An Interview With A Former Baptist Pastor Turned Confessional Presbyterian Minister

Job Dalomba has just been called to pastor Christ Covenant PCA in Woodstock, GA. Not only is this his first call to a PCA congregation, it is also the culmination of his journey from Baptist to Reformed convictions. Until recently he was the pastor of an independent Calvinistic evangelical congregation. He asked for prayer about his new call and I thought that you might be interested in reading his story. He was gracious enough to do this interview in the middle of moving his family. Please pray for them and for their congregation as they make the transition to a new home, a new field of service, and to a new theology, piety, and practice.

You have an interesting Christian name, Job. Where did you grow up? Were you raised in the faith?

I was raised in a rural, small town in Mississippi. Until my new transition. I have lived in this same area my entire life. I was raised in a Christian family, although the dynamics were not usual. My parents had divorced before I was age 1 if I remember correctly. My mother raised me as a singe mom, but we lived next door on family land with my grandparents next door, and a number of other family nearby. My mother is a Christian, as were my grandparents, who died a few years ago. My family is Baptist, of the John MacArthur stream. My grandparents were devout Christians, but were also devout Dispensationalists. They were quite fond of the Scofield study Bible, to put it mildly. But they sincerely loved the LORD, the Bible and were committed to the church, as most are still to this day.

It is important to note that while raised in the faith, I wasn’t baptized until I professed faith at 17. I was quite rebellious until then, which didn’t make life easier on my family, especially my mother.

Where did you go to school?

Undergrad was Ole Miss [University of Mississippi] in Liberal Arts. Seminary was Mid-America Baptist Seminary in Memphis.

Where, when, and how did you discover the Reformed confession?

It was around 8 or so years ago the first time I heard of it. My best friend in high school, who in college had become Reformed and joined a Reformed campus ministry, began to discuss things with me. He asked me a question about the Baptist confession of faith, which I was very confused about because I didn’t realize that there was such a thing. We began discuss things regarding that, and I went to find what was the confession of faith for my church. Ironically, I knew about the Westminster Standards before I did any Baptist confession of faith. I began to compare the Reformed confession with the recently released Baptist confession. I didn’t spend much time on it because I wasn’t in agreement with much in the Baptist confession. This proved helpful because I began to research Baptist history more and other confessions, such as the 1689 Baptist Confession. From there, learning its connection to the Westminster Confession, I returned back to it later on.

I had also begun a friendship with a local Presbyterian pastor who was helping me sort through all of these things. He was sharpening me biblically on the Reformed theology, practice, etc.

What was the most difficult challenge to becoming Reformed?

A couple of things were hard to an equal degree. The first was sorting through all the confusion that comes with understanding the Reformed tradition in the internet age. There are lots of resources to read, and many using the name Reformed, but often with small to sharp disagreements. I was drawn to the Reformed world as a whole, not small parts, so with many resources and places to find content, it was often difficult. In hindsight, I believe the difficulty was due to a big confusion over classic and historic Reformed thinking as distinct from evangelical thinking.

Second, was the practical reality of being an active pastor. I had graduated seminary, was ordained by my local church, and had been serving for a number of years. I was fearful of the unknown regarding income, my family, children, ministry, etc., in making such a big transition.

What was the biggest struggle you faced as you considered adopting the Reformed confession?

The struggle was pastoral and personal, often overlapping.

I came to believe that the Reformed view of the sacraments, worship, the means of grace, the role of elders and pastors, and connectional church government was the teaching of the Bible. However, my life and work as a pastor was in the Baptist and Independent stream, which is very different than the Reformed view. Not being able to have our children baptized, having no outside church help built into the polity and government, and wanting to have Reformed worship were hard. I do not say that to indict other ministers or congregations I’ve served with and pastored, but to show the struggle I had personally.

Where were you when you decided?

I was serving a congregation when I settled my convictions on the Reformed view. However, [knowledge of my change of convictions] wasn’t spread very far, only to leadership. While there were some who favored a change, the church ultimately didn’t decide to make the change, we parted ways. We joined a local PCA church, the church of the minister who was the first, and most helpful to me in the process.

Often, it seems, those who who leave American evangelicalism to become confessionally Reformed have to pass through what I call toll booths (e.g., theonomy. The Federal Vision etc). Did you go through this phase? If not, how did you avoid the toll booths? If so, how did you escape?

I think it’s normal to stop there, and I did like all. The difference for me was that I came in after much of those things were heating up. I don’t know very much about the Federal Vision for example, because it wasn’t on my radar. I was wanting to know fundamental things about the Reformed faith. At the time, [the Federal Vision and Theonomy] didn’t interest me because I assumed it to be an inner circle dialogue, meaning those we were in the Reformed world. Until recently, I don’t recall hearing much about it in my experience. That’s probably more telling of me than the issue. However, I knew enough then to know I wasn’t in agreement with the FV, and know more of it now to say I do not agree with it. As I understood reformed history more, and came to see how most Reformed churches rejected the FV, I found this to be telling.

How did you become a Presbyterian Pastor? Tell us about the process.

We began by joining our local PCA church and got involved as much as possible. Not having leadership responsibilities helped get to know a variety of people and their reformed background and experience. I also gained quite a bit of wisdom in simply observing and receiving good preaching and biblical worship.

While here the church went through a pastoral search process, which was very helpful to observe. I saw the process from dissolving a call, all the way to installation of a new pastor. The church had involvement with other teaching elders in the presbytery, which was helpful.

I also was able to attend presbytery which had a number of things good for a new person to see.

One of the ruling elders at our church arranged for me to do some pulpit supply at a church without a pastor. This was trial by fire because I had to lead the entire service, and there wasn’t a music leader. For someone with no musical background having lead the first note was humbling for me, and likely the congregation.

Another pastor in the presbytery also asked me to fill in for him at their Wednesday night service a few times. This same pastor also baptized our three youngest children, which was the highlight of our time. That pastor had also been a former Baptist pastor and is now serving a PCA congregation. His council and friendship have been greatly beneficial.

This took place over roughly 18 months, and I feel it greatly prepared me for taking the call to our new congregation, Christ Covenant Presbyterian of Woodstock, Georgia. I had submitted my information to the church after seeing they had a pastoral opening. I was drawn to them from their information and overview I read. They expressed they saw the same things of me from my information submitted, so they contacted me. After video chats and some email exchanges, they asked me to come down as a candidate, which I did. I preached a sermon, met with the session, diaconate, and most of the congregation over the weekend. A week later, they voted to call me as their next pastor, which I accepted.

Since I had never been ordained in a Presbyterian church, I had to go through the process of ordination: written exams, a sermon manuscript, and oral exams, all of which were approved.

Tell us about your new congregation.

Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church of Woodstock, Georgia (PCA). Congregation is just over 10 years old. They are very kind congregation, and are committed to proclamation of the Word and the reformed faith. They have a very rich, reformed worship service, committed officers and laity, and a good number of additional classes and ministry for all ages.

The means of grace are highly important here. As well, the church desires to minister to people of Woodstock through evangelism and service.

I’m very excited to be a part of this congregation, as well as the local presbytery.

[See the next interview in this series]

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