2007February27, Tuesday

How I Got Where I Am

Posted in My Life at 22:32 by Trey Austin

I am a pastor in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), but this is a very long way from where i actually started. From my birth, i was a Southern Baptist. (Actually, to be very technical, i was nothing until i made a profession of faith and was baptized at age 6, but that’s another topic for another day.) The college i attended before i went into seminary (then North Greenville College, now North Greenville University) was a college supported by the South Carolina Baptist State Convention. Even while i was in college, i served a local SBC congregation as an associate pastor of youth, and i was ordained by that church.

Even as a Southern Baptist, though, i was growing as a minister, and i continued to study. The first major shift i made was in embracing the Doctrines of Grace. Having been a full-blown Arminian (almost Pelagian), a committed Charismatic, and even approaching an Open Theist, coming to understand God’s sovereignty made a profound impact on me personally, and on my ministry and preaching.

Once i left college, though, and went on to Erskine Seminary (btw, as a random fact, on the front page of the seminary site, i am actually the guy–facing right in the picture–directly to the right of the black guy in center), i was confronted with an environment that was much more ecumenical (one could say “catholic”) than the Southern Baptist context i had been in for some years before. While i had always affirmed it, while in seminary, i had to come explicitly to recognize that the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ is larger than just one denominational tradition. In that context, i went through my second major theological shift: embracing the truth of Covenant Theology. I found the truth of God’s Covenant to be foundational to the proper understanding of Scripture, and i also found that, while not all denominations hold to the doctrine of the Covenant, the great majority of Churches throughout the world have a practice in keeping with the truth of the Covenant.

In other words, by being confronted with Scripture in a way i hadn’t before, and being confronted with loving, caring, sincere Christians while in seminary, i came to broaden my understanding of Christianity and actually became a committed Presbyterian. The denomination i actually joined was the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARP); Erskine Seminary is their denominational seminary (even though the majority of the people who go there are from other denominational traditions). Under Stuart Latimer, the pastor of the ARP Church we joined (also a former Baptist, though not a Southern Baptist), i learned quite alot and he challenged me to be a better minister as i continued to prepare myself for ministry as a Presbyterian.

So, after i finished seminary, the PCA seemed a perfectly reasonable choice to look at alongside other ministry opportunities in the ARP. Several churches were in dialogue with me, but i felt the Lord’s call to this particular PCA congregation that i now pastor. This is really a very nice little congregation; the people are very friendly, and it provides me great freedom to study at my own pace and in my own way. I also have enjoyed my time in Westminster Presbytery, as there are lots of great men in this presbytery, with many years of experience in ministering to God’s people. They have some interesting requirements, though. One that is a major requirement in Westminster Presbytery is holding twenty-four hour, six day creation. While i’m not really all that rigid on creation views, my default mode is twenty-four/six, so i don’t have a problem affirming it.

All told, though, i praise the Lord for what he’s done in my life. I don’t know what he has in store for me in the future, but i am immensely thankful for where i am now. Looking back, it seems like so long ago that i was a Southern Baptist and even Arminian. It just goes to show me how fundamental the change has been–that i can’t even imagine still being there at this point in my life. It also shows me that sanctification isn’t just a process that cleanses us from personal sin acts; it is a process that fundamentally remakes us, body, soul, mind, and heart. Thank the Lord for that.

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