Confessions of faith: Carlson

A search ends when the gospel becomes clear and precious. 

Keleen Carlson 

As of September 2017, I am a Lutheran!  

Born in Texas in the late 1960s, I was raised a Christian, primarily in nondenominational churches, by my mother. I know the churches meant well, and there were some awesome people there that I still consider to be friends. But when I became an adult, I began to be disillusioned about some of the teachings. There were things that began to make me doubt the teachings and why my mother raised me in that church. Besides the teachings, I noticed some things that were going on with the leadership of the church at the time. I also started being drawn to the liturgical style of worship, not realizing where God was taking me. In July of 2015 I stopped attending church altogether.  

Back to the beginning: my father was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and was a confirmed Lutheran, but my mom and I were the only ones who attended church. My parents moved to Texas shortly before I was born. Mom was not raised Christian but decided to attend a nondenominational church when I was very young. After mom died in 1991, I took care of my dad in his failing health for 12 years. My dad reaffirmed his Lutheran faith a few years before he passed away, but he was unable to attend church due to his health.  

After my dad died, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, with very close friends, who were my pastor’s family at the time. I never had children, and their girls were like nieces to me. When the pastor decided to move to Tennessee, the family asked me to go with them. I had never even been to Tennessee, but I felt God was telling me to move. After just four years, they moved back to Texas and even bought their old house back when they moved. But I stayed in Nashville.  

Troublesome teachings 

Things began to trouble me about what my church was teaching. It spent so much time on the prosperity message and the topic of the end times, trying to predict the date of the rapture. It focused a lot on tithing, teaching that if you do not tithe God will not bless you. Meanwhile, I was personally struggling even to maintain my Christian walk and was simply told that I should try to be holy. There wasn’t much discipleship and teaching about the Bible and how to live as a Christian on a daily basis. My church taught that the Lord’s Supper was just a symbol as was Baptism. We didn’t really do anything special for Christmas. I never knew what Advent was until I became a Lutheran. Instead of increasing church services during that time, the church canceled them because of the holiday. I always felt that was odd; we didn’t even celebrate the birthday of the Savior, except to sing a song or two close to Christmas and read the Christmas story from Luke’s gospel.  

The church also called things sin that are not, such as drinking alcohol in moderation. This frustrated me, especially after one pastor told me he does not see anything wrong with drinking in moderation but that the denomination does not allow its ministers to drink or they would be expelled. It made no sense to me that a minister would believe something different than what his church actually teaches. When the church was failing due to lack of funds, one of the ministers even prophesied that God would send four rich businessmen from the east, west, north, and south to support the church financially. That church closed a year later. I was so disillusioned! 

Looking for a new church 

After I stopped attending church altogether in 2015, I did try to find another church, but many were so contemporary and seemed unfriendly. I was disheartened. None seemed true to the Bible; they were always looking for new, fun, and fancy ways to attract people.  

Then I began to research Lutheran churches to get back to my dad’s original beliefs and to find a church with a liturgical style of worship. After a bit of research, I realized that the Lutheran churches I was finding were way too liberal for me. I knew when my dad attended the Lutheran church it was not that way.  

Then came WELS! I finally found Rock of Ages in Madison, Tennessee. I had never heard of WELS before, so I did some research and found its beliefs were based on the Bible. It was just what I had been looking for! 

I attended the early service one Sunday in May 2017 and loved it. The pastor was very friendly and so were the people. They smiled and said hi, which was not my experience at some of the other churches I tried. There was such a reverent, holy feeling in church that morning.  

I filled out the friendship register, and the pastor scheduled a time to meet with me at a local Starbucks. I explained everything about my background to him, and he was compassionate about my struggles to find a good church that really believed the Bible. He told me how to become a member—by taking the Bible information class. Even though the class was not running at the time, he met with me personally each week at the church to teach me. That amazed me and almost brings me to tears even now, because it was so personal and caring. He is a great pastor with a true heart for people and a great sense of humor. He’s always available when I have questions.  

Found: the one thing needful 

The way my church focuses on Christ, his death, burial, resurrection, and him as our soon coming King is so refreshing to me. Our teachings on Baptism and Holy Communion are also very dear to me. Jesus comes to us in Word and sacrament! Wow! We don’t have to try and be good all the time and do good works to make it to heaven. Holy living and good works come from our love for Christ and what he has already done for us.  

The celebration of the church year, with Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter is also new to me and beautiful as we remember Christ’s sacrifice for us. Advent is also a special time for me. The Advent wreath with the candles is so beautiful—a baby is on the way! It gives me so much expectation from Thanksgiving to Christmas when we light the final candle to show that the Light of the world has come!  

I have some experience in writing and photography, and I am the media person for our church. I am glad I can use my talents to serve the kingdom of God. I always read Forward in Christ each month because it is so rich in biblical truth. Thanks to the pastor and the members of Rock of Ages for accepting me into their fellowship.  

Keleen Carlson is a member at Rock of Ages, Madison, Tennessee. 


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Author: Keleen Carlson
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019

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