I typically don't write about my specific beliefs on the Christian faith and tradition that I align myself with to make sense of this crazy human experience. While I write and speak about the implications of what I believe, I feel it is a good thing to pull the covers back and let you know where I am headed in this beautiful journey called Christianity.
I have had three significant events which have been utterly transformative in my life as it relates to Christianity. The first occurred Easter 1997 when the Lord called me to himself. I was attending Friendship Christian Fellowship Church in Moreno Valley, California. Pastor Art Wooten preached on "It's your Resurrection Day." I remember as if it happened yesterday. I was sitting in the third row, seventh seat and my eyes were opened. It was just like that. God took a very rebellious young man who was about to graduate from college and saved him. I have not looked back since.
The second transformative moment came in 1999. Nicolle and I were running a group home for young girls in Temecula and I stumbled upon a radio program by a guy named Rich Agozino. Mr. Agozino's radio program was three hours long and during this specific week he chose to take an hour to investigate TULIP. During the program there was an hour for the position, an hour that offered an argument against the position, and then the final hour involved questions from listeners. I was riveted. I did not miss a day. I was completely blown away by the biblical weight and glory that was given to God. Needless to say after a week, I fully embraced much of Reformed theology and this set me on a course in which I considered the glory of God above all else. Thanks Mr. Agozino.
In 2006, I was finishing my masters in Theology. During my Philosophy of Religion class, our professor took the class to hear some English professor talk about the resurrection. We drove about an hour from Lynchburg, Virginia. Over the next hour and half, I heard this mind blowing rich presentation on Jesus' victory over sin and death. The professor's name was Bishop N.T. Wright. Bishop Wright, I didn't know it at first, but God used him to water a seed in me that I did not know was laying dormant.
Needless to say, nine years have passed since that providential lecture with N.T. Wright. Four years ago, I took up a practice of reading one author and as many of that author's works as possible. Year one was Piper. Year two was Wright. Year three was Bonhoeffer. Last year was MLK. N.T. Wright once again had a very significant impact on my writing, my teaching, and how I viewed the world. He introduced to me such phrases as "people of God," "being truly human," and "What does the incarnation or resurrection demand of us?" I then asked myself, "What is influencing this man to talk and speak in this way, Lord?"
At the same time, other things were happening in my life. I was hitting forty years old. I was seeing my children get older and I asked myself another question, "What is it that I want my children to have and be completely ingrained them as adults when they leave our home?"
Well the seed and the influence of N.T. Wright are the same; a liturgical formation. Bishop Wright is Anglican and my parents are the same. I never knew growing up how much impact going through OT, Psalms, and Gospel, Prayers of the people, confession of sin, and the Nicean Creed would contribute to my life. This providentially coincided with the launch of our new church plant and was an answer to prayer to God.
So where am I headed? Right now I am on a road of exploration of a tradition that had a formative impact on my younger years and now in my mature years I am on this road again. It is a good space in which I believe benefits myself, my family, and those I come in contact with on a weekly basis. Now I am not prepared for collars, vestments, and all the ornate aspects and probably never will because of my personality. But I do know what I am learning and walking through with Christ has great contributions which can benefit the South.
Finally, I think we all need to have the courage and faith to take a challenging step which extends us beyond our comfort zones. This period of my life is sort of a rediscovery of my Christian faith. It is a reinvigorating time that reminds me of that Sunday in 1999. Looking forward, I find an encouragement that what we learn in one period of our Christian walk serves as a stepping stone to discover just how long and wide the road of grace truly is towards the city of God.
If you want to learn more about what I am reading up on consider these books:
Beyond Smells and Bells by Mark Galli
Christian Social Witness by Harold T. Lewis
Simply Christian by N.T. Wright
Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright