Another Reformed Newbie: Part 3

In my last post, I reflected on great things that I learned from my Black Baptist church upbringing that have benefited me as I’ve become more reformed in my faith. But, I unfortunately learned a lot of things (I’ll call it ‘Black spirituality’) in the Black church that I am still unlearning at times. So I want to highlight some of those things here, and I know for sure that my husband will be writing on this topic soon. So, this will be pretty brief.

Hearing God and Personal Maturity

I have plenty of stories I could tell you that fit under this category, but I won’t amuse you with the details. Basically, in my church, it was normal for people to hear the audible voice of God (yes, I did say audible) and have visions and dreams. It was so normal that it gave the impression (and verification) that you were truly a child of God and were more mature in your Christian walk. So if you couldn’t readily say, “God told me……..” or “God revealed to me that………” then you were not really progressing and you may want to check if you were really His child.

As you can imagine, I questioned my salvation for years because I didn’t really have those experiences. I knew it wasn’t right to fake it, and I always prayed for God to reveal Himself to me. But I never seemed to have the same experiences that other people I knew had. So in my mind, I was an ‘inferior’ Christian, or at least a really immature one. Eventually, I did learn (influence of Reformed theology from my future husband when we were friends) that those things were not normal at all to regular Christians, and if they are normal to a person, then they may need to change their diet and get their blood pressure checked more regularly.

Being Called to the Ministry

Long story short, my Black church experience taught me that virtually anyone could be called to the ministry, which isn’t bad in itself. The bad part is that my experience also taught me that you could not refute or disagree with anyone who felt personally called to the ministry because you don’t know what God has told them.

Now, witnessing my mom feel personally convinced that she was supposed to be in ministry and eventually become ordained though plenty of people disagreed is probably what brought this to my attention in the first place. But the effect of my mom’s ordination was that I saw countless women (and men) become “ordained” for lots of things in the church because they felt they had inward calls. And basically, it appeared that there was no verification process to that at all.

Unfortunately, this worsened when I went to college in Atlanta. I saw all kinds of 18 and 19 year olds ordained as ministers, bishops, and even apostles! (That’s what happens when you attend a historically Black college in the South) And you could not tell them that they were not called. Even as they engaged in sexual sins and other obvious transgressions, they were “anointed” by God to walk in their calling. We were just exhorted to pray for them and continue to “speak life” to them.

Worshipping God

The last major thing that I want to mention here is on the subject of worshipping God. Growing up in the Black church, I never saw anything wrong with a “praise break” in the middle of service. I mean, in my mind, God is just that good that sometimes you should literally stop everything to praise Him. I remember as a child seeing my cousin’s grandmother take off running almost every Sunday whenever she couldn’t hold it in any longer. We would make bets amongst ourselves on how many times she would run a loop around the sanctuary in her 4 inch heels all the time!

And then, you would also have those who could speak in tongues busting out all over the place. From lay people in the middle of service to the soloist and my mom, you could find handkerchiefs waving, random utterances of tongues that all strangely sounded similar, people doing their little praise jigs, and people falling out across the floor under the anointing every Sunday morning. I guess if I could sum up the theme of the worship service that everyone seemed to hold, it would be Jeremiah 20:9:

If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.

Now, we all know that this verse was taken way out of context, but it was the justification I’ve heard all of my life. So I hope you were able to have a good laugh on this post. Fortunately, this is about the end of my own Reformed journey. I am still learning a lot every week, but as I mentioned, I am still working on reconciling a lot of things that I learned over the years with the Reformed faith. As a Black woman, I can tell you that systematically rejecting your religious traditions, especially when they are held closely by your family, is not an easy task. So, hopefully I can write a little more on what I’m coming to understand better in the future. Thanks for reading!

Another Reformed Newbie: Part 2

Okay, so this is Part 2 of my reformed journey. You can view my previous post here, and in this post I wanted to highlight what I did learn coming out of the Black church.


