One of the complaints we often hear when asking about church affiliation is, “The church is full of hypocrites.”
“Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1 NLT)
Since many have asked about our move from Alabama to Missouri, I thought it was about time to bring you up to date.
Well, a few have asked.
Okay. Two have asked. Two people have asked what possessed us to leave paradise to come here. It has now been a year since our move, and I am now able to try to answer that question.
The verse given above applies to Abraham when God was separating him for the work He had called him to. I do not—even with the amount of arrogance I sometimes seem to have—claim this verse as an application for me in this situation. It was just a good verse to open with.
We were living in a little fishing village known as Bon Secour in south Alabama just outside of Foley and Gulf Shores. It was most certainly a little piece of Paradise.
A large piece of property co-occupied by Gracie’s son, Joe, and his family, provided an ideal setup for us to enjoy our remaining days. We poured ourselves into that place, building and remodeling and creating a comfortable scene.
Gracie and I moved down there first, and Joe and Lisa and the girls joined us a few months later. As I was giving them the grand tour of my old stomping grounds in Pensacola, we went to the Naval Air Station.
I took them to the lighthouse, which they thoroughly enjoyed. While I was waiting at the car for them to soak it all in, I began to cry as a very warm and familiar feeling swept over me.
“I’m home now,” I remember saying. It was a deeply satisfying emotional experience.
I had left Pensacola in 1965, had returned for only a brief time in 1969, and had left again only to return for short Christmas visits.
The question has been legitimately proposed by a couple of friends, “What happened to I’m home now?”
While the details causing the move may be boring, they serve to clarify the “Why.”
The house we occupied was not ours. It was a duplex owned by Joe and Lisa. Joe began talking seriously about a dream he had carried for years to once again live in the Springfield, Missouri area. His skills are such that moving there without a job was actually not that risky, even with a young family.
Gracie did not want to be in the position of having to scurry to move if the house sold quickly, so she began looking at any available property in southern Missouri.
We found and bought this little 2 ½ acres in Stockton, MO. Stockton is a small town of about 1800 people on one of the major sailing lakes in the country. It cannot be commercialized since the Army Corps of Engineers maintains the area.
We began looking for a church to join. After visiting a few, I saw a sign off the main road one day, pulled over and called the number on the sign. I told the pastor we would visit the next morning.
It was a very small group of about 10 souls that morning. Nothing really exciting.
The pastor began by telling us of a proposed mission trip to Tanzania scheduled for September. He jokingly said, “If I am going to make this trip, I will need to quit eating Sister Glee’s cinnamon rolls.” (They were really tasty home-made, fresh-that-morning rolls.)
I had been working out trying to get my health under control for almost a year, and was loving the results. I was pursuing getting my training as a personal trainer so that I could do this for others.
After the service, I went to the pastor and asked, “Are you serious about wanting to get in shape?”
“I sure am.”
“Five-thirty in the morning serious?” I asked.
He gulped, looked up into the ceiling, and said, “Yeah.”
“I can help you with that,” I said.
We began the very next morning.
Working with Steve eventually led to my being asked to lead crosstraining classes at the YMCA. It barely pays gas money, but it is a blast for me.
Maybe this is why the Lord wanted us to move here. Steve needed help and we are available.
Allow me to back up in time a little.
February 9, 1988 I wrote in the margin of my Bible next to Pro. 10:24b “Pastor a church.”
I have tried a multitude of times since then to be the pastor of a church. I’ve applied, sent out resumes, called, joined churches that were looking—all to no avail.
Somewhere about the first of this year I was able to completely let go of that desire. I laid it down. “Lord, it looks like You are confirming my desire to be a personal trainer.” It felt good, freeing.
In July, I got a call completely out of the blue to consider becoming the pastor of the local Presbyterian church. I had not sent out a resume nor application. Caught me completely off guard.
We are going through the process and necessary steps for that to happen.
Why did we move to southwestern Missouri?
It could be that the Lord needed us here for His work.
It could also be that we are just being used because we run all over the place following our own personal desires.
But, it could also simply be that Gracie needed to feel, “I’m home now.” This is her old stomping grounds, having been born in Springfield and teaching for 30 years in southwest MO.
BTW—Joe and Lisa are still in Bon Secour.
Critics claim that by eliminating a sole figure of authority—the Pope—the Protestant Reformation unleashed interpretive anarchy on Christianity. While this may appear to be true on the surface, the interpretive anarchy prevalent today goes deeper than that.
What has occurred is a cheapening of the necessity of sound doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1) built upon and from a solid biblical basis.
