“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” – Isaiah 61:1
So now I was a child of god and was ministering in the church, even if my position was simply that of a Sunday school teacher I treated it as if it were a high status of honor. Remembering all the awful Sunday school teachers that I had in the past I set out to be totally different. My classes were going to be fun, they were going to be exciting, and I was going to throw out the lesson plan entirely. The Assembly of God church has Sunday school planners for each age group, they contain boring thoughtless lessons, horribly boring crafts, and I will just say it, god awful music. So I threw it out and went my own way.
The first lessons that I taught on were from the 23rd psalm. For those that don’t know, this is the passage that begins with, “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” I based these lessons around my own life that I knew up to that point. If you’ve followed this blog I went from a relatively carefree kid, to a life of shit shortly after my twentieth birthday. So I talked about how, outside the church I had found the world to be a cold and scary place, I spoke of how much better it felt to be back in church, and how we should all strive to be as close to our shepherd as possible.
Today, I look back and cringe at how awful my worldview was at the time. I truly believed everything that I said but now I regret my early time as a Sunday school teacher more than I regret my actual ministry, due to the fact that it was basically my job to indoctrinate children and I hate that now. The good thing that I can say is that I never once told a child that it was wrong to ask questions, I encouraged questions, and while I did my best to answer these questions dogmatically, I will say there were times that my answer was, I don’t know.
The kids in my class absolutely loved it. They had lots of questions and I had plenty of answers. Many times we would find that class was over before we had even gotten to the lesson because of all the discourse that we had during those times. One kid that stood out during that time, could be a real pain in the ass, he questioned everything and never took the first answer seriously. So if the question was, “Who created God? My answer would be something along the lines of, “God is eternal and had no creator.” He would then say, “So we’re just supposed to believe that before he created Earth he just did nothing for eons and eons?” My answer would ultimately be, “I don’t know.” I am proud to say that this young lad is now an atheist and probably a better skeptic than I am.
So it got around that I was a great teacher but that my lessons were unstructured and I had disregarded the lesson plans. This was a big no-no, and not long after my first few stretches of lessons, I was told that I had to adhere to the plans made by the Assembly of God church. I was however told that I could have a youth group meeting on Sunday nights an hour before the evening service. I was now a Sunday School teacher and a youth leader, my ministry was growing too. We went from 3 kids to about 10-12 in my youth age group within a few short weeks, very fast growth for the small area I was situated in.
I had also begun leading the worship portion of the adult services. The pastor was glad to have someone excited about doing something and so he gave me quite a bit of leeway. I now understand that the song service is a form of group hypnosis, but at the time I thought god’s power was working through me and that was why I was so good at it. You start with some really fast and up beat songs, get people standing, clapping, dancing and waving their hands in the air. Then you switch to songs with a slower beat and you can bring people to a form of “spiritual euphoria; complete with weeping, shouting, and swaying. It’s not an easy thing to learn but for me, being raised in pentecostal services my whole life, it came naturally.
I now understand that the song service is a form of group hypnosis, but at the time I thought god’s power was working through me and that was why I was so good at it.
Between songs, I would give small sermonettes about various topics that I had been studying, especially if they pertained to something in the next song, and these were received with great praise from the congregation. These sermonettes were generally fluff pieces that were meant to make the congregation feel good and they absolutely loved them. It wasn’t long before the pastor asked me if I would be interested preaching some Sunday? I was through the roof with excitement, it seemed as if god was truly opening doors that I thought would be closed to me.
My first sermon was fairly short, one Sunday morning the minister was sick. We were all already there and had gone through the rest of the service when we found out that he had decided he wouldn’t make it. The church board met in the back and decided they were just going to let people go home. My father, stepped behind the pulpit and let everyone know that the pastor wasn’t going to make it in, he then asked if anyone had anything to say before we dismissed for the day. I raised my hand and asked if I could give a special message that god have given me a few days before.
I stood behind the pulpit, remembering how badly my sermon had gone, when I was a small child, and I started to sweat. Fear gripped my chest and I felt faint, then a calm came over me and I opened my mouth. The words from Isaiah 61 poured out and I was ecstatic, I began stomping and walking back and forth on the stage. I felt at the time that I really had the spirit of god poured upon me. At the end of the sermon I spoke in tongues and then interpreted it as, “Today is the day that god’s prophesy is fulfilled in me, the words that my grandfather spoke so many years ago, I am called to be a minister of god and nothing is going to get in my way!”
Oh, how wrong would I soon learn that I was…
To continue on to part 13, click here.