While weighing the responsibilities that children bring, a father looks to the church for direction.
During his growing years, Brad Harris had some ties to different religions but never attended church on a regular basis. After getting married and welcoming a new daughter, however, Harris found himself contemplating spiritual matters. “I started thinking about my future and afterlife,” he says. The quest eventually led him to taking Bible information classes, getting baptized, and becoming a member of a WELS church.
Seeds of religion
Harris was raised in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. In his household, his mother was a Methodist, and his father was a Mormon. While religious in name, “we were never part of a church,” Harris says. The family occasionally attended services at a Methodist congregation in the area.
Over summer vacations from school, his parents sometimes sent Harris to a vacation Bible school. While he enjoyed going to the classes and learning, he didn’t become absorbed in the religious teachings. During some of those events, there were opportunities to be baptized. “I never felt like getting baptized,” Harris says. “I just did not feel ready.”
In the years that followed, Harris didn’t maintain strong ties to any church or religion. He had biblical touches enter his life once in a while, though, and he took notice of them. “A girlfriend in high school gave me a Bible with my name engraved in it,” he says. “I kept it on the shelf, and we would occasionally use it.”
Harris’ mother also kept a Bible at home. For special times, like holidays, she would pull it out and read it to the family. “It was a special Bible to us, and my grandmother would read the verses of Jesus’ birth and the story of the wisemen at every Christmas,” Harris says. “When she passed away, my mom would read it and then also other family members. It became a tradition.”
When he left home and started out on his own, Harris continued to have spiritual thoughts but didn’t connect to any particular church. “I felt a cultural drawing to the Lord and prayed, but I didn’t understand what I was doing,” he says. After getting married and starting a family, however, he started focusing more on religion. He recalled the traditions of his childhood and started thinking about what he wanted for his young child and growing family.
“I have a daughter who turned two in February 2020,” he says. “She is the light of my life. Like a lot of new fathers, it made me start to think more about church.”
Harris came across some podcasts that covered spiritual themes and began tuning in to one called “The Godcast.” While listening to several episodes, he learned about the Lutheran church. He also heard of Martin Luther, along with some of the religious texts that Luther wrote. Through these listening sessions, Harris agreed with Luther’s teachings and outlook, which made him consider finding a Lutheran church. “I decided Lutheran churches have what I want, like Scripture and community,” Harris says.
Studying through COVID-19
“One evening my family and I went out to dinner at a block of restaurants,” he says. “There was a brewery close by, and we walked over to it after dinner. At the brewery, I met this young Lutheran pastor with two young kids.” That pastor was Lucas Bitter, pastor at Intown Lutheran church, the WELS mission in downtown Atlanta.
The brewery was designed to allow families with children to relax and connect. An outdoor patio provided games like bean bag toss that kids can play while parents chat. Through his conversation with Bitter, Harris learned he could take a Bible Basics class. The timing seemed right: Harris had been hoping to join a church and was interested in learning more about Lutherans.
Shortly after their initial conversation, Harris learned his neighbor had also met the same Lutheran pastor and was planning to host the Bible Basics class at his house. “My neighbor also has a young daughter and lives right across the street from me,” Harris says. “It couldn’t have been more synergistic. It was divine planned.”
“I felt a cultural drawing to the Lord and prayed, but I didn’t understand what I was doing.”
The group started meeting together, and right from the beginning Harris appreciated the material. “It’s amazing how naturally it all came together. I was looking for an opportunity for a Bible Basics class, and I was able to learn answers to the big questions I had about the Old Testament and New Testament,” he says.
The course began just as the coronavirus pandemic was entering the United States. “After about the third week of studies, we had to switch to Zoom meetings for the rest of the class,” Harris says.
Even in digital form, the weekly online gatherings continued to help Harris soak in more about God’s Word. “The Bible can be daunting for someone new to religion,” he says. “It’s a big book with teeny little words, divided into all these different books. It’s got such clout that comes with it.”
Poring through it, however, enabled Harris to understand different Bible stories and to choose some verses that quickly became favorites. “There are cool little quips and quotes in the Psalms, and the book of Romans and the gospels are full of real and relevant stuff that we are going through today,” he says. “You can get insight on where to start and where to go—it specifically points out the path.”
“It’s so important to stay positive throughout all of this. I’ve been grateful for what I’ve been able to find in God’s Word.”
This knowledge was especially applicable to Harris, as he found himself going through a transition period related to his work. He kept in touch with Bitter throughout the class. He often received Bible-based messages and prayer support from Bitter and other members.
When the class finished, Harris felt he had insight into both the Bible and the Lutheran church. “We really got the Reader’s Digest version of the Bible. I kept my folder from that class and became a member just a few weeks after the class ended.”
Harris wanted to get baptized, but due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the area, the congregation was still meeting online and streaming worship services. Finally Bitter was able to arrange a time when Harris could come with some guests to get baptized during a service. “I invited my family to come,” Harris says. “The congregation watched online.”
Getting baptized and being able to become a member through the pandemic was helpful for Harris’s perspective. “It’s so important to stay positive throughout all of this,” he says. “I’ve been grateful for what I’ve been able to find in God’s Word.” Being able to connect with other members of the Lutheran church helped him feel supported. He appreciated belonging to a group that would pray for each other and share encouraging Bible passages with those going through hard times.
Harris hung the framed baptism certificate in his home right away. “It reminds me of my gratitude to the church and to my newfound faith,” he says. “With church comes community, and with community comes a strong foundation.”
Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 107, Number 11
Issue: November 2020
- Confessions of faith: Brad Harris - 2020/10/28
- Confessions of faith: Anthony and Alex Lleonart - 2020/05/31
- Confessions of faith: Holly Vaden and the Thorsons - 2020/02/25