Many years ago I was working as the lead carpenter on a residential job in a relatively upscale section of a large city. The homeowners were a respected middle-aged couple. He was a professor at a local university. She was from England. The state governor lived nearby.
The professor was a good guy, relatively happy, and bookish. Because of his job he was rarely home and I never talked to him much. She had a strong English accent, a proper manner, and was well educated. It was one of the reasons we had good conversations. I was relatively well-read and knowledgeable of the classics.
Due to the way I was motivated as a witness for the Lord, I had slowly begun to talk to her during breaks about spiritual things and we eventually had some limited conversations about Christianity. They were Christians, of the Protestant variety. I had an idea to invite them to church like I did with so many people I witnessed to, but I figured it would be a difficult thing to accomplish in their case.
I was going to a large Spirit-filled church at that time. It was known by one visiting teacher who spoke there on occasion as “The Church of What’s Happening Now.” It had gone through a big growth phase a few years earlier and had been transformed from a small old-school Pentecostal church to an innovative and wonderful place due to a large influx of newly born again university students and younger people. Many of these were set free to use their youthful expertise to make some powerful positive changes. It was a great place to be.
The day came when I suggested we get to know each other’s Christian traditions better by actually attending each other’s churches. She was open to the idea. It took a long time to get to this point. I was always one to move slowly because I knew how the enemy could disrupt a good plan at a moment’s notice. She asked her husband about it. And what a joy it was when she told me they were agreeable. I was just a young carpenter on a job site and they were up there in the social ranks. I could not help but see the hand of God.
We agreed to go to their church first. My wife and I met them there. I cannot remember the denomination, but it was one of those upscale places where everything was relatively quiet and low key amidst high-end adornment and a very traditional setting. The place was very tastefully decorated.
The service was somewhat monotonous compared to what I preferred and was used to. There was certainly no moving of the Spirit of God. It was intellectually-based. But my wife and I were thoroughly polite. The older couple liked us. Afterwards, as I recall, we shared a small meal on site and got to know each other a little better. There were smiles all around. I appreciated their wonderful attitude and the way they embraced a young couple interested in finding common Christian ground.
It might have been the next week when they were to reciprocate and visit our church. My wife was in the choir so it would be just me in the pew. It turned out her husband the professor couldn’t make it. Maybe he didn’t want to. This was, as everyone knew, a large Spirit-filled Pentecostal church pretty much on the very opposite end of the spectrum from their much more traditional format. I’m sure it must have invoked some difficulty for them.
I met her out in the vestibule and she was polite and smiling, and somewhat upbeat. I believe she really was interested even though the place was never something she would choose on her own. Again, she was from England, was used to a high church format, and moved in some high circles. It was so cool that this was actually happening.
Though I greatly appreciated Spirit-filled gatherings, I confess that I had also developed an embarrassment of Pentecostal excess. This was the early 1980s. I was still connected to some very old school Pentecostal people and traditions, some of which were really silly, and some even a tad dark. There was a thread of redneckism to be dealt with. There was also an anti-intellectual element. It is certainly true that many Pentecostals came from the other side of the tracks and were not necessarily very well educated. But I can also honestly say that I had never met more warm, fun, and engaging people. Most were open to the Lord and were willing to do whatever He required, reputations be damned.
So there we were, standing in the pews while the choir sang. It was a tremendous choir. So much about this place was so far ahead of the curve. It set the tone for many churches across the country. Long before the word “progressive” was appropriated and used for other purposes, I used to refer to this place as “Progressive Pentecost.” Many great things happened there. There was an openness to many fields of study. It was composed of all ages and races, a truly open and colorblind church.
I can’t remember exactly what happened next. It seems it was still in the early part of the service. We were all standing. I remember I had worked so hard to get this lady to visit. She trusted me. I had always shown her the grace of God. I was certainly concerned that some excessive thing might happen that would turn her off but was never prepared for what did happen. I was trying so hard to be low-key and normal, maybe a hard thing to do in a full blown Pentecostal service among many hundreds of people. To affect this attitude in my attempt to be cool and not a religious redneck, I happened to have my hands in my slacks pockets as I stood there. I was really hoping that she would be touched by the Spirit of God and had been silently praying.
