I could recount all the miraculous times the Lord rescued me from danger over my brief military career. However, let me conclude that it doesn’t take a “rocket scientist” to discover that there was purpose on my life. So in Anchorage, AL in 1969, my spiritual journey got a boost from a little red cover book I was introduced to titled “The Spiritual Man” by Watchman Nee. The impact of the insights I gained from this series revolutionized my thinking for years to come.
By the time I returned from the military I was a changed man. I had developed from the boy preacher, I left as, into a developing teacher with some life experience. Somehow I managed to maintain the nick name “rev” throughout my military career. However, various bible schools and self-study materials was now answering questions for me, while my prayer life was blooming.
When I returned to Baltimore I also returned to my Dad’s church as an organist and later assistant pastor of the church. I knew by then that “Bible-Teaching” was going to be my passion. The church atmosphere I found myself in though was more conducive to preaching instead of teaching. It didn’t take me long to figure out people were more interested in having their emotions stirred than their minds caressed. I was often branded “dry” and “slow” in my presentations, so I retreated to my music while secretly increasing my personal bible study.
This is Part 8 of the series “My Personal Journey”
The summer of 1963 was a summer to remember. I had my call into ministry, participated in the Civil Rights March to DC, and heard Martin Luther King, Jr. give his famous “I have A Dream “ speech and get my first job. Which by the way was as a dish washer making $35 a week. I would give my mother $20 and pay my tithes of $3.50 to my dad’s church and use the rest for myself. I was not permitted to minister outside our local church yet that would come later.
So for the next few years, all that sticks out to me was a pattern of work and attending church every opportunity that arose. Raised in a church environment where everything was sin, from the music you listened to – to killing the infestation of roaches that filled our home, it was difficult distinguishing what sin really was. All I can remember is that we could do nothing right and beat ourselves into an emotional frenzy in church to kill the flesh. While any form of entertainment or enjoyment outside of attending some church event was opening up to the devil. Children were not permitted to have fun.
We were small in number because we had the “Truth,” and any form of “large” church activity was viewed as not preaching the truth. No church was right except the “Apostolic” churches we fellowshipped with and other churches who did not believe in the Oneness of the God head or the right baptism in Jesus name were in error. The word “Trinity” was a dirty word in our circles and anyone who used it was referred to as “Three God people.” I got the impression from Sunday School that there were the bible days and then there is the present times. No link between history and the scripture. All I knew was from the pages of scripture to every day life today. So by the time I was drafted in the Army and entered Basic training, I was a mixed up young man.
This is Part 6 of a series entitled “My Personal Journey”
Today marks the official memorial of my first public sermon, July 28, 1963. My first sermon title was “Saved by Hope – Romans 8:24-25. Although I have had a media library for the last 30 years, I haven’t been one to log my sermons, so I couldn’t tell you how many sermons or lessons I taught over the last fifty years. For me the point is not how many, but how many have been effective and productive.
You see when I finally did get my GED in the military and got to my first bible college experience, I failed “Homiletics.” My professors tried to get me to write my sermons out and I wanted to just talk them out. When I started in the ministry I was under the impression, “You just open your mouth and God would speak for you.” However, I did learn structure in college and eventually how to outline my sermons.
However, my journey is just that. My journey. Of course with the triumphs there were many mistakes and failures along the way. That is the beauty of survival and longevity in ministry. You learn from mistakes, repent and move on to teach others the wisdom you learned, if you learned and they will listen.
These are only reflections and I must get back to the task at hand. My mother was a strong and wise woman, Alice Mae Golphin. Although we spent all day on Sunday at church, most Sundays it was at least three services, she allowed my brother and I to go the movies on Saturday, even though it was against church rules. My dad had long since moved out and was living at a parsonage at his church. We only got to see him one weekend a month at his church which we visited and was now an “Apostolic” church also. By the time I was twelve, it seemed like all the young people had disappeared from my Mom’s church and my brother and I started going to my Dad’s church every weekend.
