A Journey Out of the UPC

This testimony is not about individual members of the United Pentecostal Church. I deeply care for my Pentecostal kinsmen and I believe that most of them love Jesus deeply. I simply hope that my testimony will encourage others to take a closer look at how the United Pentecostal Church misrepresents the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My mother was born, 1920, into a Oneness Pentecostal family. When she married at age 15, she left the world of the Pentecostal. Mom never ceased to have the fear of the Lord in her life. My earliest childhood memory is of my mom kneeling beside me, as I prayed, "Now, I lay me down to sleep." It was as a child that I called upon the name of the Lord. It would be many years later before I would meet Him personally.

Although I was not raised in my formative years in a Pentecostal home, my family roots through both sides of my grandparents, as well as my wife's roots, go back to the early Oneness Pentecostal movement before there was a United Pentecostal Church. The UPC arrived on the scene in 1945. I became a UPC preacher in 1964, at the age of 24.

I was formally introduced to the world of the Pentecostal in 1949. I was nine years old. For a child who had never been in a church of any sort, it was almost overwhelming. People were falling out, and shouting, and dancing. The preaching and singing was filled with passion. In my childlike way I dearly fell in love with all that was happening. It was an amazing world to me. And so Pentecostalism became my religion of choice.

Let me first skip forward to a crisis moment that set the stage for my departure out of the UPC. It was in 1971. I had been preaching about seven years. My wife Betty and I had pastored a UPC Church and afterwards entered into the full-time evangelistic ministry. We then decided to move to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to establish a UPC home mission work. It was there that we became acquainted with some non-Pentecostal believers.

These non-Pentecostals helped us get settled in our new mission town. Yet they did not actually attend any of our services. In a short time I took note of how these non-Pentecostal people truly loved the Lord. It was obvious that they were living a Spirit-led life. I thought to myself: How could these people who did not speak in tongues know Jesus? It was their spiritual composure and their genuine love for others that left me troubled. Something was wrong. I wanted to know what it was.

Perhaps I should point out that this is a real problem area for people of the United Pentecostal faith. UPC people are so secluded from other Christians that they know very little about the greater body of Christ. UPC people are pretty much led to believe that they are the truly saved ones. Other so-called Christians are unsaved people.

Back to the testimony - The Lord knew I was being misguided in a system that did not present the message of salvation properly. He used these non-Pentecostal people to LOVE me to my knees. It was peacefulness that sent me on a quest of the Scriptures. Where were we missing it? Soon I realized that the gospel we UPC ministers preached was not the same gospel the apostles preached. The doctrine of having to speak in tongues to be saved was never preached by the early Christians. It arrived on the scene in the early 1900s. It is pure Pentecostalism.

The Lord began to open my eyes to how we are truly saved. It is by faith alone. The more I studied the unhappier I became. I began to feel that my mentors had deceived me. What was I to do? I couldn't continue the mission work. Yet I had a call on my life. Of course this was only the beginning of a new future for my family. God had a plan for us. It would come together in due time.

Betty and I and our two sons left the mission work and evangelized for a short time. Our last revival saw twenty-five people baptized. Often as the altars filled, I would go to a back room and weep before God. Seekers were begging God to save them. It wasn't a situation where you could kneel by a seeker and explain how true salvation works. The seekers had largely been brought up under the influence of Pentecostal teachings. In fact in many of my revivals you would find the same people back in the altar again, trying to get saved again.

In God's providential care, the next three years found us in a local congregation. It was a UPC church, but the pastor was a gentle and compassionate man. So August 1971 through August 1974 became our season of healings. I still preached out from the local church but my major need was to get my thinking fully in accord with God's word.

An interesting thing happened. The church we now attended had recently went through a split. The pastor asked me to help him rebuild. When I told him of my beliefs, what he shared surprised me. He said that when the UPC was first formed, one of the forming groups believed the way that I believe, that is, that a person did not have to speak in tongues to be saved. Over time this belief disappeared under the stricter, 'you-must-speak-in-tongues-to- be-saved', teaching of the other forming group. This bit of history is unknown to most UPC members. Anyway, we agreed to disagree. I worked with this godly man for three years.

[Note: I encourage any UPC person to secure the book, Christianity Without the Cross: A History of Salvation in Oneness Pentecostalism, by Thomas A. Fudge. It is an eye opener for those who do not understand the real history of the UPC.]

Back to the testimony - During this time the Lord gave me a work-over of life. God's love began to replace any anger I had towards my mentors. When it came time for my departure, I could do so with no anger left. I only felt great sorrow for my Pentecostal kinsmen, and perhaps a deeper love for them than I had ever felt. I formally left the UPC in 1974. It was simple enough; just a matter of letting my ministerial credentials drop.

