Shortly after I received Yehoshua as my Saviour at age 17, I attended a church in Surrey called Christian Centre. Ern Baxter was the pastor; he used to work with William Branham. Ern Baxter was a good teacher and most of his teaching was good, but he was one of the main leaders in the Discipleship error. For those who never heard of it, the teaching had a heavy emphasis on submission.
If anyone recognizes through my story that their church is coming under that kind of control, I recommend that they find a church where submission is taught in a balanced way and discipleship is a nurturing, rather than a torturing, style of leadership.
When I first started to go to the church, it was a joy to me. The Discipleship error did not gear up until I was about nineteen, which gave me a couple years of being tenderly nurtured by various Christians in the church before some of the elders became more controlling. A lot of the older saints didn't get involved in that. They just kindly assisted less experienced Christians to grow in their faith and knowledge of the Lord.
The first year of my walk with God involved a lot of slipping and sliding, but I finally got on track and asked an elderly prayer warrior named Dorothy Essler to pray that God would set me free from a besetting sin that had caused me to stumble in ways that a Christian has no business stumbling in.
I had a problem with lust. It wasn't like I was a nymphomaniac, but when a man whom I was attracted to put moves on me, I seemed to have no resistance. It was a good thing that I had developed very narrow tastes about what I considered attractive, so I behaved inappropriately with only three guys. One was the young man who led me to the Lord; he had a serious problem with lust. The other was a fellow in the church, but after slipping up once with him, we both put some distance between us.
The other fellow was not a Christian. He was a young man whom I'd had a crush on since I was six–years–old. I lost my respect for him after he took advantage of my weakness, but even worse, I felt awful about what a poor witness as a Christian I had been to him and his family. I was living with the family, at that time. I knew for sure, after what happened with him, that this weakness had to stop.
I approached an older woman in the church and confided my problems to her. As I spoke to her, I was thinking to myself, "I can't believe I'm doing this! Talking about all this personal stuff with a lady who is old enough to be my grandmother!" Up until then, I never dreamed of talking about sex to anyone but my peers. but this is the model that the Bible sets; the older women are to teach the younger women. I respected Mrs. Essler because of her wisdom and asked her to minister deliverance to me.
Mrs. Essler spoke to other ladies in the church, asking to support her in prayer while she ministered to me. I then went to her home again, and she prayed for me for four hours. I was set free from lust to the point where it was now manageable, and I was also set free from anorexia and other bondages.
I had a friend in the church, named Bonnie, who was the same age as myself. She was so happy to see the change in me afterwards. Bonnie had taken me to her heart shortly after I got saved, and she was the first person who really looked out for me after I came to the Lord. She taught me to behave more like a lady and groomed my tastes towards being more feminine.
I wasn't a tomboy. I didn't have the athletic abilities to be a tomboy, and I was quite timid by nature. I fell into wearing jeans most of the time because I had nothing else to wear. My personal taste in clothing ranges all over the place; it always has. When I was a teen, I loved the hippie look, but I liked preppie fashions, too. Because I hung out, though, with guys who were into cars and motorcycles, I became a "greaser", favouring jeans and the look of denim or leather jackets. I could afford the jeans, but not the jackets.
When I was window shopping with Bonnie one day, I saw a little, navy, suede jacket with studs when we walked into Sears. I moaned, "Oh, Bonnie," as I gravitated towards the jacket, my hand outstretched to touch it. She said, "No, no, no," and pulled me by my sleeve over to the jewellery counter to look at pastel beads. Then she led me to the cosmetic department to try out Crepe de Chine cologne. About a month later, she gave me one of her purses, a navy blue suede one, in the interest of making me more lady–like, so that I didn't have to carry my make–up in my coat pockets anymore.
I had only one skirt when I came to the Lord. It was an ugly, brown plaid skirt that was given to me second hand. I rarely felt there was any need to wear it. I think I wore it only one time, to a wedding shower in the British Properties, a ritzy part of Vancouver. The occasion and location warranted getting dressed up, and that was the best thing that I had in my closet. Pretty sad.
I lived in jeans. Then the guy who led me to the Lord, being also my boyfriend, bought me some dresses so that he would not be embarrassed to be seen with me. He was the only boyfriend who bought me clothes, but I did not feel comfortable about it; it made me feel like I was a "kept" woman. After we broke up, those dresses got ruined really quickly in the laundry. I ended up going to church in jeans that had paint spattered on them.
Bonnie took me in hand again and we went shopping. She bought me a pair of black, corduroy slacks. Then she offered to loan me some money to buy a new top, as well. I chose a pink, turtleneck sweater. I looked at my reflection in a mirror at Eaton's and felt like a princess. It felt so good to have pretty clothes.
