The Next Chapter: Rooftop Church

I am excited to announce that I am joining the staff at Rooftop Church as Pastor of Church-Planting, effective today!

Rooftop on a Sunday morning

Rooftop is a non-denominational, Bible-centered church committed to “making followers of Christ who make followers of Christ who make followers of Christ….” Located in Affton (a community in the St. Louis County metro area), Rooftop is a vibrant, growing church that’s devoted to reaching St. Louis with the Gospel. One unique thing about Rooftop is their commitment to “mere Christianity,” a big-tent approach to faith that focuses on essentials and living as disciples rather than dividing over nuanced doctrinal points.

Friends and regular readers of Pursuing Veritas will be familiar with our ministry at The Rock Church of Saint Louis the past three-and-a-half years, as well as our two year “church search” before that.[1] Hayley and I have learned so much over the past several years of ministry, life, and education. We have grown and benefited from so many friendships and experiences.

After many years of praying, discussing, and inquiring into church-planting, this Rooftop position came to our attention right as we were facing some uncertainty about our future plans. We firmly believe that God has whispered into our lives for such a time as this, and we are extremely excited to start this new chapter of our lives and faith journeys.

I am honored and humbled to be beginning this vocational work for the Kingdom, and I look forward to all that God will be doing in and through Rooftop in the future. And I look forward to sharing here about our experiences and adventures during this journey.

Best and Blessings, Jacob Prahlow Continue reading

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Church Search Update (May 2015)

Little White ChurchI have been meaning to write this post for some time now, at least since early December of last year and certainly since mid-January of this year. As many readers know, my wife (Hayley) and I have been undergoing a Church Search for nearly two years now. This post is intended to a) provide anyone interested in some of the background of this search greater context into what this process looks like for us, and b) to give a general update on the search itself. Continue reading

Reflections on Beginning Anew (Semester)

Happy New Year hd wallpaper 2015For as far back as I can remember, the New Year has been something forth looking forward too. In the lull that follows the festivities and joy of Christmas (seeing old friends, eating too much good food, sharing gifts with family), having something to look forward to helps quite the spirit. “New” is invigorating – the past is behind us, our errors may be forgotten, and the future stands bright before us. This isn’t to suggest that everything new is necessarily good; history and experience indicate otherwise, and we would be wise to heed those lessons. Instead, the New Year and its accompanying newness offer us an opportunity to better our world, those around us, and ourselves. There is something cathartic about ringing in the New Year that propels us into the winter (at least for a while).  Continue reading

Church Search Update

Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Long BeachIt’s been a while since our last Church Search post and people have been inquiring about where we stand in our search, so I thought I would take some time to offer e brief update this morning.

First, I want to thank everyone for your prayers as we wrestle with various issues, for your interest in our search, and for the stream of suggested books/blogs/churches to consider/places to visit. From the start of this process, we have sought “accountability” through sharing our experiences online, and it’s been very encouraging to have people checking in with us, especially on those days when we’re really not sure what the next step is going to be. Continue reading

Church Search: Beginning the Second Phase

This post is part of our ongoing Church Search. For more information, please click here or visit the Church Search tab above.

PENTAX ImageFor the past year (with some interruptions), Hayley and I have been visiting different churches, some for only a week and others for more extended periods of time, as part of the “First Exposure” phase of our Church Search. These visits have been to a purposefully broad range of churches, both to denominations we thought we might seriously consider, as well as several visits which were primarily aimed toward experiencing other forms of Christianity and gaining an appreciated for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As a result of this “First Exposure” phase, we have learned lots and gained some insights into where we should investigate further as part of our “Serious Considerations Phase.”

In this second phase, we intend to engage several churches/denominations more intensely as we seek to understand where we will best fit in the People of God. This investigation will involve two primary steps: First, extensive research on the churches we are considering. This means engaging additional written works theologians, pastors, and teachers within each respective denomination that we are considering, as well as seeking in-depth conversations with pastors and members of the local churches that we are visiting. A second step will be multiple visits to the churches/denominations we are considering. Here we intend to visit not only specific churches multiple times, but also to visit multiple churches within the denominations that we are considering. Where possible, we hope to visit at least three different churches in each denomination, at least one of which we will visit three or four times.

