Posts are in reverse chronological order.
Joining a New Church
Some of you know from email discussions that we recently moved to New Hampshire from Virginia. Big, big change. Virginia is Bible belt; New England by comparison is virtually post-Christian. But God always provides for his people. After searching hither and yon for a clone of our Virginia church (literally driving across the state, tiny as it is) we found a great church just near our new home.
Our Virginia church was Reformed Baptist with a venerable 80-year-old pastor still sharp as a tack. (He still calls it the War of Northern Aggression, much to our delight). Our new church is also Baptist, not officially "Reformed" but solidly Bible believing/teaching with a non-negligible contingent of Calvinistic rabble-rousers, a great pastor, and a zealous youth group that is not afraid to head to the mall, witness (politely) to the shoppers, and summarily get tossed out for soliciting.
On Wednesday night we met with the elders and pastor to give our testimonies in preparation for joining. I let my wife go first—a mistake because her testimony is much better than mine. She was raised in a Buddhist family in Taiwan and had to deal with all kinds of spiritism. She heard the good news from missionaries who used a clever trick: if you signed up for English lessons and then also attended a bible study regularly, then after a certain time they would refund your tuition for the English class. Cute huh? Legal in the US? I don’t know.
I also am from a non-believing family, although I was a "seeker", if you know what I mean. I starting going to church regularly because it was important to my wife (then my girlfriend). Then I began to enjoy it on a purely intellectual level (or so it seemed). After a bit of moving around we landed at a great Presbyterian (PCA) church that took education very seriously: the Sunday schools were like graduate classes. I loved it. Somehow slowly, with God's grace, I also came to believe it. The closest thing I had to an epiphany was the first time I heard the pastor preach about the thief on the cross:
"And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he was saying, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:41-43, NASB)
That was my first experience of crying like a baby in church.
A question to ponder
Yesterday I met with a man from our church who is a new believer. We talked about coming from non-believing families—how we had this in common. We could share the pain of contemplating the fate of lost family members, and the difficulty in sharing the gospel with them. I began to wonder if the witnessing from people who grew up in Christian homes is qualitatively different (not better or worse, just different) from that of "orphan" believers. Don't know—any thoughts?