Have you ever been disillusioned?
I think that one of the things that has made so many walk away from the church in recent generations is disillusionment.
I don’t know when it was in my life, but it was certainly very early on that I began to believe that I would devote myself to ministry. My mom was probably the greatest inspiration for that. She was a devout Pentecostal lady who was always teaching us spiritual lessons; we always listened to Christian music, she was tireless in teaching us from the bible, any time we came to a trial her first response was to pray.
She would encourage us, tell us things like: ‘God has great plans for your life.’
I’m not sure if she ever told me that I would minister the Gospel, but given the setting, and the flavor of the home (as long as she was predominantly running it), as well as my early memories of church, I have had a general sense (if not the direct & specific cognitive thought) from childhood that I would be a minister.
I remember my favorite bible story as a child – and by child, I mean somewhere between 3 and 5 – was the story of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost… tongues of fire, the infilling of the Holy Spirit followed by signs and wonders… Peter and John heal the lame man at the temple; Paul and Silas thrown into prison worship until an earthquake breaks everyone out of jail.
I’m not sure I recall any specific ministers that I looked up to (other than those in the bible), but I have faint memories of a couple, and a general sense of powerful prophetic ministers whose preaching was full of blood, fire and the Holy Ghost. I also had a deep sense of security in Christ. No matter what would ever happen in my life, Christ would be with me, and I had miraculous scriptural examples – surley my life would be like those stories of Paul and Silas!
I had times of abuse as a child… but never at the hands of my parents, or ministers; its tragic for me to hear of people who were abused either physically, sexually, or some other way by ministers – especially children! How utterly devastating that must be; the confusion and pain: crippling. No wonder the Lord declared that ‘whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.’ I am so thankful that my exposure to church was healthy, or my dissillussionment may have come much earlier, and been more devastating.
As long as I can remember, I have always had a sense that I was called to ministry. In some ways that actually has created a struggle for me because I don’t knkw that there has ever been a punctiliar momment that I could point to as the momment of my calling. I have always imagined that one day I would be a preacher. Even in times of rebellion against God, I would find myself imagining preaching, sharing testimony.
Naturally, I imagined it would surely be easy. Whenever I decided to return to the Lord, and give my life to back to Him (you know, after I’d had some fun, and developed some ‘testimony’ of being out in the world), that God would take me right back, empower me mightily, and open every door so that I could step right in to some sort of acclaimed ministry. Then I’d pretty much ride on the wings of the wind, and go wherever God led me, say whatever He gave me, and be loved by all, right?
I’m not sure if disillusionment is a necessary part of maturing spiritually, but obviously the outlook and expectations I’d developed in the abstract weren’t really reasonable, likely, or even plausible to reality.
My dissillusionment came after I’d returned to the Lord. Having a sense of ‘ministry calling,’ and obtaining opportunity to minister are two things entirely. From the time I returned to the Lord at 15 (still pretty young, right?), I have attempted to avail myself of every ministry, and ministry training available… without going to seminary, that is. Perhaps because of my Pentecostal upbringing, I had decided early that I didn’t want seminary to be my training for ministry; I believed (and still do) that preperation for ministry should be done in the same way that that the disciples did it: by exposure to the man, Jesus Christ. I had neard a number of testimonies from ministers I respected – ministers who operated in the anointing – that though they had gone to bible school, and seminary, the valuable aspects of spirituality that they’d obtained had not come from Seminary, bjt from personal concourse with Christ. Further, many the same testified that much of the intellectual theological content taught at seminary tended to hinder, rather than help in practical spirituality. (Even Paul, the most educated of the Apostles counted all things he had gained in religion but dung for the sake of KNOWING Christ as an experiential reality (Phillipians 3:8). (Surely that included even his education.))
I suppose I would not be opposed to going to seminary now, specifically I wanted to avoid intellectualism over spirituality. At any rate, when I got saved, I threw myself into any opportunity that tended to practical ministry training; I got involved in any church event I could find. I started participating in college campus ministry in high school, I went on mission trips, & generally did whatever I could to participate in any local ministry that was going on. Though throuh the midst of this, I felt like I was seriously falling short of deeper spiritual things, and the power of God; I didn’t have any mentor who operated in the power of th Holy Spirit powerfully (although I was a member of a Pentecostal church). I found myself often to be the lone advocate for he power of God, trying to theologically convince my Christian peers they needed the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
I recall meeting a gentleman at the bus plaza who appeared to be Jewish, he wore tsit-tsith (the fringes that hang from under the garments at the four corners of the body), and he had a little short billed baseball type hat like the guy wore in Fiddler on the Roof. I got to talking with this gentleman, and came to find out he was Christian. He invited me to a bible-study the had, and I went a few times to that. In my seeking for the power of God (which I could see seriojsly lacking in the church experience I was acquanted with), the Jewish culture had a real appeal to me. I spent some time with these Messianic (or so I thought) gentlemen who taught that the real lack of deep spirituality in the church was because Christians weren’t following the prophetic types that God had laid out in the Old Testament. The anointing would come (such was the premise of their thought) when we returned to begin to obey the Law, and excersize the types of the Old Covenant. Well, some of that made sense to me, and I started to get tangled up on that line of thought; I decided I’d stop eating pork, get me some tsit-tsith and begin to take up more of Jewish culture. I came to find out that these gentlemen were not actually Jews at all, they were all of them Gentiles, like myself, who were attempting to enter Judaism (Hebrew Roots)… that was a little dissillusioning to discover, but they’d gotten me convinced to a fairly significant degree that their way was right. They were okay with power of the Holy Spirit (so they said,) but their pursuit was via appliance of the Law.
