was raised in a middle income family in Southern California. My father
John was a hard working and well educated man. He was successful in a
broad range of occupations, and this makes him a fascinating man with
keen insight into people. He instilled in my brother and I honesty, frugality
and a strong work ethic.
My mother Stella, was a compassionate and generous Christian woman.
Raised in a Serbian home, she possessed that Eastern European trait of
hospitality and concern for those in need. She was also a successful interior
decorator. Mom was a real driving force behind my brother and I, to excel
in all that we do.
Desiring to raise their children in one church, my parents compromised
between my father's Presbyterian background and my mother's Orthodox background,
with the Disciples of Christ Church. At the age of 5, after leaving church,
I announced to my family that I wanted to be a minister one day. That
desire never left me. I made a place dedicated for prayer in my bedroom,
began reading the Bible, and getting involved in every area of Church
life that I could. And at the age of 12 I was baptized, a profound experience
in my life.
The founding pastor, Rev. McCallum, a former missionary in China,
and his successor Rev. Darcy were highly influential in my life, as well
as Sunday School teachers and other members of the Church. I had a deep
love for this church and its people. Unfortunately, after a tragic automobile
accident involving Rev. Darcy, the church located a new pastor, whose
extreme liberal teachings and morals pushed me to look for another church.
In my search I joined La Mirada Baptist Church.
At that time, I began working in a drapery factory. My boss, Mr.
Larry Regher, brought me a book called "God's Smuggler" by Brother
Andrew and a Good News for Modern Man Bible when I was laid up in the
hospital following knee surgery. I was amazed at how real God was in Brother
Andrew's life. I wondered why God wasn't more real in my life and in the
life of many of the Christians I knew. I began to seek God with my whole
During this time I would read an entire book in the Bible each
day. I soon discovered that although I had never killed or committed adultery,
I did have anger against my brother and had lusted in my heart. I also
saw the love Jesus had for me, a sinner, and how God's rich mercy and
forgiveness flowed from the Cross. This began for me a desire to live
a life of repentance, to see myself as the chief of sinners, striving
to judge no one, forgiving and loving everyone. I knew that this was impossible
for me, but it is Christ in me who comes to change and empower my life
and make me into the person he wants me to be. Christ became very real
to me, and I began to see how He answers prayer. Moreover, I began to
have the joy of seeing others come to know Christ and at times see people
healed of various illnesses through prayer.
My experience at La Mirada Baptist Church turned out to be a sweet
sorrow. There I become the Youth Director. The youth group grew and I
grew very close to them through intense discipleship. At the same time
I was actively involved with Campus Crusade for Christ at Cerritos College,
eventually becoming the President of the Campus Club. It was also there
I met my future wife, Debra. The daughter of an American Baptist minister,
she has been a real source of joy and encouragement throughout our 23+
years of marriage. All of this was sweet.
The sorrow, however, drove me out of this Baptist Church. The minister
was illegally taking money from the church and was in a power struggle
to gain full control of the Church, which included verbally attacking
me, whom he considered a threat to his little kingdom. I quietly left,
not wanting to stir up strife. But in leaving I was without a church,
and I was gun shy of organized religion and questioned if I really wanted
to be a minister at all.
My wife and I began to attend large churches, so I could hide in
the crowd and not become too involved. Sometimes we would go to Chuck
Swindoll's Evangelical Free Church in Fullerton, a dynamic teacher of
the Bible. Other times we would attend Melodyland, a large charismatic
church in Anaheim, where Walter Martin conducted classes on the cults, stressing "orthodox"
Christianity. At the same time I attended Biola University a Christian
private liberal arts college.
By this time I was distressed over the great divisions and confusion
in Christianity. Jesus said that the world would know that we are his
disciples by the love we have for one another. Unfortunately, the Christians
in the apartment complex where I lived, went to different churches and
hardly knew each other. How were our neighbors to see this love expressed
when we were so divided? For this reason I started a home Bible Study
group which would not conflict with peoples' denominational participation.
And as a group we would do charitable and evangelistic work among our
This, however, was a band-aid solution to a gaping wound in Christendom.
