Sunday, February 22, 2009

Speaking in Tongues

"..... and they spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance..."  This is probably the most feared, misused, and misunderstood passage in Scripture. Feared because of the abuse and misunderstandings. Yet it is the cornerstone passage of most Pentecostal churches. Most Pentecostal churches believe that speaking with other tongues is the initial physical evidence of be baptized in the Holy Spirit (filled with the Holy Spirit). Therefore, a primary objective is to get people to speak with other tongues. I've seen the good and bad of it. 

My objective here is not to quote a lot of Scripture or to preach a sermon, it is simply to relate some of my experiences and to make it clear on what I believe Scriptural intent is. But, remember, I'm not the final authority on all this. I am only a veteran of the spiritual battlefield. Sometimes it was a battle. I have noticed that in non-Pentecostal churches, when they read in the Book of Acts, they often read right around these passages, as though they are something to be feared. Pentecostal churches spend a lot of time on these passages.

It is clear, that "speaking with other tongues" is Scriptural. It is also clear that it will benefit the church when done within the context of Scripture. Billy Graham, referring to himself said something to the effect, I am not a tongue slaughterer. There is a difference between being a tongue slaughterer and speaking with other tongues.

I mentioned in a previous blog that I grew up in Brainerd, MN, and attended the Gospel Tabernacle. I also told about the lady who would speak loudly in a language no one understood, then the same lady gave the interpretation. Being a youngster, I had no idea what was going on. 

I also mentioned that there were times following church services that lots of people were baptized in the Holy Ghost.  That meant that they were usually speaking in tongues, but in this case there was no interpretation. I believe this is what Billy Graham was referring to. I have witnessed this in several Pentecostal churches, have participated, but have never felt comfortable with it. The A/G teaches that speaking with other tongues is the initial physical evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. That's what I grew up in. Don't get me wrong, I believe that the A/G and other pentecostal churches have many wonderful and accurate doctrines and that they were on the cutting edge of revival in the early 20th century. But I also believe that they are only partially correct on this matter. Non-Pentecostal churches are also only partially correct. Throwing out the baby with the bath water isn't correct either.

On the Day of Pentecost, when the Apostles spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance, they were not just babbling, they were speaking other languages that others could actually understand. These were languages that the apostles did not know, that is why it was necessary for the Spirit to give them utterance. But the gospel was being preached in the languages that those who had gathered for pentecost could understand. This resulted in many souls coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. This was the beginning of the Christian Church and the speaking with other tongues caused the Church to grow and to be edified. 

Although the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and then spoke with other tongues, this does not necessarily mean that this is the initial physical evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. A better evidence of the Holy Spirit in one's life is the fruit of the Spirit as mentioned in First Corinthians 13, and the boldness with which they went forth preaching the gospel in the Book of Acts.

Over the years I have known many people who have spoken with other tongues who cannot possibly be filled with the Spirit. There is no fruit on their branches. Some of these people are filled with rancor, bigotry, and have opposed every minister their church has ever had. They speak with tongues on Sunday, and on Monday are campaigning to get their pastor fired. This guy is a "tongue slaughterer."  He is also devoid of the fruit f the Spirit.  

But speaking in tongues has it's place. It was here, at Baseview, that one of the members spoke with other tongues during the service. Another person gave interpretation (in English) After the interpretation was given, a visitor in the congregation stood up and told the rest of the congregation that the message was intended for him. He came to know Christ as his Savior that night. 

When speaking with other tongues is of the Spirit it edifies the church and builds up the body of Christ. When it is not of the Spirit, it edifies one's self, and does not build up the church. It, in fact can have the opposite effect. 

Next time, "slain in the Spirit."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Pentecost at Baseview

Being pastor at Baseview was quite different from all other places I served as pastor. This church was a melting pot. Air Force personal and their families moved there from all parts of the country. New York, South Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, California, and other states were represented. So was their brand of Pentecostal religion. Many felt they were on the back side of the dessert. In reality, the back side of the dessert may have been more pleasant for many of them. This was the first experience some had with the harsh reality of winter. One couple didn't even know that North Dakota was a state, and had no idea where North Dakota was before they were assigned to GFAB. 

Being the only Pentecostal church in the area we attracted people who attended the Four Square, Church of God, Pentecostal Church of God, and the Charismatics. We also attracted some non-pentecostals such as Baptists and Nazarenes, etc. With these people came their doctrines and types of worship that defined who they were. And because we had open arms for all of them, the church quickly grew to about triple it's size. But it wasn't easy to please all with such a mix. As I look back on some of the things that took place in our service, I have to shake my head. Much of it had a solid Scriptural foundation. Other stuff was just excesses. The excesses often coincided with a genuine move of God, but they were usually counter productive.

