Monday, August 30, 2010

#189-Letting God Mess with Your Pretty Little Service

Author's Note: The impetus for this post came from my own thoughts, discussion with others in church, and some recent reading that critiqued the construction and reception of Hollywood entertainment. Joel was extremely helpful in offering criticism of the rough draft and expressed some serious doubts about the message put forth, though he eventually gave me the go ahead. Those doubts have taken root in my own mind, but I still believe that there's some utility to this post. My only hope is that before you agree or, more likely, disagree with this post, that you take a little longer than you normally would and mull it over some more. An author doesn't typically have such a luxury with his readers, but I suppose I can ask, anyway.

The Scenario: It’s a typical Sunday night service at your local church. The praise team is playing a great song, everyone is clapping and singing, and there seems to be a good spirit in the sanctuary. You’re a little over twenty minutes into the worship portion of the service and your internal clock is telling you that in just a few minutes it will be time for intercessory prayer to start—or so you thought.

All of a sudden, something happens! The music doesn’t stop, in fact it keeps going. Now, Sister A takes a glory lap in the altar. Brother X grabs a tambourine from somewhere and dances up and down his aisle. Two of the male youth are in a seeming contest trying to see who can jump the highest for Jesus and next to them are a gaggle of their fellows laying about in states of blissful torpor. Before long, the entire church has erupted into prolonged and passionate worship and you yourself are swept up in the same tide, dancing and singing praises to the Most High! You haven’t given much thought to what’s happening, you’re just praising, but for the sake of those unaware in the congregation, bewildered by what they see around them, the pastor is kind enough to shout an explanation:

“Oh, I’m sorry folks, sorry we couldn’t just let church happen AS USUAL, but God just showed up and He’s decided to take your cute, tidy little service and mess it all up! Why don’t you just let Him!!”

Aha! That’s what happened! As you walked through the carnage, after service, tiptoeing around the bodies strewn about like a battlefield, it started to come together and it all made sense afterward when you went with your group of friends to the postchurch meal. You all agreed that God just did something amazing, that His spirit really fell, that His power really showed, and that the service was awesome!

Commentary: What you just read was a very general first-hand description of something that happens quite often in pentecostal churches (The examples of people used above and below are not based on real people, but generated from stories related to me and the typical bric a brac of pentecostal life.) It is by no means an all-inclusive rundown of what occurs when the Spirit falls, but I think it’s safe to say that pentecostals love it; they love it when God takes over the service, when things go from the natural to the “supernatural” and they love that it’s completely unlike the “dead” services that other denominations must surely have (and that pentecostals sometimes secretly have also.) The idea hinges on the assertion that one form of service is man-made, and therefore ungodly, while the other is entirely Godly (which is good, in case you didn’t know). And you, too, can learn to appreciate and participate in this wonderful experience! long as you ignore those nagging questions in back of your mind.

You know the ones, they started off silly when you were young, like, “Howcome I get in trouble when I’m late for church, but God gets to roll in forty minutes late—or even go weeks at a time without ever even showing up at all?”

Then you mature and actually grow in your faith, you love God and truly seek His presence, but the questions still pop up and now they’ve changed. Your pentecostal conscience has by this time become quite strong, call it a super ego of sorts, but the sparring match between the two can snowball out of control if you aren’t careful.

“So, if God was in this service, does that mean He’s not in the other ones?”

Well that’s a simple one, of course He’s in every service. He’s omnipresent, He’s everywhere all of the time.

“Oh….well, if that’s the case, then why is it different now? I mean, what’s the factor that differentiates this type of service from any other?”

Because God is spontaneous like that! He does what He does, no way we need to or even could understand why or how.

“Hmm…but you know, I’ve noticed that it’s not so spontaneous. In fact, every time it happens, it’s preceded by the praise team playing a little longer than normal, then there’s kind of a lull in worship because the people are getting tired of singing the same chorus on repeat and then preacher starts getting animated and tells us that we need to dig deeper, that God’s doing something and that we’ve got to push if we want it to actually happen. Then a few people, and it’s almost always the exact same people, get really emotional and worship really demonstratively and it eventually spreads to everyone else. Then afterward, we forget that it started out like that.”

Right, well, you see what’s going on is—

“No wait, that’s not all. Why is it that it’s kind of always the same show? I mean it’s pretty much always the same group of high school girls that gather in a prayer circle and eventually collapse into a sobbing, hysterical mess, but everybody knows that with very little exception they’re all going back to living their lives the way they did before God took over this service—that’s why they’re going to be back sobbing again next time.”

Yes, but—

“also, if God’s really being powerful now, then why doesn’t Sister so-and-so get delivered from her emotional affliction? I mean, she’s back every few weeks in the altar with people praying for her, but then she continues to live out of wedlock with a guy who treats her like garbage? Since God’s here, why doesn’t he just pull a Maury Povich and tell her to dump that guy and try living a little more in line with the Gospel?”

It’s obvious you need to pray more. You’ve let some junk into your life and you clearly can’t perceive the true presence of God.

“But that’s just it, I’ve been praying, fasting, and reading my Bible and I’m beginning to wonder if this is really of God or if it’s actually man-made…..I Corinthians 4:20 says the Kingdom of God is power, not talk—if this type of service and everything that goes with it is really about God’s power, why is it so talky, so much about performance? And, in effect, it’s that discernable, exterior phenomena that makes a service change from ordinary to Godly…is that really the distinction and should we really live our lives between the peaks and valleys of revival services?”

Listen, the problem here is—

(Excursus I: Sorry to interject, but a little explanation seemed appropriate. We’ve thrown around some Marxian analysis in previous posts and right about now seems an appropriate, if limited, application. If you’ll recall, drawing from Hegel’s dialectical model, Marx posited that eventually the inherent contradictions of capitalism would become so strong that at some point the system would collapse in on itself. This next segment of the interchange between spiritual introspection and pentecostal conscience is the point at which the internal contradictions become dangerously apparent.)

“Hold on, answer me this: which is more Godly? A really emotional service where lots of people get exhausted but they all leave feeling good about themselves or the baseline, middle of the road type of service where everything went steady and that, unknown to anybody else, one person decided after several weeks of hearing the truth to repent and commit his/her life to Christ? Which one is the occasion for a real party (Luke 15:10)? Really, why is the messy service so… tidy? So constructed and scripted?

In fact, it’s really not out of the ordinary at all; I know exactly what’s coming because it always happens the exact same way. In this manner, doesn’t “God” just become the verbal key to set off a celebration or the ex post facto justification?”

Whoa, whoa, are you saying what I think you’re saying? You don’t believe in God anymore, do you? You’re starting to doubt that any of what’s going on in the pentecostal church service is real at all; you think it’s all just an act and that, by proxy, God Himself doesn’t exist.

No, I can see where you’d draw that conclusion, but that’s not what I’m saying at all. Please understand me, I believe and know God can and WILL do His will in every service. I don’t doubt that His power is active and moved by faith in the raucous type of service also; He can move however and whenever He wants. What I am troubled by is the very act of identification, of naming one type of service “Godly” and hinging our spiritual life on it. What we’ve done is misplace the means for the ends; the process, that is to say the service itself, has become formalized beyond any self awareness on the parts of those in it. Our own opinions about what a Godly display of power should be has already predetermined what is and isn’t Godly before it actually happens. In short, the perception of the Godly service by which the church feels itself confirmed has been shaped by a predisposition even before the perception takes place. Are we so caught up looking, hoping, and waiting for what we know is a good church service that we lose out on so much of what God really has for us? I don’t know, what do you think?”

