About Jesus - Steve (Stephen) Sweetman
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dedicate this book to the very first pastor I knew in my life, and that
is, Miss. Edith Mainprize. She
was instrumental in me being healed of Juvenile Diabetes at the age of
six, as you will read in the following pages.
In words that seem to be from a long lost world, she was a dear
soul. She was a beloved
woman pastor that we all loved. You
could count on her visiting us in our home from time to time, because,
that was what pastors did back in the 1950's.
Yes, things have changed in the ecclesiastical maze, but my
memories of Edith Mainprize, certainly have not changed.
following is a brief, but accurate portrayal of my life in relation to
church. I don't doubt for a
minute that our life's experiences affect what we believe and how we
live. I've seen this to be
true throughout the years. For me, since 1970, I've attempted to
allow Jesus and the Bible to direct my thinking and influence all that I
do. In this process comes
the conflict between the traditions of men and the truths of Scripture.
So, this is my story - the search for truth in the midst of the
tradition found within the ecclesiastical maze.
account could also be seen as a brief historical account of parts of the
modern-day church in
following pages have not been edited by any external source, so I admit
from the beginning, you will most likely find some grammar and spelling
errors. Hopefully they will
not disturb you to the degree that it hinders you from reading this
book. Being, legally blind
does not help me to be perfect in this endeavour.
I thank you in advance for reading this account of my life.
may or may not recall it, but next to Ronald Reagan's "tear down
this wall" statement, the words "I don’t recall" were
some of his most famous words spoken during his presidency, especially
during the Iran-Contra hearings. So,
I borrow his words when I say that "I don’t recall it," but
I'm told that I came into this world on December 4th 1951, in
did I or anyone know at the time that within a couple of years of my
entrance into this time space environment two major physical problems
would be detected in my young life.
One of these deficiencies would produce fear in my parents that
eventually led to much joy and my father's salvation.
problem was noticed when I was about two years old, and believe it or
not, I do actually recall the incident.
It was the very first thing I can remember in my, now, almost
seventy year life. My mother
dropped a penny on the carpet of similar colour to the penny.
She asked me to pick it up and when I fumbled around she got
somewhat irritated with me. I
was unable to see the penny against the penny- coloured carpet.
There was not sufficient contrast between the penny and the carpet for
me to see it properly.
mom's friend suggested that I should see an eye doctor who consequently
diagnosed me as being legally blind. In
grew up in a time where our neighbour really did have a white picket
fence, and women did not ware dresses above their knees, and next to
never wore slacks. That would have been a sin.
My mother never wore "men's clothes" as she put it
until she had suffered a very bad stroke at the age of 75. Women
dressing like men were sinful according to Deuteronomy 22:5, which was
one of six hundred and thirteen rules found in the Law of Moses that my
mom was taught to obey. Of
course, she had no ability to obey all those laws.
If I had been smart at the age of two I could have asked our
pastor why the church didn't promote all six hundred and thirteen rules.
How did our church decide which laws to obey and which to ignore?
As Christians we often fail to properly understand how to
interpret the Old Testament law as New Testament Christians, but maybe
that was the light of truth my mom's church had at the time.
recall seeing toy tiger tails flying out of car gas tank doors back in
the 1950's. My dad got his
tiger tail with the purchase of twenty-five cent a gallon gas back then.
Can you believe that?
Of course, his income was not as high as it would be today.
watched the Flintstone's on a black and white TV, and listened to hockey
games on a little six transistor radio. What I could have done
with a computer and internet back then in 1966.
My parents rented a two bedroom house for a grand sum of $45.00 a
month in the 1950’s. So,
when I say it was an entirely different world back then, it really was.
dad wasn't a Christian in the early 1950's.
His love was trains and country music, which kind of go together,
don’t you think? Dad
worked for the Canadian National Railroad and played steel guitar in a
country band in the late 1940's. The band had its own radio show
and they played at various dances in our area, something my mom detested
since that was considered worldly, and worldly meant sinful.
I guess I got my guitar- playing genetic make-up from my dad,
although he had more raw talent than me.
I really believe he could have made it to
to let you know, it took a few years but the church did come around to
sanctifying the guitar and my dad did finally get to play his guitar in
church. Proper exegesis of
Scripture should always be a priority for us, but it's often not.
mother was a Christian in the tradition of what was called "the
Holiness Movement." This
tradition equates being holy with following certain rules, and by the
way, the word "holy" in relation to God first means "to
be set apart solely for Jesus."
It only has a moral significance once one has first been set
apart to serve God. Some of
the rules we needed to comply with could be found in the Bible while
others were made up by the church. If
you weren't knowledgeable, you would have thought that all these rules
we had to obey came directly from God.
That's just the way they were taught to people like my mom.
So, my mom couldn't wear slacks, and my dad couldn't play his
guitar along to a song that didn't have reference to God or Jesus in it.
This was the religious life in which I was born and raised. The
Holiness Movement was my introduction into what I now call "the
Ecclesiastical Maze," and a maze it is.
couple summers back, a little boy actually got lost in a large
corn-field maze in our area. It took two whole scary days to find the
little guy. His parents were
terrified. My heart goes out
to people like this little boy who get lost in our ecclesiastical maze,
and many do get lost. They really do.
Some never find their way out to safety.
I was young there were lots of things I wasn't allowed to do because
they were considered sinful. Other
things I had to do in order to keep my salvation, like attend church
meetings twice on Sundays, and do quiet and restful things Sunday
afternoons. Sunday was, for sure, the Christian Sabbath.
My mom and dad usually slept Sunday afternoon.
That was a pretty quiet thing to do.
I never found out until later that Sunday really wasn't the
Sabbath and that Christians weren't obligated to obey Sabbath rules
found in the Law of Moses. "Christ
is the end of the Law" according to Romans 10:4.
I'm not sure why my Sunday school teacher never told us that the
Sunday Sabbath rule was just a church tradition.
Maybe she didn't know that herself.
I wasted a lot of good Sunday afternoons figuring out how to do
quiet and restful things while my mom and dad slept. I suppose
that just thinking could be considered restful as long as I didn't put
any thoughts into any kind of physical actions.
English word "ecclesiastical" comes directly from the Greek
word "ekklesia," sometimes spelled "ecclesia."
This word means "a group of people who are called out of, and
separated from a larger group of people for a specific purpose."
Ecclesia was used in a variety of ways in the first-century
Greco-Roman world. In Acts
21:35 it's used in reference to an unruly mob of people. That
sounds a bit like a maze to me.
Matthew 16:18 "ekklesia" is translated as "church"
when Jesus said: "I will build my church."
I view our English translation of ekklesia as church to be
misleading and unfortunate. The
word "church," as it's understood by most people today, and as
it was understood when the King James Bible was written, does not
properly represent or express Jesus’ understanding of ekklesia when He
spoke these words. Most of
us today do not understand church as the New Testament understands
be precise, Jesus would not have spoken the above statement in Greek.
He would have spoken it in either Hebrew or Aramaic, two closely
related languages. He would
have used the Hebrew word "synagoge." To Jesus and His
Jewish apostles listening to Him, synagoge meant the community of Jews
who were in proper relationship with Yahweh and with each other.
Jesus was simply saying that He would create His own community of
people, set apart in proper relationship with Himself and each other so
they could implement His will on earth.
in church as the New Testament understands church is community.
Community as it relates to church are people who both belong to
Jesus and to each other, with the emphasis on the word
"belong." We are
not simply talking about attending meetings or belonging to an
organization we call church.
you use the word ecclesia, synagoge, or church, the emphasis must be on
a community of people in proper relationship with Jesus and with each
other. Again, at the risk of
repeating myself, the emphasis should not be on the hierarchical
organizational structure we have today that resembles a Fortune Five
Hundred Company. For this
reason, I prefer ekklesia in the New Testament to be translated as the
"community of Christ" instead of church.
is the community of people in right relationship, and belonging too,
Jesus and each other, who, have been called out of the world to serve
Jesus in the process of implementing His will and plans on earth.
This is how I use the word "church" throughout this
least twice a week my mom would take my sister and brother to church.
In the strict sense of the word, Christians can't go to church
because they are the church. How
can you go to a place when you are that place?
So you think I'm splitting theological hairs?
Words do matter, and in this case, they really do matter.
in Matthew 12:34 said that our lips speak what's in our hearts.
So, if you claim to go to church, I believe you think church is a
place you can go to, like a building, or a meeting in a building.
If you say that you are going to gather with those to whom Jesus has
called you alongside, well, that would be a much better way of saying
it. If that is what you mean
when you say you are going to church, then I have no problem with that.
I simply suggest that we accurately say what we believe. That's
all to my point.
Sunday Sabbath, which I remind you, is not a Biblical Sabbath; we would
head off to the House of God, as it was called back then.
Again, nowhere in the New Testament is a building called the
House of God. In Act 7:48,
Stephen actually said that God does not live in buildings made by men.
Paul, in Acts 17:24 said the same thing.
Anyway, the building these Holiness Movement people gathered in
was a simple unimpressive wooden structure, nothing like the
impressively massive stone, century old, cathedral with a tall steeple
across the street.
a child I shared a bedroom with my brother.
I always wanted my own bedroom, so, it was only natural for me to
think that God would prefer the big stone building across the street
over our simple little wooden building.
There was, however, one thing we had that those in the big
liberal church didn't have in their building, and that was a sand box
for us kids to play in, and I certainly liked that.
was obvious to everyone that my dad was not a Christian because he
didn’t go to church. It
was also obvious because he smoked.
Don't get me wrong, there's nothing inherently good about
smoking, but the Bible doesn't damn a person to the
mom gathered with those who were called "Holiness Movement
people." Each little ecclesiastical cluster of people has
their own specific names that characterize them. These people were
unsophisticated, and in many cases, unsophisticated by choice.
It was a theological position they held close to their hearts,
and I don't criticize them for that, but, they did take this a bit far,
at least in a legalistic sense. Men
didn't wear ties because ties were deemed to be worldly, and worldly
meant sinful, and sinful meant no heaven and no salvation. I don't
think a tie is sinful, but not wearing a tie is fine with me. I
don't like the things. The poor old liberal men across the street
choked themselves with their ties tied tightly around their necks.
I guess that was some kind of status symbol for them. Okay, I
agree. Some people dressed up in what they called their
"Sunday best" because deep in their hearts, they wanted to
dress the best for Jesus. If they were dressing that way out of
love for Jesus and not for legalistic purposes, I have no problem with
people couldn't wear rings. That
presented a problem for my sister years later when she asked our
Holiness Movement Minister uncle to perform her wedding ceremony.
He declined because of the ring on her finger.
Her fiancé asked his Catholic priest to perform the ceremony but
he declined because my sister wasn't Catholic.
Such is life in the ecclesiastical maze. My Evangelical
Anglican minister friend graciously performed their wedding.
told women in 1 Timothy 2:9 not to wear jewellery, which was the reason
why Holiness women couldn't ware jewellery.
Paul didn't want women to wear jewellery back then because
prostitutes wore jewellery to help lure their male clients.
That's not exactly the case today.
Paul's point is simple. Women were not to dress like a
prostitute. A little lesson
in history goes a long way in understanding the Bible. It's one
helpful hermeneutical hint that we all need to take seriously.
the same reason stated above, in 1 Timothy 2:9 Paul told women not to
braid their hair. In 1
Corinthians 11: 3 through 16 Paul encouraged women to have long hair.
I could never figure this one out.
Holiness women did have long hair as Paul suggested, but, they
braided their hair; put it in a bun on top of their heads, defeating the
purpose for long hair. A little clump of hair on the top of one's
head does not look like long hair to me.
later, in 1971 I met up with a Holiness Movement man, who, because I had
long hair immediately thought I was a sinner in need of salvation.
Instead of preaching Jesus to me, he scolded me for the sin of
long hair. He said,
"Somewhere in the Bible it says that a man should not have long
hair." The poor old guy
didn't know that passage he was attempting to quote to prove his point,
so I told him. "It's
found in 1 Corinthians 11:14," I said.
In embarrassment, the Holiness Movement man just walked away.
did not say it was a sin for a man to have long hair in 1 Corinthians
11:14. He said that it was a
shame for men to have long hair, which by the way, would have been the
cultural understanding of Corinthian men back then.
Paul's point to men wearing long hair was not a mandated
statement of Biblical truth. He
was simply making a cultural issue to help explain his point concerning
leadership roles within the Godhead, culture, and marriage.
a brief glance at the Holiness Movement where I began my journey through
the ecclesiastical maze. This particular denomination was called the
"Standard Church of Canada."
I have no doubt that those people were sincere, something I
believe is lacking in many Evangelical Christians today.
I have no doubt that they were saved.
I just question the emphasis on staying saved by following man
made rules. It's not New
Testament teaching, and I believe it is very dangerous. A surface
reading of the Apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians makes it perfectly
clear; salvation apart from genuine faith along with the Holy Spirit's
entrance into one's life saves no one.
It is pure human effort.
- We Move To The Free
will carry on with my story, but I'd like to explain something first.
If you think that pointing out negatives in our churches isn't
constructive, I'd suggest you consider how negative God was when He
spoke through the prophets in the Old Testament.
Yahweh said some pretty negative, and much needed, stuff to His
you were a Jew and if you took God's words to heart, you would feel
pretty bad, which was God's intention.
He wanted those bad feelings to cause you to genuinely repent and
get back on track.
2 Corinthians 7:8 through 10 the Apostle Paul said: "If I brought
you sorrow … I am glad … because your sorrow led you to repentance
… as God intended." Godly
sorrow produces godly repentance that leads to genuine salvation.
It is clear to me that God does speak negatively at times,
causing us sorrow that should lead us to repentance.
Jesus was negative at times too.
Just ask any Pharisee and he will tell you that.
Apostle Peter said that it is time for judgment to begin with the family
of God. See 1 Peter 4:17.
I realize there is debate over to whom Peter was writing.
Was he writing to Jewish believers or Christians in general?
Setting that aside, it's clear to me that God does discipline,
and even judge, His people. Just
read the seven letters to the seven communities of Christ in Revelation,
chapters 2 and 3 and you will see that to be true.
Of course, many of us don't think it's us that need discipline.
It's the liberals, or maybe the Baptists or the Pentecostals
needing correction, but definitely not us.
The Biblical fact is that we all need to be disciplined from time
told the Corinthians to examine themselves to see if they were really in
the faith, as seen in 2 Corinthians 13:5.
If we can bring about change because of self examination, God's
discipline will be less severe. Such
examination forces us to deal with our own personal negative human
don't write these words out of bitterness.
I have many fond memories as I think about my journey through the
ecclesiastical maze, yet the truths of Scripture often conflict with our
traditions and our personal experience.
Many don't feel this conflict because they don't take Biblical
truth seriously. Many don't
take it seriously because they are Biblically illiterate.
back to my story. For some
reason, which I do not know, my mom left the
about pews; I found myself jumping over some pews along with scores of
others at a Kathryn Kuhlman meeting in
the basement of a house my mom's Free Methodist friends built a little
platform about six inches off the floor and covered it with a dark red
carpet. Along the edge of
the platform was a railing that they used as an altar.
As a child I recall the word "altar" from Bible
stories. It was a place
where animals were burned as a sacrifice to God.
I don't recall any burning animals on this altar.
A pulpit was placed on the platform behind which our pastor would
preach. I soon learned that
a platform, an altar, and a pulpit, were a necessity in order to be
considered a valid church. I'll
keep looking, but I have yet to find supporting Scripture for that one.
To be honest, I've already looked.
There is no New Testament support for that one.
All that being said about an altar, an altar did become extremely
important in my life, my dad's life, and really, the life of both my
biological family and our church family. I'll talk about that next.
my mother married my father he wasn't a Christian.
I don't know why a Christian would marry a non-Christian, or
maybe I do know why. Sometimes
hormones usurp our better Biblical judgment, or, there may be other
reasons. Still, it's not a
good idea. Whatever the
case, my mom became "unequally yoked" as her King James Bible
put it, with my non-believing dad.
Apostle Paul told us not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers in 2
Corinthians 6:14. One of my
Sunday school teachers interpreted Paul's statement to mean that a white
man could never marry a black woman.
That didn't sound right to me back then and it certainly doesn't
sound right to me today. Paul
was speaking specifically of not being united with unbelievers, not
those of a different ethnicity. Examples
of being unequally yoked would be in a marriage relationship or a
business relationship. No
wonder James 3:1 tells us that there shouldn't be many teachers among
was the second child born from the union of my mother and father.
Early in my life I could be seen eating tons of sweets and
drinking an abnormal amount of water.