After much thought, prayer, and conversation, we have narrowed down the churches we are considering into three broad categories: Orthodox, Lutheran, and Episcopal/Anglican. We have come to recognize the internal diversity within each of these labels, and thus again emphasize that these are the broad denominational categories which we are considering. That said, the central theme that we have found to be important in our faith lives is the balance of ancient truth and tradition with contemporary applicability and service. That is, by-and-large these churches (or certain parts of these churches) seek to balance scripture, liturgy, tradition, worship, and living Christian love. It is for this reason that we have decided to focus our search on these three groups of churches.

Through our experiences with each of these churches already, we have already experienced that no church is a perfect church, primarily because we are there. Yet we are excited to learn and experience more fully how God and His people are learning, living, and loving in these churches. Though we have learned much already, we recognize that God is but beginning His work in our lives, and eagerly await this next phase in our journeys, including the part where we leave Winston-Salem (NC) and move to St. Louis (MO) in a few weeks time. We ask for your prayers and guidance as we continue this search, and look forward to sharing more with you in the months to come.

Church Search: Greek Orthodox Church

This post is part of our ongoing Church Search. For more information on our search and the churches we have visited already, please click here. During the “First Exposure” phase of our search, we are visiting different churches to gain a basic understanding of their doctrines and practices. Following these visits, we will post some of the basic doctrinal and practical considerations of the church we visited, as well as some thoughts on our experiences.

Basic History

Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Long Beach

Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Long Beach

Much like our previous post on the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church claims a history as long as the history of the Christian Church itself. Thus, we again note that this brief summary of Church History is something of an injustice. The Orthodox Church has long claimed and studied the earliest writings of the Christian faith, most often termed the “Church Fathers.” Of great importance in the earlier Church were the Seven Great Ecumenical Councils (from the fourth through eighth centuries), all of which took place in the Eastern Roman Empire. The growing divide between Eastern and Western Empire played a role in dividing the Byzantine bishops from the West, as did Western claims to papal supremacy (more on that below), the filioque clause, and the sack of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade in 1204 CE. The Orthodox Church remained the official religion of the Eastern Roman Empire (often called the Byzantine Empire) until the Fall of Constantinople until its fall in 1453 to the Ottoman Turks. Orthodoxy remained alive and well, however, in eastern Europe, especially in Moscow, where Russian Orthodoxy remained a strong presence until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. However, Orthodoxy remained throughout Greece and much of Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and with the fall of the USSR has continued to grow abroad. There are between 225 and 300 million Orthodox today belonging to 14 autocephelous (administered separately but in communion with each other) churches around the world.

Doctrinal Considerations

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Winston-Salem

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Winston-Salem

Orthodox Christians practice what they understand to be the faith handed down from the Apostles, which “has been believed everywhere, always, and by all”, though not without unaltering development of doctrine and cooperation with local traditions compatible with the faith. Of central importance for Eastern Orthodox faith is the Holy Trinity,  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, three-persons, co-eternal, and whom Christians are brought into union. Additionally, of great importance are the Nicene-Constantinople Creed (as originally written, that is, without the filioque clause), the canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Holy Scriptures (Septuagint and New Testament), the writings of the Church Fathers, and the Sacraments, especially Holy Communion (which is believed to be the real presence of Christ, but often differentiated from Roman Catholic transubstantiation, and is in reality closer to the Lutheran teaching on consubstantiation, though not expressed in those exact terms). Perhaps the first thing that one notices upon entering an Orthodox Church is their use of icons, pictorial representations of Biblical scenes, the history of the Church, and the lives of the Saints. Orthodox also affirm that church leadership should include bishops, and though they affirm that the bishop of Rome (the Pope) should be viewed as “first among equals,” they do not affirm his premiership and infallibility. Since Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches are not currently in communion (which may change by 2025), the Orthodox look to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (currently Bartholomew) as the head of Orthodox conciliar leadership.