(Awkward Silence…….)

(Excursus II: If you’ve never had those types of questions, then this might not apply to you. God bless you, truly. If you have, then I honestly don’t know what to tell you, except to say don't walk away from this thing, but keep praying and searching for truth. If this post has come off as condemnatory, then chalk that up to the weaknesses on my part as a writer. The hope in writing this has been to bring about some self-analysis and discussion in the body of believers. Mainly this, are we missing out on what God could have for us by settling for what we’ve become comfortable with?)

Friday, August 27, 2010

#188-Sermon Affirmation Guy

Acknowledgements:This post goes on recommendation of one Mark Stanton....May the Lord bless him in all his days on earth and that he would be fruitful and multiply. (That is if he wants to have many kids. Should He not, I do not wish such a burden on him for the cost of kids these days is estimated to be around 200,000 dollars per child (years 0-18) even without assuming the burden of paying their college tuition. With that in mind, if he wants no kids I pray him a safe journey in life and marriage, with birth control methods always working their desired purpose throughout. That is, if Mark does believe in birth control. If he does not, but does not want kids, I pray God's mercy on Him for I think he is to be living a life of disappointments).

Intro: Of all the types of people that have been discussed on this blog, the Sermon Affirmation Guy is one of the ones that I hold nearest to my heart. And I really mean that. One of the reasons I love the Pentecostal experience and Pentecostal Churches in general is it's tolerance and embrace of "the Weird."

Whereas most of us would like to put a muzzle on some people's exuberant prayers, or tie up some people's legs during the course of the service because of the peculiar manor they carry on worship in dance, I genuinely want to soak each and every occasion up within my soul and wish from the bottom of my heart that I could be like them. It is the Pentecostal Church Service that forces me to face the strange otherness of some people's unreserved behavior and say that while that may not be how I worship, God's grace is alive in that person. They ARE A CHILD OF GOD.

I don't like being uncomfortable in my flesh. And if my flesh had it's way, I would like myself in a box if I could sustain as so, just so I don't become uncomfortable. Discomfort is foreign to me, and I want to repulse as far as possible away form my being. It's "the Weird" that happens in the Pentecostal Service that smacks such a pathetic thought away from myself. God's grace is not bound by discomfort and I hope it never is (although I Corinthians 14 does need to be taken account in this rant).

But of all "the Weird" people in this world and in our church (or is it that the reserved worshipers such as myself are the weird ones because we don't act on the bubbling in our soul?), as I said, The sermon affirmation Guy is one of my favorites. He is the guy that in short, will yell "Amen" or "Preach It" whenever the preacher is on a red-faced rant, mostly though, the applauding echo from the sermon affirmation guy comes when the preacher makes a reference to God being One or that Acts 2:38 is how you get to heaven.

It's like the Sermon Affirmation Guy has  a filter in his brain during sermons, wherein all words said during the sermon go down a conveyor belt located just inside the SAG's (Sermon Affirmation Guy) ear. As the words go down the belt they are quickly on a path to their unknowing destruction by being emptied out in the ear at the opposite end of the conveyor belt. However,  when the preacher gets loud or quotes a certain "buzz" verse or mentions a certain doctrinal position, the filter catches the reference and a red light goes off in the sermon affirmation guys' brain wherein those words are derailed from their fate, and are rather sent into the rest of the brain. Once inside the brain, the filtered words assemble themselves in such a way depending on their power, to force a results from the SAG.

The results the SAG displays after hearing the buzz words or buzz verses from the preacher is a chart descending from least motivated response to the greatest response that let's you know just how "on target" the preacher is....

1) "Amen" while seated

2) "Preach it Pastor" while seated (usually said when the congregation is provoked by the preacher himself in the form of the  preacher saying something accusatory and then adds "man it got quiet in here real fast." The SAG does not want to be indited as being guilty of the accused charges brought upon the congregation and therefore if the SAG says "Preach It" he is hoping that will be enough evidence to be found "not guilty" in God's court of the accused crimes.)

3) "Amen!" while standing up and then extending arm to a finger-pointing position back at the preacher as if the SAG had just shot a super powerful dose of extra preaching power at the preacher as a favor for the Good Word that has just been said.

4) A Silent but very authoritative and demonstrative slide out of the pew into the aisle whereupon the SAG marches swiftly in the direction of the preacher. When the SAG gets to about the altar he either goes to the aforementioned finger point (which is done so as to ensure accuracy of the the preaching power dosage because sometimes the finger point from the pew is a bit more inconsistent at the preaching power reaching it's desired destination) or allows for more of a swatting with his hand in the direction of the preacher as if he was swatting in imaginary fly. This "swatting" can be down several times in one movement as if to "fan" the preacher (this fly swatting technique gives the effect of the SAG either demonstrating that the preacher is too "on fire" to be touched or the Preacher is so "on" that he doesn't need the encouragement of the SAG).

5) A swift but masterful siege towards the altar again but this time the SAG gets on his knees and either chooses to hit the floor of the altar/platform or the base of the pulpit. When this rare site occurs, it is done so in repeated strikes to the floor as if the SAG is nailing a metaphorical nail into the floor (and thus seal the casket), or more likely the SAG has deduced the devil is in the floor and he needs to beat any remaining will power out of him in his dejected state.

6) A march straight onto the platform wherein the SAG either slaps the back of the pastor or high-5's him. Admittedly I have never seen this occurrence myself, but I would love it none the less, and Mark Stanton (post recommender) has testified that he has seen this happen on more than one occasion and also (most surprisingly) by different people.

Now if I ever happen to be blessed enough to see this happening, I don't even know what I would do with myself in such excitement of the pure weirdness that I would be observing. At such marches up to the platform, the SAG in one swoop is demolishing any unspoken barrier between "man of God" in the midst of his God-given sermon on the elevated Platform, and the place of the average layman in his inferior position as being the listener. God Bless Him!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#187-Relationship (A Funeral for an old friend)

Firstly, sorry about the delay of not posting. I try to post with some sort of regularity and it pains my heart when I don't do so. Forgive me dear citizens.

But continuing with using high school social order as a good analogy to understand the topics I write about, I give you a story:

A few years ago, a new kid moved into the school full of apostolic Pentecostals. Allegedly he came from California and his best friends were "Emergent" and "Grace" but no one was exactly sure where he came from. He was handsome, a great athlete, and had a better way with the ladies than most. This usually would make the other high school students red with jealousy as the foreigner stole away all possibility of keeping the ladies to sticking to their "home-grown roots." But yet the new kid had such a way about him that all the other guys fell head over heels him in terms of them pursuing a strictly platonic bro-mance relationship with him. The new kid never seemed to get annoyed by all of the attention and perhaps most admirably never seemed to let the popularity get to his head. He maintained friendships with the weirdest of the freaks at school but also made sure to hang out with the barbie dolls and the jocks as well. 

The new kid's name was "relationship." And he became the buzzword for our entire movement as a description of a kind of rebellion against formal and organized religion that most ApoPento youth had begun to classify their denomination as.

In fact, it was Relationship's enrollment into our school that forced the old high school starting Quarterback into a depression because he wasn't as good of an athlete or as funny or as accepting as Relationship. This former quarterback's name was Religion. When I think about Religion and Relationship I think of this friendship...