I should point out that anyone coming out of the base teachings of the United Pentecostal Church will have need of spiritual repair. Oneness Pentecostalism has a deep effect on the psychological and spiritual make-up of its members. The repair work takes place as the believer comes to grips with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The believer just needs to keep in mind that time is always on the side of truth.

This is also where truth needs to be understood. Truth is not a church, an organization, a movement, a revelation, a group, a denomination, or even a doctrine. Truth in its spiritual essence is a Person. His name is Jesus Christ. Until we come to grips with this reality we will always drift about looking for truth in some religious setting. Certainly I am not discounting the flocking of God's people. I am speaking to what Biblical Christianity is really about. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6)

Over the years I have been able to help a great many UPC people get their hearts and minds together. Once a UPC person's eyes are opened to the truth of our completed salvation in Christ, the misapplied gospel of the UPC no longer has a hold on them. The Biblical doctrine of our completion in Christ Jesus is a major bondage breaker for any person who has been under a works-righteousness system of religion.

Before I share more about the world of Oneness Pentecostalism, let me share how I actually came to know Jesus Christ personally. It was 1963. I had just gotten out of the Navy. A Pentecostal cousin kept insisting that I go to church with her. So I did. It was in church that I first saw my wife to be. In short order I fell in love with this beautiful Pentecostal girl. We married that same year. (That was nigh 43 years ago.)

It wasn't too many months afterward that I entered the world of the Pentecostal altar. Night after night, and revival after revival saw me in the altar. The longer this went on the more discouraged I became. One Sunday afternoon I am sitting in our living room with my Bible in my hands, reading from the book of John. When I came to John 14, I saw that the questions being asked of Jesus were my very own questions. It seemed I was being pulled into the setting. My deepest struggle was over who Jesus really was.

Philip asked the Lord to show them the Father. It was at that very moment that Jesus spoke to my heart. He said, "Have I been so long with you Buddy, and you don't know me? He who has seen Me has seen the Father." Tears flowed down my cheeks. I could not speak. I was so aware of the divine presence. That was when the peace of Jesus entered my heart. It has been that peace of heart that has sustained me these many years. Years later I would come to understand that that moment was the moment of my birth into God's kingdom.

But there was a problem. I was still in the world of the Pentecostal. And so, I kept attending the altar. Some months later I actually spoke in tongues. But I also remember thinking to myself, "Is this all? I've had this all along." Of course I did not share these thoughts with anyone else. I was too happy that the battle was over. I could now be accepted as being saved. What a relief!

Sometimes it takes years for a person who has been under the influence of Oneness Pentecostalism to sort out truth in his life. It can be difficult to discern what may have been a psychological experience from that which was truly of the Lord. It is likely that much speaking in tongues today is learned behavior. It has been through all this that the Lord has educated me to the pitfalls that are found in the world of Pentecostalism.

And here is where I must speak to the world of the Pentecostal altar. The UPC has such a strong stress on the necessity of speaking in tongues for salvation that an altar service can appear to be a total frenzy. It is common to hear seekers crying and begging God to save them. You can also hear people shouting, "Just say, 'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,' over and over, real fast." Or, "Say 'hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah' over and over real fast." Some are saying, "Turn loose!" Still others are saying, "Hang on!" The person in the altar is being drawn into an emotionally charged atmosphere.

It doesn't end there. Sometimes a circle will form around the seeker. He finds himself being moved around. His eyes are often tightly closed. The very moment the seeker makes any sound that seems not to be English, some of the people start shouting and jumping about, "He's got it! He's got it! He's got the Holy Ghost!" In turn he gives in to all his emotions. He is relieved! The battle is over. Is it really?

Where is the problem? The problem is summed up in what happens at the end of the altar service. The seeker is often told something like this; "Tomorrow morning when you wake up, the devil is going to tell you that you did not get anything. You just tell him that he is a liar." While this sounds like a good thing to tell a person, it is really another part of the Pentecostal pattern.

Why do they need tell the seeker this? The reason is because the next morning the emotions will have subsided and the questions begin. Where is the excitement? Where is the joy? Why am I having such doubts? It was so real last night. Why is it not real now? Was I really saved? This isn't something the devil is telling him. These doubts are coming from within him. And believe it or not, this new Pentecostal has entered into a religious world where doubt and fear are going to be pretty much the norm.

The point is that there is no need to tell a person who has truly received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, that the next morning they'll wake up feeling like nothing has happened. True salvation is not a worked up thing of the emotions. While it certainly affects our emotions, salvation is an issue of a heart-exchange. When the Holy Spirit enters the heart of a believing one, which can even happen in a quiet moment of faith, the Spirit will be there tomorrow, and the next tomorrow, and the next tomorrow. This is called the testimony of the Spirit. The apostle calls this the seal of the Spirit.

Yet I am not saying that the Lord is unable to save us because of bad doctrine. I was saved in spite of Pentecostal teaching. What I am saying is that this is one reason you find so many UPC people still struggling over their salvation. It all comes back to how the UPC preaches that a person must speak in tongues to be saved. And the 'keep yourself saved' will continue to play itself out with battles of the mind.