I used to take cookies to bed with me so I could snack on them
during the night. If I drank
as much water today as I did back then, I'd either require a catheter or
spend most of the day in the bathroom.
abnormities suggested that there was something seriously wrong with me,
and there was. At the age of
age of five years old, the doctors at Sick Children's Hospital in
can recall staying at Sick Children's Hospital in
life would have ended at an early age if not for Jesus visiting us in
the basement of the house where my mom's Free Methodist church friends
gathered each Sunday morning. I
vividly recall that day. My
mom ordered, and ordered is the word, my dad to be there.
My dad complied. So,
after the sermon, I was asked to kneel at the little altar I previously
told you about. Our lady
pastor, Miss Main prize, anointed me with oil and laid her hand on my
head as it says in James 5:14. Another
lady then cried out to the Lord for my healing.
I mean she literally cried. It
was an emotional prayer, straight from her heart.
She told me later in life that she had always had a special
burden for me. For the
record, I recall that morning quite vividly.
didn't feel any kind of special sensation
hasn't drunk any water," mom exclaimed to my dad.
"Jesus healed Stevie," she insisted.
dad, with probably some skepticism, said that if Stevie is really healed
the doctors at Sick Children's Hospital would confirm it. So,
once again, we boarded a train and headed back to Sick Children's
Jesus in a basement of a house is what I call church.
Can you believe that? Well,
I certainly can. That's my
kind of church.
met up with this precious lady pastor who laid her hands on me about
forty five years later. She
told me that the time spend in that basement were precious days.
Her face lit up as she spoke of my healing, but her joyous
expression faded as she told me how things changed after the church
building was built. Fund
raising, the building projects, and the maintenance of the building,
seemed to drain some of the life out of the people.
These words from a traditionalist, but a dear soul, spoke volumes
left the sand-box in the
seems to me that ever since the
I have traveled my way through the ecclesiastical maze I estimate that
I've attended more than thirteen thousand, yes, that's 13,000, church
meetings since my birth in 1951. I've
certainly embraced the admonition of Hebrews 10:25 to not forsake
assembling with the saints. That
being said, nowhere in this verse or in the Bible does it tell
Christians when or where to meet together. As
a matter of fact, if you understand the Greek text of Hebrews 10:25 and
the Hebrew word that has been inserted into it that is translated as
"gather together" in English, you will realize that this verse
tells us to not forsake those to whom Jesus has called you alongside in
His community of people. This
verse has little to do with attending meetings and everything to do with
not forsaking those you have been called along side in church.
Corinthians 14, however, does tell us what to do when we meet, something
much of the western church seems to ignore.
It's thus clear to me that which we call church in the West
majors on what the Bible doesn't say about church instead of majoring on
what it does say about church.
the process of replacing Biblical truth with tradition we have
Christianized the Jewish Sabbath by moving it to Sunday, and just for
the record, nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to meet on Sunday.
Nowhere in the Bible does it actually say that Christians have a
Sabbath they must keep. A
study of the book of Hebrews, especially chapter 4, defines what the New
Testament Sabbath is all about, and it's not about a certain special
day. It's about our
salvation as being a life of a Sabbath rest.
result of our shift in thinking about the Sabbath is the prominence of
the Sunday morning meeting and especially the sermon.
in 1978 I preached one of these Sunday sermons to a Pentecostal
congregation. I asked them
if they had no regularly scheduled meetings and no building to gather
in, would they still be a church. In
traditional Sunday sermon fashion, I gave no opportunity for a response.
I've since learned that a good hermeneutical based Bible study
around a kitchen table is a more effective way to educate the saints in
sermon provides no dialogue, no chance to ask a question, and no
opportunity to challenge what's being taught.
However, these things can take place when a preacher steps away
from the pulpit to build relationships with those he is supposed to be
caring for. When the
preacher humbles himself and serves God's people in this capacity he can
effectively help implement the truth of Scripture in the lives of the
believers. It's called
discipleship. By the way,
the preacher will certainly need help in this matter.
He certainly cannot do it all alone. This may be a little messy
at times, and it's harder to do than simply preaching, but if that's the
route Jesus chose to walk, it should be the route we choose to walk.
Yes, Jesus did teach the masses, but He didn't commission the
masses to go into the world as His representatives.
That job was given to the disciples who He spent countless, and
I'm sure frustrating, hours, working out God's will in their lives.
brings me to the Greek word “euangelizo” that's translated as
"preach" in the New Testament.
This word simply means "to proclaim or speak."
It's thus a mistake to understand preaching exclusively in terms
of a sermon. You can preach,
that is speak, Biblical truth to anyone in any place and at any given
time. It can be on a street,
in a coffee shop, or wherever.
course, another reason for the Sunday service is the income a church
derives from it. Statistics
show that if people don't give on a Sunday morning, they just don't
give, and if they don't give, the administration of church affairs
becomes a financial frustration.
speaking, church is not meetings and buildings.
Church is the living Body of Christ where one individual body
part is personally joined in friendship to another as 1 Corinthians 12
teaches. Each body part has
a job to do on its own as well as a job to do with the body part to whom
it's joined. So, when we do
gather, wherever or whenever that may be, we all participate as 1
Corinthians 14 teaches. It's
a pretty dysfunctional and disjointed body when only a hand and a foot
do their job while the rest sit in pews watching.
I know many won't grasp the full implication of this because our
western tradition has hijacked New Testament thinking concerning church,
but that doesn't change the fact that church is the living Body of
Christ with real live individual body parts joined to other body parts
in the service of the Lord.
speaking of body parts in the Body of Christ I'm reminded of Gary S.
Paxton. He was a Christian
singer in the Jesus People Movement of the 1970's with an untraditional
approach to his ministry. He
felt like a church castaway, or as he put it, an armpit in the Body of
Christ. In similar fashion,
I can appreciate his feelings, but that's me.
The Apostle Paul spoke about people like us when he said that
those parts of the body that we think are less honourable should be
treated with special respect and honour.
The parts that are not really presentable, should be treated with
special modesty (1 Corinthians 12:22-23).
Being an armpit in Jesus' body might not be so bad after-all.
I stated in the last chapter, as a young armpit, or whatever I was, in
Jesus' body I was healed of Juvenile Diabetes in a Sunday morning
meeting. So, you'll be
relieved to know that I don't discount Sunday meetings altogether.
I'm just saying that there is more to church than meetings and
buildings, something the first generation Christians knew better than
us. For them, most church
activities occurred outside of meetings, and definitely outside of
buildings, and, when they did meet; their gatherings were based on
personal relationships. They
were all about the individual believer participating in the service.
dad lived outside of church when he married mom.
He traveled the countryside playing steel guitar in a country
band. When he gave his life
to Jesus he quit the band. The
sad fact of the matter was that the Evangelical church at the time
didn't welcome his guitars. That
left my dad's talent out in the cold, until for one reason or another;
the guitar got saved in the late 1950's.
Finally my dad got to play guitar in church.
Dad would often pack us all in the car and off we went.
Many Sundays were spent in various churches as dad and his
friends played and sang their hearts out.
Everywhere dad went he'd tell the story of how his little Stevie,
as I was affectionately called back then, was healed of Juvenile
Diabetes. Everywhere we went
I felt like hiding under the pew from embarrassment.
got to tell dad's favourite story on his behalf just minutes before he
passed away. It wasn't in a
church meeting this time. It
was in his hospital room. Forty
five minutes before dad went to be with Jesus a neighbour came to visit
him. Dad was too far gone to
talk, but I'm sure he heard every word I said as I repeated to dad's
neighbour how dad gave his life to Jesus because of my healing.
As I spoke, or should I say as I preached, one tiny tear slowly
slipped down dad's cheek. I
can only conclude that in his spirit, dad was overjoyed to hear his
story told one last time as he faded away into eternity.
What a way to depart from this life.
My wife and I then laid hands on dad and asked Jesus to take him
away. Within five minutes
dad was in heaven. Now
that's some kind of church meeting.
legally blind made my childhood days spent in school very difficult.
They were one big challenge.
For example, in grade five a replacement teacher totally
humiliated me in front of the entire class.
When he discovered I couldn't see well he pretended to be blind.
He stumbled around the classroom and when he bumped into the
chalkboard the class broke out in hysteric laughter.
I dropped my head in despair.
The teacher's insensitive behaviour might have been funny for him
and the class, but it sure wasn't for me.
The teacher heard all about it that evening when my father
blasted him in a phone conversation.
reason why the whole issue came up was because I head moved my desk, as
I normally did, about a foot away from the blackboard in an attempt to
read what was on the chalkboard directly in front of me.
Even then, I could not read it all.
The teacher asked me why I was sitting up at the front of the
room. When I told him I
could not see well, he thought I was not telling him the truth. He
thought I was being punished. I
wasn't being punished. I just wanted to see the writing on the
the blackboard was not my only problem.
best thing my parents did for me as a child was to not send me to a
school for the blind and visually impaired.
Working my way through the sighted school system as an unsighted
child developed some good character qualities in me.
Far too often the disability of the disabled isn't their major
problem. Their big problem
is a lack of social skills that do not permit them to fit into the
regular world. The lack of
these social skills is due to being secluded in their own little closed
environment with people like themselves.
That was not me and it never has been me.
I have always wanted to fit into the regular world, and I
believe, I have succeeded with that desire.
highlight of high school was a Bible club led by my physics teacher.
During the first week of high school a very attractive girl
invited me to attend the club. Did
I mention how good looking she was?
Well, just in case I omitted it, she was stimulatingly
attractive. Does that shed a
bit of light on my beautiful looking friend?
How in the name of being a healthy red-blooded boy could I have
ever turned down an opportunity to attend a Bible club with this young
lady present? I certainly
couldn't, and certainly didn't, refuse her personal invitation.
I'm sorry to report, though, that my first day at the club was
her last day. That was more
than a bit disappointing as you might expect, but despite the
disappointment, it all turned out to my long term benefit.
physics teacher was an example of one who functioned as a member in the
Body of Christ. He was more
than one who just attended a church meeting.
He mentored me and countless other young Christians, all of which
took place, not in what we call church, but in school and extra
curricular activities. He
was heavily criticized for his involvement in our lives because his
efforts at discipleship occurred outside the traditional church, but
that is where he knew us from. It
only made sense that he'd reach out to us at school.
I was shy at school, I wasn't shy in our
too was criticized in the early 1970's for my involvement in what was
called the Jesus People Movement. My
friends and I would share Jesus in parks, bars, schools, colleges,
street corners, coffee houses, and wherever.
We would have prayer meetings in homes, fields, and anywhere we
could find a place to pray. I
used to share these things in what was called testimony meetings in the
Sunday evening service of our church.
One time I was asked why I didn't do the things I was sharing
within the confines of our church. I
had one answer. The church
wouldn't let me do them. For
example, one day a couple of us were praying in a Sunday school room.
When my friend was overheard praying in tongues, our prayer
meeting was abruptly shut down. Besides
that, going to a bar, even if it was to preach the gospel, was certainly
unacceptable. Why preaching
the gospel was relegated to a Sunday meeting was always a difficult
thing to wrap my head around.
another occasion a few of us were harshly rebuked by our pastor's wife
for playing cards in the church building basement, or should I say,
"playing cards in the House of God."
Actually, I was not playing cards.
I did not know how to play cards.
No one ever taught me to play cards.
Such activity was pure sin.
I followed the pastor's wife to the door I persisted in asking her what
was wrong with playing cards. I
really did want to know why the great concern.
I really did want to know. I
had no clue of knowing why playing cards was sinful.
She really didn't want to talk to me.
I kept walking with her to the door hoping she would answer me.
She just told me that her husband would have a heart attack if he
knew we were playing cards in the church.
As she left me standing at the door of what she called church,
she missed a prime opportunity to reach out to one of her young people
in need of answers, answers she simply refused to offer me.
As a youth, that didn't make me feel very good about church.
the lady who took a personal interest in us youth had a daughter, and
here is the story. It was at
camp-meeting, July 1966, when as a fifteen year old guy I fell madly in
love with this lady's daughter named Evelyn.
I felt so privileged. She
was simply amazing to behold, and with that mini skirt she sometimes
wore? Well, what can I say?
I think I have mentioned that I am a red-blooded human being boy.
That summer mini-skirts were all the rage among teen-age girls,
something she was not allowed to wear.
So, instead of wearing a mini-skirt she would roll up the
waistline of her skirt, effectively changing her normal length skirt
into a mini-skirt. This all
ended when her mother embarrassed her in front of me by demanding she
roll down the waistline of her skirt.
I felt so bad for her. Just
imagine, your mother telling you, assuming you were a fifteen year old
girl, to lengthen her skirt in front of her new-found boy friend.
equalled out when my mother found us sitting on a park bench around nine
o'clock one evening. "Stevie,"
mom said in a demanding tone of voice.
"Get back to the cottage.
It's way too late for you to be out,” she continued in the same
tone. At the age of fifteen,
Stevie wasn’t really my preferred name, and nine o'clock didn't seem
all that late.
all became irrelevant when the next day I discovered the joy of my heart
sitting with Ron, a mutual friend, in the evening meeting.
It was so disheartening. My
first female relationship lasted a grand total of three days.
Three glorious days of next to divine ecstasy had suddenly been
buried into the grave yard of lost relationships.
1979 I spoke one Sunday morning to the fellowship I was a part of
concerning the importance of our children.
I sang the Oak Ridge Boys song entitled "Thank God for
Kids." The pastor who
oversaw our local group happened to be visiting us from
far as I'm concerned, we must view church in relational terms, not
merely in organizational terms. It
only takes one or two members in the Body of Christ to have a heart for
the youth. You really don't
need a building and a program approved by head office to reach out to
youth. My physics teacher
proved that to be true. So,
if you feel your youth need some special attention, it's your job to
provide the attention. I
believe if one sees a need, that one should do his or hers best to help
fill the need.
thing that benefitted me most as a Christian youth was the personal
involvement with my physics teacher.
History shows that not all participants in youth groups continue
in the faith as adults. From
my observation, however, young people who are personally mentored, or
cared for, stand a good chance of keeping their faith as adults.
In New Testament terms, it's called "discipleship."
I'm sure you've heard of that word.
Thank God for my physics teacher who showed a personal interest
the Evangelical world in which I was raised the altar call was an
essential element in preaching the gospel.
This approach to leading people to Jesus was a product of the
Great Awakening that first swept across England and then North America
in the 1700's and early 1800’s. Prior
to then, altar calls were unheard of.
Charles Finney (1792 to 1875) was a Presbyterian lawyer who came
to personal salvation in 1821. He
proceeded to travel throughout the north east
believe that many people have come to Jesus in response to an altar
call. I also, however,
believe that many people think they are saved because they have repeated
a short prayer at an altar when in fact they may not have gotten saved.
One is only saved when he is compelled by the Holy Spirit, not
just the preacher, to repent of his sins, hand his life over to Jesus,
and as a result, receive the Holy Spirit into his life.
Just because one has an emotional experience does not mean that
experience is a product of the Holy Spirit's invitation to salvation.
entering the Evangelical world when my dad gave his life to Jesus in and
around 1956 - 57, he experienced many altar calls that were accompanied
by a legalistic style teaching. A
few years after dad's conversion he became a secret smoker, which back
then was a sin that could send you straight to the fire of hell.
One Sunday school teacher actually told me that a smoker could
not be a Christian. A smoker
would never make it to heaven. To
add to such legalism, we were advised not to associate with Baptists
because they believed in what has been called "Eternal
Security." We were also
discouraged from worshiping with Pentecostals because they prayed in
tongues. For this reason mom
got quite upset with dad when he accepted an invitation to play his
steel guitar in a local Pentecostal church.
I believe such legalism accompanied by a poor understanding of
the nature of the Body of Christ didn't help dad's new life as a
dad stopped attending Sunday meetings.
He would drive mom, my sister, my brother, and myself, to the
meetings and then pick us up when they ended.
During my dad's absence from church our congregation installed a
sound system in the sanctuary. If
you are familiar with sound systems, especially back in the 1960's, you
know they can do strange things at times.
One of these times was during an altar call when a voice besides
our pastor's voice was heard over the sound system's speakers saying:
"Breaker breaker good buddy - got your ears on?"
To my mom's dismay, the sound system picked up dad talking on his
mobile CB radio in our car that was parked in the parking lot of the
church building. It
certainly was an unwanted interruption during the most sensitive part of
the church meeting. Although I thought it was a bit funny, mom was by no
means impressed, and we all heard about it on our way home that Sunday.
few years later, on New Years 1975, while praying in my parent's bedroom
the Holy Spirit enveloped me in a powerful way.
As in a vision, my parent's bed became a casket.
