Below are excerpts from a manuscript that is nearly twenty years old. The various snippets are written for three reasons.
The first being to give you an understanding of the timeline that led to the discovery.
The second is to allow you the opportunity to determine for yourself if you need to read any further. Some of the things are difficult for the religious mind to wrap around.
The third is to prepare you for the possibility of an important change that is about to take place.
My journey began in the most unusual way. Let me explain. The doctor was looking at the files in his hand as he came into the examination room. After a few awkward moments of silence, he said, “I think the best thing for you do is to go home and let nature take its course. Your body simply will not carry this pregnancy to term.” He placed his hand on the stunned young woman’s shoulder and said, “I am sorry; but come back in next week and we will follow up with you.” With that he turned and left the room.
“What am I to do,” she thought? Sobbing as she arrived home she curled up in her bed and cried out, “God if you give me this child, I will raise him to serve you.” It was about seven months later that I was born. I am the oldest of four and my mother kept her promise.
I remember being dropped off at church as a child. I remember sleeping under pews as a child. I even remember being snatched by the hand by my mother for making fun of the lady the next pew over. I spent my entire life in the church. I guess it isn’t any surprise that I became a pastor; although that wasn’t by my choice.
I went to college to become an accountant. While home on break the summer of my junior year, I had an encounter with the Lord that set me on the course that has lead to the journey that I am on today.
It has indeed been a most unexpected journey.
There was a ritual that took place every Friday afternoon at our house. Our grandfather would leave the police station; he was a captain, and head to our house to pick us up. My sister and I would pack our clothes and wait for his arrival. At some point in this ritual, my sister despised going; I never knew why until much later in life.
We would kiss our mom bye—our dad still at work—and climb into our grandfather’s Oldsmobile to spend the weekend with our grandparents. The fun part of the journey was stopping at the corner market—in those days it was called the Jew store because a Jewish family owned it. It wasn’t a slur against them; they were really nice people. It was simply called that because that was their ethnicity.
Our grandfather would do two things; give us .25 to buy whatever we wanted and pick up a six pack of coke—in the bottle—a half gallon of vanilla ice cream, and a carton of Pall Mall cigarettes.
My sister and I would buy five pieces of bubble gum, a candy bar and coke with our quarter!
It was several years later on one of those visits, that the little church across the street—we called it the stone church because it was made out of Florida sand stone—was having a revival. It was the church our dad and his brothers attended while growing up. It was the same church our parent’s were married in.
I remember one time sitting in the pew with my mother on my left side and someone else to my right. The person on the right raised their hands—I had no idea why. So, I raised my hands. My mom promptly snatched my left hand down, bending over me informing me not to mock those people. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I complied.
I have a few other memories about the stone church; but this revival memory is the one that stands out the most. The memory has nothing to do with the revival, but rather what happened that evening when my grandmother tucked me into bed.
I must have been about 12-years old.
By this time, our grandfather had passed away and one of our dad’s brother’s had moved back so our grandmother would not be there alone. My sister no longer came to spend the weekend.
I clearly remember lying in bed talking with my grandmother explaining to her that when I grew up I was going to be a preacher like the man holding the revival. What is so interesting is the fact that I cannot to this day tell you anything about being in the church, the meeting that took place, or the man who was preaching. However that memory is firmly embedded in my mind.
Many years later I had what can only be called an encounter with God. I was home from college for the summer. By this time my parents were living in Mississippi. I was working with my dad in construction before heading back to school that Fall. I had a deep sense that I needed to get closer to God. I would do foolish things like fast any food for days on end—all while working in the hot summer sun on a construction site. I would close myself off in my closet spending hours in prayer seeking God’s face.
Then it happened.
Days before heading back to school to continue my education in Accounting, I was sitting in my rocking chair singing praises to God. My eyes were closed, the doors to my room were closed and I was rocking in rhythm with the song I was singing. At some point during that time, I became completely aware that God was in the room. It felt as if his presence was so large that there wasn’t room for me to be in there; but there I was.
I was afraid to open my eyes for fear that I would actually see God! He spoke to me. I do not think it was with an audible voice, but it sounded louder than audible—if that is even possible. He told me not to go back to school. He said he had something different for me to do. I was to stay at home until he showed me what was next. Then in that moment, something very strange happened deep within me. It was like something reached inside my very being and pulled out every desire to be rich, powerful or famous.
