sent in by John E. Denison
I have spent a life time looking for the answer to mankinds most profound questions. I first had experience with church as a child. I would go by myself to evening protestant services at the Army Post Chapel in Bamberg Germany.
A very bizarre thing happened one night when a man I never saw before wouldn't let me and my friend in because we weren't with our parents. That ended 3 years of my faithfull attendance.
We moved to Ft. Ord Ca.(Monterey Bay area) when I was 13 that is where I grew up. I had already begun my search for answers to mankinds burning questions of why are we here, how did we get here, and how are we supposed to conduct ourselves etc? During my adolesence I pretty much professed atheism. This was the 60's. I drifted towards left wing beliefs I joined several well known radical groups thinking they had the answers, I was wrong.
I joined several different eastern religious groups and some new age groups couldn't find it there.
In 1984 I was 36 years old and pretty miserable, I couldn't face the day without being high and had no idea how to be a decent husband and parent. Then I got arrested and sentenced to 6 years probation. During that time I was so despondent about how my life had turned out I began to call out to God even though I wasn't sure anybody was listening. In my despair I think either the placebo effect kicked in or somebody heard me.
I began to make some dramatic changes in my behavior. Several months later I asked my wife if she wanted to go to church, she was suprised but agreed.
Only later did we discover that the church we first went too treated most new comers the way they treated us. Our family was in turmoil we were looking for that church that accepted people as they were, this one didn't like newcomers.
I did develop a relationship of sorts with the Pastor but soon realized that he had a "big fish in a little pond complex". I would ask him questions like didn't Jesus want us to minister to the lost especially the poor and down trodden. He would agree but told me the people in the church weren't ready for that.
Finally there was a church split, I had been encouraging him to start a church where every body was welcome and we didn't forget the poor. He would call me his prophet during this time it was traumatic for every one concerned.
Finally he decided he was going to hook up with the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Churches. Not my idea but I went along, he told every body how God had spoken to him directly. That was strange to me because I had spent alot of time advising and listening to him.
The church he started was very upper middle class and oriented to manifestations of the holy spirit, tongues and prophesy especially. I steadily made people angry because I would say things like if you have the holy spirit why aren't you concerned with the things Jesus was concerned with? Or the gifts of the spirit are supposed to lead to the fruits of the spirit what happened?
A church popped up near me called Victory Outreach. The mission of this church was to reach the poor and down trodden and dope addicts and gangsters because Jesus will set you free. First I was a liason from the Vineyard but then one of the leaders of Victory on the state wide level asked did I really expect the Vineyard to really get behind me and what God was calling me to do. I left the Vineyard and went to Victory.
Not good Victory turned out to be very close to a cult. The cause came before your family or anything else, the nice friendly Pastor Roy in Dallas turned into a fire breathing monster. I worked 40 or 50 hours at my job and another 30 or 40 in the ministry, my wife had to learn how to be a christian wife, so she cleaned the pastors house and was in classes everyday. My children were left alone.
The only reason I stayed there for 3 years was because I really did feel good about ministering to some of the people who came looking for a change in their life.
Finally I resigned, my wife was miserable my children were a mess. I immediately was treated like a guy leaving a gang, they even made subtle physical threats.
Then we decided to go to the Assemblys of God.
Every body told us they loved us, but nobody would visit us because we lived in a low income neighborhood.
I got involved in the churches out reach to the poor.
In 1995 I had quadruple-by-pass. The Doctor told me to find something else to do besides running my little masonry business. So I talked to the Pastor and went to Bible School and Community College for substance abuse counseling certificate.
The church had two houses where homeless people lived and I got the job of riding heard on these gentlemen. I had to work 70 hours a week minimum and was told I would be payed according to what I generated from working with these fellows in jobs that generated an income. I was back to being a working foreman with even more frustrations.
I would tell my guys that Jesus could change them and they could become whatever they wanted but the other leaders in the church kept telling them to stay in their place.
The guys that had a desire to change lost the initiative.
All this time they were looking for a pastor to head up this ministry, the senior pastor said he didn't see me manifesting the gifts of the spirit like speaking real loud in tongues etc.
So I couldn't be more than a glorified babysitter with the title of Discipleship Director. The straw that broke the camels baxk was two fold. One was that I got busy and made the ministry profitable I worked hard used my contacts and encouraged the guys with incentives like store bought food instead of donations. The board decided they better cap my income at $350.00 a week. I was married had six kids at home working 70 plus hours a week no benefits and could only make 350 a week. I really felt loved.
They finally brought in a guy to be pastor of this ministry but he was fixated on helping the senior pastor run the church and talked bad about him all the time.
This guy also contradicted evrything I said or did with the guys in the program. So I realized it was time for me to go.
We tried other churches but the whole family just couldn't handle it.
Looking back on it I think some times what did that guy mean I didn't have the manifestation of the holy spirit?
I truly cared and tried to help the homeless and addicted men I came into contact with, I didn't pray loud in tongues but I did try to show compassion, isn't that what Jesus did?
Became a Christian: 9 and 36
Ceased being a Christian: 50
Labels before: Assembly's of God, Vineyard Christian Fellowship,Charismatic
Labels now: none
Why I joined: profound spiritual experience
Why I left: contradictions
Email Address: email@example.com
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)