Our Dear Friends and Loved Ones,
When we pause and consider the mighty work God has wrought in our lives during this last year, we are awestruck! We find ourselves desiring to share with all of you the great joy and peace beyond expression that we are experiencing these days. We are delighting in the fresh illuminating of the Scriptures and in our deepened understanding of God’s plan and purpose for our lives. Our prayers that have been answered and God’s promises that have been realized in our lives have surely increased our faith.
I know that many of you have been saddened, bewildered and probably even angered at the choice I made last January to quit going to the meetings. I realize this is a lot to read; but I have been moved to write and share our experience and our current understanding of God’s will for our lives with any of you who care to read about it.
Though I personally have chosen to separate from The Way, please understand my decision is not an attack or a judgment against the people in The Truth. I know I established my own relationship with God while in The Way; I believe most of the people in The Way are sincere, God-fearing people; and, I appreciate the sincere willingness of honest Workers to give their lives to bring others to Christ.
Recently Brian has called to my attention the many exhortations in the scripture of the importance and benefit of searching and knowing the truth of the scriptures; such as:
–Matt 22—“Ye doer, not knowing the scriptures”;
–Acts 17–These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”;
–I Thess 5—“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”;
–l Tim 4—“Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine…. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them”;
–II Tim 2—“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”; and
–I John 4—“try the spirits whether they are of God.
When I read these verses and others like them, it is evident to me that God welcomes our desire to understand His Word. He knows the more we study His Word and the more questions we asks, the more we can learn and grow.
This subject is as important as it can get; salvation and my eternal relationship with God. l haven’t lost sight of that and I don’t look on any of this lightly. My decision has not been a turning away from the Lord. I recognize the Bible to be the inerrant and infallible word of God. I love God and desire above all else that He could continue to guide in every part of my life and that our kids would learn to know and come to love God for themselves. Because of what I have been taught since I was a little child, and because of my belief in that over the years, this was the most difficult decision of my life and one which involved much fervent prayer.
I never pretended to go along with some of the things others upheld in The Way to be God’s truth because they didn’t match my own prayer-guided understanding. Most of you would know this because I have often spoken of my concerns. Because I care so much that my service before God is according to His will and will bring Him joy, when discussion of these points disturbed my peace I would read and pray. I would receive fresh answers from God that confirmed my understanding and brought me peace again. Then, repeatedly, I would find myself losing that peace and getting stirred up in my heart as I sat in a meeting or engaged in conversation and heard the thought expressed again that anyone who wasn’t living according to the accepted outward standard was unwilling… lacking self-denial and understanding.
Even though I have the conviction that God doesn’t want us weighing one another in this way, I have in the past found myself looking on others and judging their heart condition according to those same standards. When I realized what I was doing, it put a real fear in my heart. It is human nature for us to want signs; to want to measure another’s faith and connectedness with God. When Jesus told Peter what he wanted him to do, Peter’s response was, “… and what shall this man do?” Jesus answered, “…what is that to thee? Follow thou me.” – and God told Samuel, “The Lord seeth not as man seeth.”
About three years ago as I realized the desperate situation I was in. Caught in between my own godly conviction and the conviction of others, I finally came to the place where I began to pray earnestly to God, in almost every silent prayer, that He would show me His truth; separate from my own ideas, separate from other men’s ideas, separate from empty traditions and separate from Satan’s promptings – and that He would give me the courage to stand up for His truth.
While I prayed this prayer I still felt assured, as I had always been taught, that this was “God’s Only Way”. I didn’t know how God would answer my prayer, but I didn’t for a moment imagine it would take me out of The Way. I continued to encourage others to keep on going in The Way. As God made it increasingly clear to me that He had other plans and another place for me, I was gripped by fear. This Way was all I knew about serving God. I began to pray, “Lord, if what I have been striving to fulfill all my 23 professing years is your will for my life, … then what AM I supposed to do?”
I don’t know if you are familiar with the book The Secret Sect. When I first heard about it several years ago, I heard it was an angry attack on The Truth and I chose not to read it. More recently I heard a faithful, sincere and continuing Worker refer to the book as a factual recorded history of The Truth. The Workers who brought The Way to us – or to our parents and grandparents – taught that This Way was from the beginning and was unchanging.