I also remember thinking that I needed to lose weight because I had "bumps" on either side of my mouth. This was before God set me free from anorexia. I weighed only 100 lbs. and those bumps were because my cheeks were so hollow. Even at 100 lbs., I still had pretty curves and most people still thought I was attractive, so I didn't realize that I had a problem. The only criticism was from some girls at church who told me that my arms were too skinny. I figured that they were just jealous of me. I still think that they were. Being super skinny was really in, in those days, because a model named Twiggy had popularized it.
As we drove home from the mall the day she bought me new clothes, Bonnie, who was married though she was so young, said, "Lanny, you don't have to pay me back for the sweater. God has blessed Dave and me so much. Just make sure that you do the same for someone else someday." I was staying with my mother's best friend at that time, as my parents had kicked me out of their house because I was going to a church other than the one my mother approved of. When I got home, Mae, who was a Cooneyite and normally did not approve of other churches, said of Bonnie, "That is what I consider a true Christian."
Having this history of looking out for me, Bonnie worried about my welfare after I came back to the Lord. I needed to stay connected to Christians. By this time, I was staying with Dale and Marian Furgason, my friend Lynn's parents. There was no pressure for me to leave, but they didn't talk to me about the Bible, though they were Christians. I needed a job and a more permanent place to live and to be taught the Word.
Bonnie spoke to a young couple in the church who needed a nanny for their little boy. They interviewed me and I was offered room and board and $20.00 a month for spending money. In those days, board and room was normally $100.00 a month, so together with the cash, this amounted to earning $120.00 a month, which was way below minimum wage. I didn't have a lot of choices at the time, so I took them up on their offer. The $20.00 enabled me to buy only one or two moderately priced pieces of clothing per month and I had nothing to spend on outings. But "Bob" and "Betty" had a nice house and kept everything orderly. I didn't have to do much to keep up with the housework and it was fun to look after the baby. At least the job itself was not hard.
I loved the baby and enjoyed my employers, too, at first. But Bonnie kept referring to them as my "Mom and Dad". I never took her seriously; I thought she was just kidding around. Bonnie felt I needed parents, though, and she supposed that this young couple could do the job. Bob and Betty were elders in our church, they were too young to be my parents. They were only seven years older than me; I'd had boyfriends who were older. But this young couple took the idea of being my parents seriously. And they were bossy accordingly. I was surprised to learn, many years later, that they thought they were my foster parents; I only thought of them as employers.
Bob was a policeman and considered me to be undisciplined. Actually, I had been overly disciplined when I was a kid. Choleric of temperament and very active from childhood, even before she developed a thyroid problem that made her hyperactive, my mother was like a drill sergeant. She looked after six children and kept an orderly house. She was always on the go, cleaning, cooking, baking, sewing, painting the house inside and out, putting in lawns, laying cement sidewalks, gardening, and redecorating. When she got sick, she never took time off to recuperate, unless it was serious enough to put her in the hospital.
In the evening when the family watched TV, Mom's hands were always busy either knitting or crocheting. To her, the most heinous of all sins was laziness and she would rant about it, while harrying us kids to do chores. I finally realized in my thirties that my mother was not normal, after having observed that most people do not have her energy level.
My mother was a restless soul who liked to move furniture around. Actually, it was her kids who moved furniture around while she directed traffic. When I move into a place, I figure out the best place for each piece of furniture and, except to vacuum under it, it usually stays put until I move. I thrive on making improvements, but if something doesn't need to be improved, I don't try to improve it. Mom was not one who could make up her mind easily about where she liked things best. I can also remember holding wallpaper to the ceiling until I felt like my arms were going to drop off.
Mom was high energy and kept us on the hop, but my stepfather was worse. He wasn't as active as her, but he was a perfectionist. What I needed was a break from people harping at me. Most of the time, I got along pretty good with Bob and Betty, but when Bob got annoyed with me, lectures were forthcoming.
I don't recall that Bob and Betty found fault with my housekeeping or with how I looked after the baby. I don't even know anymore what it was that made Bob think that I was undisciplined. That rant was a steady echo in my ear, even when Bob wasn't around, because I took everything he said so seriously.
I can remember reading a Christian book about discipline at that time (probably recommended by Bob), and the author sternly demanded that, if the reader had neglected to read the preface, to go back to the front of the book and start from there. I obediently read the preface. Later, I read a book on time management and it said to not read anything that is unnecessary, to just flip through a book until you find the information you need.
I felt rather frustrated by all the criticism that I was getting from Bob, and sometimes from Betty. I wasn't just being taught the Word; I was being beaten over the head with it. I was especially annoyed when Bob talked to me like a policeman who considered me to be a punk. I regarded him as an older brother and thought he should be gentler and kinder to his little sister. After all, what was I doing that was so horrible?
