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!