To start this off, I've been part of a Pentecostal church in Virginia for about 11/2 years now. It's supposed to be non-denominational.
I grew up in a Christian family and never truly understood the gospel as a child. I went to a Christian school all the way through middle school. Something I would never forget were the stories I heard from some missionaries that would come and speak to us in school. My parents were switching churches quite often as they had problems that the leadership of the churches could not help with.
When I was 19 years old, I landed myself in jail for breaking into churches and stealing from them. I had broken into schools and churches with some of my friends at night and had stolen and destroyed many things. Eventually I ended up in jail again and again but one day there was a pastor who worked at the jail in order to share with the guys there and I talked to him for about an hour one night when he held a Bible study. I ended up in tears, totally convicted. That night I had a life-changing experience where God helped me to stop stealing when I called on Him in my cell that night. I had tried to stop stealing on my own for years and I was totally in bondage, but He delivered me immediately. The next problem was I had no direction and I went right back to living with my girlfriend at the time who was an atheist and nothing else changed but my belief that there was a God and now I knew it for sure.
But then what happened?
I ended up in a military-style prison for selling illegal drugs and met these guys from a local church that had a prison ministry. I had never heard someone teach like these people did and I thought it was pretty amazing. They seemed very confident and knowledgeable and I could tell that these were people I wanted to be around. So when my time came to get out, I had a choice of going to church with my mom (nearby) or to go to this other church (also nearby). They told me the choice of which church I would go to was not up to me but I should leave the choice up to the Lord. So, without understanding what that meant, I asked the Lord to decide for me and He gave me a sign in what direction He wanted me to, so that's what I did.
When I got out, I was going to church on Wednesday nights, but I didn't really commit to doing much more than that. I finally got a job (thank the Lord, He made that happen) but then later on I decided I wanted to do everything the church had to offer and I wanted to be there all the time. I had gotten involved in the world for about a month and kept feeling so convicted it was killing me. So I went to tell my employer that I would only be able to work the hours that I didn't have church functions. My mom told me I was crazy because I'd make virtually no money. All I did was quote to her "Seek first the kingdom" and I took that to mean that if I felt I needed to be involved with the church more, then He'd give me a job where it would work out, or He'd just provide for me supernaturally, so either way I didn't care and I knew He would work it out. My faith was very childlike indeed. And I did get a better job with someone at the church that same day.
Next, I ended up becoming a "member" of the church. I had to fill out a long blue sheet telling why I wanted to be a part of this particular church, that I would submit to the leadership and that I would commit to going to at least 2 services per week. That was fine, I wanted to go to all 3 services and each prayer night and young adults and whatever else I could do! When I was in jail, I had this abnormal desire to study the Word and to pray, to read Christian books, to do whatever I could to learn how to be a better Christian and know more about the God who saved me. That's the number one thing I did in jail, was read the Word and pray. And the Lord taught me a lot. I remember reading about showing your light before men, and the whole city hidden on a hill thing and having no idea what that was talking about for a very long time; then one day it made sense. What great memories.
So as my time in the fellowship went on, it was great; the church is very closely knit, everybody knows everybody. People help each other out a lot, give their time to each other, correct each other and encourage each other; it was very biblical from what I could see, very strong on the surface.
So I began to become very closely tied to the people and got very involved in things. I loved the teaching and it was very biblical from what I could see. Lots of people were constantly speaking in tongues out loud; people would share things in between songs, praise God and pray a lot, among other things. I had heard of healings in the past, and how that the pastor had even raised people from the dead before. And I believed it. There is no dating, which I agreed with. Men and women cannot be in the same room or car at the same time with nobody else around, which I agreed to. There were lots of "guidelines" that seemed very wise and important that people were sure to follow very well.
Well, as time went on some of us were out eating at a restaurant and some women started talking about how they felt it was wrong to be watching Harry Potter. I said they were being silly and that was ridiculous. I said, "It's just a kids movie". Well, go figure, I ran across a Christian website one day where they talked about that exact issue and laid out some very good biblical and logical argument for why that was wrong indeed. And I felt so convicted. I didn't watch it anyways, but I told other people it was okay to do so. So I knew I had to correct my statement and I sent out an email to a bunch of people and apologized for being so quick to respond and shared how the Lord taught me I was wrong. Not only through the website but throughout my day as I'm constantly praying while I work (landscaping) the Lord would explain things to me as I meditated on the Word. So I shared with people in the way that he used to make sense of it to me. Well, some people responded back to my email supportively and there were some who did not.
I never really expected anyone to respond back negatively, if at all! I just thought people would be glad that I now knew the truth, repented and admitted to being wrong. Well, apparently there are a whole lot of Harry Potter fans at this church. So, I met some great resistance. First they told me it was a liberty and I shouldn't force my convictions on others. They said I can't change anyone and I need to let the Holy Spirit do the work (which I agree with). Then I was told I was being arrogant in saying that and that I sounded like "one of the Salem witch hunters" by one young man. People stopped talking to me the same or even looking at me the same after this happened. Never again did things recover.