I broke no laws. I didn't use abusive language like a street kid. I didn't smoke cigarettes or have any other addictions. I would have worn short skirts, if I had one (with shorts underneath), but not low–cut tops. I dressed very conventionally, borrowing Betty's long, baby blue dress for church. I went to church twice every Sunday and attended home meeting once a week. I also went to youth group. I was too busy to get into trouble, nor did I want to.
During the entire time I lived with Bob and Betty, I had only one date and it was with a really nice guy with short hair, who said grace over our meal and referred to our date as "fellowship". I sure wasn't doing anything that anyone needed to be alarmed about. I guess they thought they were doing me a big favour by pointing out all the flaws they could see in my attitude, but I might not have had what they termed an "attitude", if they hadn't been such perfectionists.
One day when they weren't home, I amused myself by squishing a ketchup packet at the kitchen table. Suddenly, the packet burst and ketchup squirted clear across the kitchen, falling just short of the dining room carpet. I thought in panic, "Oh no! If Bob sees this, he's going to tell me that I'm irresponsible!" I hurried to clean up the mess, and managed to finish just in time before Bob and Betty got home.
They went to their room to get ready to go out again, while I talked to a friend on the phone. Then some red splotches on the kitchen ceiling caught my eye. The ketchup was even up there! Bob came out of his room into the kitchen. I held my breath while he rummaged about for something. He left without noticing the ketchup on the ceiling. Thank God they intended to go out again.
Pretty soon, they were out the door. I quickly hopped up on a chair and cleaned up the rest of the ketchup. I laughed later when I thought of how worried I had been about them seeing that ketchup and fretted about what they would say. It was ridiculous that a person could not make even a little mistake in that house.
Another couple from our church rented Bob and Betty's basement suite. I often went downstairs to talk to Trina; she had a soothing personality. Trina had been involved with the Jesus People in her younger days and told interesting stories about people she knew from that group, one of whom got involved in the leadership of a cult called the Children of God. She said that her friend had been a very spiritually–gifted woman, but the devil managed to sidetrack her into his army.
It was a sobering thought that spiritual giftedness and high intelligence is not proof against deception. That is why it is so important to look to the Lord to create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. A pure heart is the best defense against the pollution of the world. It is the pure of heart who are able to see God as He truly is, rather than as the monster that the misconceptions of men have made Him out to be.
Trina, in her zeal to teach me to be a godly woman, loaned me her book called Fascinating Womanhood. For a while, I believed everything it taught, but later learned it was written by a Mormon. It promoted a kind of slavishness to one's husband. It had some useful ideas in it, though.
Another popular book in Christian circles at that time was The Total Woman by Marabel Morgan. The stuff about wearing costumes for hubby sounded interesting, but if a woman should wear costumes for her husband, he ought to wear costumes for her, too. Later when I was married, I could never get my husband to wear a kilt, even though he was a Scot and had bonnie knees. It was frustrating that he was so dull in that way.
Bob and Betty bought property in Langley, and then sold their house in Surrey, which was close to the church that we attended. They stayed with a lady from the church, while their house in Langley was being built. Rod and Trina headed back to the States with their baby girl, as they were American. Eventually, they went to the Philippines as missionaries.
I moved in temporarily with Bonnie and her husband Dave. It was agreed that I would move in with Bob and Betty as a boarder when the house was ready. Betty, who was a nurse as well as a part–time secretary at the church, intended to stay home to look after their little boy.
It was fun to be around Bonnie and her family. She had a lot of siblings and the ones I knew were a jolly bunch of young adults. My favourite time was when they were over for dinner. When twilight fell, we all played Hide and Seek.
I also appreciated Bonnie's poetic nature. One evening at sunset, as we sat on a picnic table, she exclaimed, "Oh, look how God is painting the sky tonight!" She planted a seed that bloomed in later years when I began to pay more attention to the sky, in the sense of it being a canvas for God to paint. He has spoken some wonderful things to my heart through His sky paintings.
When I was in my teens, Bonnie was able to say things to me that I wouldn't take from anyone else, because she showed me so much love. That girl got married when she was only eighteen and, as a young bride, responded to my tearful phone calls when I was in emotional distress about the guy who I was dating at that time. I was really hung up on him, but he was so cruel to me. He hated women and liked to play games with them.
Within the hour, she would arrive and take me for a drive. For an hour and a half each time, she listened to a soggy girl pour torrents of pain out of her broken heart. I highly valued this sacrifice because I knew tha, if I were a new bride, I would rather be with my husband. It was also really amazing of her husband that he let her run to my rescue so many times, instead of insisting that she stay home and pay more attention to him.
I sometimes looked at Bonnie and wondered if she would always care for me as much as she did at that time. I thought it was doubtful; people change and circumstances change, but I vowed in my heart that I would always remember the good things she had done for me and love her.
