After being raised in the Baptist church, a man finds comfort in the answers the Bible provides to life’s questions.
Wayne Miller is familiar with churches: He spent nearly his entire career as a church musician in Baptist and Methodist congregations.
Today, however, he regularly attends just one: a Lutheran church. “I love being Lutheran,” he notes. While he is familiar with other religions, especially the teachings of the Baptist church, he treasures where he is at now in life.
Miller was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and grew up attending a Baptist church. “I came to know the Lord at nine years old during vacation Bible school,” he explains. “I was baptized in that church, and I surrendered to the ministry when I was 16 years old. At the time, I felt a call from the Lord to be involved in the ministry.”
When Miller was in junior high, his family moved to Texas. There they attended a small Baptist church in the area. Around that time, Miller became involved in church work. As a young teenager, “I started an adult choir at the congregation,” he recalls.
Miller enrolled in Wayland Baptist University for his college years. There he majored in education. “As time progressed, I realized my calling was to be in full-time music,” he notes.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, Miller accepted an offer to teach at a high school in Plainview, Texas. He taught for two years, and during that time, he also attended a Baptist church every Sunday.
As he got ready for church on Sundays, he often listened to a Lutheran show on the radio. The sermons and theology taught intrigued him. “I got to thinking, ‘If I wasn’t Baptist, I would be a Lutheran.’ ”
After teaching for two years, Miller was offered a position as a full-time church musician in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He moved to Albuquerque, and he became involved with music education and youth ministry at the church.
As time went on, Miller moved to different places and held a variety of positions in churches. Most of these were Baptist churches. Miller also got married during the time, but his first wife passed away. Miller married again. The two continued to move from place to place, as Miller worked in different churches.
A whirl of change
“Being raised in the Baptist church I knew nothing else—that was just the thing to be,” notes Miller. “When I surrendered into the ministry, I started questioning things. I asked those questions all through my adult life, even though I was working at the Baptist church.”
One of the questions Miller asked time and again involved communion. He says, “In some Baptist churches, there is open communion,” a practice in which anyone can receive communion. “On the other end of the spectrum is closed communion.” In this method, only members of the congregation are able to participate in communion.
In 2008, Miller received a master’s degree in Christian ministry from Wayland Baptist University. “I studied theology as part of the master’s program,” he explains.
“The last church I had was a Methodist church in Cyprus, Texas,” notes Miller. He stayed there for six and half years.
Then he went through a difficult family situation. He got divorced and resigned his position at the church. He decided to head back to Lubbock, Texas, where he had lived for a time and still had family members.
“On the same day I decided to leave and turned in my resignation, I got a phone call that my mother had died,” he recalls. “Ten days later I had a heart attack.” The attack was mild, and Miller recovered. As a result of his mother’s death, he bought her estate and lived there for the next two years.
Her house was directly across the street from a Lutheran church. One day Miller was outside talking to a neighbor. He noticed Jeremy Cares, pastor at that church, walking by with his family. “I said, ‘Hey, aren’t you in the Lutheran church?’ ”
Cares invited Miller to an upcoming block party the congregation was going to hold. “He came to the block party and stayed there the whole time,” recalls Cares.
Miller came to worship the following Sunday and continued to come every week. “I’ve been going there ever since,” he notes.
Cares took Miller through a Christian Foundation course. “We did it one on one at my house,” explains Miller. “I fixed breakfast every Monday, and we’d have breakfast and study.”
Partially due to Miller’s background, these study sessions often led into in-depth discussions on theology and church practices. When the subject of Holy Communion came up, Miller brought up the idea of the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood. “I understood the real presence before we talked about being a Lutheran,” notes Miller. “That is how I had understood it.”
Cares explained the church’s stance on close communion, in which all those who share the same beliefs come to the Lord’s Supper together.
Infant baptism was another discussion. In the Baptist church, Miller had learned that in order to have faith, a person needed to understand what he or she believed. For this reason, baptisms were carried out later in a person’s life. The Lutheran church teaches that baptism is God’s act of washing away sin. God’s Word and promise are important, rather than the faith of the baptized. But children also can believe. At one point in the discussion, Cares pointed to the story of John the Baptist leaping in Elizabeth’s womb. “[Wayne] stuck his hands in the air and said ‘Hallelujah,’ ” says Cares. Miller finally could see in Scripture that children can believe.
Miller became a member of the church and continues to study on a weekly basis with Cares. “I appreciate that when we have a biblical or theological question, the first place we turn to is the Bible,” says Miller. “We look at the Word—that means more to me than anything.”
While attending the Lutheran church, Miller met a member who had been married previously but had been through a divorce as well. The two got to know each other and started dating. Then they got engaged and married.
Miller is now retired, but he enjoys serving on the outreach committee and the fellowship committee at church. “I’m very happy where I am,” he notes.
When the congregation in Lubbock reworked its mission statement, Miller helped craft the new one. It now reads, “A neighborhood church who worships, works for, and witnesses Jesus.” “To me, if you confess the Lord as your Savior—that’s the bottom line,” says Miller. “That’s the whole basis for Scripture: that you know the Lord as your Savior and you believe in the triune God.”
Rachel Hartman and her husband, Missionary Michael Hartman, serve in Leon, Mexico.
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Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 103, Number 11
Issue: November 2016
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