Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My journey to making history through prayer - Part 2

So yesterday in Part One of this series, I said that I figured out that "gatekeeper" didn't mean I was supposed to stand at the entrance of the church and greet people.  Although there was nothing wrong with this, it wasn't what God was asking me to do.  The explanation of this will be rather lengthy...you might want to grab a snickers bar and a cup of coffee and settle in for a long read.  I usually don't write posts this long.  I strive  to keep them 500 words or less and this will be the lengthiest one in this series  but  I hope you'll stick with me not just today but through Friday.  I promise I'll be back to under 500 words next week (smile).  If nothing else some of these stories have great entertainment value, now that they are the past.  They were not funny when I was experiencing them, though.   Writing all this openly has been many years in the making and quite frankly I wouldn't be able to share all this in the past without it blowing up in my face and in the church at that particular time.  Only in recent years have I been set free to speak of my experiences without fear of retribution.

I found out through study that in the Bible the term gatekeeper can also refer to intercessor.  What is an intercessor?  Simply one who intercedes on behalf of another -- in other words, they pray to God on someone's behalf.  

David was the one who put the gatekeepers in the Bible in place, and this role was confirmed by Samuel and King David in Chronicles 9.  Many believe David represents Jesus in this story and Samuel represents the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is head of the church.  The ministry of the "gatekeeper" was given to the church and is empowered by the Holy Spirit.   The gatekeepers in scripture were selected and put in their place and different assignments given to them.  They were placed at every gate, at the entrances to the tent of meeting on all of the four sides.  These represented the nations and the ministry of praying for nations.  The chief gatekeeper would have the responsibility for the rooms and treasures in the house of God.  They would spend the night stationed in the house of God...they were the servants, "standing by night in the house of the Lord" keeping watch in prayer.

When I realized this, I was a lih-tle freaked out.  My experience with intercessors wasn't a real good one.  In fact, for most of the years of our ministry they have been some of the biggest troublemakers in the church.  I rarely meet spiritually or emotionally healthy people who call themselves intercessors.  Here is a sampling of what I have experienced over the years -- your composite "intercessor" that I have encountered:

Many are given to mysticism and want to tell you about strange things they are seeing - spirits lurking outside of Sunday School rooms and weird stuff like that.  They always seem to have their panties in a bunch about some kind of demonic activity.   I do know demons are real as well as demonic possession.  And yes, I have cast demons out and I'm sure I'll do it again.  I am not, however, looking for a demon around every corner nor do I believe everything is caused by satan.  (No, that's not a typo.  I refuse to capitalize his name.  I hate him.)

Many are off balance emotionally and more than being touched by the Holy Ghost some have a touch of mental illness or in some cases aren't on the right balance of medication.  Let me tell you I am a Pentecostal through and through, but the truth is we do tend to attract people who are struggling with these issues.   If somebody is going to want to operate with some spiritually flaky stuff in the church they probably are not going to select a Presbyterian church to attend.  Pentecostals attract power but we also attract people who are unbalanced.  Some of these folks will lay at the altars and boo-hoo without even knowing what they are boo-hooing about.   They will spend hours reading and forwarding things like the Elijah List but if you ask them to help you pick up the trash in the sanctuary or lend a hand in the kitchen or the nursery, it's just "not their season for it" or they "don't feel led."

The majority of them are women.  If they are single they tend to be awkward, kind of square pegs. If they are married, they tend to have bad marriages or at the least, ones that are less than stellar.  Their husbands either aren't Christians (and it's no wonder!) or real quiet guys who are basically led around by the nose and don't have any decision making power.  Don't get me wrong, I'm a strong woman and my husband  and I believe in making decisions together.  However, I'm not talking about biblical equality  here -- I'm talking about the fact that these women really treat their husbands as if they are spiritual nincompoops!.  These couples don't make decisions together -- SHE makes them... mostly because she is convinced she "hears from God" in a way that he doesn't, therefore is so much more spiritual, and most times she decides where they are going to church, how long they will stay, if they will leave, and most times what they will do in general.