The new house in Langley was lovely, even if it was still a bit unfinished when we moved in. The property was great, too. There was a meadow behind the house that adjoined a neighbour's property. The neighbour kept horses. Woods fringed the property. It was a serene setting and I rejoiced early one summer morning when I went to the meadow and danced barefoot in the dew, full of the joy of youth.
Later that year, I helped with the haying. Because I was such a small–boned, small–framed girl, all I could do was position the bales of hay as they were tossed onto the truck. It was hard, hot work in the sun, and prickly because of the straw that fell inside my shirt, but I was happy to get to experience that bucolic chore that hitherto I had only seen portrayed in paintings. Once was enough, though. That night as I lay in bed, I kept seeing golden bale after golden bale of hay in the dark, and wearily wondered in my mind, "Now where should I put this one?"
I obtained work in an office supply store in Langley and paid board and room. I was nineteen at this time, legally an adult, but Bob and Betty treated me like I was a child. They demanded that I do chores, even if I felt like I was dead on my feet after working a full shift. I was particularly tired after my first day of work on my new job. It had been a long time since I had worked as a waitress and then as a sales clerk, so I wasn't used to being on my feet for a steady eight hours, but when I got home, Betty bullied me into peeling peaches so that we could make jam.
I made the jam, too. It turned out to be a syrup. I think that was because I didn't put as much sugar in as the recipe called for; it seemed like too much. Even so, the syrup was very sweet and I concluded it is a waste of time to make jam because the recipes call for so much sugar that it kills too much of the original taste of the fruit. The heat also kills all the vitamins in the fruit, so what is the point of it, except to feed a sugar addiction? We would have gotten some good out of the fruit, if we had eaten it raw.
Bob and Betty expected me to ask permission when I wanted to go shopping or to attend the church's youth programs. That was just way too screwy, so I ignored this requirement, which probably annoyed them. I hitchhiked, and they never objected to that. If they were going to get on my case about something, this is what they should have forbidden me to do, but I did not have any other way to get to work, except to leave really early and walk, which would have made me too tired to work when I got there because we lived a long way out in the country. I did not realize that these rules, and all the bullying, related to a doctrine about discipleship that was now being pushed more heavily in the church. I thought they were the only ones who were tossing their weight around, but there were other elders in the church who were behaving like that.
About a year later, I heard of a young man in the church who went back east to see his family. When he returned, the elder whose home meeting he attended, scolded him for going on holiday. He grudgingly agreed that he should have told the elder that he was going on holiday. The elder retorted, "Told me? You should have asked my permission!"
I was shocked. I thought I was the only one who was being bullied. That guy was an adult, held a job, and was expected to ask for permission from church leaders to go on a holiday? He became so bitter, because of how he was hurt by that elder in various ways, that he turned his back on the Lord. The elders in my church gave him the impression that control is what Christianity is really all about; that the teaching about sin and guilt and the need for salvation was just a trick to corral people and bring them under the control of egotistical church leaders.
I was only a baby Christian, but when Bob ranted to me about submission, I knew something was wrong. I thought, "This can't be right. Like love, submission is of no value to God, unless it is voluntary. Why are these people demanding it?" It seemed that our leaders expected us to check our brains at the door and let them do all our thinking for us. The Bible says to "come now and reason together". Our brains were useful for helping us to get saved, but now that we were Christians, we didn't need them anymore? Though we were adults, we were no longer entitled to make decisions for ourselves?
It was becoming expected within the Discipleship movement that people seek permission from the leaders to marry the person they wanted to marry. I could see it was wise to ask a pastor to give his assessment of the character of one's intended spouse, to ask for his counsel, and to give it serious consideration. If a person can trust their pastor to care enough about them to approach the matter as if it was their own son or daughter they were protecting, then it decreases the chances of choosing the wrong partner.
Being a leader in the Church does not make anyone infallible. Even a powerfully anointed man like Charles Wesley blew it royally because he had control issues. John Wesley put off marriage for a long while, but finally decided to marry one of his evangelistic workers. She was a tremendously godly woman and he was delighted that it would not cost anything extra to support her because she was already being supported through his ministry.
George, however, persuaded him that this woman was not worthy of him. The Wesley brothers were famous preachers now, but the woman John favoured had no prestige and no money. She loved John Wesley, but Charles pushed to get her quickly married off to a man she did not have any particular feelings for, to make sure that John didn't change his mind and marry her. Under Charles' pressure, she married the man, though she was not happy about it. Charles callously ran roughshod over her in his ambitions for his brother because he didn't consider her of any importance.
Then he set John up with a wealthy widow. He had married a wealthy widow himself and figured what was good for him, was good for his brother. John Wesley's rich wife, though, was absolutely miserable to him.
