You can reveal the sins of another only when the sole intention in your heart is the benefit of the soul of the sinner.- St Nikon
Our Church Beginnings
My road to Orthodoxy begins in April of 1997. It was Easter Sunday and I had just been lead to Christ the Friday before by a Baptist minister selling burial plots for his friend who owned a funeral home in Palatka Florida. That is the story of my life. We joined a non-denominational church and by November of 98, I was feeling my oats and a calling I knew couldn’t be ignored. So I went forward at a youth event I was chaperoning and dedicated myself to becoming a pastor.
Over the next three years, I studied as much as I could, spoke at every opportunity I was given, including the local homeless shelter, and attended every conference within 400 miles of Jacksonville. So by Summer of 2001, I was ready for school. We sold our house and everything we couldn’t fit in a small U-haul and moved to Lake Wales, Florida and started college in the spring of 2002.
It was in one of the very first classes that my road to Orthodoxy began. The professor had us read the Didache and write a page about it. If you are unfamiliar with the Didache it is an early second-century document that lays out how to live as a Christian and how church services are to be done. From that point on I was hooked on the teachings of the early church fathers, but I never put them in the context of anything but the Roman Catholic church. If you know anything about Protestantism, Catholicism is of the Devil himself. (I don’t believe that any longer)
Fast forward to 2007
I have finished school at one of the most conservative Baptist schools in the country, yes I transferred, and now I am out on my own looking for a job as a pastor, and looking for ways to reach young people who are leaving the church. I came across several books that made me think about church differently. Pagan Christianity (Amazon Link) by Frank Viola was one of those. The problem I had was, Pagan Christianity sounded completely different than the Didache and I assume that the people who were there, actually knew what was going on so I had to really learn who and what the early church was about and why it became what it became.
I later met a few people who knew Frank and followed his beliefs about taking the church back to the bible but I never felt comfortable with his premises. I get it, the church is made up of people and we are all sinners and yes we spend too much money on buildings and not enough on helping our fellow man. I really believe that getting back to the church that Jesus founded was the key, but I knew what I had read and I knew the early church fathers were there at the beginning and they had to know better.
The End of My Road To Orthodoxy
In the spring of 2014, my family made the choice to leave the church we had been at for 17 years. It wasn’t an altruistic awakening, I was pissed off at the leaders. The summer before they had told me I could not apply for the open pastorate. That was my dream, I had never believed I would pastor anywhere else but they refused to even acknowledge me. The person they did hire decided to fire the most Godly man I had ever met because he wasn’t organized enough. But I digress (I have edited this paragraph a lot. Apparently, I need to pray more). So I resigned the week after he decided to fire the Godly guy and by June 2014 we were churchless.
Our plans were, go to a lot of churches, we assumed we would end up Catholic, and we would never get involved in anything at the church again. (We were hurting) The third Church we went to was St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church. I was floored. We knew we were home. It is still an emotional experience for me to this day. Everything I had read about the early church came into being in that church service. I went to another church the next Sunday because I was not going to deviate from the plan, but I knew it was over.
I won’t tell you it has been easy. I read a lot of books to learn why people kissed icons, lit candles, and a lot of other things. Once I understood the theology it all made sense. Today my wife and I work with the hospitality team, we greet and usher, but we still have not been to a business meeting, that will come in time. Our boys serve in the altar and attend every youth event and camp we can afford. We really are at home in what I believe to be the original church I was looking for.