When Relationship moved in and tried taking the throne of being the most popular kid in school, Religion got extra mean with everyone and even one time yelled at his long term girlfriend in the hallway between classes:

"Your going to hang out with Relationship this weekend? After everything I have done for you, you return your gratitude by hanging out with Relationship. That's right, I know you text him secretly and that you like him more than me. Go ahead! Run away with him. But know that when you do run away with him, I will be laughing when I hear that you were passed out at a party drugged from a date-rape drug Relationship slipped into your drink. It won't be long until your sayin it don't matter if you was baptized in Jesus' Name or in the trinity's name."

But it wasn't long until Religion stopped going to youth class at church. And then one by one the murmurs became louder and without regret. Each student was caught saying the same words over and over again as if it was their own revelation: "To me, it's not about Religion. It's about Relationship."

And every student who was sitting near that student when they made that declaration nodded their head in agreement.

One day at school I was curious to see where Relationship lived so stalkerishly I followed him home. When He got home this is essentially what I saw when I looked into his bedroom window except instead of Kelly Ripa it was Relationship:

And the worst part was that Relationship saw me see him take off his face and swore me to secrecy not to say a word about his real identity.

Of course I agreed and we became best friends for a couple years.....

But I think the time has come to bury our expired and overly-mentioned friend.

You see, Relationship at first glimpse seems like a very good thing in theory. But I was talking to a friend a couple weeks ago and he mentioned how that word is just another buzzword for "I can live however I want since Christ to me is about relationship and not rules" (paraphrased). It takes obedience and responsibility and throws them in the bad "religion" tent and thus doesn't have to think about them one bit. So naturally, relationship is a subjective term which allows for personal interpretation of Christianity for each and every Christian young person. Which I theoretically agree with.

What I can't stand is that when someone says Christianity is about "relationship" they aren't talking about holding hands with God walking on the beach or God calling you late at night while you are hanging out with your friends and Him saying "Say you love me" and you say "But God all my friends are around and it's embarrassing if they hear me." And then God shouts "I knew it!" and then when he says that, you whisper in the phone "I love you" but all your friends still heard you and break out in laughter.

But I think in most cases, relationship doesn't mean that at all. It actually is said with a bit of self-righteousness to it that implies that anyone who is not "for relationship" is actually "for religion" like the older generation. But my question is, what Apostolic Pentecostal do we know that are against having  a relationship with God? Because everyone wants to have a relationship with God that gets them closer to knowing Him! Some may not act it out, some may classify the way to have relationship by following several formulas and rules, and others may go about that relationship only in the pews 3 days a week, but whatever the case is, everyone is still "for relationship." That even means those people who you say make Christianity a Religion, those people are for relationship. And are you not, by saying Christianity is about relationship, in a way making your own religion of the "relationship?"

Thus the bottom line is this: Any time someone says they are not for religion, they are for relationship, all it really means is "I want to worship a God that I want to make out in my own image and limited understanding of God and if it's not good enough I trust God will tell me. Not you!"

So thus I propose that we bury the term here and now because it essentially means nothing any more. And it can be downright hazardous to our health.

I'm sure a new kid will show up in our school soon enough anyways that is just as good looking and loving.

Friday, August 20, 2010

#186-Jonny Lang

Let me preface this post by saying the only reason I am writing this is because I was a Jonny Lang fan years ago, and the moment a musician I like gets popular I disavow my loyalty and quickly scour obscure websites trying to find other obscure bands/artists that no one has ever heard of just so I can continue thinking in my head that "I am above the masses." It's elitism in it's purest and most unadulterated form.

So when one of my favorite blues' artists suddenly is being swallowed up whole as the chosen son of my denomination, I am left to do nothing else but to have a midlife crisis and claim like a sheepish brat to anyone who brings up Jonny Lang in conversation how, "I liked his early stuff such as Lie to Me and Wander this World" and how I find "his newer stuff too poppy and too far removed from his true bluesy roots."

But for those of you who are keeping track at home, Jonny Lang is a wonderful, world renowned  blues artist who in the past couple years converted to being an Apostolic in one of our churches in California.

And too not put it too lightly, or too heavily, let me give you a sense of his celebrity: In the secular world he isn't close to a household name. But that hasn't deterred his fame nor the aura that surrounds his reputation. Because Jonny Lang is like your Stevie Ray Vaughn's (pre-death), Steve Vai's, and Leonard Cohen's of this world who by no means are going platinum the first week their albums go out, but are held in the highest esteem by those who value talented musicianship and creativity. In other words, don't judge Lang by the amount of albums he sells (although he sells many), but by his grammy and the fact that Eric Clapton can't get enough of him.

That said, there have been many urban legends in our movement about celebrities getting saved such as Elvis Presley walking into a UPC camp meeting and speaking in tongues and John Lennon calling up a local pentecostal minister to pray for him months before his assassination and then proceeding to speak in tongues. But all of these stories come third hand, and while they may have been true (the Elvis one seems to have several more witnesses to the occurrence than the Lennon one and thus seems more plausible in my mind), but Jonny Lang is an urban legend walking in the flesh. Anyone, should they endeavor to do so can walk up him at a concert and say "I'm an apostolic pentecostal" and from what I can tell this is a code word that anyone who has used such a code-word, Jonny has been very accommodating to.

But Jonny Lang is the latest example of the apostolic infatuation with celebrity that has any connection with our movement. Kings of Leon and Katy Perry are claimed as ours even though they left a long time ago. Kings of Leon, in spite of their nihilism, and raunchy lyrics is listened to freely by youth pastors across the country without complaint simply because we met someone who either was related to or knew them personally.  And Jonny even more so, even though up until the past year, all of Lang's recordings were done without reference to God in his songs. (Note that Lang's lyrics don't come close to approaching the profane as Kings of Leon does). In other words, there is this weird relationship we have with celebrity wherein anything that is produced by those who have ever walked into our churches and are also famous is immediately declared "kosher" for our entertainment pleasure by the Unseen Judges of Pentecostal Cultures.

 Note: Borat is in judgmental purgatory for the time being where no one wants to acknowledge him, but they would like to point out to anyone who would listen that they know "so and so" who appeared in the Camp Meeting scene in the movie. The prediction is that the Borat Apostolic camp meeting scene will be approved thirty years from now wherein every young person is too detached from the emotional impact of the event to actually care what the movie is/is not saying about Apostolics (think how Christians love Mark Twain these days without thinking twice about how much he hated Christianity, wherein if we were living in Twain's day we would probably want to set his books on fire).

From all accounts, Jonny Lang is on fire for God and will talk to anyone about Him. Lang, is a jewel and a gift to the world from God, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible.

But what makes me a tad ornery is our reaction to his conversion. To fill in the unknowing, Lang's music was immediately embraced by all apostolics who are in touch with any sort of cultural relevancy. Youth presidents,  youth pastors, and anyone else of the Apostolic Elite were soon found to be claiming him as a personal friend that they had met either backstage at one of his concerts or through a friend of a friend. Lang was the ultimate prized testimony for Apostolics, and those who could claim they had touched his tassels would freely brag about the experience. (Please note that I am not saying Lang is anyway responsible for this reaction.).

So what does this matter? Well we preach against the pop-music on the radio. And we warn kids about dancing too closely with the world that they unknowingly adopt their habits. We tell them Hollywood is not something that should be desired, and that rich celebrities are really unsatisfied in their glamorous lifestyle and if we could somehow x-ray the soul of the common celebrity we would find it completely empty.