So about another year had gone by. And I'd sent out emails to people on different topics to share what the Lord had been teaching me and to encourage others, too! Well, I sent one out about giving and receiving just as encouragement and shared a testimony. (There's a story behind this one as well, but I'll spare that.) So, of course, I met strong opposition to "freely give as you've freely received" and people didn't seem to think that was wise. People, it seemed, really didn't like what I was saying. They told me (Youth Pastor and my deacon) that it was very arrogant of me to think that I was the first one to think of that (which I didn't think I was the first to think of that) and that I'm not a teacher and I don't need to be sending emails about this kind of stuff to people. (I gave a story of someone at another church who had given a big screen TV to someone in our church for free, was very encouraged by that, shared some verses, talked about how it affected me and how if people were always giving and receiving that things would be so much better and that was about it.)
So, they put me on a temporary restriction from using email and I obeyed. Again, I was very discouraged from studying my Bible anymore because they told me again that I was deceived and I started to believe them. Down the road, I had gotten interested in the New World Order somehow and was very captivated by the wealth of information on it. My grandfather had been a 32nd degree Freemason and I had heard some interesting things. So at this point I was doing a little research into how this applied to the end times and my life in general. Well, needless to say, I learned quite a bit while doing that. While I was checking out some of the things about mind control, I ran across the Prophecy Club thanks to Fritz Springmeier who was on there. I had always wanted to watch more of their videos after listening to Fritz speak on there. I kept seeing this Hidden Manna series, but it didn't sound very interesting to me. So I left it on the back burner for a while. I was trying to learn more about specific things and the Hidden Manna series didn't really apply to that directly, though it did have to do with end times. But I was so discouraged from studying the Word that I was becoming less interested in Bible prophecy and more interested in the politics of the world.
With all of this study I had been doing concerning the NWO, the coming police state, September 11th, all of these very real things, I was starting to realize that (with my very limited understanding of the end times) when pastor said that Jesus could be back at any moment, he must be right! I was amazed at how soon the Lord must be returning that it could really be at any moment! I was constantly waiting for it at any second. All the time I would think about it, and it started to get me excited. I watched that movie called "Left Behind" and it was pretty interesting.
So, one day I was reading my Bible and all of a sudden I knew that this pre-tribulation rapture I had been getting so excited about was not true. See, I had been running around talking to little children and other people about how close the rapture was and why I believed it was going to be any day now. I could see things happening in the world and it just looked like it was going to be any day now! Well, the Lord usually corrects me within a few weeks of me believing what I've said. And again, He did.
So my eyes were opened to the truth. So, finally I got around to the Hidden Manna series. And the first part on Google Video part one was about the Church and the Tribulation. Wow, I thought! This is exactly what I had just seen myself! I was so glad I went and shared the link with two of my friends who also had their eyes opened at the same time! It was so amazing! We were all so glad! We all started getting into the Word together, so excited to learn more; it was like there was a whole new world we had just discovered! We did nothing but Bible study together from there on out! At this point we were the only three people in the church who no longer watched TV or movies, now believed in a post-tribulation rapture of the church and knew about the New World Order coming; and this made us look very strange to people.
So as we were learning more through study and through the Hidden Manna series and through revelation, I of course encountered opposition again. Now this time, it wasn't just me; it was me and two others. The leadership corrected us about talking about those things together and banned us from doing so. They said we could not talk about that with anyone at all until we read the book "Things to Come" by J. Dwight Pentecost. They felt that would convince us of their perspective.
So we obeyed and didn't discuss anything eschatology-related with anyone. This drove me again into a period of discouragement where I didn't want to study and just got back into the NWO again. After a while, I was talking to some guys about something the Lord had shown me and it had to do with Christians and non-violence. I know that the church embraces protecting people/property with use of deadly force, if needed. People even carry guns on them in church just in case someone comes in shooting. That is strange indeed, but I thought it was cool. One guy even practices running across the chairs. It's kind of funny.
So as I was talking to these three guys, I was sharing some scriptures and I shared one that said that Jesus never did anything violent. It was from Isaiah. They said, "You'll have to show me that one, I've never see that". So, I went home in between services and put together about 5 pages of scriptures pertaining to "living by the sword" and made a paper with a question at the top. It said, "Can Christians use violence to defend? Sword of the Spirit, or The Sword?" All it was was verse after verse, with some notes in between some of them. So I gave it to one of the guys after talking to the other two about it. They simply denied the verses and said they still didn't think that's what it was saying. "Fair enough", I said. "I'm not going to convince you, I'm just showing you what you asked for. I'll let the Word speak for itself". The last guy was in a hurry, so I just gave him the papers.