Many intercessors have husbands who secretly think their wives are nuts!  How do I know?  They've told my husband, and sometimes they tell me!  Do you know how many times we have heard, "Pastor, between me and you, I think my wife is crazy, but I do have to live with her, and...therefore..."  (Usually this is what we hear before they leave the church - they don't want to leave but their wife is pressuring them to go where God is telling HER to go.)

Many think they are equal to the pastor when it comes to authority in the church because they "hear from God."  Never mind that the pastors are the leaders of the church under Christ and have been given the role of shepherd and leader of the flock - not the intercessors.  One lady told me God had given her the direction for our church and that I wouldn't understand it because she was "on a different plane" than me.  I said, "yes, you're on different plane alright and it's headed for a big crash!

Many are a pain in the neck for their spouse to deal with.  There is a reason there's a book called, "Help! I'm married to an Intercessor!"  You think I'm kidding?  No.  Unfortunately this is reality.

Many are a pain in the neck for their pastor to deal with!!!  Like I said, they've caused me so much grief, I can't even recount it all  here.  Believe it or not what I'm sharing below is the Cliff Notes version!  (smile)  I use the term "intercessor" here loosely.  Amongst some of the "intercessor" highlights we have experienced, these are just a few:

  •  Many of them love to play the "God card" to get whatever they want.  There was the intercessor in one church we pastored...on the outside she looked like a sweet little old grandmother that wouldn't harm anybody but she was actually  a wolf in sheep's clothing. She actually came into our church after I had already been pastoring there and leading the women's ministries for several years, quite effectively.  She asked for a meeting with me and upon sitting down to talk with her she looked  at me and said:  "God has told me to take the leadership of the women's ministry in the church away from you and start leading it.  I'm an intercessor and I truly hear from God for these women.  I've been married, a widow, a single mother, a grandmother, and much more and quite frankly I'm better qualified to lead than you and besides...GOD SAID IT."  [sigh]  How was I supposed to argue with "GOD"? Well, this is what I did tell her.  I said, "Sister, I may not be the smartest, the most talented or even the most anointed woman in this church.  But I have been put here by God for such a time as this to lead the women of this church.  I am asking you to follow me as I follow Christ.  As you come under my leadership in the women's ministries I believe your gifts will make room for you here, just as with any other woman in the church."  She did not receive that, got very angry and ended up trying to destroy my ministry, even calling a district official to complain about the situation of me not turning the women's ministry over to her.  She called people who had me scheduled to speak and told them to cancel me.  Seriously!  It didn't work.   Fortunately for me a good name means something and the phone to the district official got her no where.  Neither did her calls to get people to cancel me.  They thought she was nuts.  She pushed for Larry and I to give her the title "head intercessor" and to announce to the church that she was operating in the "office of intercessor."  This lady was a thorn in my flesh during the majority of our ministry in that church and tried to discredit me at every turn right up until the time we resigned.  Of course once we did resign she loudly pronounced, "I knew it already!  God revealed it to me in prayer!  God told me they were leaving!"  [bigger sigh]   
  • The same intercessor  came to the pulpit while my husband was ministering one Sunday morning and took him by the arm and whispered in his ear, "Pastor, God has told me to take this service in another direction." (Anyone who knows my husband is not surprised that he looked and her and simply said, "Have a seat...NOW.")  But, there we go with the "God" card again.  By the way, I sought counsel from the district leadership about this woman and they agreed she was a very tough person to deal with.  If it wasn't for their godly counsel and the help of one of my mentors, Sis. June Coker, I don't know how I would have survived those years of dealing with her. Incidentally, Sis. Coker has been an ordained AG minister for almost 50 years and she and Bro. C. have a plethora of pastoral experience serving as local, district and national leaders.  When she visited our church the first time to preach and met this woman it only took her several moments to tell me, "Deanna, that woman is a snake!!!"   Just having Sis. C's understanding of the situation and her wisdom helped me through many hard years that I went through with that situation.
  • There was another intercessor when we first came to our church in Tampa who told my husband that unless he got up in front of the church and repented for the "sins of a former church member"  that God revealed to them that several of our members and a board member were going to be struck dead.  Keep in mind the man who committed these "sins" wasn't even a member during our pastorate -- he was someone from the past who had left the church prior to our arrival.   But even so, she was a false prophet!  None of it came true!  (In the Bible days they stoned them when it didn't come true!  Wonder what would happen if we started doing that in the church today?)  
