24 Years in the United Pentecostal Church
By Roger Evans, a current UPC member
LET ME TELL YOU MY STORY
Let me begin by saying that I appreciate the opportunity to tell you about my self and my experiences in the United Pentecostal Church. I was raised in a charismatic church. It was a good church. The people were very kind. Some of them had received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and some had not, but If memory serves me correctly we were never taught about receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
I recall as a young boy asking my Sunday School teacher what the people were doing whenever they were speaking in tongues. His reply was ,"That is the unknown tongue". I didn't really understand this phenomenon, but I knew it was of God.
At age eleven I went to the front of the church to pray. There I repented of my sins. This was my first supernatural experience. I cried, I prayed and I felt so very good afterwards. I was a different person. Unfortunately, no one encouraged me to pray on until I had received the in filling of the Holy Ghost. Consequently, some months later I drifted back into my former life style which was quite bad for an 11 year old. I slowly became worse than I was before.
It wasn't until about age 15 that I first visited a United Pentecostal Church. I couldn't understand how anyone could believe some of the things that these people believed. There was quite a lot I didn't understand, such as why the ladies and men looked the way that they did, or did some things, or didn't do other things. Even though serving God was the farthest thing from my mind, I always felt good for some reason when I was around these Pentecostals. Whenever they would smile and shake your hand and say, " I am glad you came," it always seemed as if they really meant it.
Though I never told anyone, privately I admired the dedication that these somewhat strange people had, but I felt as if they were just a bit to fanatical for me. It wasn't until I was 24 years old that I finally surrendered to God and was filled with his Holy Spirit.
In my deepest imaginations I never thought anything even remotely like this experience could exist. No one had to tell me how I was supposed to feel on Jan. 30, 1974. Though I never thought I would ever act like this, [unless I was drunk], I danced, I cried with tears of joy, and I spoke in uncontrollable tongues.
As I stated earlier, I had first felt the presence of God in repentance at age eleven, but this new experience by far eclipsed the former one. There was just no comparison. It was like night and day. I do not have the words to describe what I felt that night. Until that time there was always a emptiness deep within me. All of this completely vanished that night. If they will admit it I believe all people feel this until they are filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ
I am saddened when I hear of so many sincere people who just as I, experience true repentance and think this is the fullness of salvation. They don't realize that something far greater awaits them.
BAD U.P.C. MEMBERS
During the past 24 years in the UPC all of my experiences have not been good ones. There have been a few really bad ones. Please allow me to tell you about a couple of them.
Tongues or fruits?
As a new Christian I recall hearing two people in my church give messages in tongues and interpretation. I was absolutely astounded at this manifestation of God's Spirit. Both of these individuals had been in church far longer than I. One I would consider to be an elder.
But the bad part about this was one drank and cussed, and the other had one of the worst attitudes whenever the pastor wasn't around. I just couldn't understand this. It really puzzled me and as a young Christian hindered my walk with God. I didn't say anything to anyone about this. I just prayed and after sometime, God showed me a couple of things that I have never forgotten.
First of all he told me that these were his children and that it was his prerogative to deal with them. Secondly he told me that the Fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of a Spirit filled life once you had received the Holy Ghost, not the gifts of the Spirit. Jesus said that many would come before him on that day saying, " Lord, Lord, have we not cast out devils in thy name and done many wonderful works," and he will say unto them, "Depart from me ye workers of iniquity, I never knew you." Mat. 7:22.
I might add that I believe whenever a person receives the baptism of the Holy Ghost, they will speak in another tongue, and when they are renewed in the Spirit they will speak in tongues all over again. I believe a person can allow tongues to become ritualistic and mechanical, and that they can speak in tongues and still be lost.
I remember a man who was a minister. I recall he was over a department in a UPC church that I attended many years ago. I worked under him for some time in this same department. He was possibly one of the most difficult people that I had ever dealt with.
There was a serious problem with a piece of equipment. Injuries and death could have possibility occurred as a result of it's condition. I told this man of the problem no less than three times, and addressed it in a written report to him several times. Well, when the pastor finally found out about it, he chewed this man out for not addressing the problem.
So what does he do? He waited until we were in a meeting with several church leaders and humiliated me. He not only said that I had not told him about the problem, and he accused me of being negligent and irresponsible.
It took all I could do not to quit the ministry that I was involved in. I was terribly hurt. I didn't know what to do. So I prayed about it and waited on the Lord. Seems like about 2 weeks later, this man suddenly moved to another church. I kept a good spirit about it and God took care of everything.
I remember another man that was just a plain old fashioned user. He angered me so much concerning a new convert I was teaching a Home Bible Study to that it made me sick.
