So Why I Should I Believe in Jesus? A Talk with Pastor Vince

I got a chance to sit down and talk to the campus pastor, Vince, over at Sagebrush El Dorado.  If you recall from an earlier post, I had left the information card with my name and number on it last Sunday.  Vince called me a few days after that.  He was very nice and said he was happy to talk to me over the phone or in person.  I said I’d prefer a face-to-face conversation; I think you get a lot out of reading another person’s body language.  Since I knew I’d have Savannah, I told him it’d be better for me if I could meet him somewhere I could easily keep an eye on her.  He offered to have one of his daycare staff take her early before the service this Sunday.  I tell you, I’m more and more impressed with this church and their helpfulness towards people.

Get Ready

I started thinking Saturday night about what I wanted to ask Vince.  When I spoke to him over the phone, I told him I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to discuss, and that was the truth of the matter.  What was I asking to speak to a pastor for?  I’ve been around this Christian block a time or two.  Surely nothing he would tell me would be earth-shattering, right?  But still, I felt that desire to talk to someone, so I just went with it.  I still thought it would be best to go prepared with some questions, so I went over the pending conversation in my head.  I felt like I had some good questions and I was eager to hear his answers, and perhaps even more than that, to see how he handled them.  After all, if I’m going to commit to someone to help me on a spiritual path, I want to know they won’t crumble under pressure.

I made sure Savannah and I were up early Sunday morning.  Actually, Savannah made sure of it.  🙂  And we did get there on time (miracles never cease).  On the way, Savannah asked if we were going to her church.  I guess she’s getting accustomed to this idea of church now.  Vince was waiting for us.  Savannah went happily with the woman Vince said he’d have waiting, while he and I went to talk privately in a classroom behind the stage.

The Talk

I often get nervous talking to people I don’t know too well, especially if it’s on a topic that hits close to home like this whole spirituality thing does for me.   However, I felt rather comfortable with Vince.  He’s a former Catholic like me, and I was glad to know he knew where I was coming from in some respects.  I told him a little of my background and that I was trying to figure things out once again.  I then proceeded to throw some hard questions at him.  And early on in the conversation, I apologized if I came off as argumentative.  I wanted to disarm any defensiveness he might have towards me.  I told him I truly wasn’t trying to be argumentative, but rather that I was really trying to understand.  I explained that I have a pretty logical mind, and while yes, I know that spirituality is a leap of faith, I still feel that it can be logical to some extent.  If you want to know what an artist is like, look at his art.  If you want to know what God is like, look at his creation.  The universe is logical; there are patterns and we can predict things based on those patterns.  It then only makes sense that God is logical as well.  Therefore, I wanted logical answers to my logical questions.  That’s reasonable enough, right?

Vince handled all my questions well.  I didn’t get the circular argument from him that I’ve heard from Christians in the past.  Now this may have been because I brought up that point, that when I’ve asked questions in the past, I’ve received a circular argument back – “Why should we believe in God and Jesus?  Because the Bible says we so.  Why should we believe the Bible?  Because it’s God’s Word.  How do you know that?  It says so in the Bible.”  Ahhh!!  That stuff drives me nuts.  If you’re a Christian and you’ve ever handed someone that weak argument, please go back and do your homework.  Once again, I realize there’s a certain amount of faith required with all of this, but come on!  You can do better than “because the Book says so.”  However, if that’s the kind of thing that works for you, let me send you out a book that says you should send me $100 every Friday morning.  Because it’s my word and I said so.  And by alls means, feel free to go with that.  😉

I, however, need more.  So I asked for more.  I wanted to know why it can’t be that all the religions ultimately lead to the same center, God.  Why would God make so many different kinds of people, and yet have only one true religion for all of them?  Why is it not possible that when Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” he wasn’t speaking specifically about himself, but rather about the spirit of God within him?  I asked why we should trust the Bible.  In the past, I’ve heard because it was inspired by God and he wouldn’t have allowed the wrong things to be placed in that book.  I thought, why not?  God gave us all free wills, so why couldn’t the men who put the Bible together have inserted and held back books based on their own agendas, not necessarily God’s?  I also asked about judging others.  I told him one of my concerns with Christianity is that in deciding your religion to be the “right” one, you automatically judge others to be wrong.  Yet that goes against the instruction not to judge.  I concluded by asking his opinion about the idea of “once saved, always saved.”  This is something Catholics and Christians don’t agree on and something I’ve wondered about a great deal.

