There is no time in my life I don’t remember going to church. I still remember the nursery at First Baptist of Cocoa, Florida…back when the main building was a large white clapboard structure with a side gallery. It was the Church where I was baptized at six years old by Brother Sawyer, the pastor. What was taught there about Christ and God was what I believed so far as I understood.
Nursery and Sunday School were fine affairs, but my principal teacher about faith in those very early years was my mother. I remember one thing in particular that my mother taught me in that early time… dating maybe even from before my first baptism by Brother Sawyer. That lesson was preceded by my learning that there were other Christians in the world besides Southern Baptists. I recall there was a small Roman Catholic church down the block from First Baptist of Cocoa. I still remember on occasion seeing women in long black dresses with black head coverings and white collars and what years later I learned were called wimples around their necks and faces. During Vacation Bible School they let us use their chapel for services for the little kids, like me. These other Christians were called Catholics, and though we Baptists spoke politely to them in public we did not believe like they did…indeed they were considered barely Christian at all. Some of them were saved, but most sadly were probably not. Somewhere in those years I also learned my paternal grandparents belonged to another tribe of Christians called Methodists, they were something like the Baptists, a bit more formal…a tiny notch or two down from us on the scale of correct doctrine and belief. Moreover, somewhere I had heard of yet another band known as Presbyterians. Naturally, I wondered about them all, about why so many varieties of being Christian. So, I asked my mother why we were Southern Baptists and not something else. She replied that it was because that they (Mama and Daddy) believed the Southern Baptist Church was the closet church to that seen in the New Testament.
That idea stuck and drove a lot of my religious searching for the rest of my life…the idea that the closer a church was in its beliefs and practices to the New Testament Church the closer it was to the fullness of the faith…to a real, vibrant, and powerful Christianity.
Needless to say, as I grew and thought and examined my beliefs there came changes. Certain doctrines taught in the Baptist Church, like once saved always saved that made no sense to me. Eventually I moved to the Methodist Church because they believed in free will though I took great exception to their practice of baptizing infants and baptizing by just dabbing a little water on someone’s forehead. On that point thought the Baptists were likely to more right.
On the heels of joining the Methodists, hardly a year later, I learned of a new wind blowing that promised to get one closer yet to the faith and power of the New Testament Church…namely the Charismatic movement. And so I drifted out Methodism into Charismatic non-denominationalism and remained there for roughly twenty-one years.
I’ll speak more on that latter; the key idea to bear in mind at this juncture is that I moved from the Baptists to the Methodists to the Charismatics in pursuit of that ideal I had long ago learned at my mother’s knee, that getting back to the New Testament Church was the gold standard. The closer one could get to New Testament Church doctrine, practice, and presumably power, the better.
The acquisition of that ideal turned out to be the first milestone on the long road that after about thirty-eight years as a Protestant Christian of one stripe or another led me in 1995 to the doors of Orthodoxy.