Note: this is sixth in a series of posts I am doing specifically based around leadership issues. If you haven’t read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, you have time to catch up :).
It all started when we were looking at the property we are preparing to rent to start Sanctuary Apostolic Fellowship upstairs and run our publishing company downstairs. As we stood on the second floor of the building and talked about an “upper room” experience, I was told that we need to be careful about the way in which we handle praise and worship at Sanctuary. We can’t do things just like everyone else does them because that’s the way everyone else does them. I knew the word was from God because I had already been singing the hymn, “I Stand Amazed” in the Robin Mark way, which is slow and peaceful, for days. I’d walked around Wal-Mart in Garner, singing that song, as people stared at me, not two days earlier. Now I was hearing that it was essential we are careful and put thought into just how we do our worship.
Since then, it has been confirmed in many ways, and many times over. When I recently went to preach in Durham a few weeks ago, we witnessed a service in a more “old time” style, where the group engaged in congregational singing rather than praise and worship with a worship leader. If someone had a song to sing, they sang it. When they had special song selections, it was by a group of people, every time, who not only sang together, they sang in harmony. I have to admit that it was a nice change from the world of church music that, more and more, is now resembling a rock concert. I have nothing against modern music, or singing new songs to the Lord, but there is part of me that watches where we keep going with it, one step further and further each time, and wonders if a lot of it is even about God anymore. Many members of the congregation don’t even sing, they just stand or sit there and watch the leader, as if the leader is some sort of celebrity. Something is missing.
It has the form, but denies the power thereof.
Last night I saw a headline somewhere on the net that mentioned Carlton Pearson’s impending divorce from his wife, Gina. I didn’t really care that he was getting divorced, but I realized it had been awhile since I looked him up, and I wondered what was new in whatever was left of his revamped ministry. He was famous before my time in church, by the time I was starting to really get serious in my faith he left his position in his church and changed his doctrine, and I didn’t even hear of him until many, many years later, right after I first moved to Raleigh, NC in 2009, at a meeting I was scheduled to preach at. It was a conference that was supposedly Pentecostal, based in the form thereof of Pentecostal tradition and experience. So imagine my complete shock to note the speaker who spoke that night was D.E. Paulk (who I had also never heard of), who highly recommended Carlton Pearson’s book on the Gospel of Inclusion. D.E. Paulk’s preaching and indifferent message to anything related to truth (he actually went as far as to say we should separate “Christ” from “Jesus” and we should stop preaching Jesus) appalled me so much I got up and left the room, I was really curious about who exactly this group of people were that invited me to preach. I wasn’t real selective about who I preached for in those days (I assumed that if a group had a semblance of Christianity that they were Christian), and as a result, I looked up Carlton Pearson to learn more about his doctrine and what he now believed. I had never heard of a Pentecostal who wasn’t…well…Pentecostal before. Yes, I had heard of variances and did acknowledge there were some that were more liberal than others, but surely all Pentecostals had Jesus in common…right?
I am not going to get into the ins and outs of Pearson’s teachings now, except to say that I feel he is the product of a very slippery slope I often talk about that happens when people start to realize certain things they have been taught were incorrect or improperly applied. We all grow in our faith, and have to admit that some of what we were taught was either taught very simplistically or incorrectly. Instead of looking more deeply into doctrines surrounding hell and the afterlife, he just started abandoning things all together and one thing led to another. Instead of maturing in his faith, he wasn’t in circles that were equipped to teach him properly and help him see a different way. Instead of finding another circle, he just abandoned everything, and has struggled for many years to find a new footing somewhere, which is hard because his background was so hardcore traditional Pentecostal. In the process, I learned he has been a part of several different movements, including Unitarian Universalist, Christian Universalist, New Thought, and Metaphysical. Thus, when I heard about his divorce, I looked him up again, to see what he was up to these days.
