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Author Topic: Protestant Searching for Truth in Worship  (Read 1899 times) Average Rating: 0
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Linden
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« on: January 10, 2005, 03:54:19 PM »

Hello--- I am so happy to see so many people with questions and comments...seeking God everywhere in Orthodoxy and other churches.

Please let me tell my story, perhaps someone will have some advice to give.

I grew up in a protestant church and have always been very passionate about my faith...seeking God out in every way...getting involved with every opportunity to serve in my church. When I left my church to go to college hundreds of miles away I had a hard time finding a church that was "good enough". I found myself frusterated with cheesy sermon titles and lack of focus within church service. Eventually after trying many churches I settled in a very new americanized church focused on the college student population because I believed the pastor was so good...and only bc of him I stayed, but was never settled. Now that I am out of college and on my own I am once again searching for a church. Three of the people closest peopleto me are orthodox. My Older sister and her husband are converts from protestantism to the OCA and my Boyfriend is a devout member of the Russian Orthodox church. I have been attending church with them, so needless to say i am learning alot about orthdoxy the ancient traditions of worship. Sometimes I consider pursuing Orthodoxy more whole heartedly...but I am scared. I am fearful that I will have to give up the ways of ministering to others I learned in the Protestant Church...Bible studies, discipleship groups, mission work...

Many of my closest friends are devout protestant christians...I am afraid of seperating myself from my sisters in faith if i convert. We would no longer be able to commune together. I remember when my sister converted it was very troubleing to me...I felt she was seperating herself from me in faith.

My goal in life is to truly serve God, and if orthodoxy is the true faith and way to worship I will not be able to deny it forever and the things I mentioned above should not matter. All christians are supposed to be different and set apart...I am just fearful of giving up the only ways I know to worship, pray, read scripture, etc.

When I try to think in an orthodox way, I feel like a little child who doesnt know anything...starting at square one...with 20 years of faith challenged...20 years of lessons in the protestant church invalidated by a new way to worship....

 You may be able to tell that I am in a time of spiritual stuggle and very frusterated...God seems so far away with miles of questions of faith, theology and doctrine between us.
Does anyone have a word of wisdom to share?
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2005, 04:52:26 PM »

Linden,

I know what you mean. I've been raised Southern Baptist all my life and up till a few years ago I could passionately defend (and "proof-text" with the best of them) such Baptist distinctives as "once-saved-always-saved", dispensationalism, symbolic-only "ordinances", adult-only baptism; as well as the two general Protestant principles of Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura. However, through much studying over the past few years, I have found these cherished beliefs of mine have been refuted both biblically and historically. As I pursue Orthodoxy I do feel to an extent like I'm leaving behind Christian friends I've grown up with. Overall, however, I see Orthodoxy more as a fulfillment (especially if/when I actually ever convert!) to my Baptist upbringing rather than as an invalidation. Afterall, my childhood faith has taught me up the centrality of Christ and the importance of seeking the Truth.
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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2005, 04:57:23 PM »

I don't have any wisdom to share, but just some random thoughts, not having been in this type of situation.

When I try to think in an orthodox way, I feel like a little child who doesnt know anything...starting at square one...

This is, perhaps, as it should be.  The kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are childlike, according to our Lord, and among other things, children are always learning.  As you learn more about the Orthodox faith, and as you are docile to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as He leads you, you will see, I pray, what God has shown to your sister, brother-in-law, and boyfriend, and many of us, either after years of being raised in the Church, or after years of being raised elsewhere and then finding her: Orthodoxy is the true faith.  It's very different from what you're coming from, and it will demand change in certain respects.  But God, Who has begun the good work in you, will see it through, and I think you will see that what changes may be needed you will be ready for with His help.  The way you worship and pray will be transformed (not that it will get easier, but it will be more enriching).  You will read the Scriptures in a new light, a brighter light.  You and your friends will believe differently, but you'll see that you and your friends only had a partial knowledge of what God has revealed to us in Christ, and knowing this, you may be eager to share with them what you have found.  I'm not even sure you'd have to give up the ways you've ministered to others in the past (e.g., I'm unfamiliar with what a discipleship group is), but what informs them will be different and, I believe, better.  In the end, I don't think it will "change" things as much as "fulfil" them, and while this may be scary at first (the unknown is always scary), I don't think you'll regret it.           
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« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2005, 05:21:37 PM »

Hey Linden,

Thanks so much for posting; it's admirable that you can open up like this about your struggles.

