Recovering Evangelical


At the risk of offending, I have privately mused wondering what would
happen if I showed up at any church one fine Sunday wearing a sweatshirt
emblazoned with the phrase “Recovering Evangelical.” If I spied an angry
guy with an empty offering bucket headed out to the rock piles, I’d
probably bolt for freedom!

So what is a Recovering Evangelical? Is it someone who is dumping sound
doctrine for bizarre, ecstatic spiritual experiences? No, it’s a Bible
believing saint like moi who has rediscovered a profound Biblical truth:
the written Word and the Spirit of God perfectly agree. We are to live by
the Word and walk in the Spirit.

When I became a Christian, having nothing but a minimal Catholic
education in regard to spiritual matters, I was pretty much a blank
slate. The day I surrendered my heart to God, I began speaking in the most
astoundingly beautiful language when I prayed. Sometimes I could sense
what I was praying, sometimes not.

No one stood before me trying to prime the motor by instructing me to keep
repeating innocuous phrases like “Shine my bow tie, Shine my bow tie.” I
was filled with the Spirit of God an moments later began speaking in what
I later discovered in the book of Acts referred to as “diverse tongues,
or languages. ”

Kinda cool, I thought.

Since my experience lined up with the Bible, I assumed this was a normal
experience. I was asked not long after to speak at a Baptist Student
Union. After I shared my story, the campus minister got up and began
giving a dire impromptu warning of false prophets who would arise in the
last days. It was spooky stuff to hear – especially when it began to dawn
on me that he was referring to me! I was asked to never darken the door
of the BSU again.

Tongues, spiritual gifts, apostles and prophets, all were for another
dispensation and we no longer needed today, or so I was told. I couldn’t
argue with my elders in the Lord but in my heart I knew they were wrong.
Still, my heart began hardening a bit to demonstrations of spiritual
things. I began to walk a road of slow, steady decline in embracing the
gifts, and person, of the Holy Spirit.

As I continued to seek after God, he ruined me again! I prayed in my
prayer language and began having visions, words of knowledge, words of
wisdom, and even a few physical healings when I prayed for people. Then
came a few waves of weirdness in the church where people were suddenly
chopping, hopping, flopping, laughing, and barking like rabid hyenas.
Those things I didn’t see in the Bible and I began to again further
distance myself from the person of the Holy Spirit.

In those circles, spirituality began to be gauged not by your Christ
likeness, but by your personal spiritual experiences, Biblical or not. And
to my amazement, the heart attitude of many in the Spirit-filled was as
angrily dogmatic as what I had encountered at the BSU years earlier: if
you do not agree with this, you’re false. Period.

I attended a Christian meeting that had this sign in the lobby: These
meetings are not for Pharisees, Sadducees, or Wouldn’t-Sees. Since the
Scripture demands we “test all things and hold fast to that which is
good,” these folks put themselves in a very dangerous place. They had
thrown out the Bible with the bathwater as much as my Evangelical friends
had thrown out the person and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Both were in grave
error.

So, the pendulum had swung completely and I found myself in the middle of
a theological conflict. I began a renewed search of the Scriptures to see
if the Truth was still out there. After much soul searching, prayer, and
Bible meditation, I began to see anew that God does indeed “give gifts to
men.” He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His own Word declared
he does not change! He also requires us to be Bereans and “study to show
ourselves approved unto God.” Both expressions, the Word camp, and the
Spirit-filled camp, are the two balanced sides of the coin. The Word and
the Spirit agree perfectly.

I could have titled this tome “Recovering Charismatic” and been equally
correct. People who gut the Bible because it torks with their stodgy
theology commit the very violations of textual violence they castigate
cults for doing: changing the Scriptures to suit their whims. Until the
church is perfected, according to Ephesians 4, we will desperately need
the ministry of Apostles and Prophets. You can distort the Bible till
you’re blue, but it says what it says.

I have had evangelical leaders kid me about being the worlds only
theologically sound Charismatic. I embrace the whole counsel of God, which
includes sound doctrine, and the entire Bible, which includes the function
of apostles and prophets, and the gifts of the Spirit.

My recovery is almost complete. I’m off again today to pray in the Spirit,
and with my understanding. I have an appointment with God to keep and
I’ll have my Bible handy to make sure it’s really Him who gently speaks.

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