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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How I Left My Ministry, and So Single-Handedly Ended the Charismatic Movement.

No fire burns longer than the banked embers of Regret.I have long considered that this will be the most potent pain of Eternal Judgment.The woulda, coulda, shouldas, whether regarding relationships, poor business decisions, or Dark Secrets, are an abiding source of internal darkness, and hold the power of unhappy wakefulness in the dismal AM's.

I have not had a terrible life. My major testimony earlier on was that I was a mediocre sinner. Nonetheless, I find Regret lurking betimes, and must be vigilant lest I begin to auger in. It is SO easy to take a measure of comfort in an old friend, regret. It is familiar, and so ready to spend time with you.

Back in college, my best buddy and boon companion, Brad Bradfield, a core of other Christian kids, and I began an experiment in New Testament Reality. We sought to do the church the way the early church did it, and we had a wonderful time of it. We had an enthusiastic group, members from all kinds of backgrounds, including an Iranian girl.
We were, as they say, "Spirit-filled", Charismatic, Neo-Pentecostal. We did not give way to emotional excesses, having a Reformation view of the primacy of the Scripture.
(The way I have explained it: the Written Word of God is the corral in which the Holy Spirit acts.-how can the Inspirer of the Word act in contradiction to it?)

After the Dread Dormomoo and I were married, we stuck around, and I still worked in leadership of the church with Brad and a couple of others. We had oversight by a dear brother and overseer, Roger Bush (whose wife went to seminary with Fred Rogers, no less.). My "calling" was clear, but one must keep body and soul together, so I did work as a variety-store portrait photographer, as well as doing product shots for the same store chain. This of course had us away on weekends, which kinda puts a crimp in helping lead a young congregation. The situation caused me to be out of fellowship. A lot.
This creates Hunger, unless you are wilfully seeking the Jonah route and running from your God-appointed Task. I was not intentionally wilfully rebellious; I was merely in the situation at the time.The DD and I went to a store on the coast, where I ran into some Christian pals from high school days, who invited me to their church.

I was beguiled.

The LOVE...the SINGING...the UPBEAT PREACHING...it was What I Wanted.
The upshot: we moved. I left the place in which a Sovereign God had placed me, left the people I served, and the people with whom I served. I rationalized the move as a Career One, as I sought to open a photo studio of my own. It failed spectacularly, in the Hindenburg style. The church turned out to be a "Faith Walk, name-it-and-claim-it" variety. The DD and I were ultimately rejected- partially due to immaturity on my part, partially due to taking people up on offers of help once too often (also a function of immaturity), partially due to the pernicious nature of the doctrine which produces an "MLM love". As long as you Measure Up, and Do the System, we'll back you, but step outta line, and well...

I was a shepherd who left his flock. The college group puttered along for a time with the others, but ultimately fizzled out. The Brave experiment in New Testament Church Life was successful 'til it died.A Word-based Spirit-led congregation disappeared. Perhaps it was the plan of that same Sovereign God all along...

I don't think you really believe that. I know I don't.

Now, this is not a pity-party. I do not lie awake in despair over the awful thing wot I done.
God's grace and mercy are, well, gracious and merciful. (I coulda been King David's understudy!). In the years spanning the mid-50's into the 80's, the Holy Spirit was doing a work of biblical and spiritual unity.The Wave of the Spirit had disparate factions coming together under the banner of Jesus' Lordship. Things were happening that had not been seen in 1500 years. Spiritual gifts manifested in orderly fashion for the most part. Men and women took seriously their roles of servants and teachers, making disciples. There were controversies, sure, but unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace was happenin'. Arminians were loving Calvinists, who were loving Orthodox who were loving Catholic believers, who were lovin' up on Messianic Jews. Walls of sect and faction were tumbling down, until folks were spooked by the Spirit, and wanted a return to The Familiar. " We'll STILL be Spirit-filled, but, you know, let's have our own Presbyterian charismatic conference, to better meet OUR peculiar needs. Likewise, Methodist, Catholic, you name it. No sooner does the Spirit work to de-Babel-ize the church factions, we have to go and Balkanize the church once more. I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I of Calvin, I of Moody, eye of newt.

So, the soulish desire for What I Want put the kibosh on the Dream. Sovereignty vs. Free Will. How to reconcile them? As one preacher said, "I never try to reconcile friends." The answer lies in taking seriously the heart of the Gospel. Jesus is Lord.
As Roger Bush was fond of saying: "How do you spell Lord?".


We need to ACT like we believe it. Me, I'm in the water paddling on my board.

I want to be ready for the Next Big Wave.


Billiam said...

Well said, sir! Don't be too hard on yourself, though. After all, are you not human, subject to the same foibles as the rest of us? Try as we may, we all "sin, and fall short of the glory of God." Yet, is it not at these times that Jesus is there, speaking with the Father on our behalf? He helps us up, and leads us back to the path. It's up to us to follow it. With His help, we can do so. For me, sometimes, with less time for fellowship, I'll stary off the path. Yet, there's Jesus, beckoning me to return. He's provided others to keep me accountable. It's my CHOICE to remain so, to them and to God. I think many of us take wrong paths from time to time. We regret these times, and the consequences that come with them. Yet, isn't God perfect in his discipline as well as His mercy? Are we not welcomed back, like the prodigal sons we are? Regret should be a momentary thing, to be learned from, but not dwelt upon. You're a good man, through Christ. Believe that. After all, did he not die for ALL of us?

The Aardvark said...

Thanks, B.
Not to worry...I'm not in the mullygrubs about this. I am seeing reasons for things that I have been coy about in the past. I just have something...VITAL...stirring in my gut that has lain dormant for ages, and I'm wondering if it's time to take up the mantle again.