The new man was an electrician and air conditioner serviceman. When I showed up at his home for the Bible study one evening, his wife and kids were waiting for him to come home from work. As we sat and chatted, the wife humbly told me that during the past week this older church member had her husband at his house repairing just about everything that was broken, and for free. To worsen the situation this older church man tells the new man that God had probably put him into the church so that he could work on everyone's appliances.
This was a very delicate situation for me. I almost had to lie. I was totally embarrassed about the older church member's behavior to say the least. I said to the new man that sometimes people don't realize that they are imposing. I went on to say that most church people are very considerate. I should have never had to deal with something like this. This so called Pentecostal knew better, but he took this opportunity to take advantage of a new child of God. Oh yes, he says he is a minister.
SALVATION, BY WORKS?
There is neither the time nor the space to go into detail concerning my view on the UPC's position regarding holiness standards. I know we are sometimes branded as LEGALISTS, but this is a charge that has absolutely no merit whatsoever. We do not have standards merely to be different, or to try and make others appear less than holy. We attempt to live by standards in an effort to please God. I would like to briefly comment on this subject.
Please allow me to say that I do not believe that you can earn your way to heaven, but I fully believe in the United Pentecostal Church's position concerning holiness standards. I believe the Bible teaches that a lady should not cut her hair and a man should not grow his hair long. Let me add, if you go to a UPC church and never cut your hair this doesn't mean that you are saved. I have seen modest looking ladies with hair almost to the ground that were far less than good Christian examples. Certainly from the beginning of time God has always wanted a distinction between the appearances of a men and women.
We believe in holiness, but we also teach that you can become a Pharisee. Looking like a Christian is totally neutralized if you do not act like one. As I said before, you cannot earn your way to heaven. All of our righteousness is as filthy rags before the Lord, but he does expect some things of us.
I hope I am clear on this point. James said faith without works is dead. Believing in God is not enough, works are required. Certainly everyone in the UPC is not what they should be all of the time, but let me say that I believe we all certainly fall short of giving God our very best all of the time.
NOT ALWAYS KIND
Unfortunately people tend to remember the negative things more often than the good ones concerning church folks. I have seen some UPC members that were not kind to people from other churches. Please let me confess that there was a season that I wasn't kind to people from other persuasions, but God convicted me of that many years ago. I was totally wrong.
I have learned to love others that do not necessarily agree with me. I believe Paul urges us to keep the unity of the Spirit, until we reach the unity of the faith. Should people come to my door, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, I treat them with kindness and total respect. Even though I may not agree with them, they are also creations of God just as I am. I can have either a positive, or negative effect upon everyone that I meet in this life.
If you attack someone's belief you will raise a barrier that in many cases cannot be removed. God may spend years bringing a person to a certain point of spiritual understanding, and a nasty, judgmental attitude can in a moment, completely nullify everything God has accomplished.
I love to discuss the Bible and believe I can learn something from everyone. I believe that if a man cannot sit down with someone from another persuasion and discuss their differences without getting a bad spirit, he needs to examine his walk with God. This includes me and every professing Christian.
NOT A CULT
If you read this article, I want you to understand that we do not feel that we are perfect, but we are not a cult. We are for the majority a happy people. We love the unsaved and any of our brethren that should stumble. We as a whole do not look down on other people or other churches, but we cannot help the few that do this. Should someone walk away from us, we always leave an open door of friendship for them.
I love the UPC. I believe we are in the truth, but I do not believe that we are the only ones with the truth. Let me also say that I am not so naive as to believe that everyone that professes to be a Christian is in the truth.
I believe with all of my heart and soul that Acts 2:38 is the basic plan of salvation. Once a person has truly repented of their sins, has been baptized in Jesus' name, then they shall receive the Holy Ghost, evidenced by speaking in another language that they have never learned. You can be anywhere for this to happen to you. A person need not be in church. This gift is promised to everyone, Acts 2:39.
Once you have experienced Acts 2:38 then you are required to continue growing in the Lord. This includes things such as paying your tithes, attending church, obeying your pastor, and finding out what personal ministry God wants you to be in. Everyone is expected to have a personal ministry.
After someone has experienced Acts 2:38 in it's entirety, they are required to find a congregation and stay there until God moves them. You cannot expect to please God if you church hop or don't develop your personal ministry. One cannot be a bench warmer and call themselves a Christian.
Let me say, I feel so blessed to be in a UPC church. I love the people. I have so many friends there that I would trust with my life, especially my pastor. I feel fortunate that God has lead me into a deeper understanding of his word and his nature. I do not feel that I am any better than anyone. If anything, I believe I will be held more accountable for the knowledge that has been given me. Jesus said ," To him that is given much, much is required."
