Salvation isn’t this hard: My Story with the Church of Christ in Springfield, MA
It was a year ago I met a close friend named Matt. I must say Matt was truly a blessing in my life, and I still believe this. He was a member of the Springfield Church of Christ. He invited me to a Church service held inside a school. There were easily 200 people at the service. Their enthusiasm was catching, and seemed to be the spiritual direction I wanted in following Christ.
I began to attend weekly for three weeks until another member, who was friends with Matt, invited me to a study. I went and again the enthusiasm was catching. We hugged shared faith with each other, but slowly lessons were being revealed.
I can remember missing church the weekend of Easter to go home with a friend to visit their family. The members of the church asked if spiritually this was going to be okay for me. I smiled thinking nothing of the question said yes and that was that. After all I was new and still learning.
The first study was about the word of God. The second study was about God’s kingdom. Then another study was on sin, and a follow up lesson repentance. The next lesson was on Jesus and his dying for our sins. Slowly my confidence in following Christ was built. Most of these studies were all done in peoples houses. Matt and I became great friends. We shared a lot about our pasts, families, and his future wife and my girlfriend.
Now up until this point the Church of Christ, was very accurate in their following of Christ scripturally. Where they began to differ from what the bible really says, is in salvation.
The next study I had was on the Baptism. They said that Baptism was from the Latin word “baptizo” meaning to submerge. They pulled scripture after scripture and was really believable. The next lesson was me repenting of my sin. Every was discussed. Everything from sex, to drugs and drunkenness. I felt guilty and worthless. I also felt good because I did really feel forgiven for revealing all this guilt I had. I did need to talk to someone about these sins. In a way God allowed what was taking to place to proceed.
The next study was on counting the cost the final step to being Baptized (or saved in their eyes). There I was tested and questioned about my faith and if my heart was ready to be baptized. Here is where the problem came.
I was coming close to the end of my junior year at Springfield College in MA. I felt an urgency to be baptized, because I would be going home to Connecticut (1.5 hour away). One member Jim who was very strong and different from the others really pushed for me to stay in Springfield. He warned that going home could be spiritually dangerous. Finally he came out and said he did not think I was ready. In the back of my mind I thought ready for what. God wants people to seek him to be forgiven and to enter his kingdom. I understood that only true believers were going to be saved. If Baptism is salvation why wasn’t I being dunked right there and then. We are talking about Eternal life, and that is so important. To put of the baptism as a systematic way to be saved, was dangerous? I did not reveal these thoughts. I was not scared though. In fact I was okay wit what was happening, only because I still had control.
Finally the day came for counting the cost. I showed up to one of the ministers’ house. He was sick and unable to count these costs with me. Again we are talking about salvation and that is dangerous. Is a person being sick, more important than a person being saved? It was here my frustrations showed and I finally revealed the. It was planned that an hour before church I would count the cost and be baptized.
My father showed up for the baptism, knowing that the Church of Christ was considered a cult. He was quiet and open minded to the idea that maybe this church was not a cult. The Baptism was not able to happen. It was clear at this point that my salvation came from faith and faith alone. I had received this a long time before, but I still stayed with the church because it was still fun. I feared telling my friend Matt that this was not the right church.
Finally my last day of school came and that night before I would go home I was to be baptized. This would not happen, but because I said so. Jim tried to convince me otherwise. Many events took place in the course of an hour. My father called begging and crying to come home because he was afraid he would lose me. He didn’t want me to be baptized. I was forced to promise him I would not. I lied, because my intentions were to do it anyway. But a weird thing happened. My car battery went dead. I had it jumped and had to call of the baptism anyway. Jim asked for me to see him one more time. I did. He told me he went through the same thing with his mother (while my car was running on the street). I was nervous, but never scared. Finally I shut the car of and stayed for lunch. I finished my lunch and said, “Well look we have put this thing (baptism) off for a while, and I need to get home. I’ll call.”
From that moment on I never was involved with the church again. I left and did receive calls from the people I studied with. Matt and I are still friends, but are not as close as we used to be. I think he believes I am saved, despite the problems, but he is different from the other members. Yes, they are cultish in ways, but they are no different from other churches that spread misguided beliefs about Jesus Christ and God. I would advise people to stay away from such a church. Their way is wrong and untrue biblically.
The last thing I would add is that they do not have any rules (depending on the area you are at), but they do indirectly try to convince you of what yo should do. They call this counseling. They advised that someday I would have to break up my relationship with my girlfriend. They tried to convince me that I should live with other brothers. I have been in contact with them many of times, but never attend a function. I am a strong Christian and believe Jesus is Lord, and the Son a God. I believe that have the gift of the Holy Spirit. I do not believe that it was baptism is salvation. I feel that Satan has a preying eye on the Church of Christ, and that they are like wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Joel, February 1999.