As I write this late at night (actually it’s the next morning) I have a new reality that I must face….yet again. I’m a man of God without a church of my own to call home. Today is Sunday and later in the morning I will be going to a new church. Maybe this church will be the one (emphasis added), perhaps not. I’ve grown weary of the struggle in times past to find like minded individuals such as my wife and I in which to participate in the Body of Christ with, but no longer. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve come to the realization that wherever I am as long as I am in the will of God I am not alone. The journey has indeed been lonely and at times very disappointing.
What do I mean by disappointing?
I’m referring in specific to the religious climate of this nation of USA. When I was a boy my parents after finding their own circuitous way found a church that they could call home. When they found it they invested themselves wholeheartedly into it. My father broke his back and spent countless hours in the construction and maintenance of it and my mother did likewise even serving as an English teacher in the small Christian school that the church ran. My father taught Sunday school and served as a deacon and we were one of the families that got the stuff that needed done….done. To me though it was just church. I didn’t understand the value of what I was witnessing as the result of the freewill offering of a few good believers in Christ.
We were always at church it seemed. It was like a second home to me and my sisters. Our lives revolved around what was taking place at church/school. Then one day it all changed.
I think I was ten when it happened. The it that happened was the day my father stood up, to my horror, in the midst of a sermon that seemed to be stretching out to long and to full of confused ramblings for my young mind to even want to begin to comprehend, and denounced the pastor whose family founded the church as a heretic. I think I’d been doodling on a piece of paper with a pen garnered from my mother’s purse in order to occupy myself and take my thoughts off how hard the wood chair beneath me was. Now at full attention of consciousness I watched as my father yelled and spoke angrily at the pastor in front of the whole congregation. Oh God! What was he doing? And stranger still why was everyone in the audience nodding their heads in agreement with everything my father said? What had happened? In short a man once yoked tight with God went astray and got caught up in a web of dark choice inspired confusion that destroyed his ministry. His mistake and no doubt of others as well fractured a church and undid much that was good.
Church was never the same. Through my early teen years I watched that church I’d grown up in wither and die much as the olive tree that Jesus cursed for its lack of good fruit. The congregation gone after a a second pastor who didn’t inspire and by that time a church school long defunct of students I watched my father the last member of a church that had once even had its own Bible college close the musty doors for good. Long gone were the inspiring Bible rooted sermons and fiery Sunday night praise and worship sessions that had gone on for hours and hours with no one noticing the passage of time. Sunday night football couldn’t compare with the allure there was to be felt to be in the presence of the Holy Spirit in worshipful praise of God.
I miss those early days of my first experiences with God. I to this day have never seen again the kind of worshipful abandon in praise and willing self-sacrifice that I did as a boy of 8 or so.
My mother dead from complications of cancer and my father now remarried to the only other surviving member of the church, I found myself trapped in a spiritual wilderness unlike I had ever known could exist. I was alone it seemed. I was sixteen. My best friend in life was dead. My sisters both moved far away and the growing reality that I was a stranger within my own father’s household as each day brought the realization that my mother was never coming back. Life was never going to be the same again. Seemingly all the joy drained out of life as all my foundations of security in home and church were all shot away and God, in my mind, seemed to be the cause of it all. Hadn’t He closed the church? Hadn’t He chosen not to heal my mother when He could have? In short I was at odds with my faith in God. I believed in Him, but I didn’t think that He had my best interests at heart and so I did my best to hold together the pieces of a family that really has never been mended to this day.
After some church hopping my father settled down in another church. This time it was a denominational church unlike the non-denomination church of my upbringing. Things weren’t the same or as on fire as I had seen before, but there was some fire at least. Church became comfortable and I excelled myself into trying to fit in and make my impact on this new setting. Time went on and I found myself standing in the back of the church as an usher thinking to myself that there had to be more than this habitual ritual that took place every Sunday like clockwork with little change to it and little in terms of spiritual progression taking place. I’d seen it before. Dry-rot. Dry-rot happens to a wooden beam over a long length of time, but at its completion of decay the wood is good for nothing but to be thrown into the fire. A destiny I feel is all too real for too many so called Christian churches in America.
As hard as I’d tried to fit into the church it never happened. In particular, to my importance at the time, the girl’s that were my age never so much as paid a moment’s attention to me. What was wrong with me? My mother would have said nothing, because in memory of her I continued to do and be the man that I knew she would have wanted me to be. So the problem had to be elsewhere.
In desperation I did something radical, at least to me. I joined the eharmony dating service and began looking for a mate. By nature I’m an introvert that over time has learned to talk and carry on conversation and fake like I’m in with the rest of the talking horde. It was a big departure from the norm for me, but it demarked for me a big step in the restoration of my walk with God that had gotten severally injured years earlier when my mother died. The day I joined eharmony was roughly six months to the day that I had given up for good my addiction to porn by way of reading erotica and romance novels. I’d made a pack with God that got hammered out on my knees in countless prayers for forgiveness from sins that the world or my family for that matter never saw or knew of and wouldn’t have guessed of the quiet young man who seemed to be always above reproach. The war with my addiction was a daily struggle, but I knew where the road of addiction would lead me and I chose to do it God’s way, but the thing was I came to realize I couldn’t do it alone. On my own despite however noble my attempts to be good sooner or later I always failed. I began to let go and learn to once again trust that God had my best interests at heart and when I did that the impossible began to happen in my life again.
