Mary's UPC & Apostolic Experiences: Part Two

After being thrown out of the church (in part one of my story- see link below), I tried driving out of town for awhile. Yet I knew that wouldn't work for long. The only church I felt the pastor wouldn't doubt me much, would accept me in spite of the accusations, was quite a distance away, in a very economically depressed area. I'd known that church for a number of years. Still, the gossip started and several people questioned me about my former church. I knew eventually there would probably be problems. And I couldn't have quit my job and moved there without raising questions with my family, who were not Pentecostal. Instead, I decided to move out of state.

I thought moving out of state was the best solution. No one would know me well, and the greater distance should have protected me and kept there from being trouble between neighboring churches. But people did know me and gossip doesn't stop at state lines.

A year after moving to the new city, state, and church, my pastor passed away suddenly. In the next months, people's suspicions of each other and pastors' and young ministers' power plays became very blatant. Gossip reached new levels, or at least became more obvious to me.

Finally, a new pastor was selected. The night it was announced that the interim pastor had contacted someone and that someone had agreed to come, people shouted and ran the aisles. After church, they excitedly told me that "he'll kick all these people out who've come in the last few years!!" and "he'll line things up; he'll straighten people out!" My concern grew.

Not long after his arrival, he had a visiting evangelist, a good friend of my former pastor. I don't know what he said to whom, just that he told "someone" or "some people" that there was something wrong with me. Once, I understood someone to say he accused me of being a lesbian. Another time it was a more generic "word." Either way, it only added to the gossip. Still, for a couple years I hoped things were going to be ok. He'd yell at me in his office, but he'd always end on a kind note. Then, once more, things started to change.

I don't know what initiated the pastor's change toward me. Possibly nothing, possibly gossip, possibly personal successes in my own life. What I do know is that I got a new job, and within a few months had been called into the pastor's office, told that I'd been accused of something, and soundly rebuked. He said later he believed me when I said I was innocent. And he rebuked her somewhat for slandering me. But he never made her go back to those she'd lied to and clear up what she'd said. He never told anyone to stop their gossip. So people started shunning me.

Others were kicked out. They were publicly rebuked or labeled from the pulpit. Over time there was less and less affirmation and more and more rebuke for infractions-a skirt was too tight, a sleeve was too short-but not for real wrongs. We heard the same sermon over and over. It was that our church was great, our pastor was the greatest, he was the man of God and we'd better obey him, one day our church would take over the city, God would bless if we had enough faith. It was that we were in revival and that there had been a lot of people baptized (yet few stayed), that everyone needed to obey Acts 2:38 'today,' and that anyone who hesitated to obey Acts 2:38 could die lost before making it to another service. Most of what I was hearing seemed more like propaganda than Bible. People were getting hurt during 'worship'... and were, according to what I overheard, hurting each other somewhat deliberately. 'In the Holy Ghost.' My doubts grew.

Then one night the pastor met me at choir and told me to come to his office. He rebuked me soundly for 'talking bad about him.' A woman earlier that day had been upset with me. I knew she would go to the pastor, but hadn't been concerned. I didn't know she would talk to someone else about her 'concerns' before going to the pastor. Apparently she found another young woman who encouraged her to tell 'Pastor' her concerns, said she was also concerned, and promised the woman she would 'back her up.' Which meant she would also go to the pastor with her own 'concerns.'

So I was called in, and told what I'd been accused of. I was floored. My head was spinning trying to figure out what I'd actually said to anyone else and who thought I'd said the things I was being accused of. When I asked the pastor who told him these things, he called the young 'back up' woman in. He asked her if I'd said these things and she said yes. I asked 'When?' and he jumped me, saying "She's not on trial here, you are!"

Shortly after that night, I realized that the pastor was a bully and that there were a number of people in the church lying to the point of being murderous (according to Mt 5:21-22, especially if they believed that they had THE Truth and had to go to church to be saved, yet were causing others of being kicked out under false accusations). I decided to try to 'keep my head low' but promised myself that if he ever rebuked me like that again, especially without giving me a right to defend myself (or without believing me if I did) that I would leave. For over a year, I did.

My last summer in Pentecost, a camp evangelist preached a message on foundations. It became clear to me that the church wasn't my foundation. The standards weren't my foundation. Acts 2:38 wasn't my foundation. Only Jesus is our foundation. Everything else-church, standards, Acts 2:38-all of that wasn't my foundation. It was what had been built on my foundation. If it was structurally sound, it would stand. But the foundation, I knew, was sure. Jesus will never fail. He will never be shaken. He isn't afraid of questions or doubts, and He would be with me whether I went to that particular church or not. My foundation was sure, is sure.

Then one Sunday morning, someone asked me for a verse. The pastor stopped his sermon (to read an excerpt and brief explanation, click here) and rebuked me for ten minutes. After he finished his rebuke, I put my head down and sobbed. I knew that day that I would leave. Yet I didn't know when. So I stayed a few months, completing obligations, trying to form a plan for what to do. A few months later, a day came when I no longer felt I could stay. I turned in a short resignation letter and never went back.

I did try attending another Pentecostal church. I asked one thing of the pastor: please don't announce where I'm from. The very first service, someone bounced up saying "Oh, you must be the one from _____!" People tried to ask why I'd left. And then one told me that she'd find out, and started naming all the people from my former church that she knew.

I was told in Pentecost that if a person had trouble in a church and tried to move, their problems would follow them, because they were the problem. I agree with the effect, but not the cause. I agree that if a person has trouble in a Pentecostal church, that their problems may follow them. However, they are not the problem, a lack of love and brotherly kindness and an abundance of gossip is.

And so I left Pentecost after 19 years in it. There are good memories as well as bad ones. I learned some good things, but I was no longer learning or growing there. The years since leaving have been amazing and wonderful. Yes, they've been difficult at times, yet the peace and joy that seemed so elusive for many of those years comes naturally now. Some of the things built on my 'foundation' have been burned away or crumbled. Straw houses, not worthy of the foundation they'd been built on. But the Foundation is sure.

1 Cor 3:11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Part One of Mary's experiences may be read here.

Mary has written extensively about her discoveries since leaving here.

Other articles from former members of Faith Tabernacle Apostolic Church are available. One woman's experience may be read here. Elizabeth Smith's experience may be read here. Also available are videos from a former Faith Tabernacle member.


Posted November 6, 2011 - Updated November 13, 2011

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