Oneness Apostolic Experience
My husband and I attended a Oneness Apostolic church for years. We began to be disturbed when we started hearing such statements as "Trinitarians are not our brothers and sisters in Christ". Also we discovered that some of our visiting pastors were crooks and/or adulterous. The latter was sort of swept under the rug and not talked about by the leadership. If it was mentioned, it was mentioned only in hushed whispers by members of the church. However, this did not disturb us too much because we felt our pastor had been deceived by these men too, so we continued on.
Then one day our pastor said to the congregation, "If you are willing to die for the beliefs of this church, stand up." I was near the front row and wished that I'd sat on the back row that day. I dared not look around me, but my conviction told me that I should not stand up. First of all, it wasn't clear to me what the pastor meant by such a command. I would have stood up if he asked if we were willing to die for Jesus or for the beliefs of the truth of the Bible. However, I was not willing to die for the belief that Trinitarians are not our brothers and sisters in Christ. The reason is because I do not believe this. After everyone stood around me, I realized that I was the only one sitting. That is, until I got the nerve to look behind me and saw that both of my sisters were still seated. I was very relieved.
Later the pastor approached me and said that he was surprised in me. He said that he thought I knew and embraced the beliefs of this particular church. I explained to him why I didn't stand. He offered to spend time with my sisters and me going over the beliefs of the church in more detail, but I declined. I told him that I already knew the beliefs of the church and that I agreed with many of them, but still was not willing to die for all of them collectively.
He seemed disappointed, but in later messages preached "a double minded man is unstable in all his ways". I feel that his sermons were directed at those who remained seated. To explain further, I felt "preached at" instead of "preached to". Still my husband, my children, and I continued to attend church faithfully along with my sisters and their families. The straw that broke the camels back was to come later.
Our pastor sent out a mass email to the congregation shortly after my family had moved into a new house. The pastor said how he was disappointed in those who were not attending regularly and mentioned the names of the few that were. This left the email recipients to figure out who was on the good list and who was on the bad list.
My family was on the bad list because we had missed a few services due to our moving and the accompanying exhaustion. The pastor said that our lack of attendance was showing a lack of commitment to the church, and thus a lack of commitment towards God. That was it! We'd had it! After all, my husband and I had served the church for years. We had been youth leaders, had taught Sunday School, were ordained in the church, etc. I had been church secretary and had served on the board, took minutes, etc. during the 13 or 14 years that we had attended there. Needless to say, we decided to find another church.
After we left, no one bothered to call on us to enquire about us. Weeks later, I emailed a member of the church who had been a friend of mine for years. I told her how much pain I was in and how I had cried so much and couldn't sleep. I never got any response from her.
After a few more weeks passed, I emailed the pastor and told him that I felt there was a lack of love in the church because no one had tried to check on us, call us, visit us, nothing! I forwarded him the email that I had sent to my church friend minus her name so it wouldn't reveal her identity. I used this as one example to show him that I didn't feel that the church cared. I told my pastor that I thought that we all had a friendship that wasn't based on church attendance together only. His reply to me was to speak very condescending to me and tell me that since I mentioned love, that he was taking a risk in forwarding my email to a sister in church. He said he felt there was hurt feelings between us and that we needed to "kiss and make up".
In short, I felt that my pastor had broken my confidence! Not only this, he had sent it to the very person I was referring to. He guessed it right because I didn't mention her name. As a matter of fact, I wasn't angry at her. I was only using my email to her as an example of the lack of love in the entire church. It was nothing personal against her whatsoever.
I replied back to him and told him kindly that it was against email ethics to send a personal email without the author's permission. I didn't bother to mention that it was certainly against pastoral ethics. I figured he should have known that already, and if not, it wouldn't have helped anything for me to remind him. By the way, he never apologized. He only replied back that he only meant to be "the humble servant of God", and if I thought he was anything less to please let him know.
It has been over a year now since we left this particular church, and still the pastor's wife, (who was also considered our friend), has never called me or even visited our house. However, the pastor's son and our son are still friends and so the pastor has brought him over a few times to visit. Once one of the deacons and his wife called and begged us to come back, but we declined. There had already been too much shunning on the church's part, too many hurts, too much pain.
Now my family is happily settled into a different church which we've attended over a year. It's not perfect, but it's close enough. The people there don't put down other churches. Instead they show love and compassion and the fruit of the Spirit. When people leave the church, they go with our blessings, and aren't given "the cold shoulder". Also the church has a missionary vision; one of outreach, to share the gospel, to feed the hungry, to visit the sick, etc. This is the kind of church we're thankful to be a part of.
My advice to anyone in a questionable church setting is:
1) If this church is hurting you and/or others, it's abuse!
2) If something doesn't sound right or feel right, more than likely, it's not!
3) Churches are meant to love God and one another...If your church doesn't, they're not obeying Christ's command.
4) Churches are meant to evangelize, (spread the gospel), to reach out & win others to Christ.
5) Jesus did not establish the church to keep people out; he established it to get the gospel out and to get people in. (If your church is exclusive, you need to ask yourself why.)
6) If your denomination/church thinks it has "The Truth" at the expense of all other denominations/churches, something is wrong.
7) If your pastor tries to control the lives of members of the congregation, it's time to go!
8) Beware of any church leader who preaches that a certain denomination has the truth and that there is no other place to go for salvation. Remember that Jesus is The Savior! He is the way, the truth, and the life!
Posted March 2, 2002
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August 23, 1997
Copyright © 1997-2005 by Lois E. Gibson
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