learning the words: on fire

Here is a guest post I wrote for Defeating the Dragons, an awesome blog I discovered about a week ago. The blog’s author writes about recovering from fundamentalism and spiritual abuse. If you haven’t visited yet, please do!

Raised Evangelical: My Story

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a riveting blog called Love, Joy, Feminism. The blog’s author, Libby Anne, was raised in a fundamentalist Quiverfull community. She has since left that community and uses her blog to draw attention to dangerous, counterproductive heresies and rituals within Christian fundamentalism. Although she is now a self-avowed atheist, she treats these topics with profound understanding and insight. She has a series of posts on the Quiverfull movement, another series on Vision Forum and Debi Pearl, another on the Purity Movement, and so forth. (If all this sounds like Greek to you, fall to your knees and thank God! Then check out her blog.)

One particular series of hers caught my eye: Raised Evangelical. It’s a confessional for people who have left fundamentalism–a place where people can share their experiences and reflect on how they were raised in hardline evangelical communities. After reading a few stories, I decided to share mine. I filled out the multiple-page survey and sent it in. My story, “April’s Story,” appeared on the blog yesterday. This represents the first public confession of my life within fundamentalism. If you thought my faith experience was unique in its honesty…just wait. Continue reading

The Problem with Charismatic Churches

Earlier today, I did some gardening. I love gardening because it lends a certain clarity to my thoughts. As I pulled weeds and rearranged a flower bed, I meditated on the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, in which Jesus illustrates the different ways the gospel is received among hearers:

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away” (verses 3-5).

He goes on to talk about the seed that fell among thorns and the seed that fell on good soil. Afterwards, he explains the parable to his disciples:

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (verses 19-21).

I believe that part about rocky soil describes many charismatic churches today.

I was raised in the charismatic faith. It’s a denomination that celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (see Acts 2) and emphasizes operating in the gifts of the Spirit. Worship is often characterized by enthusiastic singing, dancing, and the raising of hands.  All of that certainly makes church exciting.

However, I’ve watched far too many people get burned out in these churches and completely forfeit their faith as a result. The modern charismatic church is riddled with problems that, I believe, make them more susceptible to heresies and deception than other denominations. I say this not as a bitter critic, but as one who is honestly concerned. It’s time these problems were addressed–and for good reason!

Continue reading

My Faith Experience: Part 1

I suppose anyone reading such a blog would want to know more about who is writing it. So I’m going to share my faith experience.

First off, I’m not a church leader. I don’t possess a ministerial title. I’m not ordained. I don’t lead worship at my church or even teach Sunday school (though I’m hoping to get more involved in ministry soon). I don’t even have a degree from a Christian college. I’m just a passionate follower of Christ.

However, I did grow up thoroughly immersed in ministry. My dad was a Pentecostal minister with the Assemblies of God. I started singing in church before I could form full sentences. I officially accepted Jesus as my savior at 5 years old, led to salvation by my kindergarten teacher at a Baptist school. The only thing I loved more than my faith then was school.

The church I grew up in was very charismatic. Believers spoke in tongues–loudly. They danced during worship. They fell out in the Spirit. They rolled on the floor. Church wasn’t church unless there was a noisy altar call. There were also lots and lots of sermons about the rapture and end times. I remember feeling absolutely panicked multiple times at home whenever the house got too quiet. I thought I had been left behind.

At around 14, when my dad was pastoring a church in Tennessee, I began to notice problems in the church. People would speak in tongues on Sunday and then call my dad on Monday to complain about the sermon. They would wail about godlessness in the community, but then act aghast at the sinners who dared darken “their” church door. Racial prejudice? You bet. Testimony time was often an opportunity to groan about one’s trials and tribulations, or to spread gossip about a family member who was living in sin. Give more money to youth or children’s ministry? Not without prying open their purse strings with a crowbar. It was hypocrisy at its finest. It was then that the revolution began in my heart. On a couple of occasions, boldness seized me and I spoke up before the congregation concerning their hypocrisy. I couldn’t have been older than 15 at the time.  Continue reading