Jeff's United Pentecostal and Assembly of God Experiences
My name is Jeff and when I was 19 I became a follower of Christ and joined a United Pentecostal Church in Omaha, Nebraska. I had no background in anything like this so it was quite shocking to me.
I watched each week as people were told by the pastor that unless they spoke in tongues, they wouldn't leave in the rapture. I watched people scream and cringe in fear at the altar, begging God to fill them with the Spirit.
I dated a girl who was forced to not cut her hair, never wear pants (only dresses), no make-up was allowed. Away from the legalism of her parents, she was a hellion! She was the only girl my age in that church - I guess I was desperate!
It was a horrible experience. It made me preach hard to my parents for fear that if they weren't baptized in Jesus name only, they would go to hell! My family almost disowned me. I lost a lot of relational closeness with my family because of this church.
I was finally pulled out by a lovely woman who had heard that Jimmy Swaggert, at that time (early 1980's), was calling the UPC a cult. This woman got me involved in an AG Church in Bellevue, NE. From there I went to college and became a minister in the AG.
My first church was quite an experience. I was an associate working with 2 other associates and a workaholic senior pastor. One by one, the associates quit. I was the last to quit, being new and uninvolved with what was going on and absorbed in my own ministry with inner city children.
I didn't pay too much attention to what was happening until one day, my wife and I had had enough of the demands of trying to build this pastor's vision of having a 5000 member church. The 80 plus hour weeks almost flung us into divorce court. I resigned and was immediately called into a meeting with the elders.
The meeting was rough and during the meeting, I was accused of not coming under the umbrella of authority of the senior pastor (Bill Gothard teaching). One of the elders was a Gothard worshipper. This elder accused me of practicing witchcraft - he deduced that since I used illusions to illustrate Bible stories to the kids that I must be doing witchcraft because "rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft".
The senior sat up in his chair and pointed his finger at me and said, "Do you realize that if you resign, God will curse you?" I almost fell off my chair! He suggested that if we left without his "blessing" then my wife could bleed to death! (My wife has a bleeding disorder.) We ended up leaving, but not without an all-church meeting. Everyone was invited to learn what was going on. I was made out to be the bad person - being rebellious and as this was going on during the time that Swaggert and Baker were national news; I was likened to the status of them.
It has been 11 years since this event and both my wife and I still struggle with the abuse we received. I am still in ministry, still in evangelical and fundamentalist churches, except for a few years in a United Methodist Church (that was the best 5 years of our lives), but now the passion has left. It feels like a job. My hatred of the Bible grows (I think because it was used as a whip to beat me), my distaste for the legalism and fear based message of evangelicals is strong. But my relationship with God is better than ever. I have found a wonderful spiritual community that has helped me understand some things. I would never tell my church that I am part of this community as they would label it as a cult or new age! It isn't; very Christ centered and much grace!
I know I need to embrace evangelicals and fundamentalists with a genuine love, but right now I am struggling.
Posted March 17, 2002
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August 23, 1997
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