In the midst of a little commotion on the platform the preacher suddenly grabbed a microphone and started speaking to the crowd. There was a move of the Spirit and I think he was trying to get everyone’s mind on God and to pay attention. Of course, I would think everyone WAS paying attention. We could all feel the Spirit of God. Everyone was respectful and obeying protocol. But rather than let the Lord wash over us and bless us with some peace and His presence, the preacher, as he was wont to do, had to take over.
Completely messing up a good thing, he actually started to berate people. He’s walking quickly across the platform and pointing out individuals and then back to the other side, his eyes going from those closest to those toward the back. Everyone was on eggshells. This happened way too much but because of our respect for the proceedings we all thought it was God, that God was anointing him to go off like that. I learned later that was not the case. I got older. I grew spiritually. I eventually figured out that this anointed man of God who did so many wonderful things had a tendency to turn into a complete nutcase on occasion.
Now, most of us do this. Sometimes we are very tired. We do not get enough sleep. The pressures of life can be very strong. We lose our tempers. We prove our humanity. But in the course of a church service when people really need the Lord, it should never happen or should at least be rare.
As he was raising his voice and pointing people out I began to get seriously embarrassed for my visitor. I was afraid this would happen. But I never expected what did happen. Why? –Because I had obeyed the Lord and was guided by Him to bring this classy friend of mine to church in hopes of her growing in the Lord, being introduced to something new and great, and possibly getting filled with the Holy Spirit!
The preacher’s crazy eyes fell on me. He pounced. I couldn’t believe it. “Get your hands out of your pockets!” Wait. What? He had no clue whatsoever what the Lord was up to with my visitor or what I was attempting to accomplish.
Right away she told me she had to leave. She saw him looking at her also and was shaken. She wasn’t waiting around. She had to get out of there. Still smiling, she began to exit the pew. I followed her out. We talked briefly at the doors but it did no good. She was leaving.
The entire witness was ruined. All the prayer, effort, and work was wasted. A wonderful opportunity went right down the drain. Right at the finish line.
There are so many stories like this. The lack of accountability among the preacher ranks has always been the chief reason why such things happen. It is why the Lord always appointed several elders in the early churches and NEVER a single “pastor.” And such sordid behavior is certainly not contained to Pentecostal churches. It happens everywhere, in all denominations, and is continually reinforced and rarely challenged. There are far too many blowhards who do and say whatever they feel like and next to no one in the churches has the guts to speak correctively. Everyone knows what will happen if they do.
Perhaps we are now in a time when that can change.
© 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
Early in my walk with God, less than two years in, a friend of mine and I had a prayer meeting. I had just began to emerge from the fog of rookie training (most of it very good) and saw from a distance the great revelation that the Lord actually DID NOT want His people to be all alike—as some conformed, congealed, regimented, and watered-down mass.
I began telling my friend that the Lord told me He was not into the business of making such mass-produced manufactured saints.
Picture God with a big die cutter stamping out replicas like the idol-makers of the ancient world.
Now, maybe I didn’t get the terminology exactly correct when I heard the message, but I certainly translated the gist correctly. Though the idea of the Lord standing over a copier making copies may appear obviously incorrect to the enlightened and mature among us, one must remember this was the late 1970’s when the majority of churches and preachers thought all rock music was of the devil, ministers of the Gospel were inerrant, and talking in tongues was the practice of insane crazies on the other side of the tracks.
Though what was termed “Pentecost” had made great strides, and though some Pentecostals had even managed to buy up the tracks, the truths of Book of Acts real Christianity were still treated and reacted to not only with great disdain but great hysteria. And if one knows what hysteria really is, the actual crazies were the ones pointing their boney religious fingers not necessarily at Pentecostal excess or fakery (there’s loads of that stuff), but often the actual work of God.
So my friend and I started praying. I was over visiting. He was renting an older house built probably 50 years before. It had big rooms and tall ceilings and I remember walking into one room praying pretty intensely and it was the first time I recalled being in the presence of angels. I’ve never seen an angel that I know of in the sense of some giant glowing apparition, but I knew they were around me that night in that room.
And it was then I got the big idea. That was when the Lord told me He wasn’t turning out children of God the way Henry Ford turned out Model T’s.