Right right. Holiness explained through separation of the world and not embracing their idols.

But our quick habit of "ApoPentecostalizing" anything that has either touched or is touching the ApoPento culture and also has touched/is touching the world of secular fame, I propose we show our true colors. And those true colors are our intense hunger to idolize anything within our movement that has or is being idolized in the world. 

It's kind of like the extremely popular and good-looking boy or girl in high school. Assuming you were a loser  in school like me or average at best, we would tell ourselves and our friends that the popular boy or girl were really stuck up and disgusting inside even though we had never exchanged more than a few sentences with them.

But the moment we find that stuck up student engaging us in conversation and wanting us to come hang out with them, all of a sudden we find ourselves developing a crush and wanting to marry them (if they are the opposite gender), or at least wanting to get matching friendship necklaces with them as to cement the fact that we both will be BFF's forever.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

#185-Using someones tragedy and/or plight to prove God is good

Okay, so I was working on the Jonny Lang post I promised like two weeks ago. And it's almost done. But in the midst of the writing process, the gods took the wheel of fate and spun it around to altar my plan of action for writing this day. It came from an excellent quote in my facebook inbox from SAL contributer, Chady Hosin, and the quote was by one of my top five favorite authors, Albert Camus:

"By the same token, the writer's role is not free from difficult duties. By definition he cannot put himself today in the service of those who make history; he is at the service of those who suffer it."

That was good to remember when you are writing about the importance of Jonny Lang and it's influence of introducing Nashvillian blues within our movement. (I Kid.).

But then I saw IT!

Now as main writer to this blog, I have persevered as best as possible to not indite specific individuals. A whole post on gigantic head gear/head band has been refrained from being written because the only pictures I could find of it's inception are those of Apostolic girls at camp.

But the "It" here is a facebook status of a specific individual.  And the poor soul who wrought the status is of the utmost good Christian standing as far as I can tell (but I can't tell much because I don't  know much). They just proceeded to write a status that is so indicative of the Christianity of our time, at precisely the wrong time as to find their status in the midst of the procession that is to be presented here.

So naturally everything I am going to quote next is true. The only thing that has been changed is the words.

"If you have clothes on and shoes to walk in, and enough money to buy a meal, compared to the third world, you are blessed abundantly. Be grateful and thankful!"

Makes me weep right on the spot.

Because this is our Christianity at work summarized in one concise sentence.

And I will say that if this is how we are to define our being thankful to God, then I reject that God flat out. I would rather have hell than the heaven that such a God would offer. A God that gives more and more to those who have and are thankful about it, and continues to turn his blind ear to those who have not.

I can recount several preachings where the preacher says, "be glad you aren't blind like some others." Or "you could have been born with some name deformity or disease here, but you are not so Thank God for that."

And when I hear that I become so aggressively angry inside. Maybe some will call it my flesh that doesn't want to thank God, but I would think it's something much deeper.

I just want to ask the preachers when they say such abominable things, "yes but what about the blind? What about the sick? What about the poor and the starving? I guess they have less to thank God about? And for God's sake, I want to know one thing. If God is kind enough to bless me to not be blind or deaf or be born as a crack baby, why in the world couldn't He have gone out of his way to do the same for those who ARE blind, deaf and born with an addiction to crack? Why?"

And then they say something to the effect of, "Well God works in mysterious ways."

Which must also be answered, "Well I'm glad you got the good end of the mystery."

And we'll all laugh and play golf the next day. Yes, Apostolic Pentecostalism in America can be summed up in the following sentence, "A few got sick. Many got saved. And overall, a good time was had by all."

And here I am your court jester playing a tune and saying a joke for us all to laugh at in the good company we have gathered to enjoy life to it's fullest through and through.

(I'm guessing you never realized a facebook status can get one so ticked off).

Thank God we have a free nation to worship in. In China they would be persecuted if we had church like this. HERE HERE!

But I guess my shtick is, if there is that persecution going on I can't dare be thankful. If Africa is full of AIDS, I can't dare close my eyes to it and say "Well Thank God I'm over here and not Like those over there." Because the fact is those people are existing and suffering and if God is to be held responsible for our security here, then we most hold Him accountable for the disease over there.It's over there I see a whole lot of room for grace and redemption when there is such suffering. I swear to you some days I wish I had the money and the medication to head over to Africa. Because at least people there are starving and they're not pretending otherwise. The only difference is the starvation of the African variety is much easier than the American kind.

My goodness, forgive my uncontrolled ranting. This is not healthy.

I guess the point is, in II Corinthians 10-12, we have a very angry Paul. For at least the second time in his Ministry, the church He founded, the church of Corinth is questioning Paul's Christianity and claim to apostleship. You see, Paul wasn't the best speaker, actually he was terrible if anything. Paul also didn't have the riches the other apostles had. So the other apostles would get up and call out Paul and say (paraphrasing from the arguments made throughout both of the epistles of Corinth), "Paul isn't anything of God. Look how sickly he is. Look at the lack of power in his ministry and look how poor he is. He even has to make tents to fund his ministry. Listen to me for I am clearly the blessed apostle. I speak with authority and am blessed financially and in signs of miracles and wonders. We should all be thankful we are not like Paul."

And how does Paul respond, well first off in the opening chapter of I Corinthians, "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are,"

Do you see? By this logic, it is the sickly, the deformed, and those without clothing in Africa who God is choosing. Not the ones who are financially well-off and thank God because they are not poor like the rest. Paul then says that the only thing he will boast about is the Lord and at one point, only in the crucifixion. He is not boasting over what he has that others do not have....

but it gets worse....

But the time II Corinthians 10 comes along, Paul is more ticked off than we have ever seen him. And he simply starts saying basically that the reason he is losing is because he refuses to brag whatsoever unlike "those blessed apostles." So then he says, "fine, today I will act like a fool. And brag about what I have." And how does it brag? Not through what he has. But rather the vicious sufferings he has encountered ("if I must boast, I will boast in my weakness" II Corinthians 11:30).

These sufferings which are in no way exhaustive include, "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked" (II Corinthians 11:24-27).

But why Paul? That doesn't sound very much like a blessing. Au contraire! Because II Cor. 12:9 says, God's grace is "made perfect in weakness."

So there you have it. By this reasoning, when we are weak we become dependent on God. Thus any kind of self-built affluence can be destructive as we are dependent not on God but ourselves.

And thus when someone tells me to thank God because I wasn't in a car crash wherein some stranger paralyzed, I really think "but I bet they will find God a lot more now than before. When there is weakness, there is God's grace made perfect."

Sometimes, I thank God for the starving African children. Not because it means that I am better off than them. But rather it means God's grace still has broken and empty places to reside in. 

Thus when I have the shoes on my feet and a shirt on my back that I paid for, I have to pray that in spite of myself and my material riches, that somehow God's grace descend past it. But I don't really know if it's possible.

Postscript: I apologize for this complete anvil of a blogpost. I couldn't refrain. If you want to continue to kick the fallen child while it's down, read this article here:

Come back tomorrow night and I will probably have a new lighter, "Jonny Langified" post here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

#184-Indiana Bible College and how I regained paradise in Indianapolis, IN that previously had been lost in Ann Arbor, MI where republicans are slaughtered

I apologize that I do not have a picture IBC related but Google images was not working. So this was the next best thing I could muster up.