So what did Vince come back with?  By and large, logical answers that point to Jesus as the Savior and Christianity as the true religion.  He also mentioned that a certain amount of faith is definitely required.  He did stress that it is about your relationship with Jesus more than anything else.  He encouraged me to study the Bible, read a couple of books (“More Than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell and “A Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel), and pray to God for guidance.  He ended our talk by praying for me, that I would find what I was seeking and develop a relationship with God.

Now what?

I’m going to do what he suggested and continue studying, praying, and seeking the Truth.  I doubt I’ll limit my studies to the Bible and those couple of books.  Even if Christianity is the true religion (and I’m still not convinced at this point), that doesn’t mean those other religions don’t also offer truth.  Besides, I think true faith requires being able to look at all those things, instead of hiding from them, and even in the midst of all that knowledge say, “I KNOW I’m doing what I should be doing.”  And that’s what I’m trying to get to – knowledge, belief, faith.


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1 Sunday, 2 (very different) Churches

I know I was going to write about overcoming my fear with regards to the India trip, but this came up today, so I thought I’d come back to that.  Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten.  I will tell you about “The Fear.”  Muahahahahahaha…

Anyway…

Some history on this situation…

A few weeks back, I decided I wanted to go to church.  There were a few reasons for this, not the least of which being a desire for community.  I also want to introduce my daughter to different religions, not to mention bring her up with some solid values, so I figure it’s time to start taking her to some kind of church.  I wasn’t sure where to go, but I recalled that my friend Chris, whom I hadn’t seen since high school, was a worship pastor at a local church.  I emailed him to ask about it and he was quick to respond and tell me all about service.  It was good deal for me, too, because I’d get to go to church and see an old friend, all in one day.  Efficiency people, efficiency!

So, Savannah and I headed out to the Sagebrush Community Church.  Their main campus is located out on Coors, a good thirty minute drive from my place, but I figured, what the hell?  (Can I say that when I’m on my way to church?)  We arrived and I was a bit shocked at how massive this place was.  So many people!  And we were running a bit late; how unusual for me, right?  😉  Somehow I got parked and inside, then had to get Savannah checked into daycare.  They have this elaborate system.  The first time you come, you have to fill out some paperwork for your child, but after that, you get checked in at these little kiosks they have.  The last 4 digits of your phone number pulls up your child’s information, prints out a name tag and a corresponding number for you.  If, during the service, your child is in need of you, the number will flash on a screen in the front of the church.  You can then quietly slip out and attend to your kiddo.  Pretty cool, eh?  I thought so.

Of course, as soon as Savannah realizes I’m leaving her, the tears begin.  It took a few minutes to get her to go with the 2 nice attendants in the 3-year-old room, but she finally did.  I then headed out to the church, but found out the main sanctuary was so packed, I would have to sit up in a room in a separate building and watch the service on a live feed.  No big deal.  I headed up there.  The service was very good.  I enjoyed the band, and my friend Chris even had a solo, which was rockin’.  I was quite impressed with the church’s sound system and 3 huge screens.  Very fancy stuff.  And the pastor, Todd, is a really great speaker.  I enjoyed the sermon, and at the end of the day, Savannah even liked her class.  All was well.

Or so I thought.  The next week, I wanted to go back to the church, but Savannah wasn’t having it.  She said she liked the adults, but not the kids in the 3-year-old room.  Fair enough.  I don’t want to twist her arm and make her resent having to go to church.  So I backed off.  It wasn’t until this weekend that she came around again.

Back to today…

I found out from Chris that he was going to be singing at the El Dorado campus, located at El Dorado High School.  I couldn’t quite understand how the church was at the school, but once again I figured, what the hell?  Savannah agreed to go and was in quite good spirits this morning.  (She should be.  I gave her Benadryl to sleep through all the bug bites she got while with her dad.  The child was well-rested.)  On our way into the school, er church, she asked if she was going to class.  I told her I wasn’t sure (I couldn’t see how they’d have a daycare here, though they certainly did, complete with kiosks and all), but we’d find out.  She told me she wouldn’t cry at this church and true to her word, she gave me a hug and a kiss and was off to class.  And I was off to the service.