Jesus told me that my dad was spiritually dead.
That I already knew, but what I didn't know is what He told me
next. Dad would return to
Jesus in the middle of June that year.
I'm not a prophet specializing in dates and times, but by the
time the middle of June came around, dad did return to Jesus, just as I
believed Jesus had spoken to me back in January of that year.
problem with confrontational, emotional, Finney style, altar calls,
along with traditional legalistic teaching, is that they stir up
unproductive feelings of guilt, which both dad and I struggled with.
I now realize that guilt is not a feeling.
It's a position in which we stand before God, our Judge.
We are all guilty sinners, whether we feel guilty or not.
From my experience, feelings associated with guilt only
complicate one maturing as a Christian.
It's something that all Christians must come to grips with and
understand from a Biblical perspective.
thing I realize now that I didn't realize in my youth is that there is
only one way to get saved; one way to stay saved; and one way to get
unsaved, if getting unsaved is actually a possibility.
I realize this issue is a long-lasting debate.
I got saved by trusting my life with Jesus.
I stay saved by trusting my life with Jesus, and, I lose my
salvation only when I stop trusting my life with Jesus.
As a side note; I am as close to believing in Eternal Security as
one can be without fully giving myself to that doctrinal position.
the humanistic rules I was taught to obey in order to maintain my
salvation really don't keep me saved.
It's by faith from beginning to end as Romans 1:17 clearly
states. That being said,
getting unsaved may be more difficult than one thinks.
Doubts don't unsave anyone, so you don't have to worry about
that. Individual sins don't
unsave anyone. Besides, more
basic to sins is our sinful nature that causes us to sin, and that we
will have until the day we die. What
might well be the case is that the one considered to have gotten unsaved
probably was not really saved in the first place.
Simply adopting a Biblical lifestyle saves no one.
Simply repeating a sinner's prayer saves no one.
Simply responding to an altar call does not necessarily save
thing I realize now is that our job in the process of introducing people
to Jesus is to pray for them and preach the gospel to them.
The Holy Spirit's job is to speak to their hearts and convict
them of sin. We interfere
with the Holy Spirit by trying to do His job with our highly
confrontational and emotional altar calls.
It's not our job to dig around in the hearts of sinners to make
them believe the words we preach.
evening all my confusion over these things ended for good.
It was a Saturday evening in mid February 1970 when I turned on
our television on to watch Hockey Night In Canada.
The television was set on channel eight.
The hockey game was on channel eleven.
We didn't have remote controls back then so I had to manually
turn a dial from channel eight, to channel nine, to channel ten, and
that's where I got stuck. I
never did make it to channel eleven to watch the game of the week.
felt really let down when I saw Billy Graham preaching away on channel
ten. I wanted to watch
hockey on channel eleven but how could a Christian pass Billy Graham by
to watch a silly old, even worldly, hockey game.
That made no Biblical sense, and besides, I would have felt
guilty for days if I had skipped over Billy Graham for a hockey game.
What eternal value is there in a hockey game.
Did God care about who won the game of the week?
listened to Billy Graham expounding on being a luke-warm Christian from
Revelation 3:15 to 17. This
had to have been a divine appointment for me.
I'd heard many scary sermons like this before, but this was
different. The Holy Spirit,
not Billy Graham, carried the Word of God straight to my heart.
going to sleep that evening I knelt by my bed.
In a three to five second unemotional prayer, I simply asked
Jesus to forgive me, assuming I wasn't already forgiven.
Unlike all of the emotional trips to an altar, the result of this
short simple prayer was evident. I
woke up the next day knowing I didn't lose my salvation over night.
Believe it or not, but I still felt saved.
From that point on I have had no feelings associated with guilt.
I live the Christian life because I want to live for Jesus, not
because it relieves me of feelings associated with guilt.
finally came of age in the Lord, so to speak.
No longer was I clinging to my parent's faith and their church.
I would find my own way through the ecclesiastical maze.
right or wrong, what I recall most about the Evangelical gospel message
I heard as a youth was its focus on having our sins forgiven so we could
go to Heaven when we die. I
believe many of the songs we sang prove that to be the case.
Of course, there were some hymns like "All To Jesus I
Surrender" that were both the exception to the rule and exceptional
in content. That particular
hymn clearly states what becoming a Christian is all about.
the primary theme of the Evangelical gospel concerned getting our sins
forgiven and going to Heaven, or so I perceived, I call this gospel the
"gospel to get." I'm
not minimizing forgiveness of sins and Heaven.
Believe me, I'm not. If
we exclude other aspects of the gospel, new converts will enter
salvation with a "what can I get from Jesus" mentality.
Biblically speaking, salvation is just as much about what I give
to Jesus as what I get from Him. As
a matter of fact, what I give to Jesus is fundamental in becoming a
Greek word "pistis" supports what I've just said.
"Pistis" is translated as "faith" and
"believe" in the New Testament.
This Greek word simply means "to trust."
I suggest that if you replace the word "faith" with the
word "trust" as you read your New Testament, you will
understand Biblical faith much better.
So, "pistis," or "faith," as it is applied to
Jesus means that we give our lives to Him which results in our
salvation. Another way to
say this is that we trust Jesus with our entire lives, not just for our
forgiveness of sins.
reason for this gospel to get as seen
Wesley (1703 - 1791), the hero of the
word "sanctify" means to be "set apart."
When associated with Jesus it means to be set apart from our
surrounding culture in total dedication to Jesus.
This is why those embracing this doctrine of Entire
Sanctification say that you first accept Jesus as Saviour and then you
accept Him as Lord of your life at some later date.
For this reason, as a youth I felt that most of us would never
attain to such sinless state of perfection, and we doubted those who
claimed they had reached such a state.
I felt stuck in a spiritual state of limbo.
I was saved and on my way to Heaven, but, being sinless, well,
that would always be out of my reach.
I was, therefore, glad to be saved and on my way to Heaven, which
by the way. I hoped would never take place before I enjoyed my honeymoon
night. That was the hope of
Christian youth like me who did not believe in pre-marital sex.
Acts 2:36, the Apostle Peter pointed out that Jesus is both Lord and
Christ. We all agree with
Peter on that count. As
Lord, Jesus is God Almighty. As
Christ, Jesus is the Saviour for all who trust their lives with Him.
I believe it's an error to teach a first and second work of
grace. When it comes to
Jesus being both Lord and Christ, I suggest we think of it this way.
Because Jesus is Lord, He has become our Saviour, the Christ.
That places the emphasis on embracing Jesus for who He is, that
is, He is both Lord and Saviour, the Christ.
That means we cannot embrace Jesus as Saviour without embracing
Him as Lord. In fact, we
fall at Jesus' feet because He is Lord, and once at His feet, He saves
us, because, He is the Christ.
is saved when he hands his entire life over to Jesus, the Lord God of
all there is, and then receives the Holy Spirit into his very being.
That's not a second work of grace.
It's the first work of grace.
Salvation is more than trusting Jesus for your eternal destiny.
Salvation is trusting Jesus with your very life, right here in
the present. When we do
that, we are saved. From
then on, from one step of faith to the next step of faith (Romans 1:17);
from one stage of glory to the next stage of glory (2 Corinthians 3:18);
we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus.
In other words, sanctification is a process, not a one time
experience known as Entire Sanctification.
all we understand about becoming a Christian is what we can get from
Jesus, we start out on the wrong foot.
We will be trapped in the gospel to get, hoping for the next
thing we can get from Jesus. From
my understanding of the Bible, salvation is first and foremost a matter
of what we give to Jesus, not what we get from Him. What
we give to Jesus is our lives as the old hymn says:
"all to Jesus I surrender."
mom was not happy with me when in 1972, at the age of 20; I left the
is sovereign and He does visit His people on certain special occasions.
On the other hand, He, by His Spirit, lives among His people all
of the time. This is one of
a number of dichotomies we find in the Bible.
God lives with us and He also visits us, all at the same time.
How can that be? How
can someone who lives with us come and visit us on certain occasions?
example of God visiting His people was seen on the Day of Pentecost.
Other examples are, the Great Awakenings in Europe and
the summer of 1970 Jesus visited a dozen of us Free Methodist youth at a
lakeside cottage. We
expected to have a weekend of fun but to our surprise the Holy Spirit
visited us in a powerful way. We
were in joyous ecstasy for a couple of hours as we were saturated with
the presence of the Holy Spirit. For
me, this was amazing. I had
many emotional experiences at an altar, but I had never experienced this
kind of joyous ecstasy. This
was a sovereign visitation of our Lord among some of the youth in our
sovereign visitation of God in my life was in March 1971.
My friend Jim Williams and his wife Marlene took myself and two
other Free Methodist youths (Dawne and Rusty) to Christ Centre, in
about rock music, back in 1969 I bought the "Best of Tommy James
and the Shondells" album. I
gave it to my friend Rusty for his birthday.
It caused quite a stir in our church congregation because it was
a secular rock album. What
made things worse was that I gave it to him in what was called the House
of God. To my credit, if it
means anything, and I doubt that it does, I gave it to him in the
basement of the church building, not the main sanctuary upstairs.
might think that the adults in the church would have preferred us
listening to Christian rock music instead of secular rock music, but
that was not the case. Rock
music, whether secular or sacred, if there was such a thing as sacred
rock, was inherently sinful. It's
my opinion that any particular style of music is neither good nor evil.
I remind you that many of the melodies of the old hymns of the
church were borrowed from popular bar-room songs of their day.
Yes, the tune of many hymns was sung by drunken men hoping to
find a lonely woman that would spend the night with him.
Norman, a Jesus People rock singer/songwriter expressed my thinking
concerning Christian rock music in his song entitled, "Why Should
The Devil Have All The Good Music." I
concurred with Larry Norman back then and I still do today, but my mom
certainly didn't. For my
mom, it was either sing hymns or don't sing at all.
believe the Jesus People Movement was a valid visitation of the Lord.
Yes, like all visitations of God, humans tend to mess things up a
bit, but that doesn't disqualify the movement's godly validity.
If that were the case, you would have to disqualify all revival
movements over the centuries. All
come to an end because as humans, we mess them up.
Christ Centre was a vital witness for Jesus in
to meeting Jesus, the young people at
now of an older generation. It's
difficult for me to believe that my generation is on its way out.
I realize that I might be seen as glorifying the good old days of
my youth, but I'm not. The
Jesus People Movement brought a freshness to my life that just wasn't
there before, and by the way, it has never left me.
Church might not have been dry and routine for my parents'
generation but it had become that way for me and many of my friends.
For this reason, I believe each generation of Christians should
be allowed to express their love for Jesus in their own special way,
that is, as long as their expression of Jesus does not depart from
Scripture. For me and my
friends, our new expression of faith was heavily criticized by the
previous generation, something I vowed never to do with my children's
generation of Christians. For
the record, I've been true to my word in this respect.
is sovereign. He can do
whatever He wants, wherever He wants, and whenever He wants.
He chose to reveal His Holy Spirit to me in a new and refreshing
way in a century-old, inner-city school building, far away from home.
That week in
was in a Tuesday evening meeting at Christ
had begun to sing some worship songs that Tuesday evening.
Then came a lull in the singing, after which, a few people began
to quietly sing in tongues. Others
soon joined in until this heavenly multi-language melody filled the
room. I had never in my
entire life heard anything like this before.
I was used to singing from a hymn book.
Singing with one's spirit, as the Apostle Paul put it in 1
Corinthians 14:15, is something altogether different than singing from a
these people had, I didn't seem to have and I sure wanted it.
I was told they had the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Once that was explained to me, those in leadership laid their
hands on me, praying that I would receive this baptism.
Being a bit nervous, I was told that nervousness is normal when
one meets the Bride Groom for the first time.
was anticipating a heavenly visitation, but it never arrived.
Nothing happened. In
my disappointment I was told to receive the Baptism in the Spirit by
faith. In other words, I had
to believe I received something when in fact it appeared that I did not
receive anything. I've never
believed in this kind of mental gymnastics.
Either you receive something or you don't.
I don't think it's difficult to understand.
thing I realize now is that my being nervous had nothing to do with
meeting Jesus for the first time as was suggested.
I had already met Jesus. Obviously
those praying for me thought I had never met Jesus.
I was nervous because of the expectations of a heavenly
visitation, and I just didn't know what that would be like.
was told that I would receive the Holy Spirit when I received the
Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Now
that I've studied this through, I realize why nothing happened to me in
response to the prayers offered on my behalf.
If the expectation was for me to receive the Holy Spirit into my
life, that could not have happened.
That prayer could not have been answered, and why?
I had already received Him into my life when I gave my life to
Jesus. How could I receive
Him when I already had Him? There
is no logic to that. The one
thing I didn't have was the gift of tongues.
That would come later.
was raised in a non-Pentecostal Evangelical church where I was told that
tongues were not for me. Tongues
was from the devil. I was
encouraged to seek the giver of the gifts, not the gifts.
I understood that, but, if Jesus was passing out gifts, I didn't
see any harm in standing in line, hoping to receive one.
What was wrong with that?
I was in
asked my friend Robert who received his gift at
my search for tongues I noticed some abuses.
One time while at an altar of a local
another occasion I was told to step out in faith by making up my own
tongues. If I would just
invent a few wacky words of my own, Jesus would acknowledge my faithful
attempt and give me the real thing.
To my credit, I never copied someone else's tongues and I didn't
invent my own tongues by faith. It's all human effort, something Paul
warned us against in Galatians, chapter 3.
couple of weeks after coming home from
the summer of that year no more words of tongues were added to my
original six words. I was
disappointed, so I gave up on the whole matter.
Six words in tongues didn't seem to me to be valid tongues.
My friends could pray in tongues.
I would stick with my native tongue of English.
changed in September of that year. While
alone in my room, playing my guitar and singing to Jesus in English, the
Holy Spirit enveloped me in a powerful way.
I began to sing in words I had never spoken before.
Paragraphs and paragraphs of tongues flowed freely from my lips
for an hour or so. It was
simply out of this world. Nobody
was telling me to repeat his tongues.
I didn't invent my own tongues.
I was not caught up in some emotionalism produced by a well-tuned
worship team in a well-attended meeting.
I was all alone in my bedroom.
I was not anticipating, or even asking, for this.
This was indeed a valid visitation of the Holy Spirit in my life.
I doubt if there has been a day since then when I haven't prayed
has never been any doubt. Jesus
did give me the gift of tongues back in 1971.
I might not have received this gift in the traditional
Pentecostal way, but I'm not the most traditional Christian, let alone a
Pentecostal style Christian on the ecclesiastical block.
wish the church wasn't split over tongues.
My praying in tongues caused controversy in the
growing up in Christian Evangelicalism I was taught to believe that the
building I visited every Sunday was the House of God.
In my childlike imagination, I understood that to mean God lived
in the building we called the church, His house.
So, in respect for God's house, we could talk all we wanted when
we were outside of God's house, but, once we entered its sacred doors,
we were to speak in a reverent whisper.
I couldn't figure that one out.
God still had the ability to hear what we were whispering.
Okay, I get it. It
was about reverencing God, not hiding our conversation from Him.
I came of age in the Lord in 1970, I became involved in what was called
the Charismatic Movement. Within
this movement were a number of international Bible teachers. I
used to listen to their teaching on cassette tapes.
For those too young to know what a cassette tape is, I'll let you
Google that one.
Prince was one of my favourite Bible teachers.
I listened to his twenty eight tape series on Systematic Theology
at least five times back in 1973. Then,
there was Judson Cornwall. I
recall his teaching on how a Christian young person could find a
lifelong partner. Being a
twenty one year old guy, that topic was of utmost importance.
There was no way that I'd ignore that message.
I wore that cassette tape out.
Among other Bible teachers were Earn Baxter, Paul Petrie, Don
Basham, Bob Mumford, Graham Pulkingham, Maxwell White, Malcolm Smith,
Charles Simpson, and others.
very first teaching tape I listened to was by Charles Simpson.
The title of his message was "The House Of The Lord."
The text was Psalm 27:4. It
reads: "One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I
may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon
the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple" (KJV).
David wrote Psalm 27. He
would have understood the House of the Lord in two ways.
First, he would have understood it to be the people or family of
God, the Jews. Second, he
would have understood it to be the temple in
Hebrew word "beth" is translated as "house" in our
English Old Testament. When
you see the town of
Charles Simpson pointed out, Acts 17:24 states that God does not live in
temples made by human hands during these New Testament times.
He lives in His people, the house or family of God.
So, there you go; God didn't really live in the building I
visited every Sunday as a child. He
lived in the people who visited that building, both collectively and
individually. When the
people left the building, God left along with them.
is a mistake to call a building the House of God because it emphasizes
the building and not the people who gather in the building.
