The Roman Catholic Church has seen a sizeable influx of evangelicals over the course of recent decades. This has changed the complexion of Catholicism here in America, as these evangelical newcomers have held forth all the major Catholic distinctives in ways that are decidedly evangelical.
Among these evangelical emphases is the importance of a strong personal testimony, a compelling story of what God is doing in a person’s life and how God has led that person to the Catholic Church.
That is exactly what you will get in Allen Hunt’s Confessions of a Megachurch Pastor.
Many of you (around these parts, at least) will recognize Hunt as the former pastor of Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Alpharetta, GA. Hunt served at a very pivotal time in this church’s history; under his leadership it grew to over 15,000 weekly attenders, making it by far the largest Methodist church in Georgia and one of the largest in the world.
Prior to all that, he had a nice cushy job with a very prestigious management consulting firm. One day he was in New York on business, and as he entered the office building where he was going he stepped over a homeless person lying on a grate in the street to keep warm. It was then that he had an epiphany; he realized that he had spent his life up to that point serving himself and his own plans and that that would have to change.
So he started down a path that would take him through seminary and on to the pastorate of Mount Pisgah. But eventually, the strains of dealing with denominational politics and certain nagging questions that would not go away pushed him to a place where he felt that he could no longer lead with integrity. So he resigned. He then converted to Catholicism. He is now the host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show which is unique in that it deals with questions of religion and morality as they apply to real life.
In telling his story, Hunt likens the Catholic Church to an old, historic house in which every room is filled with hidden treasure. He takes us on a guided tour of all the rooms of this house, showing us all the different aspects of the Catholic faith and how they intersect with his life.
In many evangelicals who convert to Catholicism, their journey is motivated by the question, “What is the true Church?” Eventually, they reach the conclusion that Protestantism doesn’t have a leg to stand on because its authority and leadership is not connected to the Apostles or anyone commissioned by the Apostles or anyone commissioned by someone who was commissioned by someone who was commissioned by someone who…you get the idea, and if you go far enough back you eventually get to someone who was commissioned by the Apostles. We see this question as one of the prominent motivators in Hunt’s journey.
Without getting too deeply into it at this time, suffice it to say that this question is not on my radar. Protestants answer the true Church question by saying that the One True Church consists of all bodies of believers where the Word of God is faithfully preached and the sacraments are rightly administered (I believe this is a distinctly Lutheran formulation), and I am satisfied with this.
At the end of the book, Hunt issues a challenge to Protestants to examine what it is that they are protesting:
Martin Luther, John Calvin, and King Henry [Henry VIII of England] broke with the Church for reasons that were very important to them. Their decisions broke the unity of the one catholic, apostolic, and holy Church. Since then, Protestants have fractured into more than 33,000 branches and streams of the faith. Examine your own life. Do some reading about beliefs. Take a moment to decide whether you have a really good reason to be separated from the One true Church that Jesus desired for us in His prayer in John 17.
This is a challenge which I heartily accept. Look for a series of posts on the key Protestant distinctives that I believe are worth holding on to, which will be appearing sometime this summer (or earlier).
In the meantime, allow me to commend to your attention this post by Scot McKnight on the reasons why he remains an evangelical Protestant despite the lack of spiritual substance or vitality in present day evangelicalism.
And this post by Alastair at Adversaria, which is his thoughts on denominationalism in the Church. He offers his thoughts on how churches of different denominations can cooperate in a meaningful fashion, and closes by saying that the denominationalism of our present day (allow me to point out that this was NOT the original intent of Luther, Calvin, et al, but rather a tragic consequence of their attempts to reform the Church) may actually prove to be a blessing in disguise as it leads, at some point in the distant future, to a more glorious state of union that includes a diversity of expressions of the Christian faith that would never have been possible otherwise.