I already had my own bent against that direction anyway. Being raised a Catholic, I was aware of conformity from a very young age—everyone in school dressing the same, acting the same, lined up in regimented rows to go outside the classroom, girls on the left, boys on the right, like long slow moving processions of khaki-clad ducks following a giant penguin. Some of those nuns were very nice and displayed much patience with the incorrigible among us. And some of them were like crazy women with PMS on steroids.
They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And I say especially if she’s a nun in the 1960s trying to force school kids to conform to the image of God without the help of the Holy Spirit. The level of frustration is off the scale.
But anyway, the Pentecostal church I was then attending at the time of said prayer meeting (quite the pole shift, huh?) was up to the same tricks. Conformity was the order of the day. I preferred wearing blue jeans, for example, as did several other new converts which by that time was considered barely acceptable, though never on Sundays.
[Speaking of which, it was my senior class in my Catholic High School that first won the right to wear jeans to school. It had never been done before. Something to be proud of if you knew the times.]
As a young adult in Spirit-filled churches I witnessed the same attempt to force new believers into religious compliance by yelling that much harder from the pulpit or shaming people into conformity. New believers, like little Catholic school kids, are pretty vulnerable to such tactics, since most want to do the right thing and won’t rock the boat. But coercion has never been God’s way. It doesn’t work. Impressionable young ones are damaged by it.
So at that prayer meeting with Ken and me in that old house, it was no little thing to have the Lord agree with me on something I had always thought was stupid. Tongues are not of the devil, though most “Christians” apparently still think so, but religious conformity is certainly of the devil because it attempts to disregard the fact that we were each made to be conformed to God’s original design, not some other.
The Lord Jesus is the most non-conformist Person that has ever lived. Now, He certainly conformed to the will of the Father, but not so much to the will of religious people or the fashion of this world. Which means God was not into your basic everyday Phariseeism. Especially if it’s the Christian kind. He’s just different that way.
That’s right. God is a religious non-conformist. You’ll never figure Him out. You’ll never tie Him down. You’ll usually never guess what He will do next. (As a standard example, study the many different ways He healed the blind.) He is as unreligious and as unpredictable as can be. Though He is the ROCK and He NEVER changes, don’t try to set your watch by Him.
“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8]
He’s always doing things in such a way that it leaves His enemies perplexed and dumbfounded, especially dumbfounded—God’s enemies are DUMB. He messes with ‘em every chance He gets, or it sure seems that way. Read the Gospels in light of what I’m saying here and see if it isn’t true.
But our churches? Predictable. Dead, dull, and boring. Rote and ritual. This Sunday the same as last Sunday. All the people lined up in neat rows. Quiet and torqued down. Scared to break convention. Somehow needing a man-made structure and format that works against a move of God and against the very thing their hearts scream for.
And then we picture the Lord out in the countryside with His men like a flock of sheep, following YES, but as organic and free flowing as leaves on a breeze. And an impetuous Simon Peter routinely blurting something forth, often good and sometimes not so good, whom the Lord never censored. (Try speaking forth like Peter in your church.)
We also have the incredible spiritual phenomenon of Pentecost described so wonderfully by Luke, a travelling companion of Paul, and quite possibly a disciple of the Lord. How could Luke not have been there that glorious day when the Spirit of God returned to His people? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is still fought against with great gusto to this day, especially by the majority of “Christian” adherents, which should tell us very clearly how the devil works.
Regarding religious man’s false conformity, the natural world tells us what God is like (a Living Stone, unprofaned):
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. [1 Peter 2:4-5]
Our church buildings (and inhabitants) tell us what He is not like (every brick the same):
“If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.” [Exodus 20:25]
There is an insistence, if you get my drift, on right angles and plumb walls and straight rows and the linear and broad flat surfaces and steeply pitched roofs and cathedral ceilings and stained glass windows and steeples. (Shades of Babel.)
Religious man, like the great slave master Nimrod, must have CONTROL. He must wield his stone-cutting tools. He must force compliance.