I absolved myself from all thinking of sexual things and in short I made myself into a eunuch for God. Then God surprised me and opened a door and basically pushed me through it. It was a God thing and it was exciting because I felt myself spiritually on the move so to speak completely apart from my fragmented family and current stagnant church atmosphere. Then one day I encountered this match on eharmony who had the right answer for everything. The thing was all I had was her words to go by, because she didn’t have a profile picture. I had to trust God again. It was scary, but more and more I learned that God was worthy of my trust. Mary came to me. She traveled across half the country for our first date and eleven months later we were married. A month later we were pregnant, but that’s another story.
My mother was the greatest gift that God gave to me as a child, but my wife is the greatest gift other than my salvation through Jesus that I have been given as a man. She was so far ahead of me it seemed spiritually that in some ways it seemed we were unequally yoked in that she deserved someone far better than I. Thankfully she’s never seen it that way. I will say this though, she’s sneaky. She saw the problems with the church I attended with my father and instead of saying anything to me about it she began to pray that I would receive spiritual insight to basically make the big decisions. Before long as I found myself increasingly enamored with rediscovering the Bible because of her I began to become very angry with what was going on at church or at what wasn’t going on at church. Every Sunday I’d carry on one long monologue all the way home about what I didn’t like till one Sunday I said, “I’m not going back! I want more!” Her softly spoken but somewhat smug reply, “I’ve been praying that God would show you that.” I left my father’s headship at that point and began my own journey to find a home church.
We joined a big church and instantly it seemed like home because we were embraced with open arms by a loving couple in the church. Years went by and once again I dawned the usher coat in my eagerness to serve and Mary got heavily involved in the women’s ministry. She started out as the secretary and then she became the president of the highly influential women’s group. Then for lack of a better way of putting it all hell broke loose. Neither of us were prepared for the infighting and underhanded politics that can go on inside a church when money or prestige is involved. My wife was attacked emotionally and verbally from all sides and the signs of dry rot that we’d been blind to at first were now everywhere and we both grew bitter at the knowledge of what a mockery the supposed outward manifestation of so many Christians can be like. No wonder so many people are turned away from accepting Christ as their Savior when so many Christians are the worst of hypocrites and far from adhering to the truth’s written in their Bibles. Yet again the problems, though many in number and varied origins, could all be traced back to the pastor’s lack of control over his own life. His lack of control spiraled his headship over his flock into an unscriptural foundation of conduct that’s bad fruit hurt and poisoned many.
My wife resigned her position and we left. We wanted nothing to do with the running of a church anymore. All we wanted to do in allegiance to God was to grace a pew and participate in praise and worship. We were scarred and God knew it and strangely we were allowed to do for a season exactly what we wanted, which was nothing. We joined a mega church. It was radically different than anything either of us had known. Praise and worship was a choreographed laser light show done before a crowd of several thousand people in an amphitheater like auditorium that was like taking eight cinemas and making one big one out of them. Talk about comfort! We had it all. The children Sunday school class facilities were beyond compare, endless small group studies and get togethers, a pastor who possessed perhaps the most humble spirit that I’ve ever encountered in an individual, and an endless supply of coffee and feel good messages.
It was great to start out with coming from the other church with war wounds and to some degree we healed and made peace, but at the same time we became instantly dissatisfied with our mega church as our thirst for spiritual progression was once again prompted by the Holy Spirit into overdrive. Every Sunday without fail the laser light and full band ensemble was perfect, but in a crowd of over 1,000 people that had three services a weekend you might see one in a hundred with hands lifted high in worship with no guarantee that it was genuine worship. And without fail just when the Holy Spirit was beginning to move the music was over and according to timing constraints the info dude would be out on stage to crack some lame jokes and talk about church bulletins being displayed on two megatron screens. This mega church didn’t even have an altar. They never had prayer requests. Everything to a T was choreographed and all you had to do was sit back in you comfy theater seat and enjoy an abbreviated sermon while you sipped at your cappuccino. It was always simplistic stuff to. Sin and man’s fall and the ramifications of hell were never talked about. Perhaps that’s why in a church that didn’t endorse homosexuaily there were same sex couples who openly kissed in front of everyone. As the saying goes, “Hear no evil, see no evil.” That church with its watered down message, sugary creature comforts, and lack of accountability was more the prep station for hell then it was a part of the enabling process of getting people saved and going to heaven! Needless to say we left.