One guy's name was Aubrey. Aubrey attended alone, had no family with him. During the worship time he would really get into it. He was the type that during the songs enthusiastically sang, clapped his hands, raised his arms, and..... and..... jumped up and down. I bet if we had church every day, he would not have been over weight. One night during the altar service he came forward and was in front of the church below the podium shouting and acting like Muhamed Ali. He was like Paul said, "boxing at the air."  I asked him what he was doing and he said, "fighting with the devil." I told him that the devil wasn't in the church, but outside. That proved to be a mistake because he promptly went outside and boxed with the devil. A little free unwanted advertising for whoever was driving by.

That same night there was a another man kneeling at the altar at the far right side of the sanctuary. The sanctuary wasn't that big, so it wasn't that far. Now, I don't know if you have ever seen any one swim the butterfly. Well, that's what he was doing. He would slowly reach forward with both arms, slowly sweep them back so he formed a T, then with a sudden jerk and a moan bring them back to his side, then do it all over again, and again, and again. I don't know what the significance of the was, but our visitors weren't too impressed. 

Others were also at the altar noisily worshipping and praising God. Some were kneeling, some were standing. Some were speaking in tongues. And some were "slain in the Spirit."  And I have no doubt that in the midst of this there was a genuine move of God where lives were being touched. As a pastor you pray for revival fires, but this night I felt more like a fire extinguisher. 

The singing and the prayers in this church we always enthusiastic. Evangelists came to our church to bring revival, but many of them got revived instead. Many visitors came and stayed, but many also couldn't handle the enthusiasm and excesses and never returned. That was my biggest heartache and challenge. The church could have grown much more had there been better balance. 

We had plenty of people who would testify that they were "glad that I'm saved, sanctified, and filled with the Holy Ghost."  It was always my prayer that we would reach the Air Force people who were troubled and needed a Savior. But they were quite often frightened away by the excesses in the church. 

My purpose here is not to belittle anybody's relationship and experience with God. But I do want to make it clear that how we handle ourselves does influence others. Our churches must have a balance of true, enthusiastic, spiritual worship and evangelism. The Scriptures offer guidelines for both. 

In the next blog I want to address "speaking in tongues."  Then after that I will address "slain in the Spirit"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Holy Rollers

At one time, Pentecostals were called "Holy Rollers." The label came from the early Pentecostal movement that took place in the first decade of the twentieth century. Out of the Asuza Street Revivals came true revivals, and a lot of other things. Pentecostalism was born, and so was a flood of behaviors that brought labels like "Holy Rollers" into being. I was born in 1949 and attended a pentecostal church from the onset. Now, whether or not the term "holy roller" is justified, I don't know, but I have never seen anyone roll in the aisles of a church. But, I do admit that I came into the church in the third generation. And, I also admit that I have seen other things that could have earned the church other labels. This chapter is about some of those things. Having said that, I believe that there are some great people of God in the Pentecostal movement, and it is this movement that woke the church up in the twentieth century.

The Gospel Tabernacle in Brainerd, MN, is where I attended church in my youth. My grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins all attended there as well. Several hundred people called that their church home and attended each week. At age three I received my first Bible for having perfect attendance for an entire year. I was sitting on the left side of the church toward the back when the pastor called me up to the pulpit. I didn't know what for. Then he handed me this big black book and told everyone I had perfect attendance for a year. I grabbed the book with both hands and on my way back to me seat said way too loud, "Gee this book is heavy." Everybody laughed. That is the earliest memory of my life. I think I was wearing a pink seersucker shirt that mom had made.

Other memories include the lady with white hair and and lots of jewelry speaking really loud in a language I did not know. Then she would follow that with the interpretation of what she said. I always wondered why the church preached against makeup and lots of jewelry and this lady had lots of both. It was here that I learned that girls weren't supposed to wear pants unless they had a dress over them, and they weren't supposed to wear nylons with seams in the back because they were worldly. Stirrup pants were okay when we had sledding parties. I also learned that we weren't supposed to go to the movies, play cards, or eat where they served liquor. I went to the movies and played cards, but I didn't eat where they served liquor. We were too poor to eat anyplace except home. Our church believed in "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord."