The real issue is that no person can be born again until they have been presented with the message of the cross, and have taken to themselves Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The apostle said, "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to be children of God, even to those who believe in His name." Pentecostal people are never taught that salvation wraps itself around the confession of Jesus Christ. Paul said our walk of salvation is built around a simple devotion to Jesus.

Back to the altar. Some may say, "All that doesn't take place at our UPC church!" My answer is that your church is rare indeed. I have yet to see a UPC church where these kinds of altar experiences do not happen. From all the personal correspondences that I receive, it appears that the Oneness world has made little to no change.

What I have been describing is very real and very common. I've been there. I've done everything that any passionate Oneness Pentecostal would do. How could I know any difference? The preaching and teaching that I had been exposed to, was geared to produce this atmosphere.

I have often thought of why the Lord allowed me to undergo my experience in the UPC. Was there a plus side to this? Yes, I think so. I came to realize that only a Pentecostal can know the heart need of another Pentecostal. I speak the language. I know the thinking. I know the arguments. I've been able to help a number of Pentecostals with the help that I received from the Lord. Many Pentecostals have contacted me with regard to their struggles. Sometimes they are so afraid of being found out that they ask that their conversations with me be kept secret. Eventually they take courage and find themselves making their own departure out of Pentecostalism.

In all this it is important not to 'bash' Pentecostal people. When you are trapped in a religious system such as the UPC, you don't know anything else. Everything a Oneness Pentecostal person is taught revolves around a single Scripture, where Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." (Acts 2:38 KJV.) This Scripture is always distorted beyond its setting. It should go without saying that no apostle ever preached that a person had to speak in tongues to be saved.

Was I innocent in the fact that I could study the Scriptures for myself and find the truth? I could not claim innocence in that regard. No Pentecostal preacher should ever think that he is not accountable for what he preaches and how he ministers to others. James said that the teachers will receive a stricter judgment. Yes, I was responsible for studying the Scriptures for myself. Yet until a Pentecostal is willing to question the teachings of the UPC, they will remain locked into a system that is spiritually unhealthy. After all, Jesus said that the 'Truth' would make us free.

I need to point out that those who leave the UPC often enter a time of culture shock. The world they find themselves in is unlike anything they are use to. Oneness Pentecostalism is a sub-culture with its own peculiar distinctive control factors, where fear itself is the primary control factor. Fear of leaving is deeply ingrained in them. Yet for many there is a constant ache in their heart. As a young preacher, I use to say to my wife, "Honey, I feel like I'm caught in a net and I don't know what it is." At the time I was unable to recognize that the net was the untrue doctrines of the UPC.

Those who may be seeking to leave the UPC need to understand that the UPC is just another religious system. It is no more than that. It is a system designed by men, and controlled by men. Jesus Christ did not come to give us a system of religion. He came to give us a relationship with Him. The ancient writer said that the fear of man is a snare. The apostle said that perfect love casts out all fear.

Here is some statistical information with regard to Pentecostalism. According to statistics the Pentecostals have the highest rate of divorce, and the highest rate of emotional disturbances of any Protestant group. A few years back I did research on issues of mental health to better educate myself for the purpose of pastoral ministry. During my research I came across an article on mental patients in California. It stated that the largest religious groups of patients in mental institutions in California were from a Pentecostal background.

In picking up my research again [recent] I came across a major study by K. G. Meador and others. It was reported in 'Hospital and Community Psychiatry,' a monthly journal of the American Psychiatric Association. Having researched several thousand cases, Meador concluded that there was a greater rate of major depression in Pentecostals than in any other religious affiliation. (5.4 vs 1.7%) Here is the quote: "[The] rate of major depression in Pentecostals was three times greater than for any other affiliations."

[Note: The term Pentecostal is a broad term and takes in far more than the United Pentecostal Church. The statistics above are not simply reflective on United Pentecostals.]

Let me mention one other item that is important to understand. The ones who generally suffer the most under the UPC yoke are the women. This is always the case with repressive religions. The rules largely apply to them. Without naming all that is required of the women, let me simply say that much of what the UPC calls 'standards' have little and often no real Bible base. Paul speaks of these rules as having only the appearance of worship. He says they are really self-made religion.

To any UPC person who is struggling over any of what I have shared, I can simply tell you that the Lord knows exactly where you are. He knows what you need to hear. He knows what your next step needs to be. God has a plan for your life. Don't be afraid to trust Him with all the details. He will show you what to do at the proper time.

If any of this fits your world and you need someone to talk to, feel free to contact me by email. Your communication will be held in confidence. Our web site is Christian Challenge.

The Lord bless you,


Posted April 19, 2005 - Revised May 18, 2006


August 23, 1997
Copyright © 1997-2016 by Lois E. Gibson
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