I know what you mean, having come from the same background as Doubting Thomas here.  And my experience has been much like Mor indicated...a new, more complete light through which to read Scripture, fulfillment of the things I used to find lacking -- your mentioning of the cheesy sermon titles and the rest made me smile -- and yet...it has been hard.  I can sense (at least, I think I do sense) the fear of loss you're experiencing.  Communion with life-long friends.  Common ground spiritually with them.  Maybe even a sense of estrangement from a God who used to seem so close, so intimate, more like a Daddy and less like a distant Ruler.

Here is one way I think the Lord has helped me truly trust Him when I took the leap from Evangelical Protestantism to Orthodoxy...

"Like most everything else in my spiritual journey, it all came down to the Eucharist.  We offer up our labor's meager fruit with trembling hands and pray that God will not only accept it, but bless it, renew it, breathe life into them, and send them back to us, full of life and powerful (yet oh-so-silent) joy.  I came to Him with what I saw as a clear picture of my spiritual sacrifice in life: witnessing, constant spiritual conversations with others, even what had been, up to that point, my immediate goal in life...foreign missions.  He led me to the House of His Body and Blood and asked that, as the priest inside offered up the bread and wine, so I was to offer up my picture of what was to come, not knowing what I would get in return.  Eventually I had to ask myself...do I trust my Lord, or not?

"I'm still offering up, believer-priest that I am, and still receiving.  Missions is on hold until I get a better grip on my new faith than these past couple of years can give me.  Witnessing has happened, mostly through things like the "backwards" sign of the cross over meals, or my "funny crooked cross necklace" that people ask about.  Spiritual conversations have happened in confession...my Lord, how they've helped through Fr. B's advice...none of this was what I thought it would be.  But I look for the compassion of my Father -- I have to! -- in 'a loyalty that's deeper than mere sentiment / and a music higher than the songs that I can sing' that the liturgy offers."

All that to say this, Linden...my Daddy, my Abba, is here.  He is, however, my King, as well, in a way I never saw before.  Sometimes I can forget why I'm in liturgy (which happened as a Protestant, too!) and things can get so "automatic" that I forget about His love and His severity.  But He's there.  And all other things really can be and will be added unto you when or if you make that leap.  It may not come back exactly as it left or as quickly as you like, but He hasn't forgotten about you or any of us.

And if you start to think He has, just check out a lily for a little while.  I hear He liked those....
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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2005, 05:33:51 PM »

Quote
I am just fearful of giving up the only ways I know to worship, pray, read scripture, etc.

When I first started attending an Orthodox church to see what it was like, I was resistent to the Truth I was witnessing for this very reason. I was determined to keep myself distanced from the way I saw the people around me given over to worship because I felt, as long as it was "foreign" to me, I had an excuse not to "choose" it (in the end, if anything, It chose me). Well, at some point in my observations I realized I wanted whatever it was I was seeing in the worshippers around me, and so just decided to, well, become childlike, as you say, and just try it all out and put all my faith into it, to see what the benefits were. That was maybe 9 months ago, and now that way of worship is a part of me, and I don't feel like "myself" doing it any other way. My advice to you is, just give yourself over to the bows and frequent sign of the cross and the incense and the icons and the standing and the chanting and singing, and I have faith the same thing that happened to me will happen to you - in time (do not feel rushed).
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« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2005, 06:04:52 PM »

Quote
. But I look for the compassion of my Father -- I have to! -- in 'a loyalty that's deeper than mere sentiment / and a music higher than the songs that I can sing' that the liturgy offers."

Pedro, I love the Rich Mullins lyric!