The band was already rockin’ out by the time I got in there (did I mention I’m often running late?).  I figured since this was a different campus we’d have a different pastor and I had to admit I was a bit apprehensive about whether I’d like whoever was here.  Like I said, Todd is really good.  Much to my pleasant surprise, Todd did the sermon at this church as well, via live feed from the main campus.  It occurred to me that I really like this pastor and I’ve actually only ever seen him on the screen.  The sermon, or teaching, I believe they call it, was great.  It was about relationships and communications between men and women.  Boy, could I relate to a lot of what he had to say!  The music was also excellent, probably even better than the first band I saw at the main campus.  All in all, I think my second experience at Sagebrush was even better than my first.  Savannah would probably say the same.  I decided I wanted to get more involved and left my name and number on a tear out they have in the program.  I should be getting a call from a pastor sometime this week I believe.  I’m looking forward to that conversation.

And then there was the Catholic church…

Following the first service I went to, Chris and I chatted a bit, and we were discussing some of the differences between Sagebrush and the Catholic church.  Our conversation centered on the facts that we both liked the rituals (Chris used another word that I can’t recall) of the Catholic church, but that the content is often not very relevant.  I told him the Catholics needed to take a lesson from Sagebrush.  And I’m not kidding.

So later in the afternoon, I asked my mom and dad if Savannah and I could join them at mass.  They said yes, of course, and picked us up.  We arrived at Our Lady of the Annunciation Parish a little before 5:30 PM for the hour-long service.  Turned out it was going to be a bit of a long hour.

Now, please know, I knew what I was about to get myself into.  I was born and raised Catholic and was an active member of the Church for 15 or 16 years.  However, seeing it with fresh eyes, and the eyes of a single mother no less, was a whole new experience.

First of all, my biggest beef with the church is that there’s no daycare.  And that bugs me.  This is a religion that forbids birth control, yet they’re not going to assist their congregation with childcare?  It’s stressful trying to keep a child under control when you’re at a worship service.  To her credit, Savannah did very well for the first half of mass, though she was running around in the back of the church.  I kept an eye on her and was, for the most part, pretty distracted from the service.  I finally had to take her out and even trying to keep her in the little room with a viewing window to the service was to no avail after a while.  We spent the last 10 minutes of mass outside, waiting.  Not fun, though I suppose it would have been worse in the heat of the day.

My other big issue?  The sermon wasn’t good.  Well, maybe it was, but the speaker, a deacon, was no public speaker and I didn’t stay engaged at all.  I vaguely recall what he said, but this is in sharp contrast to the fact that I can pretty much tell you Todd’s entire sermon.

The other big problem with Annunciation versus Sagebrush is the sense of community and feeling welcomed.  I felt very welcomed at Sagebrush.  People were friendly and several people introduced themselves by name to me.  This didn’t happen at the Catholic church.  Sure, people smiled when you looked at them, but other than that, there was nothing inviting in the way they approached you.  All in all, I just didn’t feel very welcomed there.  And I think the truth is, I’m not.  I’m not Catholic anymore, and that is a big problem if you’re attending a Catholic church.  You’re excluded, no doubt about it.  Oh, you can come to service, pray, sing, etc., but no communion for you!  And if you don’t already know people there, don’t expect to by the end of mass.  It’s just not likely to happen.

Now, I grant you, I wasn’t trying all that hard.  I’m kind of back in my figuring-things-out phase.  Making new friends isn’t on the top of my agenda at the moment.  I’m trying to decide where I belong.  But rest assured, if I had to make a decision based solely on my 2 church experiences today, it’d be Sagebrush, hands down, if for only the daycare situation alone.  That is just that big of a deal to me.

Now what?

Well, I’m going to wait to hear from the Sagebrush pastor.  I want to sit down and talk to him.  I don’t think it will be Todd, but rather some pastor from the El Dorado campus.  That’s ok.  I’m not exactly sure what I want to say to him, but I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.  I can talk religion for hours.  No problemo.  😉

And I’m also planning to go talk to the priest at Annunciation.  I want to discuss the daycare issue more than anything.  I’m not going back there if I have to try to keep an eye on Savannah.  I just don’t want to end up sitting outside near the end of service each time.  And I have some other things I’d like to ask the priest.  Maybe I’ll make up a list before I go.  I like lists.  🙂

So that was my Sunday, in a nutshell.  A pretty big nutshell.  I’ll keep you posted on the church happenings.  And any thoughts, suggestions, hell, questions for a priest, let’s hear it!