One of his enemies went to an inn where John was staying to confront him about something that he disagreed with. He knocked on the door of John's room and, when it was opened, he saw John Wesley crawling around on all fours while his termagant wife pulled him along by his hair. Though he detested Wesley, the man could feel only pity for him and said afterwards about the wife, "I never in my life wanted to kill anybody until that moment." So there you go; with the best of intentions, even very godly men can make big mistakes, if they try to run someone else's life.
An elder demanded from the pulpit that, if God told anyone to give their car to someone, they should give away their best car, not their spare car, all in the name of giving one's best to God. That got a lot people upset. Most people who don't have a car would be happy to get even an old beater for free, as long as it could run without costing too much for repairs, but the elders were taking the joy out of helping others. The discipleship teaching was getting so stupidly unreasonable. It eventually split the church.
Before that happened, though, my conflict with Bob and Betty came to a head. When they were my employers, I felt obliged, most of the time, to hold back what I felt like saying. Now that I was paying $100.00 a month for board and room, which was the going rate in those days, I felt entitled to speak up for myself more often. That really upset them because they didn't think that I should disagree with them at all. It was my duty to merely submit, and very unspiritual of me if I did not.
When I complained to Bob that he didn't treat me like an adult, he retorted, "You don't deserve to be treated like an adult. When you start to act like an adult, then I will treat you like an adult." There was no getting past his conviction that his assessment of my character and his methods of dealing with me were correct.
The main reason I put up with it as long as I did was because I thought it would be unspiritual of me to walk away; it would be "rebellious", "unsubmissive", and "immature". In my church, there was an attitude of contempt for these character weaknesses, though the leaders were provoking people to be rebellious.
Also, a lot of young people who have to make their own way in the world are uncertain and afraid of change. What if they move and find the next place even worse? It sometimes seems hard to believe that things could get better. If the next place doesn't turn out to be better, they need to keep looking until they find a suitable place.
My situation had definitely declined in the new house, though the physical environment was improved. I had to share a room with Bob and Betty's foster daughter, and I resented it. For $100.00 a month, I figured that I was entitled to some privacy. I not only had to share the same room, I even had to share the same bed with her, and we didn't get along. I was girlish, she was boyish. She thought I was frivolous and silly. I hated having to look at her grubby running shoes in our bedroom and her BB gun leaning against the wall. I wanted the room to look pretty and feminine. Bonnie had done her work well.
There was a guest room. For the sake of peace and fairness, she could have had that room, but Bob and Betty reserved it for guests. James Watt, our associate pastor, stayed with them for a few weeks, but there were probably other people in the church who had a spare room and would have been glad to have him stay with them. It was bad enough that Bob and Betty disapproved of me, but now I had to share a room and a bed with this younger girl who despised me. Yeah, there was no mistake about it now; I had an attitude.
One day when I complained to Bob about my room–mate, he stuck his finger in my face and said, "I demand that you submit to her!" Fury rose up inside of me and finally shook off his controlling spirit that I should never have put up with in the first place. I grabbed some paper bags, charged up to my room, and began stuffing my things into them in a rage. Brother Watt saw me through the open door and timidly asked if there was anything I wanted to talk to him about. I shook my head and kept on packing. I was afraid that if I talked to him, I would say some things about Bob and Betty that I would regret.
I called my former foster mother, a Pentecostal lady whom I had been living with when I became a Christian. She said I could stay with her for the weekend. Betty drove me to Pauline's place and I bunked down on her couch. I was so glad to get away from Bob and Betty, who always gave me the impression that they thought they were diamonds and I was merely sandpaper, a trial from the devil that was permitted by God for the purpose of polishing them. I don't think that I would have rubbed up against them so much, if they hadn't been so domineering.
That Sunday in church, I broke down during the service and cried. Some of the other girls in the church took me into the office to ask me what was wrong. I told them about the fight that I had with Bob and how I now had no place to live. They offered some much needed sympathy and prayed for me.
When I returned to the sanctuary, a lady named Ruby Beasley came up to me, opened her motherly arms and said, "You can come live with me." She gave me a good, long hug. I was so relieved. Betty had asked her to take me in as a boarder, and I bless her for that kindness. It was the beginning of a friendship that would provide shelter from the storms on more than just that occasion.
I don't know if Bob and Betty ever realized that they had erred against me when I lived with them. When the church split, they went with the Discipleship group. By then, I was attending another church, but my pastor was asked to go to join his church with the people who were left, and be their pastor, as well. The Discipleship faction left the building to them, but there were not enough people to financially maintain it. Shortly after my pastor moved us to Surrey, he died, and the church completely disbanded, going to other fellowships.
