A Non UPC Apostolic Experience
The following was written by a woman about six months after "walking away" from an apostolic church which was not affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church. Some details have been omited to allow the author to remain anonymous.
SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE
There seems to be some concern to the effect that I no longer adhere to the "truth." Perhaps it is time I attempt to clarify a few things in an honest and sincere spirit.
To begin with, "truth" carries many connotations. Pilate inquired of Jesus, "What is truth?", not knowing that One who stood before him was the One who had declared "I am the truth" On another occasion, Jesus spoke of the Spirit of truth which would come. And at another time, he referred to the Word as truth. Based on the Scriptures, it is to be understood that I have stood for the Truth since the time I first received Jesus as my personal Savior at the age of seven, and will continue to love and follow Him who is the VERY Truth as long as I live.
It is interesting to note, however, that certain groups will make claims to having the only existing truth. You can only be right--according to them--by following their teachings. I once picked up a Watchtower magazine which had been left in the laundromat. I was surprised to read a statement made by the president of the Jehovah Witnesses in which he appealed to JWs everywhere to work untiringly so as "to bring more and more people to a knowledge of the truth." Well, I thought, that sounds very much like what I have been hearing in Apostolic circles for many years.
Jesus declared that knowing the truth would set us free, and that if the Son set us free, we would be free indeed. It did not take long, after coming into the Apostolic "truth", to realize that we had not come into freedom but rather into terrible bondage. Absent was the love by which Jesus said his disciples would be known. Constant was the control, excessive exercises of authority, judgmentalism, censoring, shunning, and excommunicating.
In great distress I wondered how we (my husband and I) could have so naively conceded to the assumption that something was lacking in our salvation experience because we had not been baptized in a certain way. We had both had a genuine conversion experience and had later received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, empowering us for service. We had been evangelizing and pioneering churches in several countries with wonderful manifestations of God's grace and power. But young, vulnerable, and desiring to please God in every way, we consented to being baptized in Jesus' Name. The negative results of having taken this step, both in our home and ministry, are beyond calculating.
I studied Oneness literature forward and backward in an honest effort to understand their doctrines. The more I studied, however, the more inconsistencies I found. I may not be a theologian of renown, but I can read and I can reason, and I can see the difference between truth and error. Sure, one might be able to be a true Apostolic if they listened only to what their pastor taught them, or if they never read a Christian book authored by a non-Apostolic, or never tried to search for answers on their own. But this was no more than what it was like in actual cults. You had no freedom to make your own choices--to come to your own conclusions. But was this encouraging spiritual growth? As I saw it, it was suppression and manipulation by fear. And I finally came to see that we had been drawn into a totally dysfunctional church system.
Of course there are many wonderful, precious and sincere people among the Apostolic churches. And it goes beyond saying that we are greatly indebted to all those who have helped us and supported us on the mission field for so many years. That cannot be overlooked. I truly wish that I did not have to disappoint so many by taking a stand for what I believe to the REAL Truth--the Truth that really does set us free to become all Christ would have us to be. The Truth that God is not limited to one particular church or denomination. The Truth that demonstrates the genuine love of God--that walks in humility and is not puffed up or arrogant. The Truth that does not manipulate or control, nor put down nor condemn.
How sad that freedom must carry such a price--to be judged, to be held in disgrace and contempt. Some are not going to like the comparison, but it reminds me of the attitude of the Catholic church in the dark ages which could not tolerate anyone believing differently from their teachings. Now the "heretics" are not burned at the stake or boiled in pots of oil. They are, rather, disfellowshipped, ignored, and talked about maliciously.
I do not, however, want to be like those among the chief rulers of Jesus' day who, because of their fear of the Pharisees, would not confess their faith in Christ, "for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (Jn 12:43). For a long time I, too, have feared to take this step, knowing its incurring consequences. But I thank God that he has given me the courage to finally take this stand for Him, and be counted among the great multitude of those all over the world who love Him and serve Him with all their heart. Someday we will all stand together before the throne of God-the ONE God we all believe in, regardless of differences in denominations or doctrinal interpretations, and we will sing praises to our great Savior and King.
I do regret, in the final analysis, that we have been instrumental in leading many, many others into doctrinal and legalistic bondage, including our own children. I can only hope and pray that God may somehow bring all these things to work for some good in His own way and time, healing the wounds and restoring fellowship with God's wonderful people everywhere.
In closing, I would like to make mention of a few books which were instrumental in helping me come to final conclusion and decision in regards to the errors of the teachings in Oneness/Apostolic churches. These are books I read just in the past couple years. If I were to list all the ones I've read and studied over the years in regards to this particular issue, the list would indeed be very long.
Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity, by Gregory Boyd
Churches that Abuse and Recovering from Churches that Abuse, by Ronald M. Enroth
The Grace Awakening, by Chuck Swindoll
Changes that Heal, by Dr. Henry Cloud
Victory Over the Darkness, by Neil Anderson
Do Christian Believe in Three Gods? (booklet), by M.R. DeHaan II
The Triunity of the Godhead, by Gordon Lindsey
Having made the decision to walk away from this erroneous teaching after so many years, which involved also having to sign papers for a legal separation from my pastor/husband, I went to stay at my mother's place in another state until time for the court hearing.
During the following weeks, I was under a lot of pressure, being made to feel that I was taking a wrong step and thinking only of myself, etc..etc. When it came time to return for the court hearing, I had just about decided to back down and not go through with it. Just as my mother and I were saying our good-byes at her door, the phone rang and she went to answer it. She listened for a moment, then put the phone down and said it was one of those "silent" calls when no one says anything. Then she did a very strange thing: she picked up the little devotional calendar which was sitting near the phone and read the verse for that day. This is what she read: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (This is from Galatians 5:1)
By the time she finished reading it, I felt weak. It was like God Himself was speaking from heaven. From whence the phone call that took my mother back to her little desk, and why did she pick up the little calendar to read? Chance? I cannot think so. She did not know too many details of my problem, nor what I had been thinking to do. Since then, whenever the enemy tries to bring accusations, I think back to that moment, and hurl that scripture in his face. I have no doubt in my heart that my decision came by the Holy Spirit and I am determined to stand firm, just as it says in that verse.
This past 4th of July made four years since I walked out of bondage, and can you imagine my surprise when, at church that morning, the first words the pastor spoke when going to the pulpit was that very same scripture. And I was just a visitor!
Posted July 20, 1999
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August 23, 1997
Copyright © 1997-2016 by Lois E. Gibson
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