(Prelude: Excuse the tendency to wax poetic and romantically in this post. I am just in the middle of constructing something that when finished could be the first thing I have ever done that I am proud of it. And naturally when something of self-worth is constructed, one's mind needs to be in all kind of inspirational places, and thus what you see below it the regretful result of my state of consciousness during such a period of romanticizing and disillusionment).
So we are on the third and most likely final stop of our bible college tour. And because no one who went to IBC or is currently at IBC sent me an e-mail volunteering to do the write-up of their college, they have elected me to be their representative in account of their silence. However, I consider myself appropriately qualified for the task at hand because I have visited the land of milk & honey on many an occasion through the years all in the name of trying to find a future wife and marry her, because of course, that's what girls go to Bible College for (okay, I know I just let the cliche of all cliches out of the bag, but we have been through three Bible College related posts and not one person, author or commenter has made any sly hint of Bible Colleges being the foremost vehicle to propel prospective ministers and musicians alike into marital obscurity).

SO before we go on, let's get a little background music in here. Why? because I have been listening to the Album the song is on nonstop for six days (yes, even in my sleep and in the shower)... The album is Suburbs by Arcade Fire and it is the most horrifyingly accurate description of not only my life, but anyone who I have ever met that has grown up in the suburbs. This song particularly, is what I really think Indiana Bible College is all about. That said, I present "The Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" by Arcade Fire as the background music to the rest of this post (bonus points if you are a Blondie fan).

Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Hypetrak

"They heard me singing and they told me to stop,
Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock."

The above opening lines of the song describe what I think IBC is all about.

Sure there is the whole aspect of IBC "preparing young people for ministry" which is entirely accurate. But the allure of IBC for most is not the formal explanation of its existence, but rather its social significance:

It's literally high school but for people who are too old for high school. It's one last long reach for the years of innocence of not having the burden of the world on your shoulders, where bills getting paid are of the utmost concern, diapers with poop in them are the odor of life at home, and having your soul gradually stolen from you without you noticing is the hobby of choice.

And IBC delays this inevitable horror, and keeps the dance of childhood right on into the dorm rooms. It is the middle-earth between the heaven of adolescence and the hell of adulthood.

And I do not think I am being unfair at all. On the occasions where I departed South to IBC from my University that forces self-introspection amidst isolation amidst the chaos of college-life, I was startled about how much I felt like I re-entered into my own days back home in high school where you would sit and talk with friends about stuff that you couldn't care less about, and go out to eat A LOT because that seemed like the only decent thing us aspiring adults could do to declare self sufficiency without looking rebellious.

The classes themselves are more akin to high school than anything I have heard about at college (I was a guest one day there to see what the whole experience was like). Literally there is a bell that goes off and everyone floods the hallways amidst gossip and laughter and high five each other as they cross paths. The classrooms themselves follow suit in their role as an older version of high school with students falling asleep while the teacher lectures and getting snapped at for talking out of place. It's quite a thing of beauty.

And the conversations during lunch, after class, before bedtime, how magnificent! I tremble at the memories I have of these conversations where if I close my eyes hard enough to remember them, I can almost see angels floating around us who were gathered in the room to talk about whatever biblical or theological issue that was on the plate.

Most of the time, the issue at hand was Rob Bell. Because everyone at IBC hates Rob Bell and the rest of the emergent heresy and they have a story about Mooney confronting Bell to his face to prove it. It literally has folklore status wherein whenever someone is a guest to the conversation and has never heard of the story before, someone goes "you haven't heard the Rob Bell story?" And then there is a hush that fills the room. And then I swear someone turns off the lights, and a candle is lit in the next room. And the candle is carried to the storyteller who amidst darkness and one lit candle under his chin, recounts in a slow chilling voice, the tale about the time Archbishop Mooney confronted the 21st century's best imitation of darkness: Rob Bell. Sometimes, someone adds in that some people speculate that Mooney had to get violent with Bell because Bell was foaming at his mouth ready to jump and bite Mooney in the neck, but that Mooney is too humble to tell this side of the story.

There is a brilliant subplot to this whole occasion, as my friend who went to IBC would recall many occasions where the Emergent church was at the heart of the conversation and one got the sense you were dealing with the Red Scare wherein it wouldn't have been surprising to the Apostolics in the room one bit if the windows would have been kicked in and their door busted down as the Emergents dressed in yellow jump suits and gas masks came storming in with guns in their hands and arrested every member of that room for believing the truth and preaching it. But yet, when he was in the midst of the paranoia, I would ask him if anyone had read Velvet Elvis who talked so pessimistically about this Apostolic version of the Red Scare and he said he didn't think so.

It was not long after school was over that my friend called me to tell me he had just got done reading some of Velvet Elvis and that it was nothing like it was made out to be (I wholly admit that while I do remember such a call, he may not have taken the exact tone that I am projecting him as taking here. He is not a Rob Bell fan by any means, but rather he just saw that the whole emergent thing was quite exaggerated as an enemy at IBC).

The Festivals

But everything that I have mentioned before is just a precursor to what I believe is the biggest differentiator between the IBC and the rest of the Bible colleges: The festivals they throw.

Sure every Bible College has their one or two unique conferences that draw in anyone from within 350 miles away, and I don't know the precise history of UPC church conferences, but outside of Youth Congress, General Conference, Because of the Times, and maybe that thing they have out West at Stockton, IBC MusicFest is the reigning champion of Apostolic festival throwing (I would argue the one in Stockton is on equal grounds to MusicFest but just representing the West side of the United States).

But to introduce the concept, let me propose that when students contemplate going to IBC, it's not the classes and the weird scandals that come out of the school (seriously IBC has consistently manufactured the strangest stories of sin amongst its students than anywhere else I have heard), but rather what the kids have in mind is something more along the line of this:

And I honestly don't mean that in any offensive way whatsoever. The perception of IBC from the outside is that it is hinges on the IBC Connects, and the Live Recordings and the MusicFests. The darkened sanctuaries with multi-colored lights shining on those on the stage as they perform for the audience of that which they feel God has called them to. Sometimes people get on stage that dance for deaf people. Other times Bro. Mooney gets up there and makes people really excited. And sometimes if you look on the big screen at the zoom-ins of the choir you can make out the devil's paint, and trimmed hair on a few of the members, but we'll let that be our little secret.

And the costumes, my goodness the Costumes! IBC, during these various festivals and circuses is the place to find the latest styles of fashion in our movement. Which makes for a grand time as the contest between the females becomes: "Who can do their hair in the most ridiculous way and wear the most absurd uniform and still manage to get hit on by the guys." For males, well... I just know for males, it's a giant "Who can look like Wayne Francis" contest, but something's gotta give. I'm sure there is a new contest for the males just around the corner.

So in short, the carnivals are quite the show. And they are marvelous. But I think the mistake for those non-students (such as myself) is to think the thing we see is not the entire thing. Sure, because of the carnivals, IBC gets generally speaking the best musicians as MusicFest and the Live Recording serve as the best stages for someone to exhibit their talents to the masses of people to have 15 year old girls in the audience swoon over them.

But just like someone who has an ugly girlfriend will tell you, "there's more to a female than her looks," I can attest to the fact that there is more to IBC than it's festivals of lights. I have seen many good people come out of their matured and ready to take on the challenge of expensive weddings, and having babies, and preaching at local youth rallys all wondering why they aren't good enough to be asked to preach at Youth Congress. I really have seen some of the best preachers of our generation come from there and some of the kindest, and funniest and most loving people as well.