Many times much of our beliefs are misquoted and sometimes misunderstood. We believe in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. We believe in one God, and we believe Jesus was God in the flesh. We don't believe that he was God the Son. God cannot die, but he who died was God. When the Bible speaks of the Son, it is speaking of the flesh of God, God's body, the Lamb.
Jesus was fully man and fully God Almighty. He spoke as man many times, and as God when he said "Thy sins be forgiven thee."
We believe the Holy Ghost is for everyone. We teach that water baptism in Jesus name is necessary just as repentance and receiving the Spirit of the Lord.
BOUND FOR HELL?
Many times I have heard the question , " Am I bound for hell if I haven't spoken in tongues or been baptized in Jesus' name?" Let me answer I personally believe that God will judge everyone by the knowledge that they have been given. When a man is presented with truth and he rejects it, from that point on he begins to walk away from God no matter who he is.
My understanding is that God will judge every man fairly. That is his job and no one else's. You cannot put someone into heaven merely because you feel that they were a good person any more than anyone can sentence someone to hell merely because they feel that they are wicked.
Once again, this is God's place. Romans the second chapter tells us that the Gentiles that have not the Law are a Law unto themselves. I believe God will judge a man according to the knowledge that has been shown to him. To him that is given much, much is required. This includes knowledge.
There are millions that have died never knowing about the one true God, much less the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me ask a you question. Are all of those people automatically lost and sentenced to Hell?
I have two children ages 21 and 27. I raised both of them in the United Pentecostal Church and they are happy adults. My daughter received the Holy Ghost at age 5 and my son at age 7. As young children they were exposed to very little television. I never taught them that Santa Claus was real. We always had a Christmas tree and presents, and I tried to fill their lives with happiness. My pastor always taught me that if you take anything away from a child, you should always replace it with something. I tried to have a home of holiness, but not a prison full of rules. I always made it a point to explain why we did or didn't do certain things. Also If I made a mistake I asked for their forgiveness with no excuses.
I always taught them that we were in the truth, but that we did not have a monopoly on it, God is not UPC. I taught them to never be judgmental of others, but not to do things that would take them away from the Lord. I taught them never to pass judgment, but I wanted them to always use judgment. I tried to make them think for themselves and to function independently.
In Phil. 2:12, Paul admonishes us to work out our OWN salvation with fear and trembling. On judgment day there will be no lawyer or preacher to speak up for us. We will stand on our own merits. God revealed a deeper truth to me. For me it would have been a sin to walk away from it. You and I will answer to God one day for the things that we do or do not do.
Paul admonishes us to cast aside every weight. He also says that even though all things may be lawful for him, all things were not good for him. To the human mind the word of God may seem unreasonable, but all of it's teaching is for our own good.
The spirit of man is rebellious by nature and can not comprehend the things of God. Originally God made man in his image, but since then man has attempted to make God into his own image. He has rewritten the Bible many times in many ways to just to fit his views. He has changed the word of God, rather than allowing it to change him. This is why there are so many different kinds of churches. So many are seeking a religion that just suits them. An easy way, no responsibility, nothing demanding.
Once again let me say that you certainly can not earn your way to heaven, but we are all required to obey the Bible in it's entirety. The Gospels lay the foundation for the church, [ not a denomination]. The book of Acts is the beginning of the church, it tells you how to be saved. The Old Testament law ended at Calvary. This is why the thief on the cross did not need Acts 2:38, John 7:47 says "The Holy Ghost was not yet given." We presently live under a different time era that requires a different plan of salvation, initially obeying Acts 2:38.
If you will study the book of Acts you will see several cases where people lived before and after the Law ended. After Calvary in each incident they needed not only repentance, but water baptism in Jesus name, and the in filling of the Holy Ghost.
Acts 2, the Jews. Acts 8, the Samaritans. Acts 10, the Gentiles. Acts 19, the followers of John the Baptist. All of the people were required to obey Acts 2:38.
I will say without any fear of contradiction whatsoever, there are a few UPC people that I am ashamed to be associated with. They are a total embarrassment to me. Please don't judge all of us because of a few bad examples.
It was love that won me to God through the UPC. The members never measured me even though I was a really sinful person on the inside and out. The people even looked over my bad attitude. They loved me right into the kingdom of the Lord.
In closing, and in the fear of God Almighty let me say that this experience that I have written about totally changed my life and the lives of my family. I would appreciate any comment either (negative or positive) that you may have concerning this paper.
May our Lord Jesus Christ protect and draw each and everyone closer to him, in Jesus name.
I am a layman. These comments are mine and mine alone. I am not a pastor nor clergyman. Neither am I an official spokesman for the United Pentecostal Church.
Posted March 26, 1998 & email updated July 29, 2016
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