There’s more than one way to be a Christian.

Wait a minute, that sounds unscriptural, and if you believe everything I’ve been taught as an evangelical, you’d think so. But that’s simply not true.

I confess. I spent more than 35 years toiling away in Pentecostal circles, being a good boy, submitting to authority, leading ministries, teaching, sharing, being a real-live missionary overseas, giving and being a good example to all. In the process, my mind turned to mush, in a way. I often stopped thinking for myself, and mostly submitted my will, my dreams, my vision and my life to that of the pastor. The problem with losing myself like that, though, is that the life of the “club” often was more important than my children, my wife, my career and education, and just about everything else. I faithfully sacrificed for the local church.

And it still wasn’t enough.

Church leaders wanted me to attend more services, give more money, sit right up in front – “under the spout where the glory comes out,” anoint people in the prayer lines and pray and shout and hope people fell down – all at the command of the pastor – and it still wasn’t enough.

And yet I came to believe – I don’t really know how, other than saying it was Groupthink – that the way we did church was the best way, the purest way, the only way. No one else really did it right.

It was never preached or spoken like that, but a certain air infiltrated those churches as sure as I’m sitting here writing this, and permeated every soul there. An air of superiority. A sense of rightness. A spirit of certainty that their way was the best way to serve God.

One pastor said publicly (twice that I heard): “I preach a unique word. One that no one else preaches. And it needs to be on the radio, because people need to hear it.” That is a stunning revelation of one man’s ego, isn’t it?

Another preached vehemently against homosexuality, abortion and oral sex – from the pulpit and on his local TV show. Then he proceeded to carry on an adulterous affair for more than five years. He repented and received a slap on the wrist and some counseling, but he’s back in the pulpit today being praised as a man of God doing a vital work, leading sinners to Christ. And maybe he is. But when are we going to stop elevating men and feeding their egos? It only destroys them.

Another became complicit in a $300,000 scam, because he covered it up. Why? To protect a friend. Unfortunately, the people who were ripped off were his own congregants. And he told them from the pulpit to forgive the perpetrator and not to press charges – that restoration would be made. So they all did. And it never was. Oh yeah, the perp’s been involved in several schemes since then, is selling used cars to this day, and leading worship in a local church even though he never made restitution to those he fleeced. Why was he never held accountable? His pastor should have done that over 20 years ago, but he didn’t, and the beat goes on.

There’s got to be a better way!

I realize that these accounts are only my experiences, and limited to a very few churches. But from what I understand, the local church was never intended to be a place to elevate men, or to create a family business, or to heap blessings upon ourselves. The Early Church is the model we should follow – it was a place where believers learned about God’s love and took it to the world. They didn’t build monuments of stone or flesh, and didn’t count themselves as being better than others.

All the little people who’ve built these modern-day churches with their prayers and their sweat and their tears – and lots of their money – suffer every day from sickness, job loss, financial hardship and death. Are these same churches there to help them through the crises and tragedies in their lives? My experience has been that the church often turns the other way when needs arise, because “We don’t want to set a precedent. If we give to him, we’ll have to give to everybody.” I heard that excuse so many times in pastors’ meetings that I wanted to scream. And I should have.

Maybe I am now.


Posted on March 15, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. We had a similar experience with a small church. After a few years it became common for the pastor to preach against other Christian denominations and he often stated from the pulpit that we are “forsaking the fellowship” by putting our families first, or by not attending each and every mid-week and two Sunday services. He seemed authoritarian or controlling, by making himself and the “fellowship” the center of things rather then Christ. He was super knowledgeable in the Word and a great teacher which caused most attendees to be in awe of him and they followed him. Breaking away was difficult – we lost friends and he was dishonest to others as to our true reason for leaving. There were some feelings of isolation for a bit but mostly we felt a big relief. After a break from church attendance and falling back into the arms of Jesus, our next pastor at a new church was the opposite… a humble servant of the Lord, bold yet sensitive to others, and a breath of fresh air.

  2. Amen Brother Dennis. Too many Churches have been Kingdom minded–Kingdom minded for their own little kingdoms–and not focused enough on the Lord’s will in all this, and on His Truths, not to be lived just outwardly for show, but in the heart where it should reside. But I believe the Lord is on the move throughout, the winds of change are here and God will get His church moving as they aught, seeing with God’s eyes. He is sovereign and will complete what He began through the willing ones who can see with His eyes. Praise His Holy name.

  3. The church is there to help, but so often hurts. Power is there to be abused. Trust is there to be betrayed. Money is there to be misused and squandered. The gospel is there to be mistranslated and used to judge others. Jesus is there to be dragged through the mud and misrepresented. Faith is there to not have enough of. But keep what faith you do have brothers and sisters. ‘Holy men’ will come and go, and will be forgotten and judged, but God will always remain, exuding love and creation.

  4. Wow. And I as only one, Dennis, have heard from people here and abroad, that this has been their experience too. More often than not, they have been demonized and never contacted by the people they worked alongside.

    So tell me, who can box in God? Claim their place to be His and their vision to be the one to follow? The breath we breathe and the gift of Life cannot be contained, bottled or labeled.

    In recent times, I’m afraid there have been multitudes of people who have suffered when they’ve opposed religious leaders. We need the common sense to follow our hearts and our brains in an age when Truth is being so sorely skewed. I don’t believe in judging people, but the words, ideologies and actions that they adhere to. I feel that we need to tread humbly, praying for our ears to be sharpened and our hearts to be enlarged. Every day, pushing through the urge to take a back seat and enjoy the ride, may we hear the shout to “WAKE UP!”

  5. Yow! Don’t hold back now! That cuts right to the heart of matters. That’s a good thing because its the heart that becomes numb and its the heart that fools itself into lethargy and dogma in individuals and in groups.

    And groupthink….I know the reality of that because I was a part of it in a church – until I started waking up.

    What a wonderful, heartfelt, brave and truthful post. No bullshit or beating around the bush. Thank you Dennis

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