  • At a previous church we pastored, there was another group of three intercessors under the "mentorship" of the "snake" previously mentioned.  These  women repeatedly interrupted the services, weeping and wailing and caused all kinds of disturbances during the services.  My husband spoke to them about it but they did not receive instruction. They were in open rebellion and caused much confusion in the services doing things that were not biblical.  They were corrected but did not respond until they went too far and really hurt someone.  We had told them they could not continue their behavior in the sanctuary.  We never dreamed of what would come next.  An usher alerted me in the middle of a service that there was a disturbance in the ladies room.  When a woman came out of the stall, these three "intercessors" were waiting for her and told her she was demon possessed and needed deliverance.  They tried to cast a demon out of  her right there in the ladies room.  She was not possessed although she was an emotionally fragile woman and had dealt with severe clinical depression for a long time.  (They knew this.)   The lady ended up having a complete nervous breakdown on the bathroom floor that day, and ended up in the hospital.  It's a miracle of God our church didn't get sued over that issue.  Talk about grace!   Not until they saw the damage that they caused when this lady was actually hospitalized for a week, did they finally shut up and stop their craziness.  Amazingly they still thought Larry and I were the ones who were spiritually off base and held private prayer meetings in their homes, focusing on "the breakthrough our pastors need to see the light..."  When Larry and I made it clear to the church folks that we DID NOT endorse these particular home prayer meetings, they started gossip around the church saying, "Isn't it pitiful that we have pastors in this church who don't support prayer meetings?"  [sigh]
  • There was the intercessor shortly after we started pastoring our church here in Tampa who stood up in the middle of service and shouted, "THUS SAITH THE LORD, I AM NOT PLEASED WITH THIS CHURCH!"  (My husband told her to sit down too.)
  • There was the time we were riding to church on Sunday morning our first few months here in Tampa and it was pouring down rain and Jordan said, "Oh good!  Jesus can finally heal people today!!!"  We were puzzled by this statement so my husband said, "Jordan, what are you talking about?"  He said, "Oh, Miss Kim (flaky intercessor who was in our church at the time) told me that Jesus spoke to her when she was praying and said, "I will heal people at at the church on the Sundays when it rains."  I said, "why would she tell you that?"  He said, "Well she told me I need to get excited when it rains outside because those are the mornings we can count on Jesus to heal."  What a load of doo-doo for somebody to tell  a child or anyone else. Jesus wants to heal everyday, all the time and is not limited by the elements outside. By the way, I didn't just believe my son about this -- I know kids can make things up.  I checked it out by asking Miss Kim myself, and these remarks were sadly... true.
  • There was the group of intercessors in one of the churches we pastored who started making it their mission to "pray for the pastor to see the truth"... "pray for the pastor to line up with God's will" [translation = doing things THEIR way] and "change the direction of his vision", [to line up with what THEY thought] etc.  Prayer meetings were more about their ax to grind with the pastor than touching God and coming into agreement.  If you poked your head in on this prayer meeting you could hear them shouting, "Oh God, break through to the man of God!  You've changed the heart of kings and you can change the heart of our pastor!  Cause him to see the error of his ways and begin to move in the vision WE KNOW you have for this church."  (Gag me with a prayer cloth.)  
  • There was another intercessor that we finally thought we could trust, after all the crazy ones we had encountered over the years.  We asked them to lead the prayer ministry and sadly realized that in the end they were talking behind our backs negatively to others, sharing their "concerns", questioning our vision and  the direction of the church and our leadership decisions and told the prayer group in advance that she would be leaving our church. She planted seeds of doubt among them.  All of this was spiritual poison from a person we should have been able to trust. When she left the church because she was "not in agreement with our vision" she continued the prayer meeting in her home and invited all of the people to continue coming there.
  • And finally this - a prophetic intercessor who came from my husband's home church in Pittsburgh called my mother-in-love (Larry's mom) a few years ago and gave a "word  from God" that I was going to tragically die soon, and my husband was going to marry his high school girlfriend (who is now divorced) and THEY were going to co-pastor our church here in Tampa.  My mother-in-love was absolutely floored and very angry and told her, "Don't you EVER call me again!!" and hung up the phone.
So you can see, when I realized gatekeeper meant intercessor...it was really the last thing I wanted, at least to ever publicly admit.

