The article, A Classic Pentecostal Encounters Charismatic Catholics, takes me back to the early days of my Christian walk. I was raised Catholic, but I found little attraction to church as a child. We went to church religiously, a practice I later came to appreciate about my parents, but there seemed to be nothing in it for me. I even felt uncomfortable in church.
I went through some very rebellious teen years, wandering lost through the haze and fog induced by alcohol and drugs, drifting to the edge of the precipice, before I woke to the emptiness that I had inexplicably been embracing. That was not my conversion, but just the beginning of walking in a new direction.
Fast forward just a short while to college where I entered like a kid in a candy store with a new found passion for knowledge and truth. I thought I had left religion behind. Actually I did (and have never returned). What I did not realize is that I would discover the life that religion (for me) enshrouded like an empty tomb.
I went off to sell books door to door in far flung Jonesboro, Arkansas, and there I came to know Jesus. Churches were everywhere. Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Adventist, Pentecostal and flavors of each of which I had not the slightest inkling, but I encountered Jesus in the homes and backyards of the people who filled those churches on Sundays.
My spiritual birth was the product of Charismatic Methodists, Southern Baptists and an old Pentecostal preacher with no teeth. Yes, I am a spiritual mutt! Imagine, an innocent Catholic kid encountering such a cast of mystical characters! From praying a sinner’s prayer in a Methodist Charismatic’s home to going forward in a Southern Baptist revival, my world was turned on end and forever changed.
To be clear, I was forever changed by Jesus, the Lord and Savior of my soul. The other-worldly encounters with the spiritual pilgrims and aliens (of this world) of Jonesboro, Arkansas brought me to the gate of the Kingdom of God, and I entered.
That unlikely mix of of the Christian priesthood representing a spectrum of subcultures in the Christian world left an indelible impression on me. God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are the same and never change. In church, out of church, in homes, on the streets, in the backyards, God is everywhere, and He works without boundaries and limits in the lives of the people who hear His voice and respond.
Not without coincidence, when I returned from Arkansas with new life coursing in my soul and visited a local Christian bookstore (a place I would have never thought to visit just months before), I encountered another breed of believer – charismatic Catholics, full of the same new life I just encountered. When I returned to the college campus, I began going back to church, starting with what I was familiar – the Catholic church. To my amazement, I discovered that the local priest was of the charismatic variety. It was all around me!
I did not long remain a Catholic. The practiced piety, rote ritual and other aspects of Catholicism that I found cold, rigid and lifeless, I could not reconcile with the new spiritual life inside me. Before I left, I came to realize that the readings in the Mass are actually right out of the Bible. Who would have thunk it! I did find new meaning in the Catholic Mass, but I was now a spiritual hybrid who had already started wandering, looking for a home.
I am still wandering, looking for a home, but I realize that home is not here on this earth. I will be wandering until the day I die and the Father opens the door of His Kingdom to me once and for all eternity. In the meantime, I take my seat in church most Sundays in a different place than the Catholic church, but I realize that God’s sheep hear His voice. God knows His own. They sit in the whole spectrum of churches on any given Sunday morning or Saturday night, and some of them do not visit churches very often at all.
I must say, though, that believers who do not go to church or spend time with other believers are missing out! Jesus said the world would know us by our love for each other (fellow followers of Christ). (John 13:35) If we do not love “the saints”, we need to wonder if we are really listening and responding to God’s voice. The saints are not perfect be any means, but they all have the same Father, family and Spirit.
God is not found in a building, and He is not defined by any particular doctrine or dogma. God is constant, for sure. He does not change. We are the ones who vacillate. We are finite and do not always “get it right”. Some may be more right than others. But His sheep hear His voice and respond. That is what matters.