At the same time, IBC hosts some of the most heinous "elephants" in the room of our movements which everyone sees but no one wants to say anything about. The vanity and the glamor of the place amongst some of the students makes me ashamed at times to be considered on the same boat as them (I am not knocking a certain style, but rather the inability for some to comprehend the need for modesty in its biblical definition which revolves around cost and not drawing attention to self outside of just not putting on jewelry. While the definition of "modesty" is subjective, it's no more subjective than saying we should be allowed to drink alcohol as much as anyone is led to drink because God let's what is considered drunkenness be decided upon each person in their own heart).

If you are familiar with the show Jersey Shore and its portrayal of some of the Italian figures in their vanity and ignorance that live near the Jersey Coast, I would say if someone wanted the same kind of show for Apostolics, the first place they should go is IBC. By no means is everyone that ditsy at the college, but it's certainly a place that houses some of the people who are hoping to get out of IBC what it was not intended for: a chance to live as a social aristocrat.

Like the rest of the Bible Colleges, IBC is a tool that can either build or destroy. It is not the answer. It can aid your ministry and build networks and show you how to live on your own as a Christian. At the other end if your intentions are anything short of that, IBC will be the tool to live four more years as a high schooler listening to Justin Bieber, wondering if he "is/isn't gay," repeatedly telling people "Christianity is not about religion, but about relationship" as if that meant anything at all other than you are going to do what you want to do as an young person.

To conclude, I think a quote which I have altered a bit from the movie, the Network summarizes bible college up best.

" Listen to me: Bible College is not the truth! It will not save you. It's an amusement park! Bible College is a circus, a carnival, an institution to learn a trade, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, clowns, side-show freaks, lion tamers, sirens, prophets, heathens, heretics, movie theater goers, preacher's wives, and prayer-warriors. We're in the boredom-killing business! So if you want the truth... Go to God! Go to your pastors! Go to yourselves!."

But after you have found God and have find yourself, I would add, go to bible school and have the time of your life. And please for the love of God, do something useful while you are there. Something that makes us want to be your friend and wants us to root for you every step of the way. Don't be one of those people who we all know your name from a far, but all for the wrong reasons.

I dedicate this post to Andrew Coffield a friend who is taking the IBC plunge next week. I wish him Godspeed and hope to God he doesn't become one of "them."

Friday, August 13, 2010

#183-Gateway College of Evangelism

Editor's note: Yesterday Ryan posted his take on an experience from years past at the fine institution of CLC. In spite of it being an openly subjective testimony of his take of the time he spent there, people felt this didn't do justice to the institution itself. As if the institution actually had a voice and in that voice an objective and unbias view of itself. Everyone's experience in life will be different. How they perceive things will be up to them, their past cultural experiences, and the timing of which they encounter the "thing." So for someone to say, "Ryan your view of CLC is wrong." That to me is so precious. Two weeks ago someone told me "you should feel awful about yourself." I knew that I should have, but I didn't, so I laughed. One may come to my house right now and see the messiness of it and be horrified. Another may feel "at home" amidst the messiness.

That said, for Gateway, I will be presenting another former student's experience at Gateway who wished to remain anonymous. To me his take is fascinating in many respects. First of which (and much like Ryan's experience), the college is not so much defined as a building or a place where learning happens, but rather is based on the personalities of the hired personnel that work/taught at the college. As for me, while I have never been a student (and thus my grounds to speak for it are minimal), I am actually a fan of Gateway. While I have heard complaints about some of the staff and kind of an "old guard" of teachers, there are several fascinating teachers there who have made an impact on my own life. Gateway's building is an old jesuit college which is AWESOME, because the architecture is so sweet. Honestly, when I visited for the first time, it was the first building I had seen that made me proud to be a part of the movement. I wish someone, somewhere would raise a couple million for the building's complete renovation (because some of it is decaying and run down), because to me  I would rather renovate that building awesomeness than start constructing a new building any day. Plus the sanctuary, complete with old stain-glass windows (with bible scenes), is by far the coolest sanctuary I have ever attended that is affiliated with our movement. For all of the above reasons, whenever an adolescent asks me (and my ignorant opinion) which bible school I recommend, I always tell them Gateway. Not to mention (and I know this is such old rhetoric that it's hard to believe), that I can attest first hand that if any bible college is trying to work towards accreditation, it is Gateway.

That said: I now present to you the former student's take on his experience....(I don't know any of the people he is referring to in the post and I still laughed)....

The testimony

I can remember it plainly. It was the last summer I would spend at home before I was to take on the world and experience the beast known as "Bible School."  I was sure that 700 Howdershell Road. was not ready for me, but by golly, I was ready for it. I had even received my district's Sheaves for Christ Bible School scholarship, the planets had aligned, and the moon remained full for days. What other signs could I ask for? I was raised in an ultra conservative (soon to be liberal) UPC church where I used my talents as a musician to play for the Lord and what not. My foundation was vast and thick, not (in my opinion) easily shaken. 

Then I arrived. I definitely wasn't ready for what was about to happen. Within my first few months there, I had witnessed the horrors they don't tell you about. The cold showers, the poor facilities, the run-down classrooms, the outdated fixtures, the outdated faculty, and so much more. Also left out were the secret agencies hidden within the student body. There was the GBI (Gateway Bureau of Investigation), the GIA (Gateway Intelligence Agency), and the GSA (Gateway Security Administration) - all of which had separate leaders who reported to the campus pastor, which leads me to my next point. 

**Note to reader: the true names of the following individuals have been altered to protect their precious, precious egos and prestigious reputations among their fellow Word bearers in the United Pentecostal Worldwide Fellowship. If you are insightful enough to figure out who indeed they are, I command you to go down to the local movie house and buy yourself a cookie. You deserve it.**

Whitebeard the Whimsical -- don't get me wrong, Reverend Clark Whitebeard is a stand-up guy. Great wife, great kids, and a great way of making you spill information. He was able to convince you that the information you held was a matter of campus security and hell fire resistance. He always led you to believe that he already knew that which he did not, causing you to only give him fresh information and implicate peers in crimes against humanity such as movie going, white building invasions, etc. If your offense was that of a movie viewing at the demon houses (which have great cookies by the way), he would immediately look up the movie on the Focus on the Family website, read the rating that right-wing Christians gave it, and dole out a necessary punishment. Reverend Whitebeard wasn't much of a musician lover. Preachers have first priority in the Kingdom, because we all know that God is a Respecter of them that say His word rather than sing it. Clark Whitebeard has since moved up from being Campus Pastor and is now an Administrator. 

Talapia the Terrible -- such a young fish in such a large pond. He came after Whitebeard the Whimsical and brought his iron fist with him. Fashioned from solid iron, layered with pure gold, and held up by a stepping stone upon which stood the not-so-illustrious Reverend Talapia. A recent graduate of Gateway, Reverend Talapia seemed to be the perfect choice. He even said it himself when he told the student body "I'm not called to be a pastor, I'm called to be an evangelist." That's right...the students knew that he wanted to be their campus pastor. Especially at 1:00am, dressed in a full suit - even a vest - he would burst onto a dorm floor in search of a young man who had impure thoughts mere minutes before...and around 4:00pm when he would be enjoying an afternoon delight in the form of a passionate kiss from his wife in his very own office. Times of parking lot monitoring were also in play. If you were dare outside of the dorms after 11pm during the week, you were a sure threat to the peace and quiet. Reverend Talapia and his wife were constantly seen sitting in their vehicle, picking off late students like flies. He was in control. What more could a man ask for? Like his predecessor, Reverend Talapia disliked those of the musical persuasion...for reasons unknown. Little did he know, his reign was so mighty and respected that students involved in the musical persuasion actually turned to the Missouri District Superintendent for a solution of how Reverend Talapia could be removed from that position (fiction starts here) and placed in a higher position where he could carry out his true calling of a people lover. Reverend Talapia only lasted for one year. Triumphant, he moved on, and nobody cares where he went.