Local Church Experience

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Interior

Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Interior

This past Sunday we visited The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Winston-Salem, which is an absolutely beautiful house of worship. Some might find icons distracting, but we found them to increase our sense of awe and assist greatly in approaching God in worship. If the first thing one noticed upon entering were the icons (and the iconostasis), the second was the language being spoken. Or rather, the languages  being spoken, namely Greek and English. Even as someone trained in Koine Greek, it took some time for me to adjust to the service (and poor Hayley was lost much of the time). We followed the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, as well as a separate memorial liturgy for a member of the congregation who had passed away. Apart from the repetition of these liturgies (we often would say something in Greek and then again in English, the scripture readings, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer, for example), the most notable thing was the lack of a sermon as part of the liturgy, with a homily only coming at the end of the service. One thing I wasn’t entirely satisfied with was the level of congregational involvement in the service, as all the music was sung by the choirs/priests, and there were not even many opportunities for liturgical responses from the actual laos (people). Of final note were (again, like our visit to the Catholic Church) the number of children, teens, and young families present, which was very encouraging. Overall, despite the new-ness of this church experience, we greatly enjoyed our visit to the Greek Orthodox Church and look forward to returning.

This visit marks the scheduled end of the “First Phase” of this church search. Over the next few weeks we will be beginning the “Second Phase,” and we invite you to follow along with us. Thanks for reading!

Church Search: Roman Catholic Church

This post is part of our ongoing Church Search. For more information on our search and the churches we have visited already, please click here. During the “First Exposure” phase of our search, we are visiting different churches to gain a basic understanding of their doctrines and practices. Following these visits, we will post some of the basic doctrinal and practical considerations of the church we visited, as well as some thoughts on our experiences.

Basic History

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

The Roman Catholic Church claims a history as long as the history of the Christian Church itself. It does injustice to Church History (and the history of Western Civilization) to summarize the history of the church in a paragraph; yet here we must. So, in as much of a nutshell as possible: the Apostle Peter is said to have founded the Church at Rome and been its first bishop, setting the stage for the Roman Church’s leadership for the next two centuries (and indeed, the amount of early Christian literature coming from Rome at least partially supports this claim). While the Western Church was less involved in the great Ecumenical Councils of the fourth and fifth centuries, they nonetheless affirmed the teachings of those councils (as well as the three additional councils of the sixth through eighth centuries). As the dominant city and church of the Western Roman Empire, the prestige and influence of the Roman Church and her bishop steadily increased throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. The Western Roman Church suffered a series of splits from the Eastern Roman Church (commonly called the Byzantine or Orthodox Church) over the course of the tenth through thirteenth centuries, most famously in 1054 CE. The rise of scholasticism (c. 1100-1700 CE), impact of the Protestant Reformation (begun 1517 CE), and challenge of the Enlightenment further shaped the doctrine and practice of the Roman Catholic Church, most notably in the Council of Trent (1545-63 CE) and First Vatican Council (1868-70 CE). Of greatest importance in our times has been the Second Vatican Council (1962-5 CE), and the worldwide prominence of certain popes, most notably Pope John Paul II (d. 2005) and the current pontiff, Francis. The Roman Catholic Church has more than 1.2 billion members around the world, making it the largest Christian communion.

Doctrinal Considerations (Where possible from the Catechism of the Church)

Much like the long and varied history of the Roman Catholic Church, there are countless Catholic doctrinal points which we could discuss. For the sake of brevity, we will touch only on the major doctrinal stances of Catholicism. With most other Christians, the Roman Catholic Church affirms both the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, though they include the filioque clause in the latter, differentiating themselves from the Orthodox Church. The Catholic Church affirms that “The Sacred Scriptures contain the Word of God and, because they are inspired, they are truly the Word of God”  (CoCC, 135), as well as the canons of twenty-one councils ranging from Nicaea to Vatican II. Among the doctrinal points which distinguish the Catholic Church from her Western Protestant brothers and sisters are the sacraments, Marian doctrines, views on justification, and teaching on Papal infallibility. The RCC believes in seven sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance and reconciliation, anointing the sick, holy orders (the priesthood), and matrimony. The four Catholic Marian doctrines state that Mary may be called the Mother of God (theotokos, the ‘God-bearer’), was bodily assumed into heaven, remained a virgin perpetually, and was conceived without original sin. Catholic teaching affirms that the Pope (whose full title I need to work in here:  ), when speaking ex cathedra as teacher of the church, is infallible on matters of faith or morals (Vatican I, First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, 4.9). The most important modification to the Catholic Church in recent decades was the Second Vatican Council, which (among other things) named Protestants “separated brethren” and encouraged the delivery of Mass in the vernacular (instead of Latin). Such changes undoubtedly have helped fuel the increasing number of Protestants who have migrated to the Catholic Church in recent years.