Well, he took it to the youth pastor and while I was praying on Tuesday, he came with my deacon and pulled me out of prayer. This is where it gets ugly.
They told me that I was disobeying leadership by talking to others about the scriptures. They said that if I had questions I needed to go to leadership. (I don't have questions on those things.) They told me that I could still study my Bible, pray and whatever, but I wasn't welcome to do it there for 30 days. They said that I could take that time to visit other churches nearby and they said that they were sure I would fit right in. They even said, "You might make it, I don't know". But they said that if I was willing to submit to leadership after 30 days I could come back. I pretty much just kept my mouth shut to keep from being disrespectful. At this meeting I was totally at peace and even had a smile on my face. They told my mom that I was arrogant for smiling and that I just couldn't see it. So the next day the pastor did a teaching on "Preserving Sound Doctrine" and it was pretty much just about me.
They told the fellowship that I was marked and that nobody could have contact with me. My employer who has been a part of the church for a long time was advised by the pastor not to employ me anymore. So I was let go and they "turned me over to Satan for the destruction of my flesh so that my spirit might be saved". I was at perfect peace with it too. Though I must say it has had quite an impact on me. It makes me want to cry sometimes. The love I thought people had for the truth, I had been noticing for a long time was not there. The people that had taught me for over two years, including in jail, didn't care enough to look at the scriptures with me, to show me where I was going wrong. They would rather put me out than just talk. They even asked me who I thought I was that God would show me something without showing it to the pastors. And, believe me, I'm nobody that God would even show me anything at all! I'm just a willing vessel and a babe, that's all I know; I have no qualifications of Bible college or anything else. I'm not even a very spiritual person in my opinion. I feel like Paul who said in 1 Timothy 1:15 "This is a statement that can be trusted and deserves complete acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and I am the foremost sinner". I used to steal from churches, I hated the God that gave me life, and He had mercy on me.
So now everyone was praying for me, of course, because the pastor called me a heretic among other things in front of everyone. But to add something to the story, long before this ever happened, last August I noticed that everyone was becoming more and more like the world than they were before! People started splitting up into smaller groups of friends and not communicating the same, hate and jealousy crept in, nobody did Bible studies anymore, everyone just watched movies and you don't hear much mention of God outside of church other than in a joke or to look spiritual in front of someone of the opposite sex (I'm not joking either). Also, people kept telling me to stop studying so much because they felt I was just trying to amass knowledge for the sake of knowledge. (This was hardly my intent.) And so they told me instead of studying what was on my heart, I should "study what's on pastor's heart".
I noticed that back in August and so did my friend Tim. Tim is new here as well. He got out of the Air Force and he literally went to about 100 churches looking for one that preached the Word truthfully and ran their church biblically. He became a traveler. This was the closest he had ever seen to a biblical church. But now he feels he needs to leave as well. He is still open to the Word and is teachable. He has a heart to do whatever God wants him to, but it's hard in a fellowship of people who aren't open anymore. I knew last year that the Lord was going to lead me out of this fellowship, but I never knew how He would do it or where He would take me! My mom is telling me that I should go back. She said that God didn't make a mistake by putting me there, and I don't think that he made a mistake either. She says that I just need to submit to the leadership and keep my mouth shut about things.
I've been telling people that I feel we're all going downhill together, but nobody sees it but us few. It's such a sad thing. It's hard to deal with sometimes. Long ago last year, when I first started looking into UBM, I felt like the Lord was going to take me to you someday. I want more than anything to be around people of like beliefs, people that live by faith, people who follow Jesus and not men and their traditions. I've been admonished to be around people like that for so long, but never knew of anyone like that. After the pastor taught on tithing and how you're under a curse if you don't tithe, that you'll be given a "leanness of soul" and that you're leaven if you don't tithe and you have to leave, I knew my time was up.
I know now that the Lord has taken me out of Babylon. I don't even know where I am going yet, but I trust that the Lord will work things out. I feel like I'm a train on a track and no matter what I do, I can't help but go one way, His way. And I love it that way!
I wanted to share this testimony with people so that if there is anyone else out there who is experiencing the same kind of thing, then you too can understand that the Lord has a plan for His people. We've been told to "Come out of Babylon, my people, so that you do not participate in her sins and suffer from any of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4).
Listen to the words of Jeremiah: "How horrible it will be for the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep in my care, declares the LORD. This is what I, the LORD God of Israel, said to the shepherds who take care of my people: You have scattered my sheep and chased them away. You have not taken care of them, so now I will take care of you by punishing you for the evil you have done, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remaining part of my flock from all the countries where I chased them. I will bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fertile and increase in number. I will put shepherds over them. Those shepherds will take care of them. My sheep will no longer be afraid or terrified, and not one of them will be missing, declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 23:1-4).