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All of the Christians I meet who are amounting to anything for God are Christians who are very much out of key with their age -- very, very much out of tune with their generation. Tozer

 
 


Home : Testimony :
Part Two - Seeing The Institutional Church From The Inside



My Testimony

Part Two - Seeing The Institutional Church From The Inside

 

A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation. Tozer

I arrived in Fort Lauderdale in February of 1971. A friend loaned me his camper and I lived in it until provisions were made. Later some of the young people from Pennsylvania moved to Florida to join the work.

I attended many pastors' meetings and was surprised how much talk was based on numbers. Pastors were more noted for their congregational size rather than their personal love, involvement and care for the saints. Their focus was on "their" church. The effort to bring about the unity of the body and the function and maturity of the saints was of no sacrificial effort. As time went by, it was obvious we were engaged in a subtle and unconscious rivalry for the saints. I remember in a deacon's meeting, one of the deacons remarked, "We have been visited by a former deacon of First Baptist church"; it drew an excitement from the rest of those sitting there. Who knows, maybe this will lead more to come.

Our divisions have forced us to increase the quality of our teaching, our programs and our worship if we were to be able to compete and prosper in this highly completive market..

It surprised me that we never talked about how to personally reach out and help the wounded or disciple those newly saved. Everything we did was done through well-oiled and impersonal programs (mass feeding meetings). We never thought in terms of using the money to help those who have been faithful in attending or in need. It always was money to develop a larger facility (or maintain the existing one), increase the pay of the staff, and send our "tips" to some foreign mission for conscience sake. Of course "we" expected a financial blessing for our tips to missions, which included or emphasized more people whom we didn't know and more money spent on our "marketing plan."

My heart breaks over the lack of love I see. This gap between clergy and laity. This was to see who can do it best. The seats that have imprisoned and reduced the saints to listeners and a captive audience. The worship of men's charisma and not the integrity of men committed to obeying His word and loving the saints. Much of what I would like to say can be read in my article, "the real church," or better yet, in God's article called the book of Acts (Acts.)

We quickly established a coffee house called the "Cup" to reach out to the young people. Kids began coming to the meetings; we had our own band, special lighting and old spools set up as tables. We prayed for the sick, witnessed on the beach and shared in home meetings. We started a Christian house; we had seventeen guys living together. We ate together, we prayed together, we went to meetings together, fellowshipped together and discipled the other kids at the coffee house. We took the scripture in Acts 2:42-47 to heart:

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." NIV

We gathered our paychecks into a common pot and share as each man had need. We lived in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house. The real miracle was that we always kept the place clean and everything put away. These were some of the best times of my life. These men became a challenge in my life and help me rid myself of a horde of the lofty "ideals" of Christian ministry. It was truly a humbling experience. God used the house to teach me to be a bondservant. I learned to scrub the floors when no one else would. Oh how we have lost the meaning of being a bond slave for Jesus.

The ministry grew and the church hired an assistant youth pastor to help in the ministry. My assistant came from a gay background; that didn't bother me; my temptations were in the opposite direction.

Later when I got engaged to one of the girls in the church, he immediately began to distance himself from me and he quickly moved out of the house and moved in with one of the guys from the house. He stopped attending the meetings and spent an extent of time with his roommate. He made friends with the deacons and those of influence in the church. Many were aware of the separation between us, but didn't know what was happening with him personally.

My father was dying and was going to have major surgery for cancer. I asked for some leave time and spent it with my ailing father to be there for his operation. After the operation, I quickly returned and the following morning went into the pastor's office to inform him of my return. He was surprised and seemed set back to see me return so early. He informed me to go to my office and wait; one of the men of the church would be calling me.

Abandoned

All of the Christians I meet who are amounting to anything for god are Christians who are very much out of key with their age—very, very much out of tune with their generation ~ Tozer

I finally received the awaited call and was told there was going to be a special deacons' meeting, which was for the purpose of calling for my resignation as youth pastor. I couldn't understand why, not that I thought I was perfect, but why? The young people were growing and doing so well. He informed me that he and another person of the church would be meeting with me earlier that night before the specially called deacons' meeting.

The two men met with me in my office about 6 pm that evening. They explained that the deacons were going to ask for my resignation. I ask them why. Harold, who headed the special committee to investigate the problem between my assistant and myself, began to explain the reasons. His first reason was because I had a phone in my office illegally. It was a phone that I found in the church kitchen and used it in my office. Once I was informed the phone belonged to another church that used our facilities some time ago, I returned the phone to the phone company and assumed it solved the problem. But that was months ago. I told Harold, "This can't be the basis for my resignation." He agreed and proceeded to the next reason. He then stated it was because I wanted the pastor's job. I then asked him where and how he came to that conclusion. He reminded me of a luncheon we had previously and how I prayed for the leadership of the church. I asked him, "Didn't you pray at the last business meeting for the leadership of the church? Did that mean that you too wanted the pastor's job?" I responded that they were fishing, I said, "Harold, give me the truth."

He alleged there were a group of "big" tithers who were threatening to leave the church if I didn't resign (money!). I wept. I thought Christianity was about love, encouragement and God's word. Here before me stood men that I knew loved the Lord, and they were giving in to exploitation and intimidation.

I asked them if they knew about my assistant and the guy he was living with. They said they knew the one guy had confessed to some things that were taking place. I was astonished over what came out of his mouth, and that as a Christian. It struck me hard to see that level of deception and the willingness to compromise truth for "tithers."

I then proceeded to the deacons' meeting, head held down, discouraged for what I had just experienced. The meeting opened with the head deacon, Bob, stating they were calling for my resignation. Ned, the minister of music asked Why? Bob related there was a problem between my assistant and me. Ned responded, "What kind of a problem?" "A problem of unforgiveness." Bob told him. "Who is not willing to forgive?" asked Ned. "Well, Andy is willing to forgive, but his assistant is not." Silence flooded the room to what must have been an obvious confession of anti-Christian behavior. I wept and prayed. I asked the Lord what to do. He said, "say nothing."

The pastor then proceeded and stood up and astonished me with these words, "You may feel we need a division; if so, vote for Andy to stay. If you think we need unity, you need to vote for Andy to leave." He then repeated that jester several times. There was then a call to vote; it was 5 to 4 against me. The pastor asked me not to take the vote to the church business meeting; it would certainly cause a stir. I said I would pray about it. He clearly understood what it would mean if I did so.

That night I went home and prayed, "Lord what am I to do?" He reminded me that He had called me and not man. He then said, "I will open another door for you." I went to the pastor the next morning and told him I was going to leave and not create a problem. I asked him for a severance pay of three weeks to get settled. He replied, "Only if we meet the budget." You guessed it, I got no severance pay.

One of the deacons, my fiancé's father, later called me and asked me to start a meeting in his home. We started off with 17 single guys, an elderly couple and two girls…. the beginning of Christian Fellowship.

"To be continued"

Discipleship Movement (part 3) >>

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