Friday, September 09, 2016

'thus says the lord'

Twenty years ago I was a member in good standing of Easton (Pa.) Assembly of God. That all came crashing down in one Sunday school class.

Laverne Webber, the wife of our church's pastor, was teaching a class on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is a fairly significant doctrine in the Assemblies of God; essentially it holds that there is a special encounter with God made manifest by glossalalia, the ecstatic utterance in unknown tongues.

I had questions. I still do. That's how I work. I ask questions until I understand, not to someone else's satisfaction but to my own. So I asked, and when the answers weren't satisfactory, I pressed. Other members of the class I found wanted to hear the answers too.

Well, Laverne kept leading the class, and I kept attending; and you know, I never did start speaking in tongues, and neither did anyone else in the class.

One week Laverne approached me. She had been praying and God had spoken to her. About me. The way he does.

"David," she said, "I really feel the Lord is saying you need to stop questioning, and just have faith."

I nodded agreeably, but inside I was thinking "Well, four more weeks, and then this session of children's church is done. I'll wrap up my commitment, and then I'll go."

I had helped to lead the children's ministry at church for two years. I had helped to write the curriculum because what we had been given was so stupid. They lost that commitment and support. I was headed toward a breakup with this church for a number of reasons, but two things hastened that split.

One, don't ever tell me to stop thinking and just "have faith."

Two, don't ever tell me what God wants me to do unless you're prepared to show me proof that he has authorized you to speak on his behalf. That is abusive and manipulative at its worst; and when it's at its best and just misguided, it still is the key to messing up impressionable minds.

If you are actually going to claim to speak for God -- even if you try to couch it terms of "I think God wants you to do thus-and-such" -- then you don't have the maturity to be in any sort of leadership.

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