One Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1996, I sat in my college dorm room, spiritually distraught and anxious.
My church was an odd mix of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist and Calvinist doctrines. I struggled for years with assurance of salvation, desperate for peace because of the legalistic teaching I’d received. I cried out to heaven: Lord, if this is all there is, I’m done with church. Then I recalled something I’d overheard my grandmother say years before: “If I wasn’t a Baptist, I’d probably be a Presbyterian.”
So I looked up “Presbyterian churches” in the phone book. Later that evening, I nervously sat clutching my King James Bible at Woodland Presbyterian Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I heard God’s Word opened and his gospel proclaimed like never before. I felt a weight roll off my shoulders. This is where I need to be.
When You’re Here, You’re Family
There was quite a learning curve as I began attending regularly. Confessions, creeds, and catechisms were all new to me, and I was still wary of any Bible but the King James Version. But the people at the church were patient and loving as I worked through it all.
In the fall of 1997, I moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and began attending First Presbyterian Church. Week after week, through the steady preaching of men like Ligon Duncan and Derek Thomas, my understanding of God’s Word grew. Gradually, parts of Scripture that had long seemed disjointed began to connect in my mind. My love for the Lord grew. I came to a clearer understanding of the gospel and became assured of my salvation in Christ. I even bought my first New American Standard Bible! I joined the church and became involved in various ministries, even as I remained unconvinced of paedobaptism. I was just thankful to God for my new gospel-centered environment.
Week after week, through the steady preaching of men like Ligon Duncan and Derek Thomas, my understanding of God’s Word grew.
A few years later I got the opportunity to serve at First Presbyterian Church in Yazoo City, Mississippi, directing their choir and eventually their youth ministry. My years in Yazoo City were immensely formative as God continued to bring faithful Presbyterian men into my life.
Wes Everett is a great example. He sat down next to me at a church function and introduced himself. After about five minutes of friendly small talk, he looked at me and with a deep southern twang said, “Let me ask you this question. How are you doing with the Lord, son?” The question caught me off guard; no one had ever been so direct with me. Wes took me under his wing and we began meeting regularly to read Scripture, pray, and have some friendly debates about baptism. He and other men in the church discipled me, prayed for me, challenged me, and encouraged me.
Yazoo City gave me my first chance to teach God’s Word publicly. I respected the position of the church regarding baptism and never sought to make it an issue. The church nurtured me as I grew into my gifts. They gave me opportunities to teach and preach. They supported me when, at the urging of the session, I eventually pursued studies at Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS).
I’m a better Baptist today because of Presbyterians who shared their lives and the gospel with me.
While at RTS, I wrestled with covenant theology and paedobaptism and eventually embraced it, to the delight of my Presbyterian friends. I have since been reconvinced of credobaptism, but have kept the framework of covenant theology. I know becoming a convinced Baptist again disappointed my Presbyterian brothers, but you would never have known it given their continued love and support.
Praise God for the PCA
I’m a Baptist pastor who’s thankful to the Lord for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). For 15 years, the PCA was my home. Her faithful commitment to preaching and teaching God’s Word, to discipling and raising up church leaders, and to spreading the gospel to every nation has had a profound influence on my life. I’m a better Baptist today because of Presbyterians who shared their lives and the gospel with me.
May the Lord preserve and prosper the PCA as a beacon of his glorious gospel in our dark world.