Charismatic evangelical hands in his cards

sent in by Andy Kimber

Hello folks. My name’s Andy, and I’m from the UK.

My story’s slightly different from most of the ones I’ve read here, where the Christian behaviour was drummed in at an early age. Although I was christened in the Anglican church as an infant, my parents never went to church when I was growing up (except for the Midnight Mass carol service on Christmas Eve, which I thoroughly enjoyed – and I still love Christmas carols :o) ). My mother taught me to “say my prayers” at bedtime but that was it.

My conversion experience came at the age of 15 through an organisation called “Youth for Christ”. A couple of evangelists came to school one lunchtime and played some amusing songs. They gave some interesting facts about the world and the universe and encouraged us to go along to their meeting the next night at a local Baptist church. Well, I wouldn’t normally have gone, but a friend who was in the school Christian Union persuaded me, so off I went. They played some more songs, and then this guy Eric Delve presented the gospel in a fascinating and powerful way. I’d never heard any of it before, the idea that Jesus had suffered and died for ME – it was radical and compelling. As the presentation drew to a close Eric said he was going to be asking those who’d been touched by what he’d said to come forward for prayer at the end. I suddenly felt my heart swelling inside. I knew I was going to respond. I felt that I’d heard Truth for the first time in my life, and it really was like a light going on. I was the second person to get to the front when the altar call came, and I went through the whole ABC conversion (Admit your need, Believe in Jesus, Confess him as Lord). I was a Christian!

The first and most dramatic result of this was that I suddenly acquired a social life. As a shy only child I really didn’t do anything much with others of my age outside of school, but now, my Christian friends brought me to church, and specifically, to the YPF (Young People’s Fellowship), which was basically a Christian youth club based at the local Evangelical Free Church. Interestingly, one tangible result of this was that my grades at school started to dip now that I had something to do other than homework! Anyway, I enjoyed being with a dynamic group of my peers, where I soon became for the first time in my life an important person (especially as I was the first to pass my driving test and so could drive people around). I was learning more about the teachings of Christianity and felt fortunate that I’d hit on the one true path to God and to personal fulfilment. Fantastic!

When I left school with insufficient grades for my preferred university (Cambridge) I cast around for something else to do. I wish now I’d followed my first instinct and tried out for drama school, but as it happened, due to different people suggesting it in an apparently coincidental way, I found myself going off to London Bible College to study Theology. Why? I had no desire to be a pastor or full-time Christian worker. I wanted to be a rock star! Well, whatever my motivation, that is where I went. I suppose that is where the decline began, in a way. The faculty warned us not to neglect our personal “quiet time” with the Bible, as we might be tempted not to bother with it since we were studying the Bible in class all day. Needless to say this prophecy came true! It is interesting to note, however, that unlike many contributors to this site, I studied not only the Bible but the supposed inconsistencies and different factions’ interpretations of it too, and came through it all with my faith intact. I always believed that just because I didn’t always understand the ways of God, it didn’t mean that it couldn’t all make sense on a cosmic level that was beyond my comprehension, just as a child might not be able to conceive of why it doesn’t make sense to eat only chocolate.

After college, I got married, and to cut a very long story short I became the unpaid Assistant Pastor of a small charismatic church by default. I was experiencing speaking in tongues and witnessing the other gifts of the Spirit regularly. We prayed, thanking God for the answers we liked and bemoaning our lack of commitment when we didn’t get what we wanted. We saw some people miraculously healed, and others entering a depressing decline and dying prematurely. We received many prophecies, some self-fulfilling, some “not yet come to fruition”, and some incredible ones spot on. In other words, church happened. And yet, through it all, I felt that “the Church” as a whole was so caught up in its own ways and traditions, be they sober Calvinists or leaping Pentecostals, that the whole kernel of Christianity as exepressed by Jesus himself was forgotten. I refer of course to Jesus saying we should love God with all our hearts and our neighbour as ourselves.

Well, the story rumbles on through a decline in church attendance and a depressing divorce for me, through a conviction that consciousness was merely a function of the brain, therefore everything is meaningless (see Ecclesiastes!), to a point now where I’m not sure if there is a God or greater consciousness at all, which I suppose makes me agnostic. Having said that, I AM sure that if God does exist, he is not correctly revealed in the teachings of the church, or indeed in the modern bible which appears to have been hijacked by a medieval junta of Roman Catholic cardinals for its own ends. At the moment I am interested in the bits they threw out, especially the Gnostic gospels which may give a more immediate and accurate view on what Jesus actually believed and taught.

I would urge all of you not to deny reason, logic and evidence in your quest for truth. If God exists, he is certainly able to cope with new discoveries and revelations even if his people are not. For example, the world isn’t the centre of the universe, it’s billions of years old, man evolved from the apes… all of these and many more were viciously opposed by an insecure and small-minded church which was certainly not ministering the love of God on Earth.

“These three remain; faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.”

City: Ipswich
State: Suffolk
Country: UK
Became a Christian: 15
Ceased being a Christian: About 37
Labels before: Charismatic, evangelical, non-conformist, protestant
Labels now: I seek truth without worrying about meaning.
Why I joined: Powerful evangelist testinony and altar-call
Why I left: Gradual shift. Final push thanks to Douglas Adams.
Email Address: andy at kimberweb dot net

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