Up to that point in my life, I knew that I was going to complete my accounting degree, go to work for an accounting firm before opening my own firm in my home town of Miami. I was going to be rich, famous and powerful.
Once that encounter ended, every ounce of that desire left with it. I was dumbfounded. Once I could move, I went to my parents to explain what had just happened.
Sometime later I had another encounter that resulted in marrying my first wife. Shortly after that we ended up in Bible College where I began studying to be a preacher—like the man at the revival at the little stone church.
Years later I found myself divorced—a story of its own—and seeking God for some understanding. This led to yet another encounter with the God.
I was on sabbatical from the church and working at a friends business writing commercials and updating policy manuals. This particular morning I was very aware of the Lord’s presence. I decided to fast that day in order to get closer to him.
During the lunch break, I went to my car to spend that time praying. As I set down in the driver’s seat and shut the door, the Lord sat down in the passengers seat. I did not see him, but I knew his presence. He spoke to me although not audibly. I spoke back using my voice. He spoke three distinct things to me. The first being that my wife would not be coming back; the second being that our daughters were in the palm of his hand, and the third being that he had prepared someone for me.
None of this did I want to hear, but I knew it was the Lord. Still speaking out loud, I said to him that I knew his word declared that from the mouth of two or three witnesses he confirms his word. Within hours of that encounter, I had three different phone calls confirming what I had just been told. I wondered how any of them could have known what had happened in my car earlier that day?
What happened next is a story of its own telling.
Several years later I was asked to pastor a small struggling church. I immediately declined; however after seeking counsel and praying with my wife—I remarried—it was determined that it was the will of the Lord.
Reluctantly I accepted. Little did I know the set up the Lord had in mind with this decision.
It began a journey that has turned into a most unexpected, at times unwanted, adventure!
Due to financial reasons, the decision was made to move the meetings to the parsonage. It was during that time that a discovery was made that would shape the course of the rest of my life.
The Lord took me to a portion of scripture that I was very familiar with. It was I Corinthians 14. The Apostle Paul is speaking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the church. In the middle of his discourse—almost hidden—I discovered a verse that I could not get away from. “So here’s what I want you to do. When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight.” I Corinthians 14:26 From Eugene Peterson’s The Message.
This resonated in my spirit; but it did not look anything like the gathering I had been leading all those years. The closest thing to this verse of scripture was the home fellowship groups that I had in place. But even those did not look like this.
It appears that the Apostle is suggesting that everyone who gathered had an integral part to play in the gathering. It seems as though this format—if you will—was to be used each time the believers gathered.
This portion of scripture contains a very interesting Greek work. I believe it becomes the bases of the New Testament Church. It also flows perfectly with the eight reasons, (another portion of the manuscript), Jesus offers in the book of Acts.
You will find the same Greek word in the Acts account of Jesus’ offering the eight reasons to “come together.” This is important to understand because it provides the practical application through which these eight reasons become a reality in the New Testament Church.
All of this began to beckon the question, “What if we have been doing it wrong? What if—because we did not know better—we have been approaching the church gathering in a way that represents the Old Covenant rather than the New Covenant?”
Is it possible that Jesus never intended for the Apostles to establish a large gathering of saints designed for a few to instruct while the mass sat in passive observation?
Think about it. Historically it is accepted that the Apostle Paul is credited with establishing the New Testament church in the known world. What if his model was not a model for evangelism, but rather a representation of what the gathering of believers was intended to be?
Understand this does not mean that large assemblies are wrong; Quite the contrary. They served their purpose as informing a large number at once about something very important. The scriptures certainly support this. The Apostle Paul in his farewell sermon gives evidence of this in the book of Acts.
Think about this. Does it make sense that every week there is something important to convey? Would it make more sense that once the important message was given, that it would be dispersed to the masses in smaller settings—in homes, public gathering places, or at the river side—unitl the message got into the hearts of the believer?
This subject has so exploded in my spirit that it is the manuscript that I refer to.
I proclaim that it will be in book form in 2017.