Methodist Encounters of the Worst Kind
by Glen Pickren
If I would listen to my own advice it would be that we are to deal with false teachers only as the Lord leads. This would, of course, but in harmony with His written word, but in my experience these opportunities often come upon us suddenly like the servant girl to Peter and serve to reveal what is in our heart at the time thus leaving us no opportunity to search the rule book.
Several years ago after my reawakening to the Lord, I was attending a United Methodist Church after my 30 year hiatus from church. I began to notice that nothing the pastor was saying made any sense to me. Not wrong. No sense at all. After the service I would ask my wife, "now what did he say?" She wouldn't know either but she liked the choir.
I began to notice incidences involving United Methodist pastors in the media. Homosexual marriages performed by UMC pastor. Retired UMC pastor files ACLU suit to remove Abeka textbooks from Bakersfield public schools after being voted in by parents. Etc, etc. It seemed like every time I saw ungodly activity, right there in the middle of it was a UMC pastor or bishop. My wife finally had enough also and I was free to leave, but I felt that it was not a good witness to just drift away, so I decided to resign and give my reasons. I typed up a list of about twenty headlines and explained that, although I had not witnessed any of these things in our church, I could not in good conscience support the UMC as a member. The pastor read the list, acknowledged my concerns, and said he was familiar with some of these and respected my wishes. I should add that in the two years that I attended this church, which only had 150 attending each service, neither he nor his co-pastor wife once initiated a conversation with me. I am sure he saw me coming before I saw him. So after these lukewarm politenesses, I was just about to leave when I said "So where do you stand on these issues?"
In full pious-speak he began with "Well, I struggle with this because I have friends who have been in long term loving relationships." I replied that I thought the Lord had no problem with the long term loving relationships, it was the anal sex that He objected to. He never batted an eye and said "Well, after all they are born that way ..." I cut him off and told him there was no evidence whatsoever that they were genetically born as homosexuals, but that we are all born with our own natural proclivity to sin. I said, "Let's say that I was just born with an inbred inability to be satisfied with one woman, so I lived with three. I didn't marry them, because that would be illegal, so I just lived with them as if they were wives. We all slept in the same bed together and together we had six children. Now we all come to church every Sunday and make our loving lifestyle known to everyone. Would that be acceptable to the church?" He would not answer me.
So then I upped the stakes. I said "well, suppose that I am part owner in the brothel in Pahrump, Nevada, and since I am a good Methodist with an open mind and heart, I bring all my working girls to church, and then in the interest of good Christian fellowship I offer to host a men's retreat at my brothel. Would the church sanction that?" He quickly replied, "Oh no, we could not possibly approve of that." I said, "Why not? It is legal." He would not answer me.
You know in the Bible where it says that Jesus looked at the Pharisees in anger. Well it was the same thing and I got a little taste of Jesus' anger. It must have been Jesus, because my flesh would have chewed this little weasel up and spit him out. But, I managed enough cool for the last key question "So what about all these Methodists who say all religions are equal pathways to God?" He said "Well, I struggle with that ..." I cut him off. "Jesus said no one comes to the Father except by me. Was he wrong?" He would not answer. I stood up and told him that there is going to come a day when he will fear God more than man. I will pray that it comes before he dies and walked out.
He is still the pastor. He is still preaching, but there is a group of twelve men who are meeting every Sunday morning at 7:30 AM to watch the Holy Spirit teach, even though most of them do not know it, and they are growing. Slowly, like natural children, but they are growing. I encouraged a brother to start this study before I resigned and I attended it for three years afterward and still go when I am back in California. It is the best Bible study I have ever attended. In over three years neither pastor has come near this room even though their offices are less than forty feet away. The Lord is there.
In this same church before I resigned, my wife was out of town so I decided to go church visiting. I was attending the first service at UMC, then I planned to rush down to what was to be my second church for a double header and was therefore skipping the Adult Sunday School class (not to be confused with the later men's Bible study). I was sitting there next to a young woman in drug recovery my wife was shepherding. A perfectly normal day, singing a perfectly normal hymn that contains the only truth and testimony of Jesus left in the church, when all of a sudden the organ begins playing the most horrible, dischordant sound I have ever heard. You know some of those really awful instrumental pieces some mainline churches used to play before the service as people are coming in getting settled. I always hated them, but this was seven times worse. Incredibly irritating and I had this overwhelming sense of evil. I looked over at the organist but she was just sitting there playing along, and everyone is singing along in time and key, perfectly normal. If it had not been for the young woman sitting with me, I would have gotten up and left. The rest of the music in the service was normal. I didn't know what was going on, but after the service was over I asked the young woman if she heard anything strange in one of the songs. She confirmed she did. So I rushed off to the second church and as soon as I walked in the door I felt the presence of the Lord and pretty much forgot about the music.