Not long after that I struck out from home to go off and running into ‘the ministry.’ I took a job at a Christian summer camp with the intention that I would never return, but that the Lord would open the way before me, and propel me into His service. I recall spending hours in prayer, and committing myself to go wherever God sent me; if I was sleeping on the streets in a third world country in the plan of the Lord, I was content: just let me participate in the family business.
True to form, I stayed at the camp until I had a ministry opportunity open up. To the camp came a local missions team; they were some of the most Charismatic Christians I had come accross (and, remember, I grew up Pentecostal). This group called themselves ‘Apostolic,’ and were centrally focused on the Spirit of God. I recall speaking to one of the gentlemen in the group who matter-of-factly informed me that there are Apostles today just as there were in scripture. I wasn’t opposed to the idea, but I also wasn’t wholly sure what he meant; it was a new thought to me. (The Apostolic churches (now often referred to as the NAR) use the five-fold ministry titles (Acts 4:11) as church government titles – I don’t dissagree with them that the five-fold ministries are in operation today (they definately are), but I don’t believe they’ve got it fully right in their practice (see post Who Runs the Church?).)
As mentioned, I’d gotten caught up in the Hebrew roots thing, and they seemed okay with that; I was totally good with operating in the spiritual gifts – in fact it was exciting to me to find a group who actually did (its what I’d been looking for).
As mentioned my more recent church experience had been with a group which I would call ‘theologically Pentecostal,’ that is: they believed in the power and gifts of the Spirit, but I rarely saw any of them exercised besides tongues. Finding a group who were actually walking in the supernatural, in the power of God was thrilling to me! They seemed a bit enamored with this getting ‘drunk’ in the Spirit, and they sometimes would begin to act really bizzarre about it (just frankly).
I was okay with the idea of the power of God upon a person so powerfully that it (not a natural substance) shocked your senses, and made you fell intoxicated. In fact, when I had re-committed my life to the Lord at 15, the youth group pastor laid hands on me and prayed I’d recieve the Baptism in the Holy Ghost; well, i didn’t speak in tongues, or prophesy at that momment, but I literally felt like I was stoned. Like… REALLY stoned (and I knew what it felt like to be stoned), only I felt like I was full of the love of God.
The group I found myself with, however, seemed really focused on that phenomenon, and somewhat embarressingly so. They would stagger around laughing raucussly, and throwing invisible objects at eachother that was supposed to be the Glory of God. Each time they were ‘hit’ by one of these invisible objects, they would respond as thouh they were really struck by something, and that it made them more ‘drunk,’ they’d collapse on the floor, etc.
That stuff seemed wierd to me then… though I appreciated that there was actually some real manifestations of power among them (the excesses notwithstanding). There actually is something to God’s glory in substantive form: in the Gospels its recorded that ‘virtue’ went out of Jesus’ body, and healed people. Likewise, the glory was sometimes upon Moses so that it made his face glow, and we read about he special miracles of Paul where articles of clothing from his body healed people – doubtless because of the substance of the anointing. In fact, the doctine of the laying on of hands (Heb 6:1-2) has to do with spiritual transferrance; the Spirit of God passed through he laying on of hands.
At one point with his particular group, one of the girls asked me to pray for her. My hand was on her head (and she was acting drunk), and I had a pbysical sensation of the Holy Spirit passing through me into her. It felt something like water being poured into the top of my head and running down through my neck, shoulder and arm and flowing out of my hand. I did not, myself, feel inebriated, but the sensation was very pronounced.
Anyhow, to make a long story short, I became affiliated with the group in a greater degree, and have done some ministry with them. I joined one of their teams where we would pray, and prophesy over people, and travel to different churches to serve.
This might be a bad place to stop, but before I make this post over-long, I will break at this point, and when I’ve written the sequel post, you’ll find it HERE.