When I ran into Bob and Betty a few years later, I avoided talking to them about the Discipleship error. I had been hurt too much by it to want to resurrect that spectre, in case they were still into it. I suspect they were. Bob still insisted on referring to me as his "daughter", which was absolutely ridiculous because he is only seven years older. It was a control thing; it put him on a higher level over me.
Even when I laughed and protested that he was not old enough to be my father, he still kept it up. Polite and subtle hints did not seem to get through to him. I told him straight out on another occasion that I had never regarded him as my father. That did not have any effect either. He still thought that he and his wife had been my foster parents. It completely escaped his memory that I was introduced to them as a nanny for their son.
That was how Bonnie presented the proposition to me, but maybe she told Bob and Betty I needed parents, as my own parents had rejected me because I went to what my mother termed a "false church". My parents weren't completely mean. My stepfather, surprisingly, charged me only $40.00 a month for board and room when I returned home at 18 years old to try to improve my relationship with them. That was really sweet of him, but Mom egged him on to give me a hard time about the church I attended, because it wasn't her church.
One time when Bonnie and Dave came to pick me up for Wednesday night Bible study, my stepfather came running out of the house to stop me from going, but realized he was making himself look foolish in front of strangers, so he went back into the house. It alarmed Bonnie to see a young girl's parents giving her a hard time about such a worthy activity. She expressed her concern to Bob and Betty about their behaviour.
The notion that they were replacement parents would explain why Bob and Betty gave me only $20.00 a month when I looked after the baby; they regarded it as an allowance rather than wages. And my room was at their disposal, as well. They didn't ask my permission to put guests in there when they billeted other girls from out of town at their place, but I didn't mind sharing my room on those occasions.
I needed a place to live at that time, so I didn't quibble about getting only twenty bucks a month, and I wanted to be more connected to my church. How much more connected could one when you get to live with some elders? The whole relationship was based on a misunderstanding. I didn't need them to be my parents; I needed them to be friends. I got parenting from older people in my church who had the wisdom to know better than to try to run my life. None of those older people said much to me, but the little they did say was powerfully anointed and had a mighty impact. It always boggled me how just one sentence from them could point me in the right direction and set off streams of revelation.
Bob and Betty had more maturity than me, without a doubt, but they were not right about everything. They had some ego problems that compelled them to be controllers. Most, if not all, of the official leadership in that church were in the same boat. They thought that they were concerned for the sheep and wanted to keep them safe, but they were robbing the sheep of the joy of Lord. They were making submission and discipleship a burden, rather than a blessing.
At that time, I regarded Bob and Betty as an older brother and sister, which gave them adequate advantages. I looked up to them for instruction. I would not have minded being instructed, if it had been delivered only with the idea of helping me, instead of dominating me, and if they had been willing to listen to what I had to say when I disagreed with them, instead of branding me as unsubmissive and rebellious and immature because I dared to open my mouth.
Certainly I wished that I hadn't been so upset with them and spoken with resentment when they acted like bullies. I prefer to stay calm and reason things out with people, but I didn't know how to appeal to people's sense of reason very well in those days. My parents said no to a lot of things, sometimes simply because they had the power to say no, so I didn't expect people to be reasonable. Bob and Betty were kind of like that, too. Maybe they weren't like that to other people, but that was how they treated me, because they thought that I needed them to think for me.
If it was something where they didn't have a right to give me orders, like if I wanted to go shopping or to a youth meeting, I didn't bother asking their permission; I just did what I wanted; I don't think they liked that. It probably was a situation where the only remedy was to leave, but it took me a while to see it.
In spite of my conflict with Bob and Betty, there were a lot of things I liked about them, but I figured that, if they could not let go of the fantasy that I was their foster daughter and that they'd had the right to push me around back then, it was best to steer away from them. When I contacted them in later years, Betty made a bit of an effort to treat me like an equal when I spoke with her, but she still slipped back into the assumption that I was a feeble–minded person who needed her advice. It made me feel tired to talk to her when she went into her motherly role. Doctors and nurses are groomed in medical school to adopt a superior stance, so that people will take their advice, on the assumption that their advice is always correct. I am sure that Bob and Betty are both a great blessing to many people, but I think they had a mental block when it came to me. I felt that they still saw me as someone whom they felt they needed to subdue into submission to them.
It is not always the baby Christians who are at fault in a conflict. They probably are at fault in some respects, but older Christians can also be part of the problem, particularly if they think that they need to control the other person, instead of treating them as an equal. If a Christian disdains to treat a fellow Christian as an equal, regardless if they are younger in years or in experience as a Christian, then they have an ego problem. Jonathan set an excellent example of how to mentor a younger person. He was old enough to be David's father, and he was the Crown Prince of Israel, whereas, in the beginning of their friendship, David was just a young officer in the army. When David lamented Jonathan's passing, his language indicated that he regarded Jonathan as a brother and a really close friend. I surmise that Jonathan never talked down to David.