Actually, The Way had an earthly founder just as all other “Christian” churches have. William Irvine started it in about 1897 while preaching for the Faith Missions. Much of the form of the modern-day conventions has been fashioned after the famous Keswick Conventions which were held in England in the early 1900s. I feel I can speak with some authority about this since, in addition to reading this book, I have read The Life and Ministry of Edward Cooney (he was one of the original Workers) and I have also read many of the actual newspaper articles published in Ireland early in the century about this new way.
For several years I’ve been aware that The Way made what I believed to be a “rebirth” at the turn of the century and I’ve accepted it. I always chose to picture in my mind a remnant of His people scattered, each serving Him according to His will, but having no knowledge that there was anyone else walking The Way. Then I saw God moving on the heart of some humble, godly men and sending them out according to Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 10. However, as I’ve read the actual account of The Truth’s development, the involvement of man and his ideas has become apparent. Even with this knowledge, I thought that if I really felt The Truth was God’s Only Way to salvation. I would embrace it fully. From my continued studying of His word, though, I find nothing to support the idea of God’s planning all men to follow this one METHOD of service.
It’s very possible, that most of the Workers who carried the gospel to us really believed This Way was from Christ’s day, because, after the fledgling church had suffered some problems with some of It’s early leaders, all the Workers of that day were pledged to silence about the history of the church under threat of excommunication. Yes, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever; but The Way has not been. God’s truth is unchanging; but The Truth has seen many changes. (And it still continues to evolve. I have seen many changes even in my lifetime.)
A while back we heard about the Restoration Movement which began in the early 19th century. By that time it was true that most of the organized religions in the world had become very corrupted by man’s ideas and traditions. They had incorporated many creeds and doctrines Jesus and the apostles knew nothing about and had drifted quite far from the teaching in God’s word. Because of this, around 1830 a group of men, unbeknownst to one another, broke away from the churches they were connected with and made an attempt to go back to the Bible. They desired to break away from the denominations of the day and wear no name but “Christian”. They wanted to uphold the teachings of the Bible and be silent where the Bible was silent. William Irvine came along some years later apparently following this trend. He saw the corruption in the churches of the day and chose to speak out against it.
I would like to include a quote here about our “heritage”; how even though in many ways it can benefit us greatly, in other ways it can actually hinder our understanding of God’s word. Jesus himself expressed an idea similar to this quote in Matthew 23:13 and Luke 11:52. (In our NIV study bible the explanation of this verse says, “the very persons who should have opened the people’s minds concerning the law, obscured their understanding by faulty interpretation and an erroneous system of theology.”)
I think we sometimes tend to look with disdain on the Pharisees and their unbelief and lack of understanding. It has been good for >me to remember that these people were the chosen people of God. They thought they were following His commands and doing His will. Jesus rebuked them because they were teaching for doctrine the traditions of men. They were washing the outside of the cup while neglecting their heart condition and their relationship with God. Realizing we need to guard against those same things that others got caught up in helps me remain teachable before Him.
And, now, here’s the quote from Beyond the Battle for the Bible by J. I. Packer: …. there is a second point at which obstacles to understanding arise, no matter how diligently we follow the rules.
This has to do with the blinders we wear… You and I, like everyone else, are children of traditions, and hence are both their beneficiaries and their victims. They have opened our eyes to some things, and closed them to others… Again: we are children, and therefore victims, of reaction—negative stances of recoil blinding us to value in the things we reject. Man’s reaction never results in God’s righteousness; it is not discerning enough. . . I am talking about what sociologists call ‘cultural prejudice’. I am saying that we all suffer from it, most of all those of us who think we don’t, and that as a result we are constantly missing things that are there for us in the Bible.
We are ourselves part of the problem of understanding because of the way that tradition and reaction have conditioned us. When, therefore, we ask God to give us understanding we should be asking him to keep us not only from mistakes about the meaning of texts but also from culturally determined blind spots….
This quote expresses so well what I have begun to experience as I’ve learned to let go of my own traditions and my own understanding and let God show me His truth. Because I didn’t go along with all that others profess to believe, I considered myself to be unhindered by man’s ideas. One thing I have discovered in this experience is how much I was hindering the work of God in my life and hindering His ability to reveal Himself to me. I have been amazed to see, now, things that I never saw before because I thought we already had and knew Gods answers.