Nowhere in the New Testament does it tell us to gather in any
particular kind of building. Nowhere
does the New Testament call a building the House of God.
The New Testament does, however, tell us how to conduct ourselves
when we do gather together (1 Corinthians 14), wherever that may be.
1971 I left the Free Methodist denomination to fellowship and serve
Jesus with those to whom Jesus had joined me in personal relationships
in the Body of Christ. I
didn't leave the House of God. I
just moved to a different room within His house, so to speak.
Like King David, living among God's people became a strong desire
in my life.
27:4 tells us that David had only one real desire in his life.
He asked God for just one thing, and that was to dwell in the
house, or family of God. That
is where he wanted to live forever.
That was where he would inquire of His God.
If we had the same desire, and, if we understood the House of God
as those to whom Jesus has personally joined us, things would be
drastically different, both in our individual lives and the church.
is people, those to whom Jesus has placed you alongside in personal and
supportive relationships to accomplish His plans on this planet.
New Testament teaches unity when it comes to the church, but it does not
teach unity at the expense of the truth of the gospel, as some teach
today. John. chapter 17,
records Jesus prayed for unity among His followers.
That includes you and I. In
1 Corinthians 1:12 Paul shows his disgust with the Corinthian Christians
who had divided themselves into various factions.
In contrast to these factions, in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul taught
that church is one unified body of believers, consisting of various
people having varying spiritual gifts and ministries.
modern western church is no different than the Corinthian church.
Besides being segregated into denominations, local congregations
are segregated into preschoolers, children, youth, college and careers,
singles, young married, old married, and seniors.
This was my experience while growing up in Evangelical Christian
circles, but that would soon change.
I stated earlier,
I attended the Tuesday night meeting, the room where we gathered was
packed. It wasn't the number
of people squeezed into the room that caught my attention.
It was who was in the room that impressed me.
There were businessmen dressed in suits and long haired hippie
looking guys dressed in jeans. There
were young people, middle aged people, and seniors, from all corners of
culture. I found this
utterly amazing. I had never
seen such a variety of people in one meeting enjoying both each other
and the Lord. Age or social
status didn't matter to these people.
remember one heavy set man sitting on the oversized windowsill.
Others were sitting on chairs around the perimeter of the room,
but the majority of us were sitting on the floor.
That was the first time I spent a church meeting on the floor,
but I didn’t mind. I’m
sure Jesus sat on a few floors in His day.
Coming from a background of segregated meetings, this was a
breath of fresh air.
returning home, Jesus began to do with me and others what I saw in
such brother in Christ was an Anglican minister named Virgil.
I was a long haired hippie looking guy while he was a balding
Anglican minister twice my age. We
spent lots of time together during any given week.
Then, there was another friend who was about fifteen years older
than me. Gerry was actually
my dad's friend before becoming my friend and brother in the Lord.
We pretty much lived in his station wagon as we traveled the
countryside for Jesus. This
is what I call supportive and functional relationships in the Body of
Christ; individuals who are joined together in friendship, and from
friendship ministry is born. It's
my position that church structure should be built on personal supportive
relationships, not on a
fixed ecclesiastical system.
age difference isn't the only thing I've experienced within these
supportive and functional relationships.
Those to whom I've been joined over the years haven't always been
of my social or economic placement in society.
I have never been a wealthy or influential person.
In the late 1970's I wondered why Bob, and others like Bob who
were relatively rich, wanted to be associated with me in friendship and
ministry when I wasn't from their social or economic world, but of
course, those things shouldn't matter in the Body of Christ.
should be about being personally joined to individual people, and from
this joining, ministry evolves. That's
not the way it normally is in the ecclesiastical maze.
We like being joined to an organizational structure that is
segregated into various groups based on economics, social status, age,
and theological distinctives.
1 Corinthians 12:13 Paul said that we have been baptized, or immersed,
into one united body. Paul
was not talking about water baptism.
He was not talking about joining a church, going to church, or
church being a casual concern. He
was talking about being immersed into church, utterly saturated in
fellowship and ministry with fellow believers.
He was talking about being immersed, baptized, into the lives of
those to whom Jesus has placed you in the Body of Christ.
That is church.
to 1 Corinthians 3:10 to 15, all of our church building activity.
so-called service for Jesus, done outside the will of God will burn in
the fire of God’s judgment. On
the other hand, activity, service for Jesus, performed within the will
of God will be rewarded. Paul
said that we should be expert master builders.
He was not talking about brick and mortar contractors.
He was talking about building people together in the one unified
Body of Christ, something that we, for the most part, have not done in
the western-world church.
John 17:20 and 21 we see Jesus praying for unity in His church so that
all people will know that God has sent Him into the world.
It's thus clear to me then that every time a church splits, it
tells the people in the cultural environment that God did not send Jesus
into the world. How sad!
thing that impressed me when I visited Christ Centre in
have learned that church is more than attending meetings and buildings
most call church. Church is
about being joined in personal relationships in the Body of Christ.
For this reason, in 1972 I left the
example of how personal relationships worked for me in a practical way
back then took place in 1975. One
of my friends was twice my age. Glenn
was influential in guiding many of us young Christians back then.
One day he suggested that I think about attending
didn't think much about that suggestion when it was first spoken to me,
but over the next three days I could not get it out of my mind.
It was if the Holy Spirit was constantly reminding me of this
suggestion, or, as it turned out to be, the prophetic word of the Lord
spoken in a normal, natural way.
I was to attend
middle of July, 1975, when I decided that
already mentioned that the Greek word "koinonia," or any of
its derivatives, means "to hold something in common."
Acts 2:44 in the NIV states that "all the believers were
together and had everything in common" (common - Greek koinos).
Acts 4:32 in the NIV states that "all the believers were one
in heart and mind. No one
claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared (shared
- Greek koinos) everything they had."
Unlike most of us western-world Christians today, the lives of
the first century Christians were transparent in the sense of sharing
with others. They were
willing to share and hold in common, that is, the sharing of whatever
was necessary for the welfare of their brothers and sisters in Jesus.
were some exceptions to this sharing.
Men didn't share their wives as the Children of God cult of the
1960's and 1970's did. In
our ignorance, the Children of God entered
thing I should mention at this point is that I'm not talking about
everyone sharing the same living arrangements that we called a
"Christian commune" in the 1960's and 1970's.
That being said, first century families, especially Jewish
families, did live communally in large extended families.
Community for them was much more of a part of their cultural
existence than it is for us in the western world today.
first generation Christian seemed to have no problem sharing their
material blessings and holding them in common with those who had little.
Granted, some, like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) had ulterior
motives for sharing. Laying
that couple aside, the early church made sure that all believers were
taken care of, especially when it came to the necessities of life.
You can see this in Acts 6. This
isn't always the case in today's western-world ecclesiastical maze.
I've seen the needy go without because money had to be spent on
buildings, salaries, and other such things in today's heavily structured
the sharing of material possessions, the most important thing the first
generation Christians shared was the ministry of spreading the gospel.
Everyone had a part to play in this ministry.
For this reason they lived in Christian community, not just for
the fun of fellowship, but to carry out their God-given responsibility
to spread the gospel.
in the 1970's those to whom I was joined in the Lord had the same
mentality. We valued our
relationships. This reminds
me of Emmy Lou Harris' comment on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s CD
entitled "Will The Circle Be Unbroken," volume 2.
She said that in the making of records, things have gotten so
technical and precise that the musicians and singers had lost the living
room experience in their music. In
other words, the business of music choked the joy out of playing music
together in someone's living room. The
same is true with the business of church.
When we professionalize church to make it marketable to the
masses, we lose the living room experience in our gatherings, and by the
way, most churches find their roots in someone's living room.
We exchange the living room for the ecclesiastical maze.
I think I can safely say that Jesus’ most important
relationships while on earth were living room type relationships.
They certainly weren’t synagogue type relationships.
of the above being said, the most important thing, if you can properly
call Him a thing, that Christians share in common is the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of Jesus lives, both within the Christian and within
the Christian community. That
means we share the very life of Jesus Himself.
All of whom Jesus is, thus, should be shared with one another.
It is the unity that Jesus spoke to His apostles about, as is
recorded in John 17. As He
and His Father was one, so Jesus wants us as Christians to be one.
That is a pretty tall order, and has seldom been seen in the
ecclesiastical maze, but it is still the desire of Jesus.
Sharing Jesus in common means that the very character qualities
of Jesus should be shared within the Christian community.
That is true Biblical koinonia.
the early 1970’s when my friends and I were attempting to walk the
path of Christian community, or koinonia as we often called it, we
placed great significance in the horizontal relationships we had with
one another. Our horizontal
relationships were to be balanced with our vertical relationship with
Jesus. We emphasized the
horizontal because we felt the church was neglecting its importance.
According to our thinking back then, church seemed to be about me
and Jesus, to the exclusion of me and my brothers and sisters in Christ.
John 2:27 was often quoted to support this me and Jesus mentality.
John told his readers that we don't need any man to teach us
because we have the anointing, which is the Holy Spirit.
John wasn't saying we didn't need teachers in the church.
If that was his intent he would not have written this letter of
instruction. In context,
John was saying that the Holy Spirit would warn his readers of false
teachers. The church doesn't
need false teachers to teach the believers.
Christians did need real godly teachers to teach them.
debate between me and Jesus and me and my brothers split the Charismatic
Movement of the 1970’s. The
debate was seen in Christian magazines and on Christian radio and
television. I recall one
radio host on the Christian Broadcasting Network in upstate
in the 1970's some of us thought that having a personal relationship
with Jesus was easy, although looking back on that, people's lives say
that's more difficult than we will admit.
to people was difficult at best. Again,
if you are honest, I think you would agree with me.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with Jesus takes time and
effort on our part. The same
is true with relating to our brothers and sisters in Jesus.
I believe that the better our relationship is with Jesus, the
better our relationships will be with those to whom Jesus has joined us,
and to be clear, our horizontal relationships are not optional.
We cannot take or leave our brothers and sisters in Jesus.
the spring of 1971 some of us met every week in the basement of a
century-old church building to plan our strategy to share Jesus at an
upcoming rock festival that was to be held just north of town.
We called these meetings the SMOTS meetings.
SMOTS stood for the "Secret Meeting Of The Saints." We
pictured ourselves as a youthful clandestine movement that would
infiltrate the rock festival and win the hippies over to Jesus.
Maybe you can visualize our youthfulness.
Now, as I'm about to complete seven decades of my life, youth
seems like it would be a nice thing to experience all over again, but,
that will never happen.
invited Jesus People groups from across
were concerned about the Jesus People groups we had invited to the rock
festival that was now cancelled. What
would we do if a bunch of Jesus People showed up on our city's door-step
and we would have nothing to offer them?
Fortunately, we did not have a massive influx of Jesus People.
We did, however unfortunately, have one group from
COG, as we called them, didn't care about a cancelled rock festival.
They took their brand of the gospel to the streets of our city.
Preaching on the streets impressed many of us youth.
We would soon take up the practice ourselves.
thing that impressed me about this group was their memorization of
Scripture. They spoke Bible
verses as if the Bible was their second language.
So, not to be outdone, I began to memorize the Bible as well.
Within a year I had memorized about two thousand Bible verses.
I could quote the book of Philippians in one sitting without
stumbling over words or making mistakes.
message the COG preached was forsake all to follow Jesus.
That sounded good, but what sounds good is not always good.
They quoted such Scriptures as: "If anyone would come after
me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me"
(Matthew 16:24). It didn't
take me long to learn that forsaking all meant selling all of your
possessions and handing the proceeds over to them.
Some of my brothers and sisters in Jesus did just that.
have to understand our youthful, excited-about-Jesus, mentality back
then. We were in our late
teens. We were influenced by
the 60's generation. We were
searching for a spiritual reality that we struggled to find within the
traditional church. We
wanted to see the reality of Jesus outside the walls of church
buildings. At first glance,
the Children of God presented us with a dynamic alternative to
traditional Christianity, and that caught our attention.
COG pressured me to forsake all, but I couldn't, and I didn't.
I valued my commitment to work with children at the
COG caused quite an uproar in our city for which they were quite proud
of. They reminded me that
the Apostle Paul caused an uproar in most cities he visited, but the
uproar that Paul caused was not the same as the uproar that took place
among Christians in the summer of 1971 in our region of
Burg was an Evangelical youth leader in a mid-western American state.
He claimed that if he had one hundred young people on fire for
Jesus he could change the world. David
Burg became Moses David, the prophet and supreme leader of the Children
of God. His group grew to
thousands of young people that were spread around the world.
The COG didn't change the world, but it did change David Burg.
As is often the case in the ecclesiastical maze, unchallenged
authority turns a leader into a dictator, something Jesus warned against
in Matthew 20:24 and 25. He
told His disciples that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over their
people for their own benefit but that should not be the case with His
I mentioned earlier in my account, Moses David promoted the sharing of
wives within the group. It
was his, unbiblical, way to express Christian community.
He also used sex as a witnessing tool.
On the streets of our cities in 1971, young short-skirted
seductive women with a tract entitled "Holy Holes" prostituted
themselves as a means to win men to Jesus.
Adherents of Moses David saw nothing wrong with this practice
because, even though they claimed to value Scripture, obedience to their
prophet was ultimate. That's
not the first time in church history such things like that have taken
place, and it certainly will not be the last time.
In our modern vernacular, some people like drinking the cool-aid,
a reference to the Jonestown cult in the late 1970's where the adherents
to Jim Jones drank the poison cool-aid that killed them all in the name
of Jim Jones.
of authority isn't relegated to cults.
It has been a problem throughout church history.
Heavy handed authoritarianism; "it's my way or you're out of
here," isn't New Testament thinking.
Yes, there are New Testament passages that encourage us to submit
to our leaders but those leaders bent on dictatorship misunderstand how
the New Testament understands the word "submit."
You don't submit to dictatorial church leaders.
I'll talk about this later in more detail.
segments of the ecclesiastical maze believe that miraculous healing
isn't for today while other parts believe it is.
I believe Jesus still heals people today because I would have
been dead at the age of seven, eight, or nine, if He had not healed me
of severe Juvenile Diabetes.
quote 1 Corinthians 13:9 and 10 to say that healing isn't for today.
Paul said this: "For now we know in part … but when
perfection comes, the imperfect will disappear."
The controversy stems over the word "perfection."
Some say perfection is the Bible, and since we have the Bible,
the gifts of the Holy Spirit seen in 1 Corinthians 12, including
healing, have passed away. That
absolutely makes no Biblical sense.
all of the various Bible translations we have at our disposal today,
which one is perfect? The
orthodox view of the doctrine of Biblical inspiration states that only
the original writings, not any copies or translations, are inspired by
God, and that, sorry to say to some, includes the King James Bible.
The only thing that is perfect is God Himself.
The logical Biblical fact is that the only perfect thing is God,
is Jesus, and, when Jesus comes back to earth, the gifts of the Spirit,
including healing, will no longer be necessary.
The true Christian will exist in a perfected state, just as Jesus
exists today. It's that
I have previously stated, I am legally blind.
If someone with twenty twenty vision sees something forty feet
away, for me to see the exact same thing with the same detail, I need to
be two feet away. Those with
good vision can read a one inch letter from twenty eight inches away.
I have to be about three inches away to read the same one inch
letter. As I read these
words on my twenty seven inch monitor, with words enlarged to three
quarters of an inch, my nose is one inch from the monitor.
I read books with the use of a pair of glasses with a magnifying
lens in my right eye. While
reading with one eye, my nose normally turns black as it scrapes across
the printed page.
I was in my twenties a couple of friends enjoyed embarrassing me in
public. We entered a high
class art gallery in
dad believed that Jesus could heal my legally blind eyes.
Of course he believed in healing because Jesus had already healed
me of Juvenile Diabetes. That
was how he became a Christian, so, every chance dad had an opportunity
he would drag me to an altar of prayer so Jesus could heal my eyes.
That got a bit embarrassing, especially as a child, but I
continued the pattern as I grew of age.
I tried every healing formula one can find in the ecclesiastical
maze. I went to two
Katherine Kuhlman meetings in
year at the
1972 I stood in a Jerry B. Walker healing line in
have been told by hyper-faith folk that I need more faith.
They tell me that I need to believe and act as if I'm already
healed. So, I purchased
myself the smallest print Bible I could find.
Every day I would pick that Bible up.
I acted as if I could read it, but every day I couldn't read it.
Most people could not read it.
It had extremely small print.
I still can't read it.
long since forsaken the hyper-faith teaching.