I'll stop with those two. Not because I am not familiar with Sample the Beloved, but because one has only so much ability to praise individuals' work that I have become weary. Sample the Beloved has since stepped down and McClintock the Magnificent will be taking his place this coming semester.

The incoming students at 700 Howdershell Road really have a lot to look forward to - the new music director has thrown out the previous music director's vision, the new president is a micro-manager, their new peers will still be sexually active in front of the pipe organ (and in the field - and in their car - and in random fields - and in the basement - and several other places), Sis. Marks still smiles, Sis. Scott still frowns, the roof still leaks, the tunnels still stink, the white building still has evil spirits on the third floor, the stained glass windows in the chapel still have demons in them, and so much more. By the way, since the time that I attended, new fixtures have been installed (in some areas) and new pipes that carry hot water - though cold showers are still a norm., the classrooms have been remodeled and air conditioning installed for the benefit of fat teachers with special wives who rant about fat preachers and their trophy wives.

Gateway is a place that you can grow spiritually and shrink mentally. I recall one evening that I was laying in my bed, minding my own business (dealing with family drama...can't even explain) when I heard a noise in the hallway. I then remembered that the men of 700 Howdershell were going to be taking communion that evening. Suddenly, out of nowhere, someone pounds on my door. Given that you don't know who I am, it will be hard for you to picture the frustration that rose within me as the pounding grew more intense. I never moved from my bed. I simply was not in the mood. I was frowned upon for not attending such gatherings, but praised and given a right to turn down my nose at those who were once like me when I was present. These "vespers" were lightly attended unless there was some sort of event, special speaker, video games, video of a preacher, or if prayer was truly the focus. Don't get me wrong, we could schuck corn with the best of them and froth a fine pile of saliva bubbles when the glory hit and our brethren knelt down and laid hands on our feet to pray for us because we had offended them by standing up for post-modernism rather than defending ankle-length skirts and denouncing Disney movies - these prayer meetings and spiritual gatherings were rarely the highlight of the week. It was the fleshly desires to box until we drew blood, shoot airsoft guns at each other and take the "pain" like a man, or hunt raccoons and skin them for all to see that caught the attention and attendance of most of the male types. Halo was a regularly attended event in many a dorm as well.

Don't get me wrong, Gateway is a place of serenity and hope. You can learn how to stay in church very quickly, and you can learn how to hate church very quickly. Ultimately, it's not a bad gig - given the partnership with Missouri Baptist Bible College. My time there allowed me to meet and network with incredible people who I still keep in contact with today. Changed my life forever.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

#182 - Christian Life College

Once known for its great theology program and progressive music department, both of which have since slid into oblivion. All the teachers left and nobody replaced them (slight exaggeration here). There was a Dean of Music whose perspective on ministry was very progressive as well as how that related to music. She empowered students and created a great environment for learning and ministry. But then she left (shout out to LLP - woot!), then there was a replacement. Then they left. Then nothing. I remember hearing the chorale at a Youth Congress and then IBC sang and made them sound like kindergartners (although since they've added 'I'm A Pentecostal" to their repertoire they've become infinitely more popular). In case you're not familiar with the song, I've attached a link for your viewing pleasure.

CLC was once known for being Theologically progressive (Segraves, Garner, etc). Then there was a change in the administrative structure. Although evidently there are prayer meetings and fasting retreats all the time now. Actually, there is Roy Fischer who everyone expects to be fired after his teaching on biblical criticism ( if you're interested). But all the people in the Pacific Northwest are now happy that they have someone to send their kids. How does CLC differ from some of the other schools? Here's an example:

Ask an IBC kid for directions or something at an event they are hosting and they'll pretend they know and be very helpful even if they don't; ask a Gateway student and they'll probably know (very organized people) and be able to help you; ask a CLC student and they'll look at you with blank stares and just say no and walk away leaving you bewildered and no better off than you started. If you want professional Pentecost, you'll have to go to the Midwest or the South.

If you went to CLC and have some additional descriptions, please leave them in the comments section.

Also - we're still looking for blogs on the other schools. You can email

Gateway will be posted later this week.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

#181 - Bible School

Let me just start by saying that my one (1) semester of Bible School was one of the most fun periods of my life. I got introduced to the war between Contemporary Christian music and Gospel (I swear that if they had sung 'Open The Eyes of My Heart Lord' one more time I was gonna stab someone so that their heart would be the only way they'd be seeing). I learned that 1-4-5 gets boring really, really fast. I was once told that I could play one chord, fourths, for the entire song. Thanks for that, by the way.

But I got to be involved with some incredibly talented people, see aspects of ministry that blew my mind and watch young people take their first steps into ministry in ways that were incredible. I have enduring friendships and connections from Bible School - I've met tons of other people through friends at other Bible Schools - the social networking aspect is amazing. I also grew a fat stomach for the first time in my life, frequented Krispe Kreme donuts almost every day (I had a booklet of free dozens), and got the worst GPA I'd ever had in my life. Typically at least a 3.0 student, I descended into the abyss of the 1 point something zone. I think it had to do with the 7am classes (who does that - really people, you should think out the scheduling a little better). I fell asleep in that 7am class whenever I managed to attend (Thanks to Terry Baughman for being kind), faked my way through sight singing and had a blast the whole time.

But at the end of the semester, it was decision time. "Do I come back or not?" So what had been a blast, an escape and an all around good time had to be thought over. So here we go - a look at the phenomenon that is Bible School.


What do you do with your child when they're finished with High School? They've been sheltered, perhaps Home-schooled, and now they're at the stage where keeping them at home and completely sheltered from the world is becoming increasingly difficult. The answer? Bible College! Here's why:

1. Bible School will surround your child (almost adult) with other people of like precious faith in an unsustainably 'spiritual' environment where they will go from glory to glory and ascend to dizzying heights of spirituality and godliness. (Where else can you find midnight prayer meetings on a regular basis that people actually attend?)

2. There will be a campus pastor. This person will be like a parent, thus making the fictitious nature of 'freedom' easier to bear for the parent while still giving the child some latitude to engage in the heretofore villainized world. (This poor guy has the worst job at the school; the parents want more, the kids want less, and he's constantly being monitored by the school.)

3. There is an entire staff of people who will monitor the clothing choices of your child. They will not be allowed to dress like heathens and be immodest.

4. They will be further indoctrinated in the ways of the UPCI (unless they went to CLC prior to Dan Segraves and Jeff Garner leaving - and even then, David Bernard's books are required reading).

5. They'll be getting an education without any fears of contamination by that evolution crap or liberal agendas or crazy humanities or any critical thought that will really make them think all while supporting the belief set you have drilled in to their heads from the time they were able to formulate small sentences.

6. If they do question anything you taught them, it will probably have to do with sleeve length and whether shorts are acceptable or not. Although I do remember a couple of guys I knew who showed up in the dorms with brand new matching lightning bolt tattoos. Think Harry Potter, only instead of on their foreheads, it was on their right shoulders. I was then required to read the Bible and figure out whether tattoos were actually a sin or just a cultural taboo. Wow, that's a paradigm shift. But then again, maybe not.

