The Catholic Defender discovers and Debates the "Church of Christ"
I went to Chicago to see Pope St. John Paul II at Grant Park in October 1979. There were an estimated 2,000,000 people that was there. That was really an awesome pilgrimage. I went with a group from Springfield Missouri. After this great pilgrimage, I moved to Harrison Arkansas and began working at a Pepsi plant. This was definitely different from my college days as I rented a small apartment down town Harrison Arkansas in a small duplex. One day there was a young man who moved next to me. I befriended him and invited him in to talk. I found out that he was running away from home as he was having problems with his parents. I was able to talk him into going back home to work things out. His parents were very thankful to me and invited me to stay with them for free. I helped out with some chores so that was a good arrangement to me. I found out that the family were members of the Church of Christ. They were interested in what denomination I was and I told them I was Catholic. It was recognized by them that the Catholic Church was old, that it went back to Constantine. They maintained their Church was established by Christ himself.
This led to a series of friendly debates as I maintained the Catholic Church was founded by Christ. I had a historic line to Christ from St. Peter to Pope John Paul II (1979). They were very nice people and I was glad to have helped them with their son. I began to investigate the Church of Christ as this was not a denomination I recognized from College. I discovered through research that this movement was founded in the early 1820's by Alexander Campbell, his Brother, and a friend named Barton Stone. These men were formerly members of the "Calvinist" or "Presbyterian" church. Different groups would emerge from them as division took place such as "The Disciples of Christ", the "First Christian Church", and the "United Church of Christ". The family I was with were from the original Church of Christ most known for not having musical instruments in their church. The church itself are very simple, not much to it.
They challenged me on having instruments in the Church such as an organ. I told them it took the Catholic Church a thousand years to accept an organ because the Church held a certain bias against it going back to the Coliseum in Rome when Christians were thrown to the lions. There was an organ like musical box that played at these bloody events. My first response to the music issues was based from Psalms 150 which states, "Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his exceeding greatness! Praise him with the trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with timbrel and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breaths praise the Lord"! That did not go very far with them because I was told it came from the Old Testament. I learned from them that the Old Testament was not really an authority, it has to be from the New Testament. That was interesting to me. I came back with Revelation 14:2-3 which states, "And I heard a voice from heaven like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder; the voice I heard was like the sound of harpers playing on their harps, and they sing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders".
I was also able to share Revelation 15:2 which states, "And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing besides the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb". This was the way we would go back and forth with point after point. One night while I was still living there, I was reading from the King James version of the bible and happened to read Matthew 6:7 which states, "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words". When I first read that I felt my heart stop. I recalled the Rosary and how that was "repetition"! Just the way this was worded disturbed me. I recalled back in my college days when I heard people attacked the use of the Rosary. I decided to check this out in a Catholic Bible (New American Bible) and this translation said, "In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words".
Reading this translation seemed more accurate to me. To me, the phrase "do not babble like the pagans" was far better than "do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do". I began to feel that King James and his interpreters had an agenda and it was not "pro" Catholic? Eventually I would part company with them, but I am very thankful for their kind hospitality and support for me. I began working at a large warehouse back in the early 1980's was called "Mass Merchandisers". I worked in the receiving department picking up pallets with a hand jack. Those were used to unload and load trucks to store and ship throughout the Country. One of my fellow workers was another member of the Church of Christ. I found myself being challenged in the same way as before. This time, I was a bit more researched in this area. He wanted me to join his pastor in a bible study and for a while I did participate, but that didn't last long as we never did agree on core principles. Like Catholics, the Church of Christ believes Baptism is necessary, but that is about it. They believe they were the "true church" because they "rightly divided" the bible. They would re-baptize those who converted to their church.
One Sunday morning before Mass, a strange visitor knocked on my door and claimed he was from Israel. He said he was specifically from Jerusalem. I felt honored that somebody from the Holy Land would suddenly drop by to see me. He was a member of the Church of Christ and told me he had heard about me from members of a local congregation. I could only think this was coming from my friend at work but I knew where this was heading. I told the visitor I had only 30 minutes because I was getting ready for Mass. The Stranger wanted to sell me the idea that the Catholic Church was a cult and that I should consider his church. I spent the rest 25 minutes explaining why the Catholic Church was not a cult as he termed it and that the Church was the True Faith handed down historically from the Apostles. I continued my argument by giving detail how the Catholic Church is the Church of the New Testament. It began outside Jerusalem as Our Lord Ascended into Heaven. The Apostles were instructed by Our Lord to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit would come to them.
Some would say this was the first Novena. The Visitor left and I felt thankful to God for such an opportunity. From time to time, I would run into people from this tradition. My first duty station in the Army at Fort Stewart Georgia (1985), my Battalion Chaplain was a United Church of Christ and I found them to be very liberal. Not just the music issue but in politics and morals. All of this opportunity to witness for the faith helped me become more solid in my faith. This is the mission statement of Deepertruth, to help equip Catholics to encourage and strengthen their faith. I prefer ten Catholics with conviction as opposed to 100 who are Catholic by chance. Bruce Sullivan is a friend of mine who worked along with me for the "Youth 2,000" project in Kentucky. What an honor it was in those early years as we worked to give young people a foundation in the Catholic Church. Bruce would come and speak for our Parish in Oak Grove KY at St. Michael s Parish.
My Sons, Nathan and Jason played a warm up show before Bruce gave his testimony in becoming a Catholic. While visiting family in Alabama, guess who was appearing at EWTN's "The Journey Home" with Marcus Grodi? Yep, my friend Bruce Sullivan! He brought one of his Daughters and what a great time it was to visit with them once again. The Late Great Mother Angelica, founder of EWTN once interviewed Bruce Sullivan who was a former Church of Christ Minister who converted the the Catholic Faith. On this show, Father Luther, from Paducah Kentucky, was formerly raised in the Church of Christ, was helping Mr. Sullivan transition to the Faith. Very inspiring! The following was the interview that I was able to watch live on EWTN!