If Jesus heals you, you are healed.
You don't have to trick yourself into thinking you are healed
when you are not healed. Jesus
isn't into playing games with our heads.
What I should have said to these hyper-faith folk is that if they
gave me the keys to their cars, I'd gladly drive them home from church,
because of course, according to them, I was already healed.
We would soon find out who had faith and who did not have faith.
sorry to say this, but the Bible doesn't set forth one specific formula
for healing. We tend to take
one example of Biblical healing and turn it into a formulized doctrine,
and then we run with it. I'm
sure you remember the time when Jesus spit on the ground and put that
muddy mess into a blind man's eyes. Does
anyone want to formalize that method into a doctrine?
Well, that's probably the only one that hasn't been so formalized
into doctrine, but I'm sure it has been tried many times over the years,
just not on me.
folk tell me I need more faith, but they don't understand the meaning to
true Biblical faith. Faith
is not a commodity that you can get more of.
Someone can't tell you to go and find more faith. Faith
is trust. One can't get more
trust. Faith is surrendering
to Jesus. Faith is relaxing
in the presence of the Lord. Faith
is not striving for something beyond your reach.
I agree with Martin Luther when he said that faith is a passive
action, not an aggressive action. Because
faith is trust, one can't get more trust.
One can, however, trust more.
I say all of this because the Greek word "pistis" that
is translated as "faith" or "believe" in the New
Testament simply means "trust."
That's it. If you
have faith in Jesus, you trust Him.
You rest in His abilities, not your own imperfect abilities.
three Hebrew men in the Book of Daniel demonstrated real faith.
In Daniel 3:16 through 18 they said this: "O Nebuchadnezzar,
we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is
able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.
But even if He doesn't, we want you to know, O king; we will not serve
men's positive confession of faith included the words "but even if
He doesn't." Hyper-faith
folk would cringe at these men's confession of faith.
To them, the word "but" suggests doubt, and no one who
doubts has true faith. These
men didn't doubt. They
resigned themselves to God's will, whether He saved them from the fire
or not. Resignation, as
Luther would have said, is a passive action.
These men did not have to work up some kind of faith.
They did not have to scrounge around and dig up faith they did
not have. They simply
trusted in their God no matter the consequences, no matter the results.
They accepted God's will for them, whether that meant life or
death. That is valid
Peter 1:3 to 9 tells us that those who have true faith will have their
faith tested. These tests
might well include sickness, or, legally blind eyes.
If your faith is not tested, that tells me that you have little
faith, or maybe no faith at all. If
you have no tests of faith, would not that suggest you have no faith to
be tested? In that
sense of the word, hyper-faith folk may not actually have the faith they
claim to have. Think about
that one for a while.
stand with the three Hebrew men of Daniel.
I trust Jesus no matter how He responds to my prayers.
I trust Jesus whether He heals my legally blind eyes in this life
or not. I don't get bent out
of shape if He decides not to heal me.
That my friend, is what I call Biblical faith.
valid Christian revival is one that begins in church and works its way
out into the surrounding community.
I say that because of the meaning of the word
or someone, who has been revived must have lived prior to this revival
and at some point died, or, was close to death.
You can't revive something or someone that has never lived, and
the secular community in which Christians live, had never lived
example of a revival is the Great Awakening that spread across Europe
believe the Jesus People Movement of the mid 1960's and 1970's
constituted a valid Christian revival.
The movement began in
were hippies who had never dawned
early 1970's were exciting days for me and my brothers in Jesus.
We shared Jesus on street corners, in coffee houses, in bars, in
parks, in schools and colleges, and even in church buildings.
On one occasion we led the three members of a rock band trio to
Jesus during their stint at a local bar.
They quickly added a few Christian songs to their repertoire of
songs they sang to the patrons of the bar.
When their musical set was over, we would head upstairs to their
hotel room to pray and instruct them in the Word of God.
O yes, we did also share a bottle of wine. Okay,
I've said it. I drank wine
back then, and, I'm not sorry to say, I still drink wine.
Alright, I drink beer too, and, sometimes whiskey mixed with
Pepsi Cola. Hopefully this
admission won't cause you to close this book and throw it into the
nearest garbage bin.
would like to say that I suffered persecution at the hands of a violent
sinner when I went flying over a table and onto the floor after being
kicked in the head, but I can't honestly say that with a clear
conscience. After getting
re-orientated from my fall, I got up again, only to be kicked again.
On to the floor I flew for the second time.
I wasn't being persecuted for my faith.
I was just trying to stop a drunken guy from beating up on a
friend in our Christian coffee house.
I wonder if Jesus ever had to break up a fight.
I know he had to break up arguments among His disciples.
I can imagine that Peter the business man got in daily arguments
with Matthew the Jewish tax collector who worked for
walking the halls of a local high school, my friend got talking to a
student about Jesus. Within
minutes a large crowd of students gathered around him to hear what he
was saying. He opened his
big black-covered, oversized Bible and began preaching Jesus.
The resulting commotion was noticed by the principal of the
school who told my friend that he had to stop preaching.
My friend responded by saying that he, or no one else, could stop
him from preaching in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The principal conceded and gave us a classroom to preach Jesus in
when the school day was over. The
gathering was announced over the public address system and the room was
packed with students and teachers alike.
teacher scoffed at us. Being
full of divine boldness, okay, also mixed with some naivety, stupidity
and youthfulness, my friend quoted 1 John 1:6 to the scoffing teacher.
It states that if you claim to have fellowship with God and walk
in darkness, you lie. The
teacher didn't appreciate being called a liar.
As he stomped out of the room in angered disgust, my friend
quoted 1 John 1:8 to him. It
states that if you claim to have no sin you deceive yourself and the
truth is not in you. I'm
sure you can guess that the teacher was not happy about that one either.
His anger was aroused even more and the room became chaotic.
When it was all over, another teacher stayed behind and asked us
to talk further in her history class.
We were overjoyed to preach in a history class.
sharing Jesus with a girl on a street corner she asked us if we could
speak to her college world religions class as part of her assignment she
was working on. Her teacher
was a Jew, who, aggressively refuted our testimony about Jesus, her
Messiah. She opposed the
idea that Jesus, the Jewish apostate, was her Messiah.
Sad to say, two weeks later this teacher was killed in a car
accident, but not before hearing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,
her Jewish Messiah.
another occasion we shared Jesus at another high school.
I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit as we spoke.
One student came up to me and asked what drug I was high on.
According to him, I looked spaced out.
Some might suggest that is my normal look, but I told him I
wasn't stoned. I was filled
with the Holy Spirit. That
reminded me of the Apostle Peter who was accused of being drunk on the
Day of Pentecost.
in my account I said that the Children of God entered
after we notice the police cars driving by our house we were summoned to
appear before a local immigration officer.
He figured we were members of the Children of God, who in his
reminds me of the time I was interrogated by the American immigration
and custom officers as I crossed into
reminds me of the time my two friends, Robert and Dave, and I were also
stopped at the boarder entering the
also felt like Paul when he was questioned before the Jewish Sanhedrin.
It wasn't only the government that was on our case.
The local church community was keeping a close eye on us as well.
One Pentecostal pastor who was convinced we were secret agents
for the Children of God visited us one evening in our Christian commune,
something I'm sure he disagreed with.
He and his son rebuked us harshly.
We had become a divisive factor in the local Christian community.
I was about to quote Matthew 10:34 to this pastor in support of
the division we were accused of creating.
The text states the Jesus didn't come to bring peace but a sword
that would divide people into various factions.
As I was ready to quote the verse, I changed my mind.
I didn't think it was proper, even godly, to use a Bible verse as
a sword against my brother. I
was dumbfounded, though, when this pastor used that very same verse as a
sword against us just moments later.
How weird that was.
felt the pressure from both the ecclesiastical maze and the government,
but that only strengthened our resolve to preach Jesus everywhere and
anywhere. We may have been young and naïve, but we were certainly
experiencing a fresh visitation of Jesus in our lives which were being
felt throughout our community, and, which was a testimony to the fact
that this was a valid revival.
I mentioned earlier in this chapter; a true revival will ripple itself
through the civil community at large, and the Jesus People Movement did
do that. Many non-Christians
came to Jesus, including some very prominent musicians in rock music.
As a matter of fact a number of secular songs you would hear
being played on the radio incorporated Christian lyrics.
Of course, that did not make the performers Christian.
It just goes to show you that a valid revival among Christians
does have an impact on its surrounding community.
it comes to the Jesus People Movement and my participation in it, I
could go on forever with many stories, but I won't.
I will end it with what I have said.
was 1973. I had recently
read Hal Lindsey's "Late Great Planet Earth."
I was convinced beyond any doubt that life as we knew it was all
over. The end of the age
would crash down on us by 1975. There
was no time to waste. There
was no sense spending tons of money on stuff that I would have to leave
behind after I was raptured from earth.
On the other hand, if Lindsey was wrong and there was no
pre-tribulation rapture, it still did not make sense to spend tons of
money on things the anti-Christ would take from me before he executed
me. The simple life was the
way to go, and for that reason, at the age of 22 years old I decided to
make the last big purchase of my entire life.
a lover of music I had my eyes on two stereo speakers at our local Radio
Shack store. Upon entering
the store with a Larry Norman and an Andrae Crouch album in hand, I
blasted everyone in the store with my Christian music.
I figured that if I was going to test out these speakers I might
as well use the test as a witnessing tool for Jesus.
So there you go. I
left the store $250.00 poorer, thinking I had just made the last big
purchase of my short, but entire, life. I
would certainly enjoy my Christian music as I waited the return of Jesus
or the beheading of my head from my shoulders, whatever came first.
1975 had come and gone I realized that the ecclesiastical maze was
divided into various prophetic corners.
In one corner I was told that the anti-Christ was alive and well
somewhere in the
began to get weary of bouncing from corner to corner and so I decided to
sit on one of the fences that divided the maze.
I watched the various corners battling things out.
Even though I was resigned to fence sitting, there was always a
nagging feeling inside to get to the bottom of this prophetic barrow of
took me a few years, actually a couple of decades, but I did settle down
in the corner of the Prophetic Futurist.
I believe the Book of Revelation is yet to be fulfilled.
I believe the anti-Christ will dominate world politics at some
future point in history. I
to let you know, my last big purchase of my entire life in 1973 was not
my last big purchase. I am
now heading towards the age of seventy years and I have to admit that I
have made a few more purchases along the way.
One thing hasn't changed. I
still prefer a simple uncluttered life.
Hebrews 12:1 admonishes us to throw off all that clutters our
lives so we can run the race that Jesus has asked us to run.
As I get older, and as the end of this age gets closer, this
admonition seems more important to me than ever.
a Christian have a demon? That
was one big question we and others had in the early 1970's.
Maybe it was a new question for many of us back then, but it had
been a matter of great debate for centuries.
To help answer this question my friends and I read a little
red-covered book entitled "Out In The Name Of Jesus," written
by Pat Brooks. Brooks
explained how to drive demons out of people in a few short and simple
steps. It sounded so easy,
so we went fast and furious to do as she taught.
We attempted to cast out every demon we thought we found
lingering around in each other's soul.
day I woke up sick with the flu, or maybe it was a demon; maybe a demon
of flu. Just in case I had a
demon of flu, a couple of friends took me down to a private place by a
nearby river. They proceeded
to drive that demon of flu out of me.
Either the demon failed to come out of me or else I really did
not have a demon of flu. I
went home as sick as ever. I
don't think I had a demon. I
just had the old-fashion common flu bug, and a flu bug, is not a demon.
another occasion we supposedly drove one hundred and eighteen demons out
of one girl. We followed the
formula set out in the little red covered-book.
We asked for each demon's name.
Each one told us its name, and then, we would cast it out of the
girl. It took four of us to
hold this girl down on the floor at one point because of the violent
reactions when the demons left her.
The book warned us about such violence.
I was actually sitting on the girl's ankles in order to hold her
legs down on the floor. Another
friend held down one arm while yet another held down her other arm.
The fourth brother in the Lord was holding her head on the floor.
We did not want her to get a whip-lash as the demons came flying
forth from her in a violent rage.
make a three hour story short, the last demon we cast out of this girl
called itself a lying spirit, or so that's what he claimed to be.
I was a bit confused and somewhat curious.
I asked the lying spirit if he was telling us the truth about
being a lying spirit. It's
difficult to know if a lying spirit is capable of telling the truth.
it was all said and done, I don't know if we drove one hundred and
eighteen demons out of this girl or if we just drove one lying spirit
pretending to be one hundred and eighteen demons out of her.
I wonder if we actually drove any demons out of her.
That being said, there did seem to be more than something human
going on with this girl. At
one point this girl literally threw me off of her ankles.
That is not an easy task if you think it through.
She was not a very strong person.
Out of curiosity, I was victorious over her in an arm wrestle the
the risk of losing any credibility I might have left, I'll tell you one
more story. We chased
a girl possessed by a demon down the street.
We eventually tackled her to the ground in the outfield of a
baseball game that was in progress.
We got her back to the house where we were meeting, and once
there, she proceeded to the kitchen where she grabbed a butcher knife
and hid under a bed. We
finally coaxed her from under the bed and delivered her of her demon, or
so we thought.
you know why the deliverance ministry has divided the ecclesiastical
maze. I look back on those
days and still wonder. I
know we went overboard. That
is certain. I know we relied
too much on that little red-covered book and not enough on the Bible.
On the other hand, I know there are demons, and they don’t all
attempts at the deliverance died out by natural causes.
We were exhausted. Many
Sunday mornings we would gather for our weekly meeting, after which we
would have a quick lunch. Then,
we would go at it. We would
cast demons out of people until eight or nine in the evening.
We had people coming from out of town to deliver them of demons
they thought they had. I
can't discount the deliverance ministry outright, but I will say this.
Not all who claim to have a deliverance ministry actually have a
deliverance ministry. Not
all who are told they have a demon actually have a demon.
Much of what some call demonic is simply our own sinful flesh.
I am certain of that.
Charismatic Movement emerged in the 1960’s in mainly non-Evangelical
churches. Many people came
to know Jesus in a real way by receiving the Holy Spirit into their
lives in those days. I was
heavily involved in Charismatic circles during the 1970's and beyond.
Many of those who had been touched by the Holy Spirit in this
movement no longer felt comfortable in liberal churches that were
forsaking essential Biblical doctrine.
These people, therefore, would attend Charismatic style meetings
everywhere they could find them. Many
of the new Charismatic believers found themselves in para-church
organizations like the Full Gospel Christian Businessmen.
I was the local youth representative for this organization in the
this period of time certain Bible teachers were emerging as leaders in
the Charismatic Movement. Four
of these leaders were based in
Fort Lauderdale Four, now Five, emphasized discipleship as being normal
told His twelve apostles to make disciples for Him from all nations, or
from all ethnicities, as the Greek text of Matthew 28:19 states.
A disciple of Jesus is one who has a working relationship with
Jesus and learns all he can from Him.
In the early 1970’s the Discipleship Movement was born to bring
stability to these new Charismatic style believers.
time went on the Discipleship Movement morphed into what was then called
the Shepherding Movement. It
was a natural transition. The
new disciples needed to be cared for and the caring process was called
word "shepherd" is another word for pastor.
A shepherd or pastor is one of the gifts Jesus gives to the
church as seen in Ephesians 4:10. They
are apostles, evangelists, prophets, and pastors/teachers.
It is important to know that not all Christians are called to be
shepherds of God's flock, and this is where problems arose, at least in
my thinking, within the Shepherding Movement.
We were all encouraged to shepherd others.
At one point in time I had five families under my shepherding
the early 1970’s my friends and I were following the Fort Lauderdale
Five. In 1977 we joined
ourselves to the Shepherding Movement when a shepherd/pastor and his
family moved from Northern Virginia,
was all about providing personal pastoral care for the believer.
That meant every Christian in the movement was to have a personal
pastor, a shepherd who would help in the oversight of such things as
finances, marriage problems, the raising of children, and all other
things that impacted our daily lives.
That all sounded good, but when those not called by God to be
shepherds were shepherding, things went off track because the so-called
shepherds neither had the calling from God or the ability to carry out
the duties of a legitimate shepherd/pastor.
enjoyed the shepherding days. I
benefited mostly from the relationships I had with those in the
movement. I benefited less
from actually being shepherded. That
being said, I didn't fully embrace the shepherding teaching as being
Biblical, because as I have said, not everyone is called to shepherd
God's flock, and, when those who are not so called attempt the task, it
can do more harm than good. In
part, this is why the movement failed.