We had a church league basketball team that we called "The Holy Rollers." I must admit that I wasn't very proud of the team's name. I wasn't good at basketball, and we lost all of our games. Of course, I was relegated to the bench. I didn't really know what "Holy Roller" meant since I'd never seen one.

I did see, however, people getting baptized in the Holy Ghost. I had no idea what this meant. But I saw people at the front of the church on Sunday nights standing their with their hands raised while others laid hands on them and prayed. They prayed and prayed until the one being prayed for began to speak in a different language that no one else could understand. Then everybody began to rejoice. They said he was "filled with the Holy Ghost." Sometimes I saw lots of people get filled with the Holy Ghost in a single night. They said we were having revival.

We had revival at Baseview, too. I'll tell you about that next time.

It was at the Brainerd Gospel Tabernacle that I had one of the most meaningful experiences in my life. It was communion Sunday, and I was sitting in the balcony of the church with the other teens my age. We usually didn't exactly listen to the sermon. We would whisper to each other, jab each other and talk about other things. But this particular Sunday, the pastor's message was getting to me. It was about partaking communion unworthily. "He that partakes communion unworthily eats and drinks damnation unto himself." I knew I was unworthy. I also knew they were about to serve the communion. I began to weep. I knew I could not receive communion that day. That was the beginning of my Christian experience. It was soon afterward I accepted 
Christ as my Savior.

Monday, February 9, 2009


The Baseview church was just that, a church that had a view of the Grand Forks Air Force Base, that stood a mile to the west along US Highway 2. We had other views also. To the north was wheat fields. To the east was wheat fields, and to the south was Highway 2 and more wheat fields. None of these wheat fields was able to stop the incessant wind in the summer, nor the winter. And the wind seemed to never stop.

In one way this was the typical rural little white church..... except Baseview had no steeple, and it was in ill repair. This was once an old country school building that had been move in on site. A small lean to was added as an entry and a place to hang coats. The aged cedar siding was cracking and peeling. Thousands of crickets found their way to hide in all the cracks on the south and east sides. Many of them also found their way into the church itself. And there was a sign made of a sheet of plywood and two posts that announced to all who drove by that this, indeed, was a church. They proudly whited out the previous pastor's name and painted mine in it's place.

The interior of the church was graced with a bright red carpet. This was in the days when carpets were backed by black foam.... no pad was needed. This carpet ran throughout the entry, foyer, sanctuary, and throughout the basement where the Sunday School classes were.  There was no church office, so we built one in the foyer, its walls were dark oak panelling. We promptly installed the sound system in the office. I didn't mind

I was embarrassed serving communion off a little coffee table. That's right, they had a little coffee table they used for years to serve communion on. It was a little awkward. Over the years you would have thought that someone would have addressed this issue. But I guess they were happy. So I used some left over panelling from our office building project and made a communion table. It was awful, but they thought it was great. It was definitely better.

One of the handiest tools the church had was a wet/dry vacuum. In the spring and when it rained the basement leaked. It seemed like I was constantly sucking water out of the basement carpet. We went through many pounds of that carpet de-odorizer that you sprinkle on and vacuum off. This was usually the pastor's job. I felt so "called" to do this. I don't remember God ever saying to me "Rod, I want you to go to North Dakota to suck water out of carpets." The problem was, God must not have said that to any of my members either.

My other main job was shoveling snow in the winter. The wheat fields were harvested and so even the wheat would not stop the wind driven snow. However, the road just to the east of us acted as a snow fence. That is, it piled the snow in our driveway in the the church parking lot. And, of course, we had no money for snow removal. Ah, but the church did have money.... enough to buy the pastor a snow shovel. Believe me, I spent hours shoveling snow every time it snowed. The snow would blow in anywhere from two to four feet deep. It was hard to find the car. This was no fluffy white snow. This stuff packed in as hard drifts.

We had one such snow storm the night that we had a visiting missionary, Herbert W. C. II. The next morning the sun was shining, but the wind was blowing and it was minus 20 degrees. Herbert's car and my car were both buried, and Mr. W. C. had to be on the road to the next church. Herbert W. was really fussy about his hair. He had one of those sculpted hairdos that was cemented in place with a half can of hairspray. I had been out shoveling for about 90 minutes when he decided to come out and help. This was a good year, the church could afford two snow shovels. But Mr. Herbert W. C. would not wear a cap. The wind blew the snow back in his face and.... and.... all over his hair. I could see that he was beginning to freeze up. It was a moment later he said, "This is mean." He threw down his shovel and went into the house. About two hours later I had shoveled a path so he could get his car out. He did. Good riddance. I always wondered why God called me to shovel snow.... but not him. Oh well, I lived through it.
I think I preferred the part where God called me to kill crickets in the summer. 