But God has built a natural world that is forever in a state of flux, some landscapes changing at a moment’s notice and some gradually over time. Mankind cannot control the natural world though mankind screws it up in the attempt, and in time the natural world simply and patiently takes over again and repairs the damage. And unregenerate mankind certainly cannot control the spiritual world since mankind is fallen in sin and under the authority of the devil:
We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. [1 John 5:19]
The wind moves upon the surface of the sea and roils it up, making today’s water different from yesterday’s. And look at the clouds. Are they ever the same? Sunsets and snowflakes and trees and landscapes are always different and distinct.
But what about God’s people? Should not each person be totally unique? Where then does all this conformist nonsense come from? It doesn’t come from God. Not on your life. It actually comes from one who has a contrary agenda. He is the one who treats human beings as slaves. And there are no slaves deceptively ensconced in greater slavery than those in religious slavery.
Never forget that it was all them good Christian boys who distorted Scripture to back up their support for black slavery in the good old USA not all that long ago.
And it was all them good Christians who had people burned at the stake during the Great Reformation. They were both Catholic and Protestant. They were not interested in doing God’s will but their own. They built and guarded their own religious kingdoms, put their fat posteriors on thrones, dressed up like religious potentates, and killed off and enslaved whoever did not agree.
Today’s fake Christians in the West merely run off such real Christians and gossip about them. It’s how they protect themselves and their silly little establishments. Yet, if they could kill…
Considering that, it should cause us all to consider the origins of any and all religious conformity. The more the conformist big boys buy into this false concept and the false doctrines that go with it, the more they distance themselves and their regimented pew sitters from the heart of the Lord, and the more they create an anti-community, one in which people may be close geographically every Sunday morning but a million miles apart otherwise.
That night long ago in the midst of a two man prayer meeting confirmed something for both of us, and I have never forgotten the lesson:
A strong and vibrant Church means strong and vibrant individuals.
And in order to have such strong and vibrant people, they must be allowed to develop. They must be allowed to speak forth. They must be allowed to answer their callings and do their jobs. They must be fed the best spiritual food and given the best spiritual drink. We were put here in part to take on very powerful spiritual entities who have existed for eons. They know their way around. To beat them in battle means we have no other choice than to be like the Mighty Man from Galilee who silenced the Pharisees and calmed the stormy seas.
But if God must depend on the average pew warmer and pinhead preacher we’re all sunk. Therefore, we must all get off our tuffets if it’s on a tuffet we sit, and get in a spiritual gym, and become more like Him, and stand up and speak forth and do what He put us here to do instead of playing church every blasted Sunday morning of the year.
The only things we must ever conform to are His will, His Word, His nature, and His way of doing things. The enemy’s greatest fear is millions of the Lord’s children roaming the earth doing exactly as He did. That Christians in general are NOT doing that means most are getting their marching orders and instructions from someone else.
Wonder who that could be?
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
“Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
“Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
“The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. [Luke 8:11-15] 
© 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
THE PROPER REPRESENTATION OF JESUS AND BENEFITS THEREOF
I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies—presenting all your members and faculties—as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this world—this age, fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs. But be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind—by its new ideals and its new attitude—so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].
For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn every one among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought—not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance; but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him. [Romans 12:1–3 (Amplified Version)]
There is a connection between the fact that witnessing isn’t easy and the fact that most Christians seem to represent Jesus improperly. When left alone from outside influences, most people will always choose Jesus when given the opportunity. Why? Because Jesus offers life. He offers to remove from a person his or her heavy burden of sin. He offers the ability and strength to be a real disciple. He offers the means toward success and victory according to His will. He gives us the knowledge of our destiny. He gives us purpose and protection. He allows us the honor of being an integral part of His plan in the salvation and edification of others. To sum up, He offers us everything we need as well as our heart’s desire,  if it is in our heart to serve Him. The blessings of God, however, are never given to those who refuse to make Him Lord.
In light of all these gifts and benefits, what sort of person would turn his back on Jesus? There are two possibilities: An impervious, dense, obstinate, thickheaded dolt, or a person who is deceived. The former might be construed as a person who is hopelessly deceived, but a better characterization would be a person who loves darkness more than he or she loves light. God gives these people every opportunity at salvation but also allows them the choice of departing this life in sin if that is their desire. The second category is almost the polar opposite from the first in that it involves people who desire to do the right thing but get cut off at the pass by the religious chucklehead posse. These are people who have been taught that their glass is full when it is empty, that the grass is always greener on their side of the fence even though their backyard is dirt, that up is down, joy is pain, bears only use gas station restrooms, the Pope is Episcopalian, and God is out to get them. And the biggest problem of them all? They learned it all in church!