Yes, the new Charismatic believers needed grounding in both the
Word of God and a valid community of believers, but Shepherding, even
with its good intensions, evaporated in the mid 1980's.
problems aren't exclusive to the Shepherding Movement.
Pastoral abuses can be seen throughout the history of the
ecclesiastical maze. Some
pastors are dictators, not servants.
Some pastors are administrators, not care givers.
Some pastors view their ministry as a career, not a calling from
God. Simply put, much of
what is called pastoring in the ecclesiastical maze is not Scriptural
after we got acquainted with the Shepherding Movement, I headed off to
Elim Bible Institute and College in
debate at Elim and elsewhere was over the concept of being under the
care and authority of a personal shepherd.
The theological term to this is called "submission and
authority" or "submission to authority."
Both the word "submission" and the word
"authority" are Biblical words, but, they must be understood
in terms of how the New Testament understands them, not as we think they
should be understood.
months after returning home from Elim I was married to my wife Cathy,
who I had met at
one's life in this fashion might sound scary to you, and I admit,
because of abuses in some cases, it did become scary.
Despite some well publicized abuses of submission and authority
that took place in other localities, we didn't experience them here in
our small Canadian city. Granted,
there were a few minor irritations that I found disturbing in my case
but I never made a big deal about them.
our shepherd and his family decided to return to
back on our move to
the years I've done much historical and Biblical study concerning the
nature of church, I conclude that much of western style church is not
based on New Testament thinking. As
I've studied the New Testament, I do see submitting to church authority
as being taught within its pages. The
words "submission" and "authority" are Biblical
words with a specific Biblical meaning, but they are not understood by
short, the Greek word translated as "submit" in the New
Testament was a military word in the first-century Greco-Roman world.
That being said, the New Testament doesn't use this Greek word in
its common military usage. In
Biblical terms, submission is not mandated over one as a general would
mandate submission in an army. In
Biblical terms, submission is a gentle, well-thought-out, yielding to
another based on mutual respect, love and care.
We are to experience such submission to a church leader or a
brother in the Lord. Ephesians
5:21 makes that clear. Again,
submission is based on a mutual, loving and caring relationship, with
the emphasis on the word "mutual."
Without a free flow of loving care, submission will normally
become dictatorial, and dictating over another is not Biblical.
it comes to the word "authority," the
New Testament does teach ecclesiastical authority, but once
again, it's not a worldly style of authority.
Jesus specifically told us that the rulers of this world lord it
over their citizens to benefit themselves, but that should not be the
case with those who lead and care for His people (Luke 22:25 - 26).
Those in authority within the church must exercise their
authority in a loving and caring way, as a father would care for his
children (1 Timothy 3: 5). A
leader in the church is a servant, not a dictatorial master.
You can read more about this in my book entitled "Confirm
Your Call To Lead."
13:17 says: "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority."
This verse needs some thoughtful exegeses.
Our English versions say "Obey your leaders."
The word "leaders" is a noun, but, in the original
Greek text, there is no corresponding noun.
The Greek text says: "obey the one's leading," which is
a participle. A participle,
in part, is half noun and half verb. The
verse doesn't really tell us to obey our leaders as in the ones who hold
the office of a leader. It
says we are to obey the ones leading, as in, the ones who are actually
carrying out the Biblical responsibility of leading.
Just because someone holds the office of a leader doesn't mean he
is actually carrying out his leadership responsibilities in a godly
Biblical fashion. New
Testament teaching concerning obeying leaders is that you obey those
leaders who are actually called by God to lead and are leading in the
way the New Testament teaches. Our
modern church puts way too much emphasis on the office of a leader and
not enough emphasis on the New Testament responsibilities of a leader.
Bible doesn't view leadership in terms of an office.
It views leadership in terms of fulfilling leadership
responsibilities. We, thus,
have too many career orientated leaders and not enough called-by-God
servant leaders in the present day ecclesiastical maze.
talked about submission and authority as it applied to the Shepherding
Movement of the 1970's and 1980's, but we can't blame all of the abuses
of domineering authority on the Shepherding Movement only.
It has been problematic since the formation of the church, as
seen in the book of Acts.
Acts 20 the Apostle Paul said his final and sad goodbyes to the elders
of the community of believers in
Acts 20:28 Paul admonished the Ephesian elders to shepherd the
Luke wrote the book of Acts, church leadership consisted of a body of
elders, with no one man, or pastor, in charge.
The progressive evolution from this body of elders to the
hierarchal Catholicism of the dark ages is easily documented in history.
In and around 100 A D one man began to rise as a leader among
this body of elders. In and
around 150 A. D. to 200 A. D. that one man began to be seen as God's
spokesman or representative to the church.
In and around 250 A. D. to 300 A. D. this one man began to be
seen as the church's representative to God.
This one man pastor had become a middle man between the believer
and God, thus the foundation of Catholicism was born and what is called
the priesthood of the believer died.
doctrine of the priesthood of the believer states that all true
Christians have free access to God.
This is how it works. There
is only one middle man between God the Father and the believer and that
is Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus
represents us to God. The
believer has free and constant access to Jesus through the Holy Spirit
who lives within him. No
man, whether priest or pastor, stands between the believer and Jesus.
We are all priests. This
is where Catholicism went very wrong.
This was a clear abuse of ecclesiastical authority.
legitimate role of a leader in the church can be seen in what Paul also
told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:26 to 35.
"I have not hesitated to proclaim the whole will of
God." Paul proclaimed
God's will, not his will. "I
commit you to God and His grace," he said.
In the long run, even though Paul proclaimed God's will to God's
people, he left God's people to God's grace, not his own abilities.
"I have not coveted anyone silver, gold, or clothing …
these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my
among many other things Paul wrote, shows that he was not a dictator.
He was a servant of God. He
served those to whom God asked him to care for.
Leadership is all about serving, not dictating.
That's not always the way it is in the ecclesiastical maze.
will speak to this later, but during the 1990's and what was called
"The Apostolic Movement," I was deleaderized from the
community of believers of which I was a part.
I didn't fully embrace unquestioned submission to our so-called
apostle as it was taught. It
was his way or no way. Obey
the apostle or move on. With
great reluctance and a good measure of sadness I was forced to move on.
Such is often the way it is in the ecclesiastical maze.
was around 2005 when my friend attended a gathering of worship leaders
in our city. The lady in
charge presented those in attendance with a covenant that they were
expected to sign if they were to continue to be a part of this
newly-formed Christian group. My
friend kindly suggested that making such a covenant between Christians
was not New Testament thinking. He
declined to sign the document, and thus, was not permitted to attend any
more of the group's meetings.
the mid 1990's my two friends were scolded by their pastor when they
left his congregation. According
to this pastor, they were breaking covenant, but they weren't.
Nowhere in the New Testament does it teach that Christians sign
contracts, or covenants with a pastor or a local church.
A covenant is a contract.
in the 1980's while I was a part of one Shepherding Movement fellowship
simplest definition of the word "covenant" is "a contract
or an agreement between two or more people."
Examples of covenants today would be a marriage covenant or a
Old Testament's Jewish concept of covenant can be briefly summed up as
follows. Two or more people
would come together and make an agreement.
The agreement would have various stipulations.
Each person was responsible to live up to his specific
stipulations or else suffer the stated consequences.
The covenant was then confirmed or ratified by a ceremonial
ritual that often included the blood sacrifice of an animal.
who believe we should make similar covenants today often point to the
covenant that David and Jonathan made between themselves as an example
for us to follow today (1 Samuel 20).
To suggest that we make covenants with one another today based on
David and Jonathan's covenant is bad Biblical interpretation.
Their choice was their personal choice, and there choice was
never meant to be Biblical teaching for us all to follow.
If two believers feel the desire to make such an agreement today,
like David and Jonathan, that's their personal choice.
They can't make their choice into Biblical doctrine and teach
others to follow their example of making covenant.
Abrahamic Covenant of Genesis 15 is foundational to New Covenant
thinking. If you read
Genesis 15 you'll note that God did not make a covenant with Abraham.
After setting forth the stipulations of the covenant, God put
Abraham to sleep. God then
performed the sacrificial ritual with Himself; not with Abraham who was
asleep. God agreed, or
covenanted, with Himself to bless Abraham.
Abraham's part in the covenant was to simply embrace it and
believe that God would do as He stated in His covenant.
Abrahamic Covenant is significant when thinking of the New Covenant in
Jesus (Galatians 3 and4, Romans 4).
Like the Abrahamic Covenant, the New Covenant in Jesus was not a
covenant made between us and God. Like
the Abrahamic Covenant, God covenanted with Himself to bless us with
salvation. Our part of the
covenant, like Abraham's part in what has been called the Abrahamic
Covenant, is to simply enter into God's covenant and believe that He
will do what He has promised in the covenant.
we enter the New Covenant we are joined in covenantal relationships with
God and with all Christians, past, present and future.
You could say that the moment we are born again of the Spirit of
God is the moment we enter God's covenantal family.
We don't make personal covenants with each other because we are
already in covenant relationships. Obviously
the practical out-workings of our covenantal relationships can only be
realized with a few others to whom Jesus has joined us in the Body of
Christ. It's impossible for
me to have a personal relationship with a brother in Christ who lives in
New Testament doesn't mandate that we make personal covenants with each
other, or with God. It does
mandate that we enter God's covenant confirmed in the blood sacrifice of
our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross.
If you and your brother in the Lord feel that you would like to
make a covenant, that's fine. Just
don't teach others to do the same.
the brother in the Lord in
1980 my wife and I moved to
visited the White House, Capital Hill, and other buildings of
prominence. I sat in the
can't escape American history when living in
became involved in the Conservative Christian Right during the 1982
mid-term congressional election. I
was a canvassing coordinator for the Republican candidate in our
precinct. I and others
evangelized our community with our Republican style conservatism
political doctrine. One
thing I intentionally excluded from my Republican gospel was the fact
that I was a Canadian, and therefore, could not vote for the candidate I
was encouraging others to vote for.
That may sound weird, and maybe it was.
It does go to show how active I became in this new political
Baxter (1914 - 1993) was a prominent Bible teacher in the Charismatic
Movement of the 1960's, 70's, and 80's.
I asked him about Pat Robertson's attempt to become president of
not opposed to Christian involvement in politics.
Many of us live in democracies that presently allow Christians to
run for political office. Still,
I have come to understand that all governments, including western
democratically elected governments, are to one degree or another opposed
to Biblical values. That's
becoming more evident as the West departs from any Judeo/Christian
influence it once might have had.
I say "might have had" because I do not believe any
said that the gospel of the Kingdom would be preached throughout the
world before the end of the age comes (Matthew 24:14).
The gospel of the
interesting to note that God called the Apostle Paul to evangelize the
culture by means of government, legislative or judicial means, has never
worked. Our Biblical mandate
is to Christianize culture by leading individual people to Jesus.
Jesus did not die on the cross to save a nation.
He died on the cross to save people within a nation.
Besides, attempting to Christianize any culture through
legislative or judicial means has never worked.
The main example of this is seen in the fourth century when
society is well passed the point of embracing Biblical mandated
Christian values. It would
be nice to have godly prime ministers and presidents, but what we need
most are godly prophets and preachers proclaiming the soon coming
sad fact of the matter is that Evangelical Christians are now seen more
by the general public as a political movement instead of the Christian,
or Jesus Movement it is meant to be.
That is not a good witness to our Lord and Saviour, or so I
a more detailed discussion on this topic, and how I view Christian
involvement in politics, you can read my book entitled "The
Politics Of God And The Bible."
I outlined the history of nations from
1973 my friends and I decided to become a real church in the eyes of the
Canadian government. We
drafted a constitution which included our legal name, mission statement,
and our organizational structure that included the names and addresses
of our board of directors. We
opened a bank account in the name of Quinte Fellowship.
Quinte is the name of the geographical region in which we lived.
Although we became an official church in the eyes of men and
their governments, we still struggled with putting the word
"church" in our name, and thus, the designation of a
we were legalized we were authorized to issue income tax receipts to
anyone contributing to our cause. If
we had a building, which we didn't have and didn't really want to have,
we would be exempt from paying property taxes.
At that point, we would have to become incorporated, which would
have been another step towards traditionalizing ourselves, something we
were not excited about doing, and never did do.
the early 1990's a group I was associated with went through the same
legalities to become a real church in the mind of government.
Becoming legal is just the way it is in the ecclesiastical maze.
Historically speaking, and it didn't take long after the first
generation Christians died off, church structure began to be organized
along the lines of Roman style government, instead of its family
orientated Jewish roots. By
the fourth century, legalizing church was firmly cemented into the
mindset of what we commonly
call church today.
legal has had its benefits in the past, and really, in the present as
well. That is beginning to
change. As each year passes,
our atheistic secular governments are restricting the legal church from
practices it deems to be intolerant, thus inhibiting what was once our
legal right to freely express our faith.
day is approaching that unless the legal church submits to unbiblical
government demands, the church will lose its legal status.
When that day comes, I hope we can say as the Apostle Peter said
to the Jewish authorities of his day.
Acts 4:19 says: "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in
God's sight to obey you rather than God."
The choice will be ours; submit to a godless government and keep
the government perks, or submit to Jesus and keep His perks.
You may think there's no real choice to be made, but Christians
throughout the centuries have made the wrong choice because submitting
to Jesus comes with a great cost.
the midpoint of the second century Christians in the
to Jesus and losing legal status will undermine the traditional legal
church as we have known it over the years.
It will be a financial disaster.
The traditional church will have to pay property taxes and will
no longer be entitled to issue tax receipts, which will sadly but surely
reduce the income of most churches.
This may well result in the loss of property because of the lack
of funds. Ministers will no
longer be permitted to perform a legal marriage, especially if they
refuse to perform same-sex weddings.
On and on it will go. Personally
speaking, none of that bothers me. I
actually say: "bring that day on."
hesitate to say this because I know life will be difficult when that day
comes, but I look forward to a day, assuming I'm still alive, when our
culture brings that which we call church to this point of decision.
I welcome the day when church becomes what Jesus meant church to
be. I look forward to the
day when Christians living on the same street can function together in
relational harmony without being separated by denominational
differences. I welcome the
day when individual Christians are joined in functional relationships in
a vibrant community of believers that is spread across the land.
I look forward to the day when we're joined in ministry by the
Holy Spirit instead of being joined in ministry by denominational
organizations that look more like a Fortune Five Hundred Company than
the Body of Christ.
tough fact of the matter is that when that day actually does come, the
western-world church will be an underground community of vibrant
believers that we see in places like
do believe that we should submit to government as much as is possible.
Paul clearly taught us that in Romans 13:1 through 9, but, there
does come a point where we do have to make that tough decision to obey
Jesus rather than Caesar. It
is something we as the church must seriously consider.
We must think in advance what issues we can and cannot
compromise. It is better to
think of these things now instead of waiting until the pressure becomes
us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing but
let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day
(return of Jesus) approaching" (Hebrews 10:25.
I write these words, I am almost seventy years old.
I estimate that I have attended about thirteen thousand Christian
meetings in my life to date. I
guess that's why I began to be a little "meetinged out," as I
call it. Actually I began to
feel meetinged out after returning home from
the mid 1980's my boredom with the excessive number of meetings
intensified. Along with that
feeling was the feeling that being a good Christian required lots of
money; money I did not have. The
pressure was always on to attend another conference in another expensive
hotel in another big city that was far away from my home.
Just mentioning the "Kansas City Conference" of the mid
1970's will conjure up both good and bad memories for many of my friends
who attended that huge gathering in the Kansas City Royal's baseball
team's stadium. I did not
go. I just could not afford
1979 I attended a men's conference in one of those expensive hotels
located three blocks from Capital Hill in Washington D. C..
My friend took an elevator up from the underground parking lot
into what he thought was the lobby of our hotel.
When the elevator door opened on the main floor he saw a number
of husky and hefty looking women that looked nothing like his brothers
in Christ he was associated with. When
he glanced up at the billboard by the front door, he realized he had
taken the wrong elevator. Instead
of being in a Christian men's retreat, he was in the midst of the
National Transvestite Convention. It
didn't take him long to cross the street to the right hotel.
the mid 1990's I was pretty well "meetinged out" for good,
especially when it came to these expensive weekend conferences that were
advertised to change your life for ever, but seldom did.
What changed my life over the years was the ongoing interaction
with Jesus and those to whom He had personally joined me in the Body of
the church I was associated with in the 1990's we were expected to
attend all of the weekend conventions.
It was just part of being in covenant community, or so it was
taught. A couple of us
families didn't have the money, or didn't have the faith for the money
as we were told, for another weekend convention in another expensive
hotel. We stayed home.
When it was all said and done, our pastor scolded us for
non-compliance to our covenantal commitment.
