Although I can remember saying the “Sinner’s Prayer” with my grandmother in first grade, I wouldn’t say I felt God draw me to him in a way that I began to live through him…until 1999.
I was 27 and in a pretty dark place. I asked a friend at work if they went to church as I felt the need to start to attend. It turned out he was a pastor and handed me a booklet on the 5 Points of Calvinism.
That completely blew my mind.
I began to attend his Reformed Presbyterian Church, and thus began a long and tumultuous relationship with the body of Christ. Although I was learning a lot about the Bible, the church was basically thirty grandparents in a small building! For some pretty lame excuses, such as how am I going to find a Christian wife if everyone is in their 70s, I would leave this church.
I began to search for something more youthful, something more up to date.
I would spend the next 15 or so years hopping from church to church, thinking I have arrived, and yet, sooner or later, leaving.
I have been in Baptist churches, purpose-driven mega-churches, Pentecostal churches, Catholic churches and Lutheran churches. Some churches were too old-school, some were too self-help, some were too much head knowledge and no spirit, some were out and out wacky on the Spirit and no knowledge.
But time after time, I would start out excited and strong and then fizzle out and leave.
I have come to realize, after all of these years, that the only common denominator at all of these churches is…me.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating staying in a church that is clearly not in agreement with sound biblical doctrine. But as I reflect back on all these years, I am trying to understand what exactly the problem was. If I look at myself, there are two behaviors that seem to haunt me.
The first kind sounds like Ephesians 4:14 where it talks about being “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” I don’t consider myself an infant. In fact, I love, love, love theology. One of my favorite past times is to study different confessions, church history and denominational differences. But this has become a problem for me—it takes my eyes off a relationship with Christ based on repentance and the forgiveness of sin won on the cross. It reduces it to a study of a topic just as another would study political differences.
The second thing I notice about myself is that I am broken and very much would like to see a difference in my attitudes and actions in life. What this equates to is an unfair expectation of the circuit to my benefit…or detriment.
Rich VanKoughnett was baptized as an infant in the Roman Catholic Church and made his confirmation in college. His roots were not strong and after college he would move on to study the wide range of varying theological ideologies. He attended Reformed Presbyterian churches, was married in a Wesleyan church, would become a certified minister with the Assemblies of God, and would then run through the various purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive, self-help mega-churches. Rich and his wife were pretty much done with church when he began to listen to a podcast called "Fighting for the Faith" by Chris Rosebrough. This led him to watching Worldview Everlasting by Jonathan Fisk. Before calling it quits on the church, he suggested to his wife that they check out an LCMS Lutheran church down the road. He was fascinated by their teaching. Confessional Lutheran theology finally answered all the questions and frustrations he had at all the previous churches he attended. He now enjoys learning and writing about Confessional Lutheran theology, and is completely addicted to technology. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichVank.