RCIA Faith Formation or Find A Good “Bible” Believing Church?

Confusion...

I grew up in a Pentecostal church that used the KJV Bible. It was a challenge to understand scripture and to read in Old English. However, I did attend church regularly which helped, but the older I got the more confused I became about scripture interpretation even when I started to read other versions in more modern English.

Why can't the Pentecostal church I grew up in agree with the Baptist church on speaking in tongues, divorce and remarriage, the use of tobacco, drinking alcohol and much more? Why does the Church of Christ that my wife grew up in not have music in services, practice weekly communion and teach that water baptism is far more important than the Pentecostal and Baptist churches? It was all so confusing that I fell into the Protestant trap of "As long as we agree on Christ on the Cross, the rest really doesn't matter." But does the rest really matter? Did Jesus establish a Church and a way to worship him?

NOTE: I'm not anti-Bible ( by any means - read it before I could drive ). I'm not anti-Protestant ( was one from Childhood to Middle Age ). But it's frustrating to see how so many Protestant Christians misuse scripture and have so many things backwards. Like me, many of them cannot ( my case could not ) see the forest for the trees as the saying goes. Yes, Protestants are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and love Jesus. But unity is missing.

My Personal Observation:

Becoming Catholic - RCIA Structured Faith Formation... 

RCIA or the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is a faith formation process in the Catholic Church for those wanting to enter the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. There is typically one meeting a week for several months that is usually an hour long. In the Catholic Church, it's not as simple as walking up to the front of the Church on a Sunday morning and shaking the Pastor's hand to make it known that XYZ Community Church is where you want to call your new Church home.

The RCIA journey also includes a sponsor. That's someone that is there along the way that is already a Catholic and can help with questions and faith formation outside of RCIA. This is a nice added benefit beyond the RCIA class.

To become Catholic, the Church wants individuals to learn about the Catholic faith through RCIA, but many people in RCIA also spend time learning the Catholic faith outside of class. This helps an adult become a more well formed Catholic when entering the Church rather than just saying the sinners prayer one Sunday and joining XYZ Community Church the next.

There are exceptions to RCIA for those that really know Catholic Church teachings through self study ( for example ) or other ways, but one thing that RCIA helps with is building community among those that are seeking a common goal of entering the Catholic Church. It's a great way to get to know people especially in a large Church like the Cathedral that we attend.

In our RCIA class, it wasn't all former Protestants looking to convert to Catholicism. There was a variety of backgrounds. There was at least one former Atheist and a former Hindu which makes it even more important that there be a faith formation process in place. You should not just say the sinners prayer with an atheist at a coffee shop, hand them a KJV Bible ( Bible Alone ) and say "Go find a good "Bible" believing Church.

For me, although I did pick up a few things, RCIA was more beneficial in getting to know others, learning from comments of others and being there for Brenda ( wife ) who was not nearly as far long as I was. RCIA didn't go as deep as the 200+ hours that I had into the Catholic faith when RCIA started or the 400+ total hours that I had in several months later. That's just me and how I function. However, RCIA does provide a good sound foundation and I'm glad the Catholic Church has it in place. Brenda went from starting the journey in RCIA not knowing if she would enter the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil to several months into RCIA deciding that Catholicism was the right place for her. Brenda and I both have NEVER been at home more in any other Church.

Let me clarify that RCIA is not a pushy class. No one twisted arms to force any class member to be Catholic or shoved Catholic teachings down anyone's throat. I don't recall EVER hearing the Catholic faith is right and everyone else is wrong. My experience has been if you decide to be Catholic great. If Catholicism doesn't work for you, then we are not going to force it on you.

Protestant Faith Formation...

Yes, it's true that some Protestant churches have faith formation classes. I remember being interested in joining a Baptist church and going through a single class ( Yes, just one. ) that was pretty basic. Then, I remember getting together with the group at the Pastors home for a gathering with food. That's all I remember of it. However, I realize some Protestant churches may go much deeper than this with a solid faith formation class. I'm simply sharing my experience.

In Protestant churches, faith formation seems to come through small groups ( Sunday School ), weekly Bible study and more. Protestant churches typically really encourage Bible reading ( nothing wrong with that - Catholics read the Bible as well. ). But based on my experience, there is no lengthy study like RCIA to join the church. Someone can typically join a local church based on professing Christ as their Savior and maybe agreeing to a statement of faith, then get plugged in to the local church after becoming a member and being formed over time with some of the other ways previously mentioned. In other words, the individual doesn't necessarily have to be well formed to actually join the local body of believers.

Yes, one can grow in the faith over time and we should all be growing in our faith even if we have been Christians as long as we can remember. I'm simply sharing some of my formal Catholic formation experience vs. my Protestant experience.