Basically, I feel like a baby in Christ, like I’m starting all over from scratch. I know I shouldn’t throw out my entire Christian life until this point, but sometimes it feels like the best thing to do because I’m always having to re-learn something that I thought I already knew, over and over again. It’s tempting to be frustrated, angry, and depressed. It’s tempting to be me-centered, rather than Christ-centered as I’m watching a good majority of my “work” be burned up in front of my eyes (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Nevertheless, I’m still here, and God has blessed me with another opportunity to continue to work and strive in this Christian life. So in the words of the Apostle Paul, daily “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that I gained absolutely nothing from growing up in a Black church, or give you the impression that nothing good exists within Black churches. I actually learned a lot, and considering that Reformed people like to emphasize how historic Reformed Theology is, I think that there are a few things that I can see in common:

For instance, I learned about tarrying in prayer and the importance of prayer in the Black church. Now, we weren’t quoting from the Valley of Vision, but I learned that you can use Scripture as a guide for prayer and that God hears and works through our prayers. And this phrase was repeated often during the church service: He may not come when you want Him, but He’ll be there right on time.

Learning and memorizing Scripture was practically mandatory growing up. As children, we learned a lot through Sunday School and Bible Studies. But I specifically remember having to stand up every Sunday morning at the end of the Sunday School hour with the rest of my class in front of the entire church, and we were required to give an account of what we learned and the verse we had memorized. Not only did this make our teacher accountable to the entire church, but it also gave us a sense of personal responsibility to be diligent in our own learning and understanding of what was being taught. Thinking about it now, having to go through that for so many years is probably what has made me so comfortable with asking questions now when I don’t understand the things being taught at church.

I also learned about the importance of the Church, as a whole. The term “church family” was huge in my world because everyone literally treated you like family. We were trained to have titles for everyone who was older than us (i.e. Miss, Ms., Mr., Mrs., Sister, Brother, Aunt, Uncle, Deacon, Pastor, Minister, and on and on). And these people treated you like they were kin to you too! I can’t tell you how many times I was scolded and reprimanded by other people who saw me do something. Being taught that what goes on in the dark will always come out in the light  just meant that someone was always going to see me, no matter what, and let my mother know what I did! And yes, I feared the one (my mom) who could destroy my body (with a butt whipping), as well as, the One who could destroy my body and soul (Luke 12:2-5).

Not only that, I learned that the church was larger than our building. We heavily supported other local churches in our county through fall and spring revivals, homecoming services, and other events. (My husband told me I grew up following a liturgical calendar before I even knew what a liturgy was). I never had the sense that my church was the only church I needed to be concerned about. Granted, as a child I probably didn’t care as much as I should have, but it did make me aware that I am a member of this larger, universal church that has a history and a future. I’m not exactly sure where I lost sight of “church history”, but I do remember hearing about my church’s history at least once a year. It helped me see that the church was important and had always been important to our community. With Reformed Theology I am seeing that church history is much broader than I previously knew, but at least I have a little groundwork on the topic.

Finally, the gospel was preached, and it was central to our church. From the moment you walked in the church, you saw the pulpit up front and center. The communion table was center too, with a giant Bible opened on it to Psalm 23 every Sunday, except for Communion Sundays. As children, we were taught to show reverence in the church. You couldn’t run up on the pulpit (we thought that God would smite us or something crazy would happen). The Lord’s Supper was a guarded and serious activity that went on around you, and all you were allowed to do was watch. There was no participation unless you had made a public profession of faith and were baptized, and even then, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 was read every time before communion started. So even then, I never approached the table lightly because I did not want God to judge me for being to casual. All in all, Christ was the center of everything that went on, and trust me, I knew I was sinner in desperate need of a Savior. I also knew that it was God’s mercy and grace that would keep me every day. My pastor always emphasized that no one knew the day or the hour that Christ would return, but we were exhorted to always be ready and look for him at every moment. And we would literally, as children, stand outside looking to see if we could see Him.