Maybe you recall what I said earlier about making covenants with
Christians and churches.
where do you go to church these days?" I was once asked.
The question assumed that it's routine for Christians to have no
lasting commitment to one particular Sunday meeting, and that's a
correct assumption these days. Besides
"going to church," as I've pointed out, isn't a Biblical
concept. How can one
actually go to church, when in fact, he is part of church?
How can people go to a place when they are that place?
a look at the average Sunday morning meeting.
Take another look in two years and you'll see an entirely new
crowd of people. Loyalty to
a meeting is not a high priority these days in the ecclesiastical maze
because loyalty to one's brothers and sisters in Christ is not a high
priority. The modern church,
for the most part, does not understand church as being those people's
lives whom God has called you alongside in ministry.
be honest, from 2005 through 2015 I had not attended too many Sunday
morning meetings - maybe just ten meetings.
That didn't mean I would never attend one again.
It just means that I found many Sunday meetings boring,
especially if there was no heart felt expression of worship to Jesus.
Simply sitting in a pew and watching a performance on the
platform does little for me. The
fact that I didn't, at least at that moment in time, attend a Sunday
meeting didn't mean I was not in compliance with Hebrews 10:25 that I
opened this chapter with. I
did gather with those to whom Jesus had personally joined me, but not on
Sunday mornings. I actually
taught a home Bible study for sixteen years over that period of time. Besides,
there is more to Hebrews 10:25 than simply attending a meeting.
in the Bible does it tell us when or where to meet.
What the Bible does teach is what we do when we meet, something
that's almost always overlooked in today's church.
Read 1 Corinthians 14 and see if Paul's teaching on Christian
meetings looks like the meetings you attend.
10:25 tells us that we should gather together for mutual edification.
The historic reason for this admonition was because the believers
were enduring great hardship from their anti-Christ culture.
They needed encouragement in a corporate setting.
Once in this corporate setting, Paul's teaching of 1 Corinthians
14 would be expected to be experienced.
All those in attendance would participate as a vital member of
the Body of Christ. No one
was to sit and watch the show.
foundation of New Testament teaching concerning meetings can be seen in
Romans 12:5. Paul, in the
context of writing about the Body of Christ, stated that each member of
Christ's body "belongs to each other."
You might want to think about that for a while because it's
seldom thought of in today's church.
Paul's statement speaks of close relationships, functioning
together, both in the context of a meeting and without a meeting.
Do you believe that you actually belong to your close brothers
and sisters in Christ, and if you do believe that, what does that mean?
How has your brothers and sisters in Jesus influenced your life?
In what way do you serve Jesus with these brothers and sisters in
10:25 encourages us to gather as a community of believers who belong to
each other, especially as the day of Jesus' return draws near.
We're obviously closer to Jesus' return now than when Hebrews
10:25 was penned, but like those days, we're beginning to feel the
pressure from an anti-Christ culture.
10:25 presupposes that we belong to each other and are in functional
relationships with those to whom Jesus has joined us.
I say that because of this. Our
English words "gather together" in Hebrews 10:25 is not
actually translated from a Greek word, and, the rest of the book of
Hebrews, along with all of the New Testament, was written in Greek.
It is a Hebrew word that was inserted into the Greek text,
probably, because the book of Hebrews was written to Hebrews.
The Hebrew word "synagoge" that is found in the Greek
text of Hebrews 10:25 finds its roots in the Old Testament, where it
meant "a community of people belonging to each other and to
God." In short, and you
certainly do not see it in our English Bibles, Hebrews 10:25 is telling
us to not forsake those brothers and sisters that Jesus has placed us
alongside in the Body of Christ. This
admonition is not so much about not forsaking to attend meetings than it
is about not forsaking the relationships to whom Jesus has placed us
with, and why? It is because
we need each other, and these needs are best fulfilled outside of the
context of meetings, and that is especially so as difficult times come
in the last days.
1991 and 1992 I was buried in a depressing pit of despair that was not
of my choosing. What got me
through those disastrous days was the support from Jesus and two of my
close brothers in Christ, Jim and Robert.
day during that heart wrenching year I would meet with Jim, who I had
known since 1969. He
provided the needed direction and encouragement during this time of
turmoil. He helped me
manoeuvre through uncharted and rough waters that life sometimes brings
us all. Organized church can
be cold and clinical at times, but not so with friends like Jim and
Robert. Sitting in front of
a pastor's desk in a counselling session can be beneficial, but nothing
beats a warm, friendly, and Holy Spirit led brother's shoulder to cry on
and receive advice and comfort from.
suppose I could have found a warm shoulder and even more at the local
bar, but that would not have produced the results the Holy Spirit
provides through a brother in Christ.
It's the Holy Spirit in our relationships that makes our
relationships unique, and besides, discovering a lonely lady at the
local bar would certainly have led me down the path of destruction.
I might have enjoyed the ecstasy of sin for a season, but as
Romans 6:23 clearly states: "the wages of sin is death."
I did not want to add personal death on top of the death of my
was the third Sunday in March, 1992, when I finally heard the bad news.
I knew it was coming, but that didn't soften the blow to my
saddened soul. I just
didn’t know exactly when it would come, and ironically, it came an
hour after a Sunday morning church service that we both attended.
Even though I knew the reality of the situation, it was
devastating. My head was in
a daze, and my heart was void of emotion.
I sat speechless on our love seat where no love could be found.
Nothing could have been said that would have made a difference.
All that could have been said was said.
It was all over. My
life stood still. I was
stuck in suspended animation, completely numb of any normal human
emotion. I might as well
have been a wooden statue or a corpse void of its soul.
did I know that Jesus was working behind the scene on my behalf, and
this is where the divine aspect of personal relationships comes into
play. It was the evening of
the day I received the bad news; the announcement that a sixteen year
marriage was now over. It
was in a Sunday evening church service that my friend Jim didn't
normally attend. Why he
attended that evening is anyone's guess, or maybe as I believe, it was
Jim was leaving the building he was approached by an elderly lady I
first met back in 1973. She
asked Jim if he was
lady proceeded to tell Jim that the evening before Jesus told her to go
to her attic and open an old box she hadn't seen in years.
That was about seventeen hours before I received the depressing
news. The first thing she
saw in the box was my wedding invitation that I had sent her in 1977.
Jesus then told her to take the wedding invitation out of the
box, place it on her mantel, and pray for Steve.
She asked Jim if I was okay.
was dumbfounded and amazed at what he heard.
He was especially amazed at the timing to this lady's journey
into her attic. Again, Jesus
spoke to this prayer warrior just hours before I received the
devastating news. Now she
was relating these things to my friend just hours after I received the
news, and my friend just happened to be in the same meeting with her
that he seldom attended.
proceeded to explain why Jesus had her pray for me, but the story does
not end there.
days later I sat on a bench in our local mall.
An elderly lady sat down on the bench behind me.
In a soft and frail voice she asked me if I was
a spirit of gracious concern she told me that just three days earlier
Jesus had told her to go up to her attic and open one certain box where
she discovered my wedding invitation that I had sent her fifteen years
earlier. She told me that
Jesus had her take the invitation out of the box, place it on her
mantel, and pray for me. Right
there in the mall she began to speak the prophetic word of the Lord to
me. "Jesus told me to
tell you that He would always provide a roof over your head and that He
would always make sure you had shoes on your feet."
could not hold back the tears. There,
right in the midst of busy shoppers, the word of the Lord came to me
through this dear-old sister in Jesus. I
took the word of the Lord to mean that if I kept living as the Bible
told me to live; Jesus would look after me, despite my loss and my
uncertain future. Beyond any
doubt, Jesus has certainly done that.
I'm not sure if anyone saw my tears, but I didn't really care.
When Jesus speaks to you in such a miraculous way, you don't
worry about who sees you cry.
prophetic word came from a dear old sister in Christ, Mrs. Fisk, who I
had not seen in fifteen years, in a place where I least expected.
It was exactly the appropriate word for the appropriate moment in
my life. This is the
community of Christ in action. Thanks
to this dear old soul whose heart was so right before the Lord that she
could hear His instructions. One
thing is clear; we should never relegate the gifts of the Holy Spirit to
just meetings. As in the
book of Acts, they are for every day use wherever they are needed.
was about a month later while in a small gathering when a brother in the
thing Jesus told me was that I was not washed up as a Christian as I
thought I was. There was
still more for me to do in His Kingdom.
I had been feeling washed up because in much of Evangelical
Christianity divorced people were relegated to the sidelines of the
ecclesiastical maze, and that is where I never want to be.
said much more to me during that prophetic prayer, more than I can
repeat in a sentence or two. It
was one of those life-changing events in one's life.
I talk about church, I'm not talking organizational structure, although
I do realize the importance of organizational structure.
I'm talking about being properly fitted, or knitted, to a few
other believers in divinely appointed, Holy Spirit inspired,
friendships. That's church.
The clinicalization found in many parts of the ecclesiastical
maze just isn't church.
further information about what the Bible teaches about divorce and
remarriage, and how that was worked out in my life, you can read my book
entitled "Divorce, Remarriage, and God's Original Intention."
- I'm From
chapter has been taken out of my book entitled "Divorce,
Remarriage, And God's Original Intention."
in the day the reporter on the morning news program announced what every
single guy in
I was seated, a newcomer to our gathering sitting directly in front of
me was asked to introduce herself. Ironically,
or should I say miraculously ironic, once stating her name, she turned
around, looked directly at me, and announced, "And I'm from
caught completely off guard, I did not know how to respond, or if I even
should respond. For once in
my life I was speechless and dumbfounded.
Not knowing how to respond I simply asked, "O no, what does
that mean?" She did not
answer. She just left me
tried to involve myself in the Bible study that evening but I have to
admit that the words "I'm from
friend who had driven this attractive new addition to our Bible study
asked me if I would like a ride home from the gathering.
I was more than willing to walk.
I usually did walk, but knowing "I'm from
thoughts were clearly elsewhere as I walked out of the brightly lit
building and directly into a cement block wall in the darkened evening
parking lot. I could not
believe I actually walked into that wall, especially at that
impressionable moment in my life. I
felt so foolish. How stupid
could I have been? Thankfully,
before I had time to be overly embarrassed our attractive new addition
asked me, "Are you blind or something?"
a matter of fact I am legally blind," I replied.
it was her turn to be embarrassed, but my casual, light hearted,
response dispelled any anxiety, as she told me later.
attempted to sleep that night but with little success.
The lady from
the mid 1990's my pastor and friend took it upon himself to submit
himself and our local congregation under the authority of an apostle
knew the change was coming. I
had talked this issue over with the pastor a number of times.
He had always opposed the Shepherding Movement of the 1970's
because of its emphasis on submission to authority.
I told him that the same emphasis was found in the Apostolic
Movement that he had just submitted our church under.
The only difference was that we were now submitting to an apostle
instead of a shepherd.
particular movement taught that each apostle preached his own gospel. This
idea was based on Paul's use of the words "my gospel" in
Romans 2:16 and 16:25. This
meant that our apostle had his own teaching emphasis and we were to
submit to it. I believed
that parts of his teaching was unbiblical, which included what I thought
was a dictatorial view of apostolic leadership.
On secondary issues of Biblical theology, I disagreed, but these
secondary issues, I could live with.
Because I could not fully embrace the apostle's teaching, I was
deleaderized and squeezed out of the picture.
Within eight months of my departure in 2001 the congregation
considered much of what this particular apostle taught to be secondary
issues that could be debated but not worth separating over.
He and our pastor considered all of their teaching to be primary
issues and worth splitting over. It's
my opinion that we should be able to maintain fellowship and ministry
with one another even though we may differ on such topics as
eschatology, but that's not always the case in the ecclesiastical maze.
think there's much misunderstanding about apostles. The Greek word
"apostolos" is transliterated into English as
simply means "one who is sent."
apostle, then, would see the spread of the gospel over a wide
geographical area. A pastor,
on the other hand would be concerned with the local community of
apostle is one who is sent out from the local community of Christ upon
the understanding that it is God's will.
I know of one pastor who considers himself to be an apostle, but
he has been in the same location for thirty plus years.
He only arrived there because of a church split.
He wasn't actually sent out by a local body of believers.
He simply left, and as he left, he took others with him.
He had a ready-made congregation.
The word "apostle" implies movement.
If you're not on the move, you might question if you are really
do believe that the apostolic ministry is a valid ministry for today.
I'm not of the opinion that this ministry died once the first
generation church passed away. Apostles
are one of four-fold, sometimes called "five-fold," ministries
of Christ that Paul mentioned in Ephesians 4:10 and 11.
That being said, I do believe that today's apostles are on a
lower level of importance than the twelve Apostles of Christ and the
Apostle Paul. They are the
ones that set forth Christian doctrine that all Christians, including
present-day apostles, must abide by.
2 Corinthians 11:5 and 12:11, Paul made reference to what he called
there were some men who were billing themselves as being real special
supermen of God. Paul was
disgusted with these supersized apostles and their super superior
calling was to preach the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as a servant.
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle
and set apart for the gospel of God" (Romans 1:1).
Paul considered his apostleship in terms of being a servant, not
in terms of being a super-apostle. He
preached the gospel of God, not his own special gospel, as we were told
in the 1990's. His gospel,
was the gospel of Christ.
fact that Paul and the other apostles were called to preach the gospel
tells me that church planting was not their main goal.
The salvation of men and women was the goal.
Once a few individuals came to salvation, Paul and others would
help the new believers to live within the confines of the community of
Christ. The idea that
apostles are church planters, in my thinking, is putting the cart before
the horse. Apostles are
first and foremost soul savers, and then, once the souls are saved, they
help implement the community of Christ among these saved souls.
They install elders that give organizational stability to the
newly formed community of believers.
1 Corinthians 9:2 Paul said: "Though I may not be an apostle to
others, surely I am to you." Paul
was an apostle to these Corinthians because he led them to Jesus.
It was now his job to care for them.
How he did that is a study unto itself.
One thing is sure; Paul never exercised his apostolic authority
in a dictatorial, super-apostle fashion.
Instead, as God's servant, he cared for God's people to the point
modern western-world church is heavily influenced by the prevailing
worldly thinking of the day, including the super-star world of
entertainment mentality. This
intrusion into church has created super-apostles, super-pastors, and
super-preachers. That's just
not Biblical. If the church
is to be effective in the days ahead we must return to the servant
like building super-churches, or mega-churches as they are called today.
It's my opinion, that most mega-churches are too organizationally
heavy. In New Testament
terms, church structure and church ministry is birthed out of personal
relationships in the Body of Christ.
In much of today's ecclesiastical maze, ministry is birthed out
of the organizational structure, of which is highly impersonal.
the last chapter I mentioned that I could not fully embrace all of the
teaching of the apostle our pastor submitted himself and our
congregation under. I
considered many of his teachings to be secondary issues, and thus, could
be debated but not worth splitting over.
The Apostle Paul addressed some of these disputable matters in
Romans 14:1. He clearly told
us not to separate over such issues.
However, the apostle and our pastor considered secondary issues
primary issues that were worth separating over.
For that reason, I was slowly but surely shown the door to the
church and the people I had come to love.
It's just something else we are forced to deal with in the
ecclesiastical maze that we call church.
teaching I couldn't support was Replacement Theology, which is a
sub-doctrine of Restoration or Covenant Theology.
Replacement Theology teaches that the church has replaced
a number of reasons I reject Replacement Theology, and, it took a number
of years for me to come to this position.
The number one reason why I reject this thought process is
because God promised Abraham that his descendents would become a great
people used of God for His purposes.
That is what God told Abraham and that is how Abraham would have
understood God's promises. If
God had something else in mind other than the Jews, like the church, and
did not correct Abraham's understanding, then God was being deceptive.
God should have told Abraham that He did not have the Jews in
mind when He promised greatness to his descendents.
If God changed His mind farther down in history, and gave the
promises to the church, how can we ever trust any of His promises?
simple point is this. If God
promises something specific to a specific person or people, you can be
guaranteed that what He has promised will come about as stipulated.
God promised the Jews greatness, and that promise will be
fulfilled at the end of this age.
don't believe we should separate ourselves or be forced to leave a
congregation simply because we don't agree with every theological issue,
including the issue of
my pastor was teaching that the Deity of Christ is not Biblical, or, if
he wanted to unite Christians worship with Muslim worship, I would
protest as I found my own way to the door.
We should never compromise on the essentials of salvation
(Galatians 1:8); especially on those issues pertaining to the nature of
God, and that includes Jesus.
it or not, there will come a day when doctrinal distinctives won't
divide the church, but that won't come until Jesus returns to create the
unity He prayed for, as seen in John 17.