7. They will be required to attend church services and attendance will be taken to make sure they are there. If they miss, fines will accrue. (Every bad action has an equal or greater reaction that inevitably has a fine attached. There's a reason Bible College students are always broke.)


You parents should be aware. There are other parents who send their kids to Bible School because they are at their wits end. So what you also get are the problem kids. Kids who smoke pot and sleep around. Kids who are exploring their sexuality. Kids who are questioning everything. And they all get thrown into the same pot.

So although there are curfews and dress codes and midnight prayer meetings, and no mixed bathing at the beach, there are also curfew breakers, kids having sex in the school library/parking lot/chapel/etc., teenage pregnancies and the gay/lesbian who comes out and then continues their ministry in the gay pentecostal movement. Not to mention the inevitable interest in alcohol and all that entails. Much to my surprise (I found out after I left) there was a room that was known for being the party room and people got drunk in there frequently.

And the best part? If (and that's a very big if) you manage to make it through all four years of Bible School - you get a diploma. A diploma that doesn't mean anything unless you're at a UPCI event where you see all your other friends who went to the same school you went to. Or a neighboring school. Then it's cool because of social networking. And you know people. And people know you. And if you happen to be talented, you might get asked to do music at an event, or speak at a conference. In the Apo/Penny world. Try and do anything outside of that and the diploma you just spent four (4) years to get, and you get a blank stare and the realization slowly dawns: "that school isn't accredited." Even though they've been trying since the 60's. It still hasn't happened. And nobody in the greater Christian subculture even knows what this school is. Unless it's Missouri Baptist and then you can transfer over. And Gateway students said, "Hallelujah!"

I remember an instructor telling me that the education I would get at Bible School was as good as one in a secular college. Which made me wonder, "if they're equivalent, why not go to the one where I'll get an accredited degree?"

So the next logical step would be to discuss the available Bible School options. Which we will do in the next few blogs. But I'd like some input from you all. To those of you who are either current Bible School students or alumni would be interested in doing a brief, but humorous write up of the college of your choice and email it to We'd love to post your take - we can credit you with authoring the piece or you can remain anonymous - it is up to you.

I went to CLC so I'll be posting that one in the next few days and someone is already taking Gateway - but if you went/go to IBC, TBC, ABI, Kent, or JCM, please feel free to send us an email. If I've missed any schools, let me know.

Friday, August 6, 2010

#180-Not Jezebel

Oh dear saints, we gather around this here parts again to remember all those backslidden youths from memory past. The backslidden males got lost in destroying their own body with self-worship of sports and inebriation through many illegal substances, and fornication of all kinds...

But it is the ladies... those precious females who we bow low to on this day and have a moment of silence...

For their fate was not on their own doing...

Rather, they started out innocent by listening to a Britney Spears song 3 times too many on the radio, including "I'm a Slave 4 You" and we all know that "you" in the song title is SATAN!

And this was all the room Satan needed to make an entry into the soul of the unknowing Apostolic female. For the moment Britney is provoked upon the ears, God's protecting grace goes for the hills in hatred of terribly written music.

But just like a frog that will remain in a boiling pot of water if the temperature is gradually and subtly increased over time from moderate temperature to boiling temperature, Satan's attacks are equally as subtle and equally as devastating. Unless the armies of the church mount around the "tempted" youthful female in intercessory prayer, she is bound to be lost...

And specifically what is the name of this Satanic attack to which countless women have fallen prey to?

It is none other than that which we know as "The Spirit of Jezebel!"


For the moment a girl in the church starts wearing that devil's paint, *cough* I mean make-up (be it mascara, cover-up, blush, colored chap stick, or even face-paint), it is not the girl's fault.

No, it's not that the girl wants to be pretty. It's not that the make-up is an indication of a low self-esteem the female has that has not found filling within the church. But rather, it is quite simply the Spirit of Jezebel in her!

For Jezebel is the over-arching trump card description of anytime a girl does something wrong.

So we show the girl scripture about where make-up is wrong, a la "shamefacedness" which really means it's a sin for a girl to walk in the street and make eye contact with a male (but let's not talk about that).

But why are we showing the girl scripture when her sin is not her fault, but that demonic spirit which is oppressing her? Surely, if Satan's attacks can't be stopped by God's grace, our human reason in scripture won't do either.

But let's talk about this Spirit of Jezebel... We have references to Jezebel in the Old Testament. References to a Prophetess Jezebel in Revelation who is definitely a real person... (which may or may not be the prophetesses real name)...

And we still can't find that scripture that describes her as a Spirit of vanity...

Let me see here....

It must be in scripture some where...

Because the Spirit of Jezebel has gotten more people kicked off the platform than any other Spirit combined...

Uggggh... This is kinda awkward...


This stinks...

Because A "Spirit of Jezebel" is no where to be found... But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist, but every time I see Modesty mentioned in the New Testament, it's kind of like "yo girls, be modest." No spirit attached.

But whatever, forget about that, let's go to the actual story of Jezebel.

The source of everything...

2 Kings 9:30-(NLT)
"When Jezebel, the queen mother, heard that Jehu had come to Jezreel, she painted her eyelids and fixed her hair and sat at a window."

Aha... There... You see... Any time you want to tempt someone, you go and paint your eyes...

Yes... Ladies... This is why we don't like Jezebel...

(child raises her hand)

Me: Yes?

Child: I noticed that it says Jezebel also fixed her hair after she painted her eyes?

Me: Yes, she probably combed it or arranged it to look pretty.

Child: Doesn't that mean that if painting your eyes is wrong because Jezebel did it, so is fixing your hair?

Me: Well... Umm... There are some things you just won't understand until you're older. This is one of them.

Child: That doesn't answer the question

Me: You see when you get older you get the answers by becoming a minister or minister's wife and you get to tell people what scripture is saying and when someone asks you questions like the one you just did you get to tell them to trust you as pastor or elder, because you have years of ministerial experience.

Child: That still doesn't answer the question.

Me: Well, you see that if I keep on telling you about my authority and how if God wanted you to learn something logical in scripture, he would have told me first, so you just have to trust me. And I will just keep talking about this and how you need to respect our traditions and the world we ministers operate is beyond the logic you are proposing...

Child: But mommy and sister take as long as two hours sometime to do their hair before church.

Me: Forget it!

Child: But you can't say painting your eyes is wrong because Jezebel did it, if you don't say arranging your hair is wrong as well. Or even looking out the window, which is the last thing it said Jezebel did. To argue differently is being dishonest to scripture.

Me: Well sometimes scripture appears to be dishonest and inconsistent but that's because you are a child and you can't read the scripture like us who have been in ministry for many many years can read scripture. 

Child: I am never arranging my hair again!

Me: Good luck finding a husband.

Child: But i thought you said the reason we don't wear make up is because we don't want to draw attention to ourselves and don't want to attract or tempt men. Arranging your hair does the same thing!

Me: Give me your Bible (rips bible out of child's hand and locates 2 Kings 9:30. grabs black marker and proceeds to black out the line "fixed her hair" from the child's Bible).

Child: Hey! Why did you do that for?

Me: Do what?

Child: You scribbled out "fixing her hair" from my Bible.

Me: It was for the best.

Child: I'm telling mom!

Me: (whispering to myself) The Spirit of Jezebel... It always gets them.