I will say, on a really positive note, that writing this section has really opened my eyes to how much I did learn growing up. Although a good chunk of Black churches have picked up the word of faith and prosperity gospel messages, in God’s providence, I was allowed to begin my Christian journey in a sound church. I know they didn’t have everything right, but it was sound. Now, many people have strayed from that over the years, and many people that I grew up with have nothing to do with the Lord these days, but God saw fit to keep watch over me all these years. And fortunately, these are really good things that I can build on as I’m learning more about Reformed Theology. But next time, I’m going to be pretty real about some things that I did learn in the Black church that I wish I had never known. Stay tuned!

Another Reformed Newbie (Part 1)

I wasn’t always Reformed.

In fact, I didn’t really know what Reformed Theology meant until a year or so ago. To be perfectly honest, I thought my husband was going through a “phase” of sorts of just digging in deeper into the Word. He started mentioning things when we were courting, and I distinctly remember him leading me through a study of Romans. Let me say, chapters 9 and 10 were extremely difficult to wrap my mind around. But it wasn’t until we had been married a year before he introduced me to a Reformed church (first Baptist, and then Presbyterian). That’s when all the things he had been saying for a while started to mean something different in my mind, and also make sense.

What’s my background? Well, I grew up in central Virginia and attended a Black Baptist church for the majority of my life. Fortunately, this wasn’t one of those “backwoods” sorts of Baptist churches where the pastor is homegrown. No, my pastor graduated from seminary and moved south to Virginia. Our church had a pastor, other ministers, a deacon board, and a trustee board. And everyone believed that it was God’s intention and design for men to “run the church”. Well, that changed when I was about 5 years old. My mother felt called to the ministry, and she felt called so strongly that she was able to sway over 50% of the deacon board to allow her to become ordained, even as our pastor voted against her. So, when I was 6 years old, my mother was officially ordained, preached her first sermon, and became the first female minister in our Baptist association of about 13 churches. She had a lot to prove, and she made sure that her children were knowledgeable of the faith and the Scriptures.

Fast-forwarding, I made a confession of faith as a child, and my pastor, not fully convinced that children could make a fully informed confession of faith, questioned me in front of the entire church about my beliefs. Well, I passed and was baptized a few months later. I made it through some difficult high school years and left home to attend college in Atlanta, Georgia. The biggest advice I received was to find a good church home, and taking one older lady’s suggestion, I started attending a mega-church.

Fortunately, I met my husband attending this church, but unfortunately, I remained a member there for about 6 years. It was around year 5 that I realized some things I was hearing weren’t really lining up with Scripture, and I attended the church less and less until I stopped going altogether. Not knowing what to do, I started listening to my husband’s church online. We were courting at the time, and he lived in Colorado and attended a church formed by former Mennonites. We were married in June 2011 and kept attending the church until we moved to Louisiana in July 2012, and he formally introduced me to a Reformed church.

So basically, I’m a newbie. I’m the new kid on the block of Reformed Theology. My husband has been reading things for a couple of years, but I’ll be honest, I wasn’t paying much attention. But I’m here now, and I feel a little slow and considerably behind in most things. For instance, I didn’t know anyone in London had made a confession of faith, and I surely didn’t know why it was so important. I thought I knew what tulips were until I heard about TULIP, and I still forget some parts of it. I had no idea what the RPW was, and then I learned that it meant “regulative principle of worship”. I’ve gotten the gist of it at this point, but I still have a hard time reconciling this with my Black church experience. Lastly, I’ve realized that Reformed theology has a vocabulary all its own, and I need to memorize it quickly (plus the acronyms) because I’m always behind in understanding most conversations at this point.

Basically, I feel like a baby in Christ, like I’m starting all over from scratch. I know I shouldn’t throw out my entire Christian life until this point, but sometimes it feels like the best thing to do because I’m always having to re-learn something that I thought I already knew, over and over again…

Part 2 of my reformed journey can be found here!