If you are totally frazzled, worn-out and perhaps angry toward half the church, it is easy to only see the negative side of the situation. This often leads to bitterness forming in the heart and future unhappiness. It’s easy and natural for the flesh to feel this way.
However, for the sake of our marriage, children and relationship with our Lord Jesus, we need to exercise the free choice Father has given us, and choose how we view the past or the present. I’m not speaking about deceiving ourselves for the sake of our emotional health. All events, no matter how painful they were, can be viewed from a hundred different angles. If our pain is intense, our flesh may choose to view people and past events from a most negative angle. I want to encourage you to explore other viewpoints, and look for the positive.
Please, let me use my example by way of stark contrast. I could sum up my 30 year experience in Christianity in a single word - rejection. That’s very negative, but some days it seems the most accurate word to use! For 20 years I pastored in a church that blended old and new covenants. We preached Jesus, but we also kept the annual holy days or Jewish feast days. Many parts of the body of Christ labeled us “cultish”. Some of our teachings were definitely wrong. I never felt accepted by pastors of other denominations, and in fact was outright rejected by many of them. We were not invited to be a part of any community church activities, and books attacking us were very common.
In 1995, the denomination world wide made major doctrinal changes, and came in line with main stream teaching within the body. The move was unprecedented in church history. Pastors at the local ministerial associations warmed up in many cases, and the future looked more positive. I preached the new covenant with such zeal however, I became a problem to my own denomination. You can change the doctrinal statement on a piece of paper, but to change the heart of a person is another story. Cultish thinking and management methods continued in denominational leadership, and I became a big enough problem I was terminated. The regional pastor listened to the complaints of those in one of my congregations, but never came over to my house and sat down with Kathy and I and explained the complaints, or asked to hear our side. The National Director talked on the phone to many of our members, but when I called to talk with him, he refused to speak over the phone. The feelings of isolation grew. Support from denominational leaders was zero. In the next few weeks I left for a missionary journey to Nepal, and Kathy attended a major province wide denominational conference in Toronto. At one of the services, the regional pastor announced the names of all the pastors in the province of Ontario. My name was missing, even though Kathy was sitting on the front row staring right at the regional pastor. Kathy knew for certain at that point we would be terminated.
Upon returning from Nepal, I was called into a hotel room in Toronto by the National Director, and in twenty minutes my twenty year career in that denomination ended.
From there many doors opened in local pastoring in our home town, and I was heavily involved in several ministerial associations. I was always excited about the talk and the plans in the ministerial association, and I often took the lead in organizing city prayer walking, prayer gatherings and other projects - only to be disappointed when the pastors who gave great lip service to the ideas they helped formulate - never showed up. I soon began to realize mainline Christianity in Canada was practiced in a manner different than I imagined. In reality, Christianity is more a Sunday thing, and let’s talk moose hunting the rest of the week. Here I was coming out of a cultish past with the same driving zeal that makes cults work well, and expecting Christians to have even more zeal!
At this same time I was helping organize three different March for Jesus events in different cities. So many told me emphatically they were not going to march, and I was crazy to even ask people to do such a thing. I was bewildered. Jesus did the first MFJ into Jerusalem. Jesus was willing to hang on a cross naked, soaked in his own blood in front of many of his women followers and his mother - so I could have eternal life. Why were these Christians so embarrassed to walk down a street and proclaim they believe in Jesus? I received a lot of static regarding the Marches. Later I would bring these concerns up at some of the ministerial meetings and talk about the Gay Pride Parade in Toronto. The gay and lesbian community of Ontario were certainly more willing to promote their cause than the church marching for Jesus! More rejection.
We gave up and headed to Colorado Springs. The past two years have been interesting, and the level of acceptance as a “former cult leader” is better here than in Canada, but we have still felt rejection from the body. We understand how former Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses feel inside the body, and I can understand why a few give up and head back to their cults for acceptance. It would be easy to cast off cultural Christianity as a religion of rejection and a thousand guilt trips, but I choose to look at Biblical Christianity, and see my experience through positive eyes.
I had the wonderful opportunity to live the old covenant for a time period, and see many things through the eyes of a Jew and the eyes of a legalist. I deeply enjoyed preaching about Jesus during the Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Those years deeply grounded me in the Old Testament, which is something I find lacking in many new covenant Christians. What an amazing experience it is to have lived very zealously under the old covenant, and then have your eyes opened to the incredible new covenant. I look forward to future conversations with Moses, Elijah, Elisha, David, Paul and the prophets and apostles who also experienced somewhat similar journeys.
Although it was an exhausting experience, I had the task of walking two congregations of legalists out of their old covenant background and into faith and grace. The persecution was intense at times, but I am glad I preached Jesus, the unconditional love of Father, and the power of the Holy Spirit boldly. I have no regrets about preaching the truth in love.
Having experienced total burn-out as a pastor, I now have understandings and insights into the deep pain of many who are disillusioned with “church” and religion. By the grace of God I now can minister to those the church often considers “dirty laundry.” The thirty year experience has been very rich and life changing, and I hope through Smoldering Wick Ministries Kathy and I are able to help many burn-out victims through their desert experience, so they too can have a closer walk with the Lord, and not be victims any longer. Jesus calls us to be more than conquerors through His grace and truth as He lives His life in each of us.
So I urge you to repent of any bitterness that may have taken root, and have a look at your circumstances from a more positive viewpoint. God may be preparing you from something very special. Each of you have life experiences many can learn from. Don’t believe all the negative feedback that may have been tossed your way. You are a son of God, and He loves you so dearly He has big plans for you!