Jennifer Epstein of Jen’s Gems tells of her experiences during her time in Doug Phillips’ church, Boerne Christian Fellowship. Originally published here. Please remember that while the contributors to this website are united in our belief that there are problems with the teachings of Vision Forum, we come from a variety of perspectives and this is just one of them.
Beginning at the Beginning
When Mark and I met, we were both living quite wicked lifestyles as unbelievers. We were both soldiers in the US Army stationed in Germany and we ran off to Denmark on a “Darling Denmark” tour to get married in 1985, just four months after we met. Getting married does not change a wicked lifestyle, however, and we continued on in our wickedness. One of the ways in which I was wicked was in committing adultery against my husband, and that sin led to a child, who was given up for adoption. Still, our marriage survived, and I repented of my adultery when I became a Christian not long afterward. It was in the midst of all this wickedness, at the bottom of the barrel for both of us, that God reached down and saved us both in 1990, Mark first, and then me six months later. Although Jesus’ blood atoned for all our sins, there were still many consequences, some of which are life-long, that needed to be dealt with.
During most of the 1990s, we were stationed in Germany for the second time. Although there were a few difficulties here and there, for the most part our marriage was very sound. We were in a wonderful church there for over six years, and it was there that God taught us to be Bereans and search His Word for ourselves.
We moved to San Antonio in 1999 and searched for a similar church, but there is nothing like a military church, and only those who have been in a military church can understand the closeness of the family we had in our church in Germany. We so desired those close relationships again, but we ended up in a mega-church instead. After only a few months, not being able to tolerate the rampant sin in that church, we left and began an intense search for the “perfect” church in 2000.
I had never heard of a home church before, but for some reason, that term kept coming to my mind. I started asking around everywhere I went if anyone knew of a home church in the San Antonio area. I asked people at the grocery store, on the street, friends, everyone. We were desperate. Finally, a friend of a friend of a friend told me about a “home” church an hour away. I called, but was told simply, “No.” Crestfallen, we continued visiting various churches in the area, but – nothing.
Several weeks later, I called this lady back, practically begging to be allowed to visit. She was immediately apologetic, explaining that she had met several friends of mine in the meantime, who all vouched for me. (I later learned that another lady, whom I did not know, in a homeschool group I belonged to had attended one of these two home churches — the Wednesday church — for a while and caused lots of problems, so she was hesitant to invite others from that homeschool group.)
As she was describing the church to me, she let me know of their conservative values. “If they insist that I can’t wear colorful clothes,” I thought, “I’ll be content to wear tan and gray. If I can’t wear make-up or jewelry anymore, I’m willing to give them up, if only I could find the right church. I might even be willing to wear one of those “head coverings” if it came down to it. This church was such a well-kept secret, it must be quite remarkable!” Desperate enough to give up just about anything, we wore our most conservative clothes that Sunday, arriving at this country home way out in the Hill Country of Texas. With goats and chickens in the front yard, as well as swings, a large wooden deck, and lots of grassy areas for the children to play, it seemed an ideal location for a family friendly church.
A bit anxious, we arrived early while Beall Phillips was still painting her nails red. She greeted us warmly and asked, “Do you home educate? Do you belong to HSLDA? Have you heard my husband speak?” It was a bit unusual, I thought, but we settled down in our seats for the service. After some worshipful hymns, Doug Phillips began to preach. And preach and preach. We took an intermission after two hours and came back for more. Even though it was long, we loved every minute of it and the hour-long discussion of the men that followed.
As we had a “pot-providence” meal and fellowshipped for hours afterward, we knew this was home. The perfect church at last! Beginning this church plant with a series on “one anothering,” the fellowship was indeed sweet our first year there. I do not recall any bickering or gossip amongst the fast growing group of believers, all like-minded in so many ways.
Shortly before we found Boerne Christian Assembly, Mark and I had been praying together that God would show us all sin in our lives, as we desired to be pure before Him. God was so faithful in answering that prayer, bringing several preachers into our lives through audio tapes and radio. After every sermon we listened to, God refined another area in our lives. On a long trip, sometimes we would listen to several a day. Feeling purged, we returned to Boerne Christian Assembly only to have God use Doug Phillips and Bob Welch to reveal more areas in our lives that were not pleasing to the Lord.
By the time we started attending Boerne Christian Assembly in 2000, our marriage was the best it had ever been. But that was soon to change.