Next we moved into an underground church that literally was in a basement under a doctor’s office. It was great and to some degree we felt confident that we’d found our home church at long last. It was good for a year and then things began to slide. The pastor became obsessed with finances where before he trusted in God to provide what was needed and the messages on Sunday morning descended into the preformatted material that’s put out there for mass download by pastors who don’t rely on the Holy Spirit for what they need to be preaching and sharing with the flock. It became increasingly apparent that these good people (the pastor and his wife) had issues that should have been apparent to them and seemingly would have been if they had been ministering in the Holy Spirit and not of themselves. So we left.
A pastor is the head of his flock and the way he goes so does the church he’s in headship over, but it’s not as simple as that. There are thieves of darkness planted within the hallow halls of churches whose specific purpose is to bring down the more righteous members of the congregation by any means possible. It’s no secret that witches and warlocks make up the memberships of churches for that specific purpose alone. Satan hates authentic worship of God so he infiltrates and subplants true worship with false worship that is dedicated to satan instead of God. In the basement church almost every praise and worship time towards the end I had to look past an extremely pious acting man on the front row throwing up his arms in vibrant worship. In actuality he was throwing up cultic Masonic hand signals. He was cursing the congregation the entire time of praise and worship time. Pastor stood right across the aisle from this man and yet no one seemed to be aware of what was going on. Most people just sang the words on the screen wanting to get that good feeling vibe instead of actually examining themselves in order to give something of worth to their Maker, while a few of us spent the time in intercessory prayer trying to block the darkness pervading the atmosphere of the service intent on warping it from being meaningful and the people from being equipped to throw down enemy strongholds and take the victory that’s there for all of us if we only except the Holy Spirit’s invitation to go deeper and expand our faith.
This constant falling away and drift from the Word of God has been my adult experience with church. Perhaps my experience with church in America is the exception, but I don’t think so. We’re told that in the End Times that there will be both a great falling away and that many are deceived. I see the evidence of this everywhere. How many of us are truly ready for our Savior’s return? How many of us are taking the talents given to us and actually investing them in the Kingdom? So much of the church it seems has become altogether unprofitable in this country. God Himself said that He would rather us be hot or cold instead of this lukewarm epidemic of phony religiosity without depth or spiritual backing of the Word of God. God said he would spew out all that is lukewarm and the parable of the ten virgins perhaps makes more real than any other passage of scripture that there are going to be many who call themselves saved who are going to miss the boat. “….and there will be gnashing of teeth…..”
Last Sunday I took my family to a little humble roadside chapel that’s been there a hundred years or so. The kind of little church that has more of the lawn surrounding the church taken up by the grave stones of those fallen asleep then it does parking spaces, but then again it doesn’t need much parking as there aren’t many that go to church there anymore. I was hoping to see a glimpse of that time as a boy when church was open Bibles and abandoned pursuit of God in all things. That was my hope, but in reality I stumbled into a nest of vipers feeding on the clueless. I’ve never been in a service of such empty quality. Everything was time worn ritual and while my family was greeted warmly all I could see was the chunky gold rings of varying Masonic/Illuminati cultic orders bedecking the hands of about half of the men in the church. During the message the pastor actually used as a teaching example of how a friend pastor of his had stopped performing marriages, because they were only going to end in divorce. The friend pastor however did still perform funerals because in his words, “once there in the grave they stay there for good”. The experience of our enemy ops mission was capped off when one woman in the worship choir proclaimed loudly with pride about how well their Woodman of the World (a subdivision of the Masonic order) picnic had gone the previous weekend. I haven’t been naming names so far, but I’m going to now. This church was a Methodist church. The same church denomination that the Great Awakening of bygone years largely came out of in America. On the drive home my wife pointed out perhaps the capstone on the grave of this once on fire for God denomination. The church bulletin on the back pointed out in bold letters that the woman’s groups for the Methodist churches of the area would be meeting for their annual business meeting at a local Catholic church!!!!!!!!!
It’s been a gradual awareness for both my wife and I that we are sojourners in a land that is not our own. On every side is wickedness in high places and truly the god of this world is satan. Make no mistake about it we are fast approaching the end of the age that has been foretold to us by countless Bible prophecies. The falling away in this nation has already happened and is claiming new victims daily. The flock has been set upon by wolves. Where are the shepherds? Why is there so much division in the Body of Christ? Why do so many Christians lack even the basic understanding of what it takes to be saved and live a sacrificial life founded on God’s principles in a culture where everyone else is doing the proverbial it, so why shouldn’t I? Where are the true worshiper’s of Christ? Why does it increasingly seem to me that there will be more rocks of the earth crying out with joy at Jesus’s return then there will be people? Jesus is coming. He’s coming quickly and when He does you have got to be ready for it. Don’t let your lamp oil run out. Don’t be cast into the fire of the Tribulation to come!
I don’t know if the new church tomorrow will be better or worse than any of the others have been, but I’m not going to stress about it anymore as my faith is secured by God and church doesn’t define my identity anymore, but rather I define the identity of any place that I visit with my choice of will not to submit to the ways of this world whether at church, work, or at home.
In expectation of the glorious day to come, when my Savior appears in the Eastern sky to call me home to the place that He has prepared for me.
Keep the Faith,
Guy Stanton III