Not At The Same Place...

For those of us that have been Christians as long as we can remember that were brought up either Protestant or Catholic, it can be easy to forget that not everyone has that kind of foundation. Not everyone is a lifelong Christian since childhood.

In the Protestant world, you should not just witness to someone who has been an atheist all their life ( well into their 30's for example ), lead them in the sinners prayer, hand them a KJV Bible and say, "Just read this book. It's called the Bible. The spirit of God will guide you into interpreting it because scripture is easy to understand and scripture interprets scripture." What kind of sense does this make?

My point is that without faith formation, the Bible alone has a key flaw in that it's missing oral tradition: Teaching and Guidance. Yes, the Bible is important, but a free for all, coming up with individual interpretation is not how it's supposed to work. If it really were that easy, couldn't a new atheist convert just read the Bible and figure it all out? This is one key reason that the BIBLE ALONE doesn't completely work. It's a Martin Luther, reformation, invention that's not in the Bible.

Yes, the Bible should be used in our Christian faith. However, there is a fallacy in a popular Protestant saying that goes something like this, "GO FIND A GOOD BIBLE BELIEVING CHURCH."

Help me out here. How is an atheist and recent convert going to know what a good Bible believing church is? For that matter, how is someone weak in their Christian faith going to know what a good Bible believing church is? Does the Bible say that we should go find a good Bible believing church? And for those strong in their faith, SELF can get in the way through private interpretation of scripture. Many will claim to be led by the Holy Spirit to the right church. Often, it's likely more SELF leading than spirit leading.

Is a "Good Bible Believing Church" the church that feels right? Teaches right? Worships right? As long as it feels good, just do it. Really?

Finding A Good Bible Believing Church - Who Is Right?

Is a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall a good Bible believing church? Why? Why Not? Is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints a good Bible believing church? Why? Why Not? What about Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Methodist, Church of Christ or the large non-denominational congregation on main street USA? Ah, these last few sound more Christian mainstream, so any of them should be a good Bible believing church. Well, they all disagree with each other on something, so which one is right? Which one is teaching the TRUTH OF THE BIBLE? Why? Why Not? How does one know? On whose authority is TRUTH based? It cannot be solely on the authority of the Bible as led by the Holy Spirit if there is so much disagreement? Hmmm...gets kind of confusing doesn't it?

The reason it gets confusing is because Christ didn't set up a free for all, willy nilly, I believe this and you believe that. Ah, no worries, it's OK to be confused. It's OK to argue with our Christian brothers and sisters. If you study the New Testament ( take off your Protestant glasses ), you should see that Christ set up something different. Christ established a visible Church not an invisible one. If you study the Early Church Fathers, you will see that they continued to strive for unity and stood up against heresy.

Jesus and the Apostles were one ( except when Judas betrayed Christ ). It wasn't Jesus and  the 12 denominations of the Apostles: The Church of Matthew, The Church of Mark, The Church of Luke, The Church of John and so on. Have you ever thought about it like that? What kind of sense does that make? Jesus would have never tolerated the Apostles teaching 12 different ways as long as they all agreed he was the Messiah. You know the essentials. Nope, Jesus would have and did straighten them out many times. Jesus preached one Gospel and it involved things like if you love me keep my commandments meaning that Jesus taught some other things were important.

WWJD - You likely remember "What Would Jesus Do?" Well, how about WDJD? What DID Jesus do?

Jesus called 12 Apostles. Jesus instructed them orally in the faith. Jesus didn't write anything down. Jesus didn't command the Apostle's to write anything down. Jesus didn't hand them a book and say read this and you'll be a well formed Christian that will agree with your other brothers and sisters in Christ.

We can clearly see through the Bible which is the word of God, but not the only way to know the truth of the faith, that the apostle's also taught orally and yes, many ( not all ) did write books of the New Testament. However, much of what they did to form others in the faith was through oral teaching and guidance in conjunction with the written word working hand in hand.

Why would oral teaching and guidance stop? It makes no logical sense because the Bible alone, left up to each individuals interpretation, creates confusion without leadership in place ( apostolic succession ).

What's My Point?

The point is that we all need faith formation through oral teaching and guidance. We should not just hand a new convert a KJV Bible and say go find a good Bible believing church. There is more to it than that. Even for those rooted in their faith, Christ didn't set it up for all of us to be fighting over scripture.

Christ set up one Church that teaches and guides using sacred scripture and sacred tradition working together to protect the faith and help form others in the faith.

I'm still working on getting SELF out of the way to see what God's will is for me. However, I'm glad that the Catholic Church has a long faith formation process ( RCIA ) in place to help those who want to convert to Catholicism better understand the faith. It's not simply welcome aboard, here's a KJV Bible and hold on for the ride.