If you are a fairly new Christian, don't be belligerent and quick to find fault when you are in conflict with other Christians. We all come to the Lord with plenty of things that need to be fixed, but don't let more "mature" Christians put a guilt trip on you that the problem is all on your end. Maybe it is, but there is a possibility that they could be at fault, too. Try to be respectful when you have to address them about their part in the conflict, but don't be intimidated.
Sometimes we just have to walk away from relationships when they go sour. I had a pastor who was a great blessing to me in many ways, but when God wanted to lead me beyond where he was willing to go, I had to go on ahead without him. I had been attending revival meetings during the week. I told my pastors about these meetings and invited them to go to them, but I think they considered it beneath them. They had their important positions and their important work. There was no time in their day to check this out and see if God maybe had something more for them that He wanted to give them through this particular ministry.
My pastors liked to keep things firmly under their control; they wanted the people in their congregation to support their ministry, rather than to develop into leaders who had their own ministry, and who might possibly outdo them. I figure that if others can outdo us, then let them. There's a lot of work of to do, and it isn't about us being famous and in demand and hogging what we feel is our share of followers and their financial support. It's all about bringing lots of people to the Lord Yehoshua and helping them grow in His grace and equipping them to be faithful to Him unto death.
Again, we can look at Jonathan as our example. After he saw David kill Goliath, he knew that David was whom God had selected to be the next king, and he didn't try to keep the crown. In fact, he did everything he could to help prepare David for the job.
I felt sad that my pastor and I had to part ways, but he was holding me back from God's plan for my life. He had helped me a lot in the past to bring me on my way, but he didn't want me to go any farther because it would have taken me out from under his control. I would have been involved in teaching instead of pitching in to look after the cappucino bar. Plus, God was showing me things that he knew nothing about. The first time I spoke to him about how God used a comet to bring about the plagues of Egypt, he laughed and said condescendingly, "Oh, Lanny, you'll believe anything." He wouldn't even listen to anything I had to say about it.
The other associate pastor wasn't quite so stubborn, but he sure was obtuse. He, at least, read my poem The Moses Memoirs. I asked him afterwards what he thought of it. He said, "It rhymes." Well, do tell. I wasn't handing in an English assignment. I wanted to know what he thought of the content. I asked him what he thought about the idea of God using a comet to bring about those plagues. He shrugged and said, "I always thought that He just did it." Yeah, like God waved a magic wand. He thought that if natural phenomena were involved, it diluted the miracle of how God obtained the Israelites' release from Egypt.
To change the subject, he eagerly asked, "Did you realize that Pharoah was Moses' brother?" I asked, "Well how can that be? Moses was Hebrew and the Pharoah was Egyptian." He corrected himself and said, "His foster brother." I asked him where he learned that. He replied that he learned it from the movie Prince of Egypt. I was disgusted. He was a young man, but he was a pastor, after all, yet he was getting his theology from a Disney movie! He reminded me of some baby Christians I knew who thought David danced naked when he led the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. They picked that idea up from a movie where Richard Gere, wearing a big diaper, and looking very embarrassed and ashamed at having to do a spiritual dance that glorified God, clumsily lunged about through the streets of Jerusalem as he led the procession. There was absolutely no joy in his portrayal of the event.
I didn't watch the whole movie because I was disgusted with its perversion. They had a scene in there where the court stood around watching David consummate his marriage to Michal. That was a medieval custom among the aristocracy, not something that was practiced when Israel started out as a theocracy. The Law was against uncovering the nakedness of others through interfering in their exclusive sexual rights. To make matters worse, the movie portrayed Jonathan as getting turned on by his sister's nakedness. Also, it showed Jonathan as being around the same age as David, when he was more probably thirty years older, old enough to be his father, though David referred to him as a brother. The Hollywood movie industry is the last place anyone should expect to find a keen understanding of the Bible.
I said to that pastor, "No, Pharoah wasn't Moses's foster brother. All the firstborn of Egypt died in the last plague, but Pharaoh didn't die. He wasn't the firstborn. The heir died." It was after his death that Moses was able to return to Egypt, because everyone who wanted to kill him was now dead. The pastor acknowledged that I had a good point.
Several years later when I brought up the subject of the Exodus again with the other pastor who had totally rejected all my thoughts on the subject, he started to belittle my ideas, as before. I interrupted and said, "You don't have a right to comment on this. You haven't studied the Exodus as much as I have." He nodded his head and agreed. His focus was on salvation Scriptures, but he still was not interested in hearing what I had to say about the Exodus. The Bible says over and over to look back to the Exodus, so I figure that we ought to and find out what God wants to teach us through it, but that pastor was too busy to listen to what I had found out about the Exodus and why it is important in these last days to know those details.