That afternoon, I went back to the first church for the picnic and this brother in the Lord that I encouraged to lead the men's Bible study came running up to me and said "You missed all of the excitement!" He said that the youth pastor had asked one of her seminary professors from Clairemont College (read ultra-liberal) to come speak to her youth, but when only one out of the normal thirty kids showed up, she had invited the members of the Adult Sunday School class to attend. (Now, you have to pause just a moment here to praise the Lord.)
So this guy gets up to discuss his doctoral thesis on the Gospel of Mark in which he opines that the Gospel of Mark is an allegory inspired by the works of Plato. The adults and the one kid are just sitting there, when my brother can't stand it any longer and says "Wait a minute! Are you saying that the Gospel of Mark, instead of being a historical account of the life of Christ, is a work of fiction?" He danced a little, but the answer was yes, and the momentum of his speech pretty well died there.
I said "Wait a minute. Was he here for the first service?" He confirmed he was. Then I told the brother about what I had heard and felt. I knew then that we had just had a messenger from the pit of Hell in that church. Then, I began to remember other occasions where I had discerned pure evil.
Another time, I was sitting in the Adult Bible Study, the teacher of which was extremely boring, (just read the little lessons unless we interrupted her) and who I had already discerned did not accept the authority of the Bible as God's word, especially those troubling Old Testament passages about miracles and a judgmental God. She proudly pulled out an article from the newspaper and announced that this article was written by a pastor friend of hers. She expressed that its headline "All Religions Deserving of Respect" was a worthy thought for all of us to keep in mind.
That woke me up and I was outraged that a Sunday School teacher would bring such a thing into a church. This was early in my tenure there and my naiveté was showing. But, since she did not pursue it I was silent.
When I got home and read the article I was furious. It said "It doesn't matter if one is Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Buddhist, Bahai or Muslim that all religions are worthy of respect, etc, etc. This is written by Dr. such and such of the United Methodist Church. Bahai catches my eye because I had never heard of it, so I searched for it on the web. Turns out that the founder of Bahai covered all of the bases and claimed to be the reincarnation of Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ all in one. So my anger is rekindled anew. Someone has to do something about this. I must do something.
So I call Bill, my wise old retired Methodist pastor and missionary, who the Lord sent to disciple me out of darkness. I said "Bill, listen to this and I read it." Have you ever heard such a thing? He had. I told him I thought that I should go down and straighten this guy out. He listened thoughtfully and said that if that is what I felt I should do, go ahead, but to make sure the Lord is with you, otherwise, nothing would come of it. So I prayed, cooled down, and asked the Lord for wisdom. Nothing came, but I continued to carry a level of indigestion on this matter.
A couple months later, I am in Disciple Class at the UMC which is a Bible survey of 70% of the Bible. We had been moving along through the Old Testament where I am seeing that these people have a real problem with Jehovah, don't believe the miracles, I learn that Job and Jonah are Jewish mythology and Daniel was written after the return from exile and predated to encourage the people by fooling them into thinking God actually speaks to prophets. This was covered on the tapes by men with many learned degrees. Fortunately, we also read 70% of the Bible.
In discussion, this other woman starts talking about other religions having merit and instantly I, being totally prepared after stewing, chewing and brooding over this matter for two months, am off to the races. I cut her off with "That is so deceptive. That is the same thing that was being promoted by the article the teacher brought in and it equated being a Baptist, Methodist or Catholic with being a Bahai. Does anyone know anything about Bahai?" "Oh, yes" chirps another woman, a public school teacher, "I have been to their services." She, lacking discernment, does not see it coming. "I replied that the founder of Bahai claimed to be the reincarnation of Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed, the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ all in one. What kind of fool can claim be a Christian and be associated with any such nonsense as this?" I spoke this and other words as I learned what a Jeremiad was. We had not studied the major prophets yet
Well, the teacher thought this was a good place to have our donut break, so we adjourned to eat donuts and pretend not to notice the very large elephant in the room. They had nothing to say.
Looking back on it, I know the Lord prepared me for this one and picked an unassailable battleground. If I was to look back on these encounters to see what it is that we should do with false teachers, I go back to one of my earlier statements -- we must not walk in the flesh. He will use us to pray, to speak, to merely observe as He deems fit. It does not depend on the situation, for that suggests that we can know what to do in our own wisdom. It depends on His leading.
Looking back, I am not sure what was accomplished by my words. It appeared that nothing was. I can see that I was well prepared, even though I did not know it. But, how could anything I could do compare to the Lord causing a 97% absentee rate in the Youth Ministry the very day the enemy arrived. It is truly amazing to see Him fight the battles for us. We should take heart.
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