Real Christianity, The Nature of the Church © 2001 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
There are certain people who have lived on this planet at some point after Acts Chapter 2, and some who live today, who refer to themselves as followers of the Lord but insist on a higher platform than everyone else. They love the veneration paid to them by their followers. Many of them appear to be humble or put forth the pretense of keeping a low profile, but are essentially hypocrites in this regard.
Though a probable majority of all “Christians” believe in a distinct clergy-laity division, and that some believers must be treated with more respect and honor than other believers, they did not learn either of these from the New Testament. In fact, the opposite is true.
Why is it that certain believers must be called by a title while they themselves do not even honor the Lord Jesus with a title? They call Him by His first name. In fact, the Gospels most often refer to the Lord by His name and rarely a title.
There are some who have made such a name for themselves that an entire movement composed of millions of followers is dedicated to them by name. Of these, perhaps the worst offender is John Calvin, who instituted Calvinism.
We can debate whether or not Calvin’s doctrines were called Calvinism during his life, but this does not really matter. The man created a distinct theology that many others latched on to and believed in, and millions continue to believe in Calvinism do this day.
I prefer to believe in Jesus. And I will insist on believing in His teachings, and attempting to learn and incorporate His teachings, and make the claim that there are no other “Christian” teachings than His. Therefore, we should have no “isms” before the Lord. Whatever Calvin got right, he merely received from God. But if Calvin got everything right, and he certainly did not, he still would have received it all from God, it would all line up perfectly with the teachings of Jesus, and there would thus be no distinction between what he taught and what the Lord taught.
And then John Calvin could properly blend back into the vast collection of believers, lose all the name recognition and distinctiveness of His name above so many names of unknown real believers, and be an actual follower of the Lord Jesus, the possessor of the one and only original and perfectly correct curriculum, and only possible “ism.”
In other words, if God Himself insisted on keeping as low a profile as possible while still getting the job done, and remaining as humble as possible, and as much of a servant as possible, and as self-effacing as possible, where do so-called Christian religious leaders get off in promoting themselves above their brothers and sisters?
We think a lot of the apostle Paul but clearly, the vast majority of Christians would prefer to not have to go through what Paul went through, and thus, do not, and thus, are not as effective or effective at all. The last time I checked, Calvin and Luther and many of their upper level clergyite followers and supporters never faced the sword of martyrdom, while these same people created martyrs in that they had Christian believers killed, or supported their deaths—those who they referred to as heretics. And, of course, Catholic Church leaders wanted Luther and Calvin dead but apparently couldn’t get to them!
Paul, after his conversion, NEVER killed or supported killing anyone for any reason, and certainly not for someone being a “heretic.”
But Paul certainly believed in killing heretics BEFORE his conversion. Think about that when assessing who the real believers are, even if some murderers are venerated as great men of the cloth. The Lord Jesus was seen by great religious men as the greatest heretic of all time. Whoever then does to another what was done to the Lord cannot be a real Christian. Period.
The original apostles never killed “heretics” either. And most of all neither did the Lord Jesus. In fact, HE WAS THE HUNTED. The apostles were the hunted. The real believers were the hunted. And the Lord, His men, and many early believers were the ones killed for their faith, not the ones doing the killing.
Therefore, “Christians” can be divided into two types (See Genesis 4:1-8)—those who kill those who don’t believe correctly, and those who don’t. Those who kill and have killed did not learn it from the Lord’s example. And if they were willing to kill, and are willing to kill—obviously the worst violation of the Lord’s teachings—then everything else they do and teach is completely suspect and I wouldn’t trust them with a lemonade stand.
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” [Matthew 25:41-46] 
And He didn’t even mention murder:
“Lord, when did we castigate you as a heretic and kill you?”
“Whenever you have done it to the least of these…”
© 2013 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Psalm 21:2
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.