What I saw this time disturbed me on a level I never experienced prior. Before, I just saw the changes of a confused person who felt betrayed by his own community of origin and didn’t know what he believed anymore. This time, I learned he is spreading that, around. He is now starting what is known as the “Metacostal Network.” According to his website, it is:
“Metaphysics is a branch or division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of being (existence) and that which is beyond being’s physical expression. It relates to the transcendent or to a reality beyond what is perceptible to the five senses. It involves unconventional imagery. It means using the imagination you were born with to create in consciousness what you want to make and be real in your life. That is, a constant imagining that you are transcendent, having been created in the image and likeness of God or the Divine!
“Many Pentecostal preachers and people want to embrace a metaphysical approach to scripture and life and desire a connection to others of the same interest and mind...
“The phrase Metacostal was coined by one of my spiritual sons DE Paulk, another pastor of Classical Pentecostal roots who has evolved into expanded consciousness, while remaining attached to his spiritual roots in Pentecost barring some of the extreme dogma associated with it. Many from other disciplines are doing likewise. However, because of the larger appeal I have to people from my religious background, there are larger numbers of people and pastors within and/or from that particular communion or discipline looking and leaning toward expanded consciousness but want to maintain various aspects of the mystical ambiance of their Pentecostal tradition.” (from http://www.bishoppearson.com/#!metacostal-network/c15k7)
In other words: Carlton Pearson is creating a network of churches that feel the way he now does about things. They are full of people who want to approach faith in an abstract, New Thought, New Age way, rejecting key doctrines of Christianity, including the Incarnation of Christ, Jesus’ atonement for sins, the sinfulness of all people, Jesus as the Way to the father, and even the work of the Spirit in the sense we have understood it in Christianity for generations…but still want to “feel” Pentecostal. They want to whoop and holler, dance and sing traditional songs that don’t even mean anything to them anymore, lift their hands and pray loudly in something that’s not even tongues, and “amen” the preacher when he or she is done talking. They want that traditional feel, they want to be and look like something…but they don’t really want to be that anymore.
The thing that really shook me is that if these people can create a totally fabricated, emotional Pentecostal experience: it can sound the same, look the same, feel the same – but not be genuine – we can all do the same.
There’s an ouch moment. Every one of us, as leaders, knows the standard movements that will work up a group and a crowd. We all know the cues for the music for people to start dancing, we know how to “preach hard” so everyone will like us, and we know how to get people riled up, hands in the air, tears streaming down their face…without the Spirit of God anywhere in sight. People are easily swayed and like their emotional moments…especially if they have never learned how to tell the difference between their emotions and the Spirit.
Remember the caution in 2 Timothy 3:3-7: For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (KJV)
The reason people can have the form of godliness but deny the power thereof is because we have made all those other things acceptable and even comfortable in church. When nobody sat down Carlton Pearson to show him the more excellent way, it opened the door for a whole bunch of other things that caused him to seek the exterior, but not the truth of it. How many more are there like this in church, wanting to “feel” Pentecostal but denying truth for doctrines about money, cheapened grace and lazy faith that doesn’t ask anything of them?
Yes, sometimes being in the Spirit causes us to feel a certain way, but that way we feel is not the Spirit itself. Throughout history, there have been numerous movements that moved in quiet and peace, waiting for the Spirit to arrive. Don’t get me wrong, I love moving with the Spirit and I even love being excited about it. But, as I was told today, not everyone has the same shout, song of praise, or dance. We don’t all dance like David danced. Instead of looking to the exterior forms, we need to look deeper, at the needs of the people, so they will have something real to shout about.
Leaders, stop being Holy Ghost cheerleaders and start moving with the flow of God that will transform lives. We can’t say this isn’t “church as usual” if we keep insisting on doing things the same way that they have always been done. That will just lead to more people thinking they need the form…but denying the power thereof.
Love y’all in the Kingdom,
Apostle Dr. L.
(c) 2015 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.