Local Church Experience

St. Leo the Great Catholic Church

St. Leo the Great Catholic Church

We visited St. Leo the Great Catholic Church this past Sunday for our local engagement with the Catholic Church. Having been to Mass before, we were fairly confident in what we would walk into, but were surprised on several fronts nonetheless. The first thing we noticed upon arriving was the food for the poor, which was overflowing into the entrance of the building. The second thing we noticed were the folding chairs– the church was packed, in spite of the fact that we attended the fourth service of the day. The sanctuary was already so full by the time we arrived that we barely grabbed a seat in the last pew, and people were quickly filing the folding chairs along the sides of the sanctuary and the back. The ushers were bringing people and having to make room for people for the first half-an-hour or so of the service. The third thing we noticed was the diversity. People of all ages (lots of children and teens included), backgrounds (from suits to shorts and t-shirts), and ethnic backgrounds were worshiping together. Even the priest who was preaching was from Germany. One thing we would add is that if we had not been familiar with the basic parameters of Mass (i.e., what a hymnal was, how to use the service booklet, to not go up to communion), we probably would have been quite lost, as there wasn’t much instruction of any sort. Overall, our visit was very positive and eye-opening, and we were glad to have worshiped with our Catholic brothers and sisters.

Thank you for following along with our Church Search. We wrap up our “First Exposure” phase with a visit to the Eastern Orthodox Church in a few weeks. We look forward to sharing our experience with you.

Archive: Church Visits

Below are links to the various churches we have visited as part of our Church Search.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in American

United Methodist Church

Moravian Church

Southern Baptist Convention

Lutheran Church Missouri Synod

Presbyterian Church in America

Progressive Baptist

Assemblies of God

Episcopal Church

Church Online

United Church of Christ

Church of God

Roman Catholic Church

Eastern Orthodox

Evangelical Free (No Summary)

Covenant Church (No Summary)

Missionary Church (No Summary)

Beginning the Second Phase

Church Search Update (10.12.14)

Archive: Searching and Blogging Our Church Search

How Do We Do This Church Search Thing?

The question we have been asked the most up until this point is how exactly we are going to undertake our Church Search. This is a very good question. As previously noted, since we are beginning our search with very broad parameters, we are expect to attend a variety of churches that will not really be in the running for where we end up. To help us seriously think about where we best fit, we have devised a three-step method for visiting and understanding these churches.

Phase One: First Exposure

Basic research during the weekThis will involve visiting the church website, compiling as much information as possible on our topics for consideration, making contact with a local pastor, and perhaps investigating the denominational website for additional information. Continue reading

Archive: Denominations and Topics

Denominations We Are Visiting

Obviously the candidates that we are considering for this Church Search will go a long way in determining where we eventually end up. While we are fairly certain of the general area that we will end up, in attempt to learn about and experience the great diversity of the People of God in the American context, we are planning to research and visit a variety of denominations and churches. As you can see from the list below, we have purposefully tried to be as broad as possible. Mid-way through the first stage of this search, we decided to amend the number of denominations that we would visit. The reasons for this are twofold. First, we want to expedite a process which, given the number of different Christian denominations in America, could take a very long time. Second and as noted before, we are fairly certain of the general area that we will end up eventually. We still hope to use this search as an opportunity to learn about and experience the great diversity of the People of God in the American context. *Denominations listed alphabetically by category* Continue reading