I stood in a prayer circle in a home in the most dangerous neighborhood in the city of Rochester. We were praying with a pastor from Ghana, and people of different faiths and color, for help to spread the Gospel of Jesus in the city.
Later I wondered, how did a girl, raised in what was then a lily-white suburb and a Roman Catholic church, end up in this house, with these people, joined in common prayer? I may write a book about that journey one day; but for now, let’s just say I believe Jesus decided I would make a better follower as a Protestant than a Catholic. Conversely, some Protestants may find a deeper faith walk as Roman Catholics.
The word “catholic” means universal. Some Protestants recite the Creed and attest to “one holy, catholic church.” My church recites “one holy, Christian church.” Both are correct. But if we speak of the Catholic (upper case “C”) Church, we probably mean the Roman Catholic Church.
I believe the distinction makes a good point. Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as a mustard see that grows into a tree so large all the birds can nest in it. I see that mustard tree with deep Jewish roots that nourish one thick trunk. Until the Reformation, mostly if you were “Christian,” you were Catholic. I see the Reformation as sprouting those many branches that house thousands of birds. Yet it is one tree—one universal, “catholic” faith. We would not have those branches without a healthy trunk, and the entire tree would not exist without its roots.
My fascination with Church History
At first, I thought a deep dive into church history would help answer some of my questions. Instead, the story of saints and sinners, skullduggery and heroism, greed and asceticism, captured me. And all within one “church!” Jesus is perfect. We aren’t. There is much that is “graceful” in Christian churches and much that is “disgraceful” as well.
But if you want to read about people of such deep faith they give their lives to it, be ready to read about others who would sell their souls for money and power. Church history is a page turner! Frankly, the “church” is a gathering of sinners, and we act like it. We are also a gathering of saints through the power of the Cross. It is not Jesus who lacks credibility or divinity. It is we who fall short. We are fallible, not Jesus. Yet despite our tendency to error and sin, the universal Church, that huge mustard tree, stands, and will stand, to the last day.
It may take a while, but I believe sincere seekers will eventually find the spiritual home that nourishes them. And it would not surprise me that as we grow spiritually, some may need to seek another spiritual home. Don’t give up finding the church that best brings you to the foot of the Cross.
If I tweaked your curiosity about church history, please dive deep into it with the Christian History Institute. Its webpage features beautifully illustrated magazine issues you can read online. https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine. And for a donation (amount of my choice) I receive each issue of its glossy magazine to keep in my library. The Christian History Institute also produces Redeem TV for members like me who want to watch quality Christian films. https://redeemtv.com/
Enjoy! And let me know what you think.