Next time, Pentecostal Holy Rolling.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Into the Fire

So we left Broadus. Once again, everything was loaded into a 4 foot by 6 foot UHaul that we towed behind the car. We even managed to get Audrey's smelling Tupperware loaded. It is amazing how poor people hang on to everything, even if it is no good. We packed it hoping that someday the skunk smell would totally disappear. It never did. after a couple more moves, we finally threw it away. 

Now we were headed for North Dakota. That is the state where my wife grew up and where I attended Bible College. The town where Audrey grew up no longer exists. I think that recently they finally took the sign down announcing that you were in Maza. She lived on a farm just one mile from Maza. We were headed for a place called Emerado, ND. A church called, Baseview, called me there to pastor. Little did we know that we had jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. We were full of excitement and confidence. At least this place had a church building and a parsonage. Well..... sort of.

The place was called Baseview because it was located just one mile from the Grand Forks Air Force Base. This was also about 14 miles west of Grand Forks, North Dakota. The primary constituency of this little church, and I want to emphasize "little" was the Air Force families that lived on or near the base. There are other stories related to this that I will tell later.

The parsonage was a three bedroom house. Actually, it was a three bedroom 12 foot by 60 foot mobile home. I learned that the 60' also included the tongue of the trailer. Two of the bedrooms were 5 feet by 7 feet. The third bedroom wasn't much larger. The trailer house sat broadside to the west wind. All that was to the west was a wheat field, and then the Air Force Base. In the summer the wind either blew hard, or it was calm. Each of the scenarios presented problems. When the wind blew, the trailer would rock. When it was calm, it was stifling hot. When the wind blew, it would rip the trailer door out of one's hand and blow out the hot water heater. When the wind did not blow one would sit in the trailer and sweat. We had no air conditioner or fans. Did I mention that my salary was $75 per week. They also paid the utilities. This was quite a step up.

But worst than the wind was the lightning and hail. The metal skin of the trailer acted as a lightening rod and the hail sounded like a herd of horses running across the roof. Too often, when it thundered and hailed, the wind would also blow..... rocking the trailer and blowing out the hot water heater. 

Our District Superintendent, LJ, came to to install me as pastor of the church. After the morning service we invited him to our house (trailer) for the noon meal. It was an unusually hot day, so we sat there and sweated. We ate and discussed the work of the church. When he used our bathroom he pushed the door in backwards and found the plumbing to be leaking. He felt so bad about the door. A few minutes later, when he was leaving through the front door, the door knob came off in his hand. He came back in the house and we discussed the need for a new parsonage.

A few months later, we had a new parsonage. It was a 24 foot by 48 foot double wide trailer. With the trade in our the old trailer, it was only $12,000. It was set up on twelve year payments. The church was able to meet this obligation because it began growing. This was sweet. It had a shingled roof instead of metal, wood siding instead of metal, much larger rooms, and the plumbing didn't leak. But it still stood alone in the wind.

Next visit, I will describe the church building.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Broadus XI - The Doc

Not much has been said about Rana, who was our only child when we lived in Broadus. Right from the onset Rana had colic. Many nights Audrey and I took turns getting up because Rana was crying. Not just crying, ...... it was a painful cry. About the only thing that would settle her down was to pick her up, lay her head on my shoulder, and pound her on the back. The harder we pounded the more she seemed to settle down. It was like patting a dog on the head.... the harder I patted my dog's head, the more he pushed his head into. There must have been some kind of pleasure in that. So we would pound Rana on the back until she would either pass a great big stinker or puke on our shoulder. Then she would be good for a while. 

Rana was like this when we went on the kids crusades and she was like this when we moved to Broadus. She would scream with such gaseous pain that we just about cried with her. We did cry a few times.

Well, Broadus had a doctor, so we took her to the doctor. He prescribed some kind of medicine that I can't remember the name of now. But the medicine seemed to do no good. In fact Rana seemed to get worse. We, of course had no insurance and very little money. I think we had no money. A lady in our church group asked who her doctor was (I can't remember his name now) and we told her it was the local doctor. She said that we shouldn't have taken her there because he was something like the town drunk.

So we carted her off to Miles City. Asked what prescription she had, we told him. The doctor told us that that was the wrong medicine for her condition. He said that the prescription was just the opposite of what she needed. The poor kid had to pass gas and the medicine was preventing her. So the new medicine seemed to help her a whole lot more.