School was hell for me. I didn’t fit in with the school gangs and I was constantly in fights. I was constantly teased for my handwriting and the way I dressed. You see, we were very poor and my mom brought us second hand clothes from the Veteran warehouse to wear to school. In elementary school, I was left handed and was talented in art and numbers. I taught myself to write right handed to fit in and studied martial arts to protect myself. I didn’t make many friends but no one pushed me around.
By the Fall of 1963, I was headed back to school with my new found religion and was being teased daily for “being saved” and called “rev” as a negative nick name because the word got around that I was preaching too. Before the school year was out I had made the decision to leave school and get a job to help support my mother. But not before my ninth grade English teacher made me learn a poem that changed my life.
This is Part 3. If you started here, you need to start at the beginning
This month I celebrate an important milestone in the history of my ministry. It was in July, 1963 in Baltimore, MD that I preached my first public sermon and began both a spiritual and intellectual journey in discovering the God of Christianity. I am not clear now on what exactly brought me to this discussion to embrace ministry in my teens.
I do recall several events that may have influenced me. My dad was a pastor; we were having an explosion of youth receiving the Holy Ghost, as we termed it in those days; and my quest for biblical knowledge was consuming me. There were several sign gifts that helped build my confidence as I started out. I discovered I had a phenomenal ability to memorize scripture and I started playing the piano without any pervious lessons.
By now, I was used to hearing people call me strange, different, odd, and a loner. But it was my sixth grade teacher who made the biggest impression on me early in school. She kept telling me “You are an intelligent young man.” Not sure I even knew what that meant, but it resonated with me for years. While reflecting on my 50 year journey so far, I discovered that 2013 and 1963 are identical calendars. What does all this mean? A long history that has come full circle and accomplished very little.
When Jesus came, the religious elite were fussing over what Moses really meant in the Law. Standards of holiness were redefined and people mentally, socially, and economically were in bondage. Sound familiar? Jesus solution in His day was to offer rest (Mat 11:28-30) from tradition, power positioning, and intellectual gaming and just demonstrate “love” (Jn 13:34-35) as an antidote for power shifting.
The body of Christ is in trouble. When I view the competition in ministries, the jealousy regarding spiritual gifts, and the lack of participation among believers to witnessing, I know that we need to recoup our attention. We have enough external problems without creating internal conflicts among ourselves. I wonder sometimes with all the bickering over doctrine, worship, methods, and style when can we hear a fresh word from the Lord regarding direction and purpose? When will we overcome the handicaps of the past while we prepare for the mandates of the future? When will kingdom building and demon chasing become the focus of attention again in the body of Christ?
I believe one of the problems today in our worship services is that we depend too much on the popularity of preaching than on the integrity of teaching. In other words, we would rather be entertained than intellectually stimulated. But in order to identify false doctrine, one must be thoroughly engulfed in true doctrine. This can only be maintained through proper training and dedication. Another problem is a lot what we see and hear today depends on revelatory inspiration and private interpretation by untrained, but gifted preachers who don’t trust or are too proud to discuss their findings or conclusions with their colleagues. So when they minister if people respond or embrace the concept they are home free. So, church becomes what is popular instead what is challenging.
We need a new breed of worship leaders that understand the mandate of prayer and praise. New leaders who are not making news headlines, but delivering the Good News of the kingdom; Honest leaders that will take the time to sanctify themselves to and for God in this hour; Charismatic leaders that are not just speaking for God (prophets) but speaking to God (priests) regarding the sins of nations, governments, societies, and churches. Leaders that will propel us into the future with a healthy perspective of lessons from the past. Finally, we need true intercession in this hour, warfare prayer that restores and refreshes the supernatural power of God in the earth. Not by a troop of gossiping prayer bands, but a worship leader who can both discern and command the conflict and calm the storms of life.
The strength of the internal tradition of the Church is the strength of a real spiritual experience and the continuity of the spiritual path. The power of a super-personal spiritual life in which every generation shakes off a consciousness of self-satisfaction and exclusiveness and is united with the spiritual life of all preceding generations back to the Apostles. This should be the ultimate goal of the church. Until Jesus comes, I believe we will see flaws in every reformation. We strive to develop strong fellowship and the purity of Faith, but it is those strong religious demons in the church that are destroying us from within. So then we are back to the mandate of the early apostolic fathers to “keep Truth pure.”