are particularly important to me because their mission work to the Slavs is a particular Church tradition that I hold dear and have become a part of.  The Slavic people immigrated to the U.S., brining their unique religion that maintains the Eastern Christian way of faith while paradoxically being in union with the Bishop of Rome, thus allowing them to be part of the Catholic Church.   I was initiated in the Catholic Church through the sacrament of Chrismation (Confirmation).  While I am Catholic, I am specifically Eastern Catholic and hold a different view to the same faith.

Having lived it out for many years, I am well versed in the Evangelical way of life, doctrine, and worship.  There is a lot I can still learn from Evangelicals.  There is a lot I respect about them.   I honestly do not seek to convert or take anyone away from Mars Hill.  My father is one of the godliest people I know, and he is an Evangelical.  My sister is an active member at Mars Hill and has used her gifts to help many people and bring Christ to them.  They have both done more than I have on behalf of God’s Kingdom.   My writings serve to clear up any misconceptions that Mark Driscoll brings to his congregation about Catholicism.  Mars Hill members should be well versed about Catholics.  We both can learn many beneficial aspects of our faiths from one another.  Part of being a well-rounded Christian is to know what other traditions teach, their history, and the point of views they hold about salvation.  Church history itself can be viewed differently. Sometimes these differences have drastic impacts on our faith and what it means to be a Christian.

Either way, I hope to dialogue respectfully.

Christ is among us! He is and always shall be!

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How I Came to Love the Catholic Church

This is a really short version of Why I am Catholic.  Hopefully I will have a chance to share more about why I love the Church and how the Church helps me to love God even more every day.

I first “got saved” at summer camp the summer before 4th grade.  The camp director asked if anyone wanted to give their life to Jesus that they should stand up, so I did.  I had an encounter with Jesus that week.  A bunch of my friends did too.  It was wonderful, and I knew that I would always live for him because of what he did for me.

Until a few weeks later when the Jesus high wore off.  I remember wishing that it didn’t and that I would always feel that good about being a Christian, but it wore off.  As a fourth grader I couldn’t really make sense of it.  When I went back to camp I asked my counselor about it and he gave me some good advice.  He said that sometimes we can get swept up in emotion and not let the Gospel penetrate us as deeply as we want it to.  He never said I wasn’t saved, but he did say that it wouldn’t hurt me to stand up and give my life to Christ again.  So I did.  I “got saved” the summer before 5th grade at summer camp.

That one didn’t work either.  Neither did the next few.  At camp Malibu (a young life camp) I “got saved” again, for the last time.  Malibu was amazing, and this time was different.  I could drive now and so when the week was over I could go to a Church that I wanted to go to.

I didn’t like going to my family’s Church very much.  Although I kind of thought it was cool to be Catholic, I really didn’t like Mass very much.  Even though I went to Catholic School for 9 years, I really didn’t know what I was supposed to believe concerning Jesus or anything.  The lesson that sticks out most in my mind was when my teacher taught us that the Pope was wrong about banning condoms and not ordaining women to the priesthood.  So when my friend and I started going to the non-denominational Church near the local University, called The INN.

I loved the INN.  Lots of young Christians who I could really relate to.  I decided to keep going to the INN after I enrolled at the University.

I made a close friend at college who also went to the INN.  He knew I was “Catholic” and one day asked me a series of questions which really caused me to think.  I couldn’t answer these questions, which were very, very basic.  When I gave protestant answers (like that we are justified by faith alone) he said that he was pretty sure the Catholic Church didn’t believe that.  So I needed to figure it out.  Was I Catholic?  Was I Protestant?  Was I something else like a Mormon?  I honestly didn’t know.  All I knew was that Jesus was very important to me and that I believed that he died to save me from my sins.

I decided to research the questions on Catholicism.  I went to a Church near the University that was specifically for University students.  I remember my first impression.  I said to my self, “These people seem so… protestant!”  They had zeal.  They were every bit as committed to Jesus Christ as the evangelicals at The INN.  And, they all knew why they believed what they believed.  For every question I asked I received very deep answers.  My sophomore year I prayed with these people, studied the Bible with these people, and hung out with these people.  They changed me, and I found more depth in the Catholic Faith than I ever thought I would find.

I began to attend Mass every day.  I grew closer to Jesus Christ by attending Mass daily, praying in front of his substantial presence in the Eucharist and saying the Rosary (yes, you do grow closer to Jesus through this prayer, and EVERY Christian should be encouraged to pray in this way).  I even worked for the Ministry.  I even came to understand that God had a special plan for my life.  He wanted me to serve Him and His people as a priest.  God willing, I will be ordained in June of 2011.

God gave me a great love for Him and His people.  I feel called by him to share that Love by helping to straighten out many of the misconceptions held by protestants and non-Christian about what His Church teaches, so that they can enjoy all the gifts that God has given to His Church, especially the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is the substantial presence of Jesus Christ.  For this reason, I have begun DriscollWatch.