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Old 05-02-2008, 02:18 PM   #1
OBW's Avatar
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: DFW area
Posts: 4,217
Default OBW — My Journey

While somewhat long, this is a sketch of my journey to, trough, and beyond the LC.

My name is Mike (as can be seen in the signature at the bottom). I’ve lived virtually my whole life in the Dallas area, being born to parents who themselves were born in Dallas.

Until the middle of my senior year of high school, we attended an Assemblies of God church. During the last 2 or 3 years of that time, we had some contact with various inner life teachers. During early high school, relatives in Florida introduced my parents to Watchman Nee. My Dad went out a bought a couple of his books and even began to try to use them as part of a Bible study he was involved in at the church. It did not receive the interest from his peers that he expected.

Then, in the fall of 1972, my brother ran into another student at our high school that went to the Church in Dallas. When my Dad found out about the link between Nee and Lee, he began to investigate. We began to go to a meeting now and then. By January, 1973, we severed ties to the AOG and were fully “in the church.”

I will admit that from the very beginning, I was never going to be a “burning,” “ambitious to be an elder” type. (It turns out that was one of the reasons that my wife decided she might marry me.) Since our situation was a complete family joining up, the kind of extremes that often occurred in the corporate-living situations were only heard about and not experienced.

I think that before I was even out of college, I had a realization that there were spiritual and scriptural truths that I was learning from the LC, but that there were some aspects of the outward practices from which I seemed to want to stay just a little bit apart. (With this sentence you can also see that I have become somewhat of a grammatical stickler despite the fact that I was only an OK English student. I don’t hold others to my standards and also know that I do not do everything “by the book.”) Someone mentioned the Revelation (I think) training recently. I recall sitting in my chair, drawing pictures of battleships — “destroying the destroyers.” Yep. I wasn’t going to be an elder.

Graduated from college in 77 (four years straight through — didn’t seem that common among my LC peers). Spent about 10 months in Arlington, then moved back to Dallas. Married in 79. Moved to Irving at the end of 82. Left in about August of 87. Essentially went immediately to a Bible Church nearby and we are still there after over 20 years.

The road out probably came in stages. I was bothered a little by some of the turn-it-on and turn-it-off control. The first I saw was in 73 when the “Christ v Religion” fever went through. There was a conference in Dallas. Some from other cities were waving cheerleader’s pom-poms in the meetings. Green and white — my school. It bugged me. Suddenly in one meeting, either James Barber or John Ingalls (one of those two was in the conference but I can’t remember which) rose and said about two sentences and the pom-poms disappeared along with a lot of other over-the-top stuff that had been going on. I appreciated the sanity, but the degree of immediate following was not missed. (This is an event that I have often considered and note that it is also mentioned in “The Thread of Gold.”)

Two or three years later, the first time Max R came through Dallas (no offense if you are reading this Max), my Dad commented that he knew my Dad’s name. There is nothing evil or unspiritual in finding out someone’s name, but it seemed odd to both my Dad and to me. Then came the ouster of Max and the beginning of the lawsuits. I followed the discussions with interest, but something always nagged at me about the whole business.

Also during this time, I had a couple of run-ins with Gene D. (I was never sure if he was actually and elder in Dallas, but I know he was afterwards in a couple of other cities, so I feel comfortable in mentioning the name at least in part.) At least one of them was essentially a random rant about nothing of value. It moved him down my respect scale. I later learned that he had done even worse to my Dad. (I’ve since learned that two other elders who were present were quite taken back by the incident, but were under a fog that made them incapable of doing anything at the time. There has been an apology made by one of them which I was glad to accept.)

Then came Irving. This was the first time that I had the sense that where you were in terms of locality was somewhat at the “brothers’” discretion and not really yours. Nothing was ever said, but I got the sense that it was an accepted fact. I lived fairly East in Dallas, beyond the meeting hall but had changed jobs to a place in Irving, on the West side of the county, some 26 miles either through downtown or around the primary loop. With traffic, it was seldom less than a 45 min drive and was often much longer. (I know some will say “poor baby, 45 minutes” but when there was a church in Irving, there seemed to be no reason to put up with it.) I drove it for one month and put the house on the market and moved to Irving. We went from well-known nobodies to unknown and almost unnoticed nobodies.

At this point, we were among a group of people that we mostly only knew a little from regional conferences (remember when they were regional and not just national or international?). I began to note that there were people that I knew were there but I seldom saw. Ben M, even Ray G. and many others. They were all busy proofing, typesetting, printing and binding for the LSM. Then one day I realized that I had not seen Ben for some time. There began to be whispers, but it was essentially that he had merely left.

I will preface this by saying that we had once spent a weekend in Houston to work on the presses there, so moving to Irving with the possibility of doing more was promising. I reached out to help with the publishing by proofreading a chapter in one of the books on which they were working. When I turned my work back in, I learned from the person in charge of that effort that I had made several grammatical errors according to the style handbook they were using. I later discovered that they were specifically using older rules of grammar and punctuation that had been out of vogue even in the versions used by university and professional publications for years. The smugness and certainty of this brother may not have risen to the level of an offense, but it really did bother me. After that, I decided that the printing was not for me.

