“You’ve always been a Presbyterian,” Some years ago, a witty f...
Feeling God’s pull
I was born and raised in Miami, so I am one of those rare “Native Floridians”. Though I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church, I never learned what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, except from watching Billy Graham on TV. I didn’t understand what his words meant, but somehow still ‘felt the pull’ of Dr. Graham’s invitation at the end of his messages. Over time, I came to think that educated people did not believe the more supernatural parts of the Bible, but could value religion as a means to teach morality to children and create a wholesome community of adults.
While attending Florida State in 1971, I was exposed to an evangelist from Campus Crusade named Josh McDowell. I was living the life of a ‘happy pagan’ but I heard the Gospel, and prayed that if God were real, He would show up in my life in a way I couldn’t miss. As I prayed that prayer, I began an adventure where God began ‘showing up’ in unmistakable ways. I increasingly began to look for God and expect Him to be at work in my life.
Pretty quickly, after praying to begin a personal relationship with Jesus, I began to read the Bible with new eyes. I had read the New Testament as an intellectual exercise, looking for what I could believe and what I could not. As I began to study the Bible with ‘eyes of faith’ it seemed to me to be an entirely new book!
I became fascinated with how the Bible, written by numerous human authors over millennia, fit together. I became aware of predictive prophecy, and its explicit fulfillment, which had a compelling effect on me about the truth of God’s Word. As I began to learn of the amazing unity of the Bible’s message, I became increasingly convinced of the Bible’s veracity and trustworthiness.
Very early in my Christian experience (within weeks of trusting Christ as Savior), I began to ‘feel God’s call to ministry’ on my life. I changed my major from Marine Biology to Religion. As I shared my new faith and sense of calling with my parish priest, I was surprised that he was not very excited to have an excited evangelical (candidly, I did not know that was what I was) in his flock. He told me that Campus Crusade was not exactly their ‘cup of tea’. I did not know what that meant, and felt greatly discouraged that he did not want me around to teach Sunday School or even anything else.
I was introduced a few weeks later to an Associate Pastor at the Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church, who was a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He invited me to team-teach a Junior Sunday School class with a high school friend of mine whose dad was an elder in that congregation. I’d never attended the church, much less been a member!
I then began a five-year journey that ultimately led me to Gordon-Conwell, out of the Episcopal Church, into the PC(USA), and into candidacy for ordained ministry. I was ordained in West Virginia in the UPUSA, and served at Salem College with the Coalition for Christian Outreach, before coming to North Palm Beach in 1980. I continue to serve the Lord here, but now in ECO.
Looking forward to what’s ahead
As the Presbytery of Florida forms, I am hopeful we can become adept at planting new churches and worshipping communities around the state of Florida. We are getting infrastructure pieces in place, while, at the same time, actively partnering to plant globally in East Berlin, Germany, Lima, Peru, and Havana, Cuba, while at the same time, seeking to plant locally in Palm Beach County.
I was excited to meet church planters in Dallas who have been through the assessment process and are looking to plant new churches around the country. ECO’s recent strengthening of a relationship with the Christian Reformed Church opens and encourages greater partnership in planting churches. I hope and pray this partnership will generate new possibilities and resources for planting Reformed Churches around our state.
We are still learning to live into our new polity and develop our own traditions and best practices here in ECO’s Florida churches, but we thank God for the great privilege to be able to do so. We are hopeful that several churches around Florida that have been in process to come to ECO may soon be joining us in this important work of planting and developing flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Lucky Arnold serves as moderator for the ECO Presbytery of Florida. He currently resides in North Palm Beach, Florida.