August 2001 my wife and I followed through on our pastor's suggestion to
move on to another congregation. Moving
on wasn't as easy as you might think, even in these days when believers
move from one congregation to another with great ease.
year from 2003 to 2005 we attended three different traditional
congregations each Sunday morning, with the hope of seeing how we could
fit in. One might call that
church hopping, but it wasn't. Up
until 2001 I had been a part of three church streams.
From birth to age twenty I was part of my parents expression of
church, that being the
the way, the second expression of church listed above was the product of
myself and those to whom Jesus had called me alongside in the Body of
Christ. We chose to shut
things down, not because of any split or disagreements.
We simply felt that we were stagnant.
Choosing to shut things down instead remaining in such a
stagnated state seldom happens in the ecclesiastical maze because people
are afraid to let go of what they have built.
The fact of the matter, or so I believe, is that it is both good
and proper to shut church down at times when it becomes irrelevant, and
that we did. I suggest that
there are many expressions of church that need to be shut down because
they are no longer what they once were.
I also suggest that we shut outdated church down before Jesus
does, and we know He does shut church down.
Read Revelation, chapters 1 and 2.
2002 my wife and I attended Sunday meetings in a Charismatic style
church that was formed from yet another church split.
The meetings were vibrant but those in attendance were far from
friendly. At the time I was
leading a home Bible study group around a large kitchen table with no
traditional church affiliation. For
this reason, my wife and I were invited to attend home group leaders
meetings in this church. We
attended five of these meetings and on each occasion, no one, not even
the pastor who sat in front of us on two occasions, talked with us.
It wasn't until the fifth gathering, when my friend Jim dragged a
few people over to make conversation with us.
By then it was too late.
another occasion we attended the pastor's birthday party.
I thought that would be a good opportunity for us to get to know
these people. Social
gatherings are good for that, but not this one.
No one, except my friend of thirty five plus years talked with
us. That cemented our
decision. "I'm ready to
look elsewhere," I told myself.
2003 we attended Sunday meetings at an Evangelical church that one
friend coined a "Charismatic Light" style church.
I actually got to play my guitar in Sunday morning worship.
It didn't take long to note the same old unfriendly relational
problems. The pastor's wife
refused to speak to me and my friend on the worship team.
I'd say "good morning" to her prior to worship and
she'd walk away without acknowledging my presence.
How could she, in all heavenly honesty worship Jesus with me and
ignore me at the same time? Yes,
you are right. We moved on
2004 my wife and I began to attend Sunday morning meetings at a
Pentecostal church. Upon our
arrival the congregation was in the process of splitting apart.
A political style battle was raging between a group who insisted
the pastor must go and a group who insisted he must stay.
Like most political battles, there were secret meetings, gossip,
manipulation, and people seeking prominence.
I was asked to become an official member of the church so I could
cast my vote to remove the pastor. I,
without any hesitation, refused. "Whatever
happened to not being conformed to this world (Romans 12:2 and 3)?"
I asked myself.
dispute came down to a vote after a Sunday morning meeting.
When the votes were tallied and the score announced, the pastor
lost by a fraction of a percentage point.
I couldn't believe my ears when one disgruntled parishioner
stomped out of the sanctuary. As
he stomped his way by me he yelled out, "Enjoy the fire and
brimstones you bastards." That,
I will never, ever, forget, but this seems to be the ecclesiastical maze
in the twenty-first century.
been a baseball fan over the years.
"It's three strikes and you're out" as the old baseball
saying goes. Well, we had
our three strikes and I certainly felt out of the game of church, but
that would not detour my relationship with Jesus as it has with some
Christians, we are often outraged by the sin we see in the world around
us. I suggest we shouldn't
be so outraged. Sinners sin.
That's just what they do. We
should, however, be outraged by the sin we see in that which we call
church. Jesus wasn't
outraged by the behaviour of sinners.
He was outraged by the hypocrisy of the leaders of the religious
establishment of his day. How
would He feel today? I
suggest that you read His comments to the seven churches found in
Revelation, chapters 2 and 3. There
you might find the answer to this question.
was in 2002 when I was asked to lead a home Bible study group.
After some prayer and thought we began to meet Tuesday evenings.
I suggested we start the study with the book of Romans, my
favourite book of the Bible, and once finished we would see if we wanted
to continue. We did
continue. We met together
until 2016 when health concerns of some in our group made it difficult
to carry on. Once again, no
disagreement caused us to stop our Bible study.
It was a simple and obvious choice to make.
around a kitchen table where everyone is relaxed and feels free to
express themselves, whether right or wrong, is the best way for a person
to learn, and that includes learning the Bible.
This assumes that the leader is qualified with sufficient
Biblical understanding to instruct, guide, and keep everyone on the
right track. This also
assumes that the leader doesn't do all of the talking.
It's called participation, as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 14.
The leader asks one simple question; "What do you think the
author is saying in this phrase?"
You don't ask, "What are your thoughts about this
phrase" because our thoughts are not really relevant in matters of
the Bible. Our thinking is
not necessarily God's thinking.
know that Jesus spoke to thousands on the side of the mountain, but
those who were committed to Him and were being prepared to take His
place, He taught in a small group or one on one.
He interacted with them on a daily basis.
He took the daily experiences of life and turned them into
teaching sessions. His
instruction was not based on organizational structure but on personal
relationships He had with His disciples.
We call that discipleship.
what the Apostle Paul said about a meeting of the saints.
"When you come together, everyone has a hymn, a word of
instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.
All of these things must be done for the strengthening of the
church … Two or three prophets should speak … You can all prophesy
so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged" (1 Corinthians
14:26 - 33). Effective
meetings are participatory. People
don't position themselves in pews and watch a performance on the
platform or behind a pulpit. I'm
not discounting the traditional Sunday style meeting.
It has its place, but, learning that lasts, is best accomplished
in small group discussions.
least effective way to learn anything is to just sit and listen to
someone talk. As the church,
we've taken the least effective way to teach, which is the Sunday
sermon, and turned it into the centerpiece of the church calendar.
According to 1 Corinthians 14, we've got it all backwards, but
that's the way it often is in the ecclesiastical maze.
the first twenty years of my life, church, for the most part, was all
about meeting in a building that we called a church, but Biblically
speaking couldn't be a church because we all knew church wasn't a
building. Sometimes we
called the building the House of God, but according to Acts 17:24, God
doesn't live in buildings made by man.
So, if we know church isn't a building and God doesn't live in a
man-made house, why do we still call a building church or the House of
God? Maybe we don't know
these things sufficiently enough to live out what we claim to know.
Words do matter, and if you are truly convinced about anything,
you will say the right words to describe what you are convinced of.
what I've been saying, you might think that I believe the New Testament
teaches home groups or house churches to be the only valid expression of
church. That's not what I am
saying because it is not what the Bible says.
I grew of age in the Lord in 1970 and left the comfort of my parent's
expression of church in 1971, my friends and I met in homes.
That was only to be expected since we had no other place to meet.
It was a matter of practicalities, not a matter of our doctrinal
position about church. Over
the next two decades we also gathered in parks, schools, hotels, motels,
community centres, and wherever seemed convenient at any given time.
Where we gathered wasn't important.
Getting together was the important thing.
Jesus had joined us together for a reason and it wasn't just for
the fun of fellowship. We
had a job to do. We were
created to function as vital parts of His body, much of which took place
outside of meetings, which by the way, is what we read in the New
back to when you were first captivated with love for the opposite sex.
You didn't care where you met up with the love of your life.
You just wanted to be together.
It wasn't about location, location, location, as a real-estate
agent would put it. It was
about relationship, relationship, relationship, as the Apostle Paul
would have said.
wasn't the case in 1973 when I sat beside a man on a train who I
discovered to be a Christian. I
was overjoyed to meet a brother in Jesus that I'd never met before.
I extended my hand in an expression of joy and brotherly love.
His limp hand shake and his nonchalant response spoke volumes to
me. Meeting a fellow
believer for him was no big deal. I
wasn't used to such a response. My
friends and I were always excited to meet a new-found brother in Christ.
A personal relationship with Jesus and others in the Body of
Christ was foremost in our hearts and minds.
That didn't seem to be the case with this man, but that too is
the way it often is in the ecclesiastical maze.
it was common practice for first-century Christians to meet in homes,
the New Testament does not specifically teach home churches to be the
only valid place for Christians to gather together.
Besides, home churches can be just as routine and traditional as
church building churches. I
visited one home church that had a pulpit, chairs arranged in rows, and
an offering plate. The
service began with a few songs, followed by the passing of an offering
plate, a sermon, and a closing prayer.
Clearly, the room in which you meet is not the issue.
church buildings that might once have been an expression of faith and
worship are now often seen as a testimony of man's artistic talent and
ingenuity. Many of the newer
mega-church buildings tell us lots about the organizations that own
these buildings. These
organizations look more like a Wall Street Fortune Five Hundred
Corporation than an expression of the living Body of Christ.
For the average middle-income church group, buildings are
increasingly becoming a financial burden.
The time, effort, and finances directed towards these buildings
often inhibit the task at hand, and that is, to be a living expression
of the Lord Jesus we claim to serve.
interesting to note that for the first couple of centuries of church
history Christians were often criticized for not having a specific place
of worship like other religions had.
This was the case because the early church understood itself to
be a vibrant community of believers joined together in the service of
the Lord. Church was a
counter-cultural community of the redeemed who functioned in unified
fashion. Church for them,
and it should be for us, was not about meetings or buildings.
Church was, and always should be, about the individual being
baptized or submerged into the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13) and
having a sense of belonging to those to whom he has been placed beside
in Christ's body (Romans 12:5).
not totally discounting buildings. If
you have one, use it the best you can to serve Jesus' needs, not simply
to serve the needs of the believers who gather in the building, which
seems to me to be the case in much of the ecclesiastical maze.
2005 until 2016 my wife and I were not a part of a traditional church.
That does not mean we had separated ourselves from the Body of
Christ, because we had not. After
seeing the Pentecostal pastor fired, in typical worldly and political
fashion in 2005, I was disgusted with the ecclesiastical maze.
Church looked more like a Fortune Five Hundred Corporation than
the Body of Christ we were meant to be.
Church looked more political than Christian.
It was for that reason we did not attend, or, was not a part of,
what I call a traditional church for eleven years.
I was, however, still in personal relationship with a few
brothers in the Lord that I had been involved with for decades, and that
is why I say I left the traditional church but not the Body of Christ.
Don't worry; I did not lose my salvation either.
of these brothers was Robert. I
had known him since the day he was born, and that, just three years
after I was born. I have
been blessed with long-standing and close brother-in-the-Lord
relationships throughout my life. Few
can say they have had a close or best friend every day of their entire
life, but I can.
brother, Jim, I had known since 1969 and yet another, Tim, I had known
since 1973. Some of those I
had been close to over the decades had long since departed from this
life. I hope you realize
that leaving the ecclesiastical maze does not necessarily mean you leave
the church, the Body of Christ.
of the above being said, in relation to church, things began to change
for me and my wife in August 2015. A
number of times during that month I felt the Lord tell me that come the
next year, 2016, things would change for us concerning church.
I had no clue what that meant.
Sometimes the Lord doesn't clue you in on things all at once.
Prior to August 2015, and if meetings matter to you, I had been,
and was still leading, a home Bible study group.
So, I did attend meetings, if again, that is important to you.
things would change in 2016 concerning church, I was in the dark.
I just felt very strongly that things would change.
Clarity began to unfold concerning this change in a miraculous
way in October of 2015. Over
the next couple of months a number of small miracles took place that
helped shed light on what would soon transpire in our lives.
There are too many miracles to write about here in this book.
day in October 2015 my wife and I stepped out our front door to take our
dog Jesse for a walk. We had
just walked down the street for less than a minute when we met up with a
friend who I used to play music with on a worship team in the 1990's,
and, had hardly seen her since those days. So,
it was a welcomed surprise to see Safron on our street, where she would
not normally be walking. This is where the miracles begin.
friend, Safron, had just dropped her car off to be fixed and she had
prayed that she would meet someone she knew on her walk home.
One minute after her prayer, she met us. Now
that was a quick answer to prayer, don't you think?
talked about old times for a while and then she mentioned that her and
another mutual friend, Heather, were leaders of a worship team in a
local congregation. She
seemed quite excited about being able to lead a worship team.
That was one of her passions in life.
She didn't say much more, other than she suggested that my wife
Dianne and I get together with her and Heather at some point. We
did just that the next month, November, 2015.
wife Dianne, and I met Safron and Heather, along with Heather's husband
we tell Steve why we have gotten together this evening?" Safron
asked Heather. The answer
was an immediate, brief, but resounding "yes, please do."
you like to join our worship team?" Safron asked me.
my heart sank to my stomach. The
joy of our gathering dissipated in one split second.
There was absolutely no way that I wanted to be a part of another
traditional church's worship team. With
no hesitation, I was ready to slam this door tight so it would never be
opened again, but I couldn't. These
two ladies were friends and I had always had a difficult time saying no
to them, so I did not express my distain to their question.
of saying no right away I said that we would attend the next Sunday
morning meeting when they led worship.
Only after that, would I begin, emphasis on the word
"begin," to think things over.
I did not guarantee any commitment.
the second Sunday in December, 2015, we found ourselves sitting in a
Sunday meeting at Harvest Ministries.
This group owned an old library in our downtown.
Attending a Sunday morning meeting was something we had done
little of throughout the previous eleven years.
Here is where the miracles began to happen.
had just gotten seated and I had learned the lady behind us was a part
of the church I was a part of in the first five years of my life.
My uncle Barney was actually her pastor when she was a child.
Within a few moments later, another lady came up to me and asked
if I was
the meeting was over I asked the lady in front of me how she knew me.
She actually was not one hundred percent sure how she knew me.
What transpired next could be a book in itself, so I cannot tell
the whole story here.
earlier pages of this book I mentioned the miracle of a dear-old lady
(Mrs. Fisk) who found my wedding invitation in a box in her attic.
You may recall that Jesus actually told her to go up to her attic
and open one specific box. There,
she found the wedding invitation that I had sent her back in 1977.
This was just the evening before my first wife confirmed that she
was divorcing me. Jesus told
this lady to put the invitation on her mantle and pray for me. You can
return to the appropriate chapter to recall all of what I said about
this incident. Well, the
lady in front of us that Sunday morning was that lady's daughter.
She had recently found my wedding invitation when she was going
through her mother's belongings after her mother died.
I had never met the lady who sat in front of us that Sunday
morning and she obviously had never met me.
I began to explain to her, through some tears, the story of how
her mother was instrumental in my life, both in the 1970's and through
the dark days of my divorce in the spring of 1992, and now, even though
she was dead, she still had a profound influence on my life.
was one big confirmation, and there were others, that my wife and I were
to be a part of this congregation. It
all began when in August 2015 Jesus told me that things would change
when it came to church. When
I look back on it all, I'm amazed at myself because I almost slammed the
door on the door Jesus was obviously opening for me and my wife.
There is a lesson to be learned here, and that is, pay attention
to what Jesus says and keep your eyes open for the doors He opens for
began to practice music with Safron, Heather, and their worship team.
I did not anticipate playing music with them on a Sunday morning
for at least six months down the road, but, that would not be the case.
The second Sunday in January 2016, just one month after our first
time in this church, I was playing my electric Fender guitar, banjo, and
harmonica in a worship service. Some
times things work pretty fast.
then, I have become an active Bible teacher in this church, and am
accepted by the congregation for my teaching ministry.
In February 2019, upon the request of our pastor Trevor, I was
ordained as a minister of the gospel through the Fellowship of Christian
Assemblies of Canada.
does make changes in one's life if you allow Him to make the changes. He
does give you the opportunity to say no to these opportunities to change
direction. He may twist your
arm in an attempt to do His will, but He still, despite your loss,
allows you to say no. I am
very glad I did not say no to the door of ministry He opened for me.
comes next in my life, only Jesus knows.
The ecclesiastical maze can be very unpredictable at times.
There is no question about that.
That has been the way it has been in my past, and it may be the
way it will be in my future. I'll
let Jesus take care of my future. As
my friend Jerry from the 1970's used to say; "Whatever happens will
December 4, 2021, I will be seventy years old.
My dad lived to the age of seventy seven.
His dad lived until the age of ninety six.
How long my life will last, no one knows.
I have already recently escaped the ravages of cancer with the
removal of my prostate, which by the way, helped send my father to his
grave. What I do know is
that I want to live whatever years I have left for Jesus.
has been a brief look into my world throughout the first, almost,
seventy years of my life. I
trust my future with Jesus.