Everything in Christianity seemed so subjective. Pastors too often ran
churches based on their personal feelings and inclinations. Often they
were accountable to no one at all. Doctrinal teachings supposedly based
on the Bible and guided by the Holy Spirit were often in great disparity.
Everyone seemed to be their own pope, expertly interpreting the Bible
for themselves. Denominations changed so much that their founders would
not have recognized them. What was right and what was wrong? I agreed
with Walter Martin's "small o" orthodoxy, but there was no authority
outside the Bible to determine the right interpretation. The only way
to deal with the cults seemed to be with more persuasive "biblical
arguments" and to show them how they stand outside of "historic
At that time I thought of the game, "gossip or telephone".
In that game people sit in a circle and a secret is whispered. By the
time you get to the end of the circle the message is distorted. I thought
that I should do the same with Church History. So I began to study the
writings of the early Fathers of the Church. Some of these people were
made bishops by the Apostles themselves. Many of them were martyred for
While I was doing this study, I was attending Golden Gate Baptist
Theological Seminary. And in my third year of studies, I was ordained
a Southern Baptist minister, and started a Baptist Church with two other
Baptist ministers: Alan Waisanen and Peter Heckman. We had a motto, taken
from St. Augustine: "In essentials unity, in doubtful things diversity,
and in all things, charity." We were quite different from one another.
Alan was the philosophical type who grew steadily uncomfortable with the
sectarian mind-set of the local Southern Baptist Convention. He felt that
their policy of not accepting the baptism of anyone who was not baptized
a "Baptist" was too narrow. Peter on the other hand felt that
their was something missing in Baptist worship. He introduced us to liturgical
worship, patterned after that of the Lutheran Church. Neither Alan nor
I were comfortable with this, but agreed to hold a "Lutheran style"
communion service once a month. And in my study of the history of doctrine
I discoverd that certain Baptist beliefs such as baptism being only an
act done in obedience to Christ and a public testimony of what Christ
has done in our lives, communion being viewed as a mere memorial, and
the doctrine of the autonomy of the local Church, were not the views of
historic Christianity. This challenged my baptistic presuppositions. Did
the first 1500 years of Christianity go by and no one understood the Bible
correctly, even though they were historically connected to the Apostles
and from similar cultures? Was I, like the cults that Walter Martin challenged,
also outside of historic Christianity? The burden of proof for changes
in theology seemed to be on those who came up with novel doctrines, and
not on the historic Church.
The three of us came to realize that we were no longer Baptists.
At the same time, we did not want to start something new. God knows we
have too many denominations today. (At the last United Nations count,
26,000 of them!) In our search for the seemingly "phantom" Church
of the New Testament, we came across an Orthodox Church getting started
in our neighboring city of La Habra. The priest, Fr. John Anderson, a
former missionary in Liberia, Africa for 17 years, was a man of great
personal piety and warmth. When I visited his church, I encountered the
most profound worship experience in my life. Soon a relationship developed
between us, and we began to share church facilities. I began to read everything
I could on Orthodoxy, and found it to be one and the same with all that
I read from the Fathers of the Church. Eventually, I realized that this
is where I belonged. Christ did not come to bring division. This is symptomatic
with the fall of man, not the redemption that is in Christ.. Christ unites
all things in heaven and in earth in His Body, the Church. I had found
the Church which Christ and the Apostles founded. I found a Church which
did not add to the faith, like the Roman Church, or subtract from the
faith like the Protestant Churches. I found a Church where morals and
doctrine are unchanging. I found a Church where there was no room for
self-appointed preachers, and where there was both accountability and
conciliarity through the hierarchy of the Church. I found a Church that
still believed in miracles but did not swing from chandeliers. I found
a Church where the best of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism resides.
I found a Church where the fullness of the faith, the full Gospel is preached
and where each member is encouraged to practice this faith. I found the
Church which has grown out of the blood of the martyrs. To my surprise
and delight, both Peter and Alan (after much struggle), our families and
some of our church members decided to become Orthodox as well.
I hope that this short summary of my journey will both strengthen
and encourage you on your spiritual journey. Till we all come to the unity
of the faith and in the perfect bond of peace, may God bless you in finding
the New Testament Church.