There is indeed, an anarchy of interpretation prevalent in the modern church with each man doing that which is “right in his own eyes.” (Deut. 12:8; Judg. 17:6; 21:25) As a result, one can find just about any interpretation that will suit the particular need of the moment regardless of how far-fetched the interpretation may be. This is causing a chaotic (mis-)understanding of the Scriptures.
Men and women without any training, sometimes without much education at all, can declare themselves a leader in the Body of Christ and will assuredly find and develop a following. About all that seems to be necessary is a modicum of bible knowledge, a persuasive personality, and a few highly gullible persons. With these tools at hand, a new church will be born while the devil dances with glee.
Much of this was born out of the Jesus People Movement of the late ’60s to early ’70s. Recall that at this same time was the ’60s Revolution of society spurred in part by the Viet-Nam War. Flower children, Hippies, Woodstock, the Summer of Love ran concurrently with the Black Panthers, the Students for a Democratic Society, the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, jr and Robert Kennedy, all of which were preceded by the Tet Offensive in Viet-Nam.
The Jesus People Movement fell in line with those elements of society, their peers within the radical movements, and marshaled a quiet revolution within the Church. Somewhat earlier, a movement had begun within the Church which has come to be known as the Charismatic Renewal or Charismatic Movement.
The first iteration was called “Renewal” as it sought to stay within the confines of the established denominations of the time. It became known as “Movement” when many of the churches rejected what God was doing and the people were forced to find their own places of expression in church. Thus were born the Charismatic churches now populating the religious landscape.
Bible schools and colleges sprung up all over the country to try to provide an educational basis for the many young people wanting to enter into ministry.
At the same time, there was a push-back against this sort of learning. The spirit of independence was rearing its ugly head.
Having seen and experienced the dry deadness of much of denominationalism, many of the young people (myself included) rejected the standard way of doing things, knowing that God was quite capable of using us in ways outside the confines of man’s expectations. (Lk. 16:15: 1Cor. 1:26-29)
The music of the time echoed these thoughts. Chuck Girard and Love Song came out with “Little Country Church,” in which the lyrics speak of a “real” Church setting that must have sounded very counter-culture at the time and to the ears of the local Baptist or Methodist minister.
There was to be no “doctrine” but “love.” (Similar to and influenced by The Beatles, “All You Need is Love”, 1967)
We sang the limerick, “You may go to college and you may go to school, but if you ain’t got Jesus, you’re an educated fool.”
Even in the Bible Colleges we learned that “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof-text.” Even so, most of our understanding of today is built upon these so-called proof texts. That is, one verse being used to build an understanding of something.
Listening carefully to the rhetoric of today, you will come to the conclusion that there are only two meaningful verses in the Bible—Matt. 7:1 and 1 Jn. 4:8 (Don’t judge, [because] God is love.)
Step by step, move by move, experience upon experience, we have been led away from sound biblical understanding.
Today the rotten fruit is readily available for the undiscerning to fill their empty minds with the husks provided by those who care not for God’s people, but only care about themselves. (Lk. 15:16; Jude 4, 12, 16)
Amos 8:11 is finding its fulfillment—”The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine on the land–not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the LORD. (NLT)
This is not a new situation, never before experienced in the history of the Church. This same dark time precipitated Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenburg church. While Luther’s intent was not to split the church, but to reform it, his experience was such that the leaders of his day would not tolerate anything that threatened their position. Luther’s conscience, being persuaded by what he read within the pages of the Bible, forced him to part company with the Catholic Church.
For my own part, I have been forced to separate myself from the so-called charismatic movement, which has been dubbed by many as “charismania.” Charismania is indeed a derogatory term, but from where I stand it is not far off the mark.
I find that I am not alone.
Some have quit church altogether, which is a path I have tried but found wanting.
Some have returned to their roots, many of which are within the Catholic tradition. Neither can I go there.
I need the fellowship of God’s people. I cannot live without a life of interaction with my brothers and sisters, even when we do not see eye-to-eye.
However, that interaction must be based on four non-negotiable attributes—
Numbers 1, 3, and 4 leave room for differences. Number 2 does not.
All four of them, however, find their basis in what the Reformers found to be one of the essentials of true Christianity—sola scriptura—the Bible alone is our highest authority.
While it may appear at first glance that I have argued myself into a corner, allow me to say that I have not.
Whenever we allow only one verse of scripture to describe a doctrine we will most assuredly be led astray.
However, when we try to take all the Bible has to say about a particular theme—an exercise known as systematic theology—we may avoid being led off into the morass of interpretive anarchy.
It is possible.
Even without a formal education.
But not without the Holy Spirit. (John 16:13)
And the Word. (John 17:17)
Kingdom of God (pt 8)
Therefore, if the kindness of God has led you to change your mind about the things of God, then