Michael Byers AOG Experience
Your webpage and its links were incredibly beneficial to me. Keep up the good work! Let me try to explain my situation in 500 words or less...
My wife and I had been a part of the charismatic/pentecostal community for over 15 years. However, we made a decision 4 1/2 years ago that changed everything for us. We have an Assembly of God church in our neighborhood and I had befriended the pastors there for years. There was no desire to be a part of that fellowship since we were already well entrenched in our home church down the road. Without going into sordid details, my wife had backslid through the years of '89-'90 and the embarrassment prevented her from full involvement again in the church, so we thought it would be good to change churches and we both could have a fresh start. So we began attending the A/G church in our neighborhood.
They had a new pastor there and few resources (the attendance was about 6-8 people). They swamped my wife with unconditional acceptance. We are both seasoned worship leaders so within a few months we were leading the worship team and the coffeehouse that I was directing before coming there was transferred to the church and the pastor took over the administrative/financial end of it.
The pastor and his wife had come from an ultra-conservative, authoritarian, mega-church structure; my wife and I are unashamedly nonconformist and somewhat of a maverick (not to be confused with rebels, please.)
We locked horns over many issues, but always kept our dignity, friendship and love intact along the way, until....
I had a private meeting with the pastor back in the summer of '97. The purpose of the meeting was preparing for a marriage class that he and I were leading. He was being abnormally authoritative and so I finally said what I should have told him 2 years before, "This is not a Paul and Timothy relationship". You see, I had seen my work there as more of a partnership with the pastor. He has his role to fill, and I have my role to fill...but he saw me as his way of filling a need for significance (a personal diagnosis, not based on facts, but bear with me) in his life. He saw that he could take this "diamond in the rough" and turn him into a real minister!! When I made that statement, all his visions for me went down the tube, and his behaviour towards me changed.
In January '98 we decided to stick with the church for one more year. I finally accepted the position on the advisory board (up until this point, it was my wife who took that position and was the treasurer for the church; although in truth all she did was balance the checkbook and write the checks that the pastor told her to...more of a bookkeeper than a treasurer), and thought I'd have more of an impact from this vantage point.
In March I told the pastor that I was leading a home fellowship with some folks from various churches. He didn't seem to have any problem with this, though in truth he did. In April, we told him that we were pursuing credentials for ministry through the Foursquare fellowship. Again, he didn't have a problem with it, and in fact seemed to give us his blessings. Two weeks later, I'm in his office with him questioning my loyalty to the church, and the following week there was a meeting where I was told that my work with the church was "sloppy" and a great deal of my integrity was questioned. Still, I continued on with the church. In hindsight, I should have left right then. I probably would be a lot healthier now.
Over the course of the next few months the foursquare pastor and I realized that we could not continue plans for pioneer work while I was working with the A/G church. There was simply too much role confusion for everyone. My wife and I met with the A/G pastor and his wife over the summer to try to clear the air over offenses committed. No where did they mention the hurt over my leading a fellowship outside the church, nor of my involvement with 4 square.
Then in Aug '98 my wife is asked to attend an advisory board meeting so that we can share what our ministry plans were. This was a lie, pure and simple. The pastor wanted us both there so he could announce plans to both of us. It was at this meeting that he told me that "Mick (me) has been through a lot of of pain and hurt and needs time to heal" so the board decided that I shouldn't be involved in any ministry with the church for now. This was a cool decision they made and I was happy with it. The only red flag that went up was when he said he thought that Vickie (my wife) should stay on as worship leader because "she's come a lot further in her humility and brokenness". I let it go. I should have pursued this judgment.
Later that week, I'm talking to the pastor on the phone about making the announcement to the congregation and he gives this insinuation that this is a type of discipline for me. Again, I let it go and I shouldn't have. That Sunday in talking with the pastor he makes the same insinuation. This time I tell him I need to speak with him alone. In his office, I tell him that I'm not going to lie to the congregation! I'm not going to say it's for healing if it's about discipline. Then I asked him if this is a church discipline. His answer...long pause..."not really". He answered me without answering me.
Another meeting was scheduled for that Wednesday. I told him Vickie would be working late that night, how about Saturday? No, it had to be Wednesday. I showed up Wednesday night and not only was the board there, but an unannounced appearance of our superintendent, also.
After a long heated meeting, I agreed to apologize to the church on a few points. The superintendent suggested I write my apology out and have the pastor look it over. I did so and the following Saturday I met with the pastor and showed him the letter. He said it looked good, but he had to take it home so he could "pray about it". We had another meeting on Tuesday. He shows me the letter I wrote with a great deal of editing and then he hands me an outline with the title "apology to (church name omitted)" with 4 points that I needed to make. In veiled language that I pressed out into the open, he said if I didn't apologize on these points, my membership would be revoked. I re-wrote the apology, we had another meeting on that Saturday with the board and the superintendent and they all approved of my apology. The agreement was that Vickie and I would each read part of the letter. That night as I was going over all that had transpired that they could perceive that I was giving Vickie the "hard parts" to read, so we decided that I would read the confession in its entirety, and she would make eye contact with everyone. We did so and we thought the nightmare was over.
Three weeks later my wife called the guitarist for that week's service to find out about practice and she was told don't bother. Because she didn't read any of the confession, she was labelled as rebellious and would not be on the worship team. This was in October. We then spent the next 4 months living with gossiping, insinuations, and power plays. So bad was it that one of the musicians had testified how I had helped him in grieving for the death of his father-in-law. After the service he was scolded privately for acknowledging my impact on his life without expressing the same feelings for the pastor.
We left the church cordially, but the wounds are deep. This had a deep impact on our marriage and my wife went so far as to ask a lawyer about the divorce process. She no longer trusts God. We are now attending a Methodist church. The sermons are wonderfully convicting and the liturgy makes us feel very safe. I still love and trust God, but I have no idea why we were put through this. I no longer have a desire for ministry. I have given up on credentials and in the fall I plan to study to be licensed as a nurse. I need normalcy right now and the church is not offering me any. Any thoughts?
Thanks for letting me ramble.
Posted March 18, 1999
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August 23, 1997
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