It was recently brought out that it is God’s character and His truth that are unchanging. His methods are continuously changing. God told the children of Israel they would do to Ai as they had done to Jericho. What would have happened if they had started marching around Ai as they had marched around Jericho? Have you ever wondered why God’s instructions to the children of Israel changed from battle to battle: Keep the plunder – destroy all the spoil. Capture the women, children, cattle and goods – leave no survivors and destroy everything? God’s instructions changed to accomplish the job at hand according to HIS will. God didn’t ask the children of Israel to search history for guidance; rather, they were to ask God and obey His direction for that day and in that experience.
We have come to understand that there is no single way – no one “religious method” (except Christ the Way) to receive salvation. Salvation is a gift from God. All that is required of us to receive that gift is that we repent, believe in Christ and accept Him as our personal Lord and Savior. That is scriptural. Our good works follow out of our love for God and what He has done for us…according to our own God-given gifts and according to the dealing of the Holy Spirit.
We also recently heard about the blind men Jesus healed. Imagine them getting together later to discuss the ONE way Jesus heals blindness. For any trying to follow Jesus’ method, there could have been at least 4 denominations started up right there.., the “Spit-ites,” the “Mud-ites,” the ”Touch-ites” and the “Speak-ites.” Jesus commanded us to follow Him, but it’s been real to me lately that His example wasn’t a method, but rather it was in His character and His truth. What was Jesus like? What did He teach? – compassion (Mall 9:36), love (John 15:13), humility (Phil 2:7), prayer (Mark 1:35). obedience (Heb 5:8), forgiveness (Luke 23:34), servanthood (Matt 20:28), and purity (I Pet 2:22).
Paul reminded the Romans (14:12) “everyone of us shall give account of himself to God.” He encouraged others to examine themselves to see if they were in the faith. “Sacrifice” and “self-denial” are self-diagnostic terms. I’ve enjoyed thinking about Cain and Abel again in this light. The contrast between these two brothers’ offerings was not between plant life and animal life, but between a careless, thoughtless offering and a choice, generous offering. It was Abel’s faith – his motivation and heart attitude – that caused God to look with approval on his sacrifice. It’s possible that Cain’s sacrifice appeared perfectly acceptable to Adam, Eve and Abel, but God was looking on Cain’s heart and found no joy in the offering.
I am not arguing with the fact that there can be wonderful fellowship in The Way. When I was wholly in The Way, I loved the fellowship, I loved the meetings, and, I still love and respect the honest sincere people in The Way. That fellowship can be hindered, though, by the judgement of others about a person’s service before God. The judgement by others not only hinders the fellowship, it can cause people to question God’s dealing in their lives and actually hinder God’s ability to work in them–a very serious possibility to consider.
In my personal experience, I had accepted false accusations made against me, believing it to be part of the persecution Jesus promised we would face. But I began to realize the same sort of thing was being repeated to others; sincere young people judged unworthy to be baptized – and others found unworthy of certain “privileges” – regardless of their true heart condition before God and their commitment to Christ. Some people, rather than being drawn to a greater knowledge of God and His truth, have actually been turned away from God and the Bible by the harsh judgement of people who believe they can see the heart as God can. Some of these people have gone away with an aching heart, misunderstood and confused; but have simply been written off by others in The Way as bitter, contentious, or unwilling.
God has never been destructive to those who seek Him (not even when they fail short, as many great men like David and Peter did in Bible times). I finally came to realize I couldn’t defend these actions. I couldn’t uphold the system before my own children nor could I lend my support to it by virtue of my own participation in it. I know that not everyone in The Way supports these things, but such actions do seem to be a product of a “legalistic” system.
I have been noticing lately how much of the exhortation in the New Testament is for us to reach out to others.., to love one another; to strengthen, encourage, comfort, and build up. When Jesus exhorted us to “love one another” he used the Greek word “agape”. Agape love seeks the welfare of all and works no ill to any. It is real to me that this is not something we can ever do in our own power; it can only be done as we allow God to work in and through us.
I still firmly believe in the importance of, and enjoy, fellowship with others who have a true love of God and His plan for their lives. When I made the decision to quit going to the meetings, I didn’t have a clear understanding of where God would lead me from there. I still believed all the things we had been taught about “churches”, but I felt a need for godly fellowship. We decided to attend a service at a non-denominational church in our area.
Since we were babies we’ve been taught a lot of frightening things about “organized religion”. It was a pretty big step to walk through those doors… for me,a step in faith. Since God has given us the power to discern which messages are of God and 80% of the funds, 30% of the people provide the additional 20% and 50% of the people don’t give at all. These statistics exist across the board regardless of what kind of a record-keeping system a church has – whