Having a couple of services lined up filled me with a great deal of excitement. I awoke the next day and immediately called my pastor to tell him the good news. He listened and after a few minutes said, “Ok, that’s great, but don’t forget you are a member of my church and need to be in services on Sunday, try not to schedule anymore Sunday services.” I was crushed…instead of the good feelings that had filled me before making the call I know felt guilty for missing church.
The feeling of guilt stuck with me for a couple of days, then it subsided and was replaced with a slow burning anger. How dare he crush my spirit and attempt to crush my ministry? I was deeply hurt by his sentiments and that hurt would stick with me, leaving a scar on my mind that would follow me through my ministry. It wouldn’t be long though before even more issues occurred between myself and the minister of the church I was attending.
Churches are actually very fragile things. It doesn’t take much to completely split a church down the middle and in the Pentecostal church, the risk of this is even greater, at least in my opinion. There seems to be a constant power struggle between groups of believers in Pentecostal churches over who understands the right interpretation of scripture. These differences can easily spill over into services and create a deep sense of tension. Just before I preached my first sermon, the church I was attending had just started going through one of these situations.
While my family were Pentecostals, there were certain rules that we ignored. For one, my mother has always had short hair, something considered a sin by many in the church and two, we admitted to owning a TV and using it for more than religious programming. We also went to movies at the theater, went roller skating, and we even went bowling from time to time. All things that some Pentecostals consider as great evils to avoid. So while we were fundamentalists, we were far too liberal for some in the faith.
Just before I started preaching, a new family started coming to our church. They were old school strict and dogmatic Pentecostals, and they hated my family. I don’t say that lightly, because my great-grandfather had been crucial in stripping the ministerial credentials from the patriarch of the other family. He had been teaching some things that were not quite considered sane by the standards of the church. So when they started coming to our church, I remember thinking, this means trouble.
It wasn’t long before they started taking over the services. Interrupting sermons with messages of prophecy, or tongues, which always seemed to have scathing remarks against my family. It was alluded to that the church was filled with vipers who clung to the world and that if the church would just shake itself free of this evil, it could experience a great revival. Every service was like this and yet the pastor did nothing to stop it. What was important to him was that each Sunday, this new family were bringing more and more of their relatives into the church.
“It was alluded to that the church was filled with vipers who clung to the world…”
Things came to a head when during the Sunday morning service. The week prior I had preached my third sermon at the other church and it had gone very well. There was interest in having me come in as a more regular fill in, but I had told them that I would have to think about it because of what the minister had told me. One of the women in this family pointed at my mother and called her Satan, causing my mother to laugh. This laugh brought looks of hatred from the woman and after the service, she literally grabbed my mother by her hair and knocked her to the ground. My mother is disabled and that was the last straw. My family and I walked out that Sunday morning and we never returned.
“…she literally grabbed my mother by her hair and knocked her to the ground.”
The other family had won complete control of the services. They ran nearly everyone out, who had been a member of the church prior to their arrival, and started having trouble with each other. A couple of months later, that family moved on to another church and our former pastor was left with an empty building, everyone else having been ran off.
When the next Sunday arrived, I couldn’t wait to get to the church that I had been ministering at. I told the deacons of the church that i would be very happy to fill in and talked to the minister who had conducted my marriage about receiving credentials with his denomination. It was incredibly simple. All I needed to do was take a short test on basic pentecostal theology, sign a pledge that I would uphold the basic tenets of the church, and send 50 dollars to their national headquarters. Two weeks later I received my certificate. I was now a licensed minister with a full gospel denomination.
After receiving my credentials I began to spread my wings in the ministry. I was now preaching nearly every Sunday night, but I also got to lead Wednesday night bible studies, had a growing youth group in my new church, and taught the teen Sunday school class, with complete control over my lessons and activities. My ministry was just beginning but it seemed like nothing but good things were going to come from it. I was sure that god had blessed my ministry and I would see it explode like nothing you’ve ever seen before. I was horribly naive…
To continue on to part 17, click here.