I am a persistent person and I’ve always been fascinated with God and religion. Even growing up in the FOC where answers were not forthcoming about these things, I pestered and persisted in asking how things were, why things were, what things were like back when…. Bad experiences couldn’t keep me from trying again. I wandered into yet another church. It was an Assemblies of God church. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
This church was large. The pastor found his way to me immediately, introduced himself, and made small talk. The church service was nice, the message was fascinating (and convicting), the songs were the same hymns I’d sang all those years in the FOC – only with emotion behind them, harmonizing, instruments, etc.
So everything was fine and good until that final prayer. Trouble. The pastor started calling people out – like he was reading their minds! I’d heard many stories of Walter White rebuking people from the pulpit and now I was experiencing something similar. He called people out and they came forward to have their sins cast out. Nobody refused to go; nobody seemed shocked that this man knew what they’d been up to.
I was, thankfully, in the back row. As this calling forward of the sinners continued, I slumped lower in my seat. What if he read my mind? What dark thoughts or deeds would be found? I moved on.
Did I mention that my dad grew up Pentecostal? Let me just stop and say that I have nothing against this form or Christianity; I have actually known some really wonderful Pentecostals. But you have to understand that my only knowledge of church was one where everyone, absolutely everyone – especially women and children – tried their very hardest to do nothing noticeable in church. And Pentecostals are not exactly known for quiet reverence in church.
I discovered a new church in another town. I don’t remember the name of it. I figured it was just a community church because it was operating out of an old school house. Nothing fancy.
I went in and sat down in the middle of the congregation. A few people came up and introduced themselves. Friendly, but not pushy. And then the service began.
Whoa. These people went wild. They danced and whooped – like everyone in the building. It felt like a trippy dream or a movie. It couldn’t really be happening, could it? These were the “holy rollers” I’d heard about growing up. Some were on the floor. Most danced around and hollered words and phrases that made no sense. Scary.
What could I do? I was surrounded by these people on all sides. I was not getting up. I was not going to dance around – it would’ve been fake if I had. I wanted to be anywhere but there, but I was too scared to stand and walk out the door – what if someone grabbed me and made me dance?
I have no idea what the sermon was about. None. I was traumatized.
A few months later, I was invited to community potluck. Cool. I like potlucks. I brought some cookies and my appetite. Sometime in the middle of that meal I realized what was going on. These people all belonged to that church. I was being recruited.
An older man cornered me and began to explain how I couldn’t be saved unless I had the gift of speaking in tongues. I politely disagreed – several times because he was adamant about convincing me – and escaped to my car.
Lesson learned: never go to a potluck unless you know what the agenda is.