Having the position of being a pastor or an elder does not mean that a person has the supernatural ability to know more about all spiritual matters than those whom they pastor. They have a gift for that position, and an anointing for it that gives them more authority in the spiritual realm, but all wisdom does not reside exclusively with the leaders in a church. The Holy Ghost is busy teaching all His saints, leading them into all truth.
Being a pastor is not a talisman against error. I have heard pastors and teachers make plenty of mistakes in the pulpit. One good thing that Ern Baxter taught was to examine all teaching through the Scriptures, regardless of how reputable the teacher. I had another pastor who said the same thing and he said he welcomed us to speak to him when we didn't agree, but he didn't actually mean it. What he meant was that if we didn't understand something, he welcomed us to come to him for clarification. But if you disagreed with him and tried to show him his error, it was another matter. In that case, he got quite irked.
That pastor believes that the Great Tribulation has already happened, that it occurred when the Romans destroyed the Temple. This was the whackiest, most illogical doctrine I have ever heard in any church that I attended after I got saved (most of the teaching in this church was pretty good), but there was no convincing the pastor that he was wrong. I didn't tell him that I thought that teaching was ridiculous; I just pointed out some Scriptures that disprove it, but he resented my attempts to show him that he was wrong. I think it would be dangerous for anyone to accept this teaching because they would then be likely to let their guard down in these last days, wherein the Bible tells us that perilous times will come and we need to be more alert than ever.
I noticed that the associate pastor in that church sometimes got historical facts wrong. I have a fairly retentive memory and love history, so I sometimes pick up on little details like that. Most of the time, I never said anything to him. It was just small stuff and what mattered was the main point. That, at least, was correct. One day, though, he got something wrong in the Scriptures so I spoke to him about it later. He said stiffly that he had gotten that information from a commentary. I said in disgust, "You can't rely on commentaries. They make mistakes." I told him about some really dumb mistakes that I had seen in a popular commentary. He stood with a very fixed smile on his face, looking like he was about to explode. I laughed, patted his arm, and told him that he would be all right. He was a sweet guy and I knew that after he cooled down, he would forgive me for contradicting him.
I have run into arrogance among Christian leaders in a lot of places. One time when I was at a pastor's conference, I offered a copy of The Moses Memoirs to a pastor. First of all, he asked me who my pastor was. He wasn't going to listen to anything I had to say unless I was submitted to someone in his clique. So much for submitting one to another and entertaining angels unaware. I told him my pastor was the pastor of the church where the conference was being held. Upon hearing this, he was willing to hear what else I had to say, up to a point. Unfortunately, he was so narrow–minded that he reached that point really soon.
To introduce my poem, I asked him, "Do you believe that God is the God of the Universe?" He said he did. I then asked if he believed that God could use any part of the Universe to work His will. He agreed to that, too. I then spoke of how God used a comet to work the wonders in Egypt and that this was what my poem was about. He asked, "Where did you learn this?" I told him that I learned it from history books. He stuck his nose in the air and said, "I only pay attention to the Bible." He refused to read the poem.
Ironically, when he preached that night, he referred to extra–Biblical sources, and they weren't even credible. He spoke of how the original twelve disciples died; most of those stories are drawn from Catholic legends that support their false doctrines. For instance, he referred to the old tale about how Peter died in Rome. Peter's calling was to the Jews, not the Gentiles. He probably never went to Rome. Also, his bone ossuary was discovered during renovations in Dominus Flevit, a Catholic monastery on the Mount of Olives, where the ossuary had been concealed centuries ago, but the Vatican covered up the story of this discovery.
This preacher also referred to John the Beloved being tossed into a pot of boiling oil, but he got that story wrong. He thought John was badly burned, but the legend states that he was not at all harmed by it, and that was why he was imprisoned on Patmos instead of martyred. This legend, at least, has some credibility, but the Bible never refers to it. Hmm. So, if he does pay attention to books other than the Bible, why did he lie? Maybe he is one of those guys who think that women should stick to teaching Sunday School, praying behind the scenes, and bringing food when there is a potluck.
The Bible says that Yehoshua is the Author and Finisher of our faith. In our pilgrimage, we meet with many different kinds of errors in the Church because none of us are perfect. None of us have full knowledge of what the Church really should be like. We are obliged to do our best, with the knowledge and grace that God has given us. In every Christian church, in spite of its errors, we learn some good things. God is working out His purposes for our lives through it all. He will triumphantly bring us through to the end, if we keep on looking to Yehoshua, the Author and Finisher of our faith, rather than allowing the wrong that others do to turn us out of His path.
Copyright © 2010, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on August 20, 2014
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.