The year was 2005. My home church was preparing to fully observe the Lent season under the direction of a new pastor. At the time, I was directing the Wednesday night children’s programming. Plans were being made for a new Ash Wednesday evening service.
To give some background to my confession, my husband and I served in New Orleans for 13 years where Catholicism is the predominant religion. It was in New Orleans that we attended seminary, planted a church and spent a significant amount of time sharing our faith and discipling people whose families observed Catholic traditions for generations. In my experience, it was difficult work reaching those who tie faith into a religion that they are born into and to explain that salvation is by faith in Christ alone.
The brutal confession—observing Lent in a Baptist church irritated me. After all, why observe a Catholic tradition which I thought was, in part, holding back those who were truly seeking a personal relationship with Christ? In addition, my well laid-out plans for Wednesday night programming which required a predetermined number of sessions was being interrupted!
I begrudgingly complied and skeptically attended the Ash Wednesday service. Sitting in the balcony, I prayed, “Lord, I might as well get something out of this. If there is something you want me to do, please show me.”
Immediately, I was convicted of my bad attitude. God clearly spoke to me and showed me what He wanted me to give up for 40 days. It was a daily 30-minute TV show. Now, this is a show that many wouldn’t give a second thought, but it had a hold on me. For several reasons, God did not want me viewing it. Interesting enough, I have not watched it since—in 15 years.
My family moved to another city that year, but this year we have rejoined the same church. I am reading my pastor Rick Thompson’s Lent devotional book The Way of the Cross and learning more about this unique ancient Christian tradition.
Lent dates back to 325 A.D. and is a season of reflection and preparation when Christians seek to honor Jesus’ sacrifice for 40 days before Easter. Pastor Rick wrote, “As evangelicals, we distinguish our theology from Catholicism, but that does not mean we should thoughtlessly abolish certain long traditions simply because Catholics have maintained them. I believe God has preserved certain ancient traditions within His church over time to challenge and renew the hearts of His people.”
Pastor Rick has served as senior pastor of Council Road in Bethany for 15 years and has a heart to see evangelical Christians observe the Christian calendar. Published in 2017, The Way of the Cross takes readers through a 40-day journey of spiritual reflection surrounding the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. For me, not only am I learning a lot, I am gaining interesting new insights and lots of personal application.
The book can be read individually, studied in a small group or incorporated into a church-wide Lent season. The Sunday reflection questions at the end of each week provide overview and great discussion questions.
If observing Lent is new to you, let me encourage you to participate by reading The Way of the Cross and by praying about either taking something away or adding something new to your life for forty days. I pray you will be challenged and your heart renewed.