 :thumbsup:
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« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2005, 06:29:53 PM »

Linden:

After reading your post I decided to go in my files and post an article I wrote for another Orthodox discussion group I belong to.  It is a true story on how I was taught by two Protestants (one an Evangelical & one a Pentecostal) to appreciate both the beauty, validity, and truth in my Orthodox worship.

Orthodoc

======

A true story:

Today is Christmas for me and because of health reason I couldn't make the
Liturgy.  So I put on a CD of the Liturgy, prayed, and thanked God for the
beautiful faith called Orthodoxy that he has given me.  An old Army buddy going
back some 43 years called.  He is a Penecostal and we are the best of friends.
He reminded me of our last reunion in California when I took him to an Orthodox
Church for the first time and what he  experienced.

Forty some odd years ago we were both stationed at Fort Hood, Texas.  In
those days Kileen, Texas was a small one horsetown with nothing but a movie house,
Loan companies, and tons of Mexican restaurants and one motel called 'The Cow
House Motel'.  On Sundays we only got breakfast and cold cuts in the mess
hall.  Since there was no Orthodox Chapel at the time, and the 'Cow House Motel'
offered an all you can eat buffet for $5 I used to go with my buddy to the
Pentecostal Church and then we'd go for the brunch and spend the afternoon in the
lobby watching the games on color  TV (which was new at the time).

Anyhow, Danny my buddy always used to say - 'Bob some day you have to take me
to your church.'  Well I got that opportunity about three years ago when we
both flew to San Francisco for our annual five year get together.  I met Danny
and his wife and after a few days in SF we drove down the Pacific Coast
Highway to Bakersfield where he lived at the time.

Since we were traveling on a weekend, I decided to take him to Liturgy in Ben
Lomond.  I figured it was all in Engish and since the vast majority of people
were from a similiar backgraound as he was, they would be able to handle the
'Why do you worshp idols/' questions better than I.

Well Danny was awestruck!  He stood mesmerized through the Liturgy!
Afterwards we were outside the Church and I began a conversation with a man who
identified himself as an Evangelical Christian.  He said he worked for a worldwide
relief organization and had been all over the world feeding the hungry.  He
also said this was his fourth visit to the Ben Lomond Church.  I asked him what
kept bringing him back and this is his reply -

He told me that so many times in his life he had to turn away starving people
because he had run out of food and was helpless!  He told me a story of being
in Africa trying to feed people that were literally dying from starvation.
And a particular story of watching a mother coming towards him with one child
walking beside her and holding a baby in her arms.  And watching her lay the
baby on the ground to die as she walked away because  she realized there was no
more food.

And then he said - 'I come home and go to these Pentecostal and Evangelical
Churches and watch while very effluent people who already have so much compared
to the rest of the world asking the Lord for even more and more.  But then I
came here.  And what I saw was a  group of people whose entire service
consisted of  begging the Lord for mercy & forgiveness!   Praying for the sick and
the suffering, captives and their salvation, the unity of all, the souls of the
departed,  and peace for the world.  AND THAT'S WHAT BRINGS ME BACK!'

The following day we were in Bakersfield and I overheard Danny talking to his
sister  and he was telling her - 'Yesterday we went to Bob's Church.  And it
was beautiful!  They sing everything and it's all from the Bible!

It was then that I realized that it took a Pentecostal and an
Evangelical  to teach me and make me appreciate this Holy Orthodox Faith I have been
given.  Even with its blemishes.
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2005, 06:36:17 PM »

Great Story, Orthodoc. What year was this?

Incidentally, the two choir directors from that Ben Lomond parish are two of the speakers at a Liturgical Singing Seminar taking place at my parish in Santa Rosa (OCA) the last weekend of February.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2005, 06:38:49 PM by Elisha » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2005, 09:35:38 AM »

Orthodoc, that brought tears to my eyes! Thank you!

Marjorie
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« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2005, 03:11:18 AM »

The Malankara Church celebrates the Divine Liturgy of St. James of Jerusalem, the oldest liturgy in the Christian faith. If there were any reason that I could reccomend for you to joint our church, it would be the beauty and perfection of the liturgy and how alive in Christ I feel to participate in it.
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