We spent 4-1/2 years in the Church in Irving but I have few significant memories of meetings at the hall. I realize that part of this time we even had Sunday morning meetings in homes, but that was only the last few months or so.

I do recall a Saturday morning breakfast at Benson’s house with a large group of brothers. As it was ending and everyone was beginning to mill around and prepare to leave, I ended up near Benson. We exchanged a few words, and then he said something that remained in my mind for years, even after leaving the LC. He said something like “We’ve built really good fences, but the sheep are dying.” I don’t think I had necessarily identified something dying in me, but in hindsight, it was really true.

I also remember the last “sermon” series that Benson gave during our time there. It was in the early stages of the new door knocking move. While everyone was encouraged to get involved, Benson’s messages were on the going on of the soldiers and the citizens. While never clearly stated, it seemed obvious that the soldiers were the ones going door to door or doing other “ministry” work while the citizens were the ones that did not, but were providing the support (prayer, money, toilet cleaning, etc.) for the soldiers. The emphasis seemed to be that no one should feel that they were a second-class member of the body of Christ. But the reality was that all of the energies were put to the publishing and to the door knocking. It was hard to consider yourself anything but a second-class citizen if you weren’t deep into whatever the “flow” was at the time. It had always been that way to some degree. Now it was even worse. (It is possible that the peculiarities of a city with a conference center and printing presses made it more extreme.)

By this time, my wife and I needed real friends, not just a bunch of “amen” friends. We needed real mentoring and shepherding. It was not to be found. You weren’t supposed to know anyone “in the flesh” so your personal problems were not welcome discussion. You were expected to call on the Lord more and go to more meetings. That would fix everything. If we had continued there, it would have fixed the date for the end of our marriage. It was not yet looming, but the early warnings signs were there.

One day, my wife said “we should go try out Irving Bible Church.” It was less than a mile away. While Lee always slammed seminaries, he generally spoke somewhat highly of Dallas Theological Seminary and we knew that Bible Church ministers in our area tended to be DTS graduates. We talked back and forth about it over a couple of weeks, then just did it. Roughly August of 87, we left the LC, never to return, and went to IBC.

IBC was in the midst of a transition. It had no preacher. We still were impressed by the leadership. About two months later they brought in a preacher who was (is) about 9 months younger than me. He was not quite 32. We are still growing together.

The LC distress signals with their imbedded messages are still being searched out and destroyed. I found one just a few months ago. But the marriage has healed. We’ve had real fellowship with real people rather than pseudo-spiritual fellowship with ministry clones. I do not mean to insult any of the people in the LC with that statement. I was one of them too. It was not about us as much as it was about the thing into which the “ministry” turned us.

The LC has remained the elephant in the room when I visit my parents, or my brother or sister and their families. We did finally discuss it a little in the spring of 2006, but it got pushed aside for a while. I recall my sister recently saying something like “surely you believe that Bro Lee was right about [I don’t remember what now].” My response was essentially “No, I don’t.” They have essentially thought that it was practices and not teaching that caused us to leave and stay away. The practices were probably the thing that drove us away, but it was the eyes opening to the teachings that kept us away.

I notice that there is never any will to defend the “ministry” other than in “broad-brush” terms. (This seems to be true on both the BARM forum and in the personal discussion I have had recently on a couple of issues.) When I was going through my recent “aha” about one of Lee’s teachings, I pointed to the particular scriptures for my sister to read through, telling here what I had noticed. I never heard back. But they will talk over and over about some general wonderfulness of the “church-life.”

I’ve only been to one LC meeting since mid-87. Unfortunately it was my Mother’s funeral. The service was acceptable, but it was clear to me, and even somewhat clear to my sister and Dad (and probably my brother) that these people that she had been among for almost 35 years did not really know her. Even some of the almost exclusively “focus on the church-life” testimonies sounded like one of those mostly fictional movies that are loosely based on a real-life event. I probably wouldn’t have included this in my opening testimony except that this was only a little over 5 months ago and still fresh in my thoughts.

I’m seldom the one to see deep things in a truly original way. But I will go over what anyone tries to feed me. I’m a bit of a “shade-tree” student of logic and reasoning and will gladly take what passes muster, but shred hollow logical fallacies passed off as truth. I also have a tendency to bring out a certain level of sarcasm that sometimes comes off not exactly as intended. I recall in the first few weeks in the LC we were having dinner with another family and I made a reference to “our atheist friend in Austin.” The sister looked at me with really big eyes until she realized I was simply making a snide remark about Madeline Murray O’Hare.

For those that frequent the BARM, I am “Mike H” there. I’m not sure why I decided on a different pseudonym here, but I did. After I had set it up and it was accepted, I realized that it might be thought to mean Obi-Wan. (If I ever seem to get a light saber out, let me know and I will deal with it.) That was not my intention. Simply “older but wiser.” As I write this, I’m reminded of a line from “The Music Man.” The line was about the “older but wiser girl” — a bit odd for a guy, but the thought is accurate.

If I ever bring up a line from a song or movie that you don’t get, just ask. I tend to note where others have seen what I am seeing and put it into song or movie script. It may not be spiritual, but truth is still truth.

I’m a bit sirprised that the system has allowed this much at one time. While I don't typically write this much at once, I'm not known for one-line posts.
I once thought I was. . . . but I may have been mistaken — Edge (with apologies)
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