I have to be honest that at times witnessing behavior like this made me embarrassed of pentecostals and sometimes afraid to admit I was one, although I know too much about the power of the Holy Spirit having experienced it myself to ever walk away!!!  Larry has gone through the above situations and more and there are times he has come home from church after something out of order happening that he had to correct saying, "On days like today, it might seem more attractive to be Baptist..."  (Just for a second...lol)

I thought, "Okay God, intercessors are flaky...they have crap-o marriages, they give the pastor nothing but flack, they are pretty much spiritual wing nuts, and now you are asking me to be one?  Fantastic.  I want to do this about as much as I want to slide down a razor blade into a pool of alcohol or brush my teeth vigorously with tar."

The only "normal" intercessor I ever knew was my grandmother.  She was the true definition of intercessor.  She was Christ-like.  She wasn't a mental case.  She treated her husband with honor.  She was the pastor's greatest supporter!  She didn't go into the prayer closet to be seen, to get recognition from the church or the pastor.  She prayed with the right motivations and her prayers touched people, the church and the world.

All of the "flaky intercessors" I met over the years of pastoring really caused me to push the image of my grandmother as intercessor to the background and bring the spiritual fruitloops to the foreground.  I wasn't real excited about taking up the role of "gatekeeper".  What was a girl to do?

I'll tell you tomorrow how I got beyond my experiences to see wisdom clearly on this issue and what I did in my next step of the journey.


2 comments:

Ruth said...

Preach It, Deanna! We have (had) a family in our church, a messed up situation, which has been ongoing for a year or so. My pastor, a wise man, put the reigns on the situation as you and your husband did. It was the wife, outspoken, who had a "word". It reached a point that her "words" became a sermon of her own thoughts usually starting with "I believe...." (Yikes!) The last couple of times, the pastor would cue the praise and worship team to play and she finally got the hint, and the family left the church. Their teen daughter really does need our church and youth leaders, but Mrs. ----, actually I believe because she can not submit, left the church. Deanna, I would never be one to say that someone can't attend, although I know it is needed sometimes! But let me tell you that since the family left, there has been a flow and order to our services and the Holy Spirit has been pouring out in a fresh way. I believe that satan often uses that unsubmissive attitude (dare I say... spirit)to destroy the body from within. I urge anyone reading this that if you get wind of any problems in this degree, alert your pastors. Growing up a PK, I know that pastors are sometimes the last to know. Sorry to be so long winded, Deanna, but you are not alone. I believe every church that is truly on fire is going to have problems with crazies every so often. When God gives us sensitivity to the Spirit, He also heightens our awareness to those who might be being used by another spirit. Great Word today!

Deanna said...

No need to apologize Ruth. I believe it all needed to be said. Write away!

I so understand what you are saying. We had this at CC not so long ago where I believe we were held captive by such a spirit and when it was gone, "bloosh!" the wind of the spirit came into the place. Literally the next Sunday.

This is the thing to being an on fire church, we do have to deal with crazy people. And sometimes I think pastors give up and just settle for dead because they get tired of crazy. Dead is way easier than crazy. But dead is dead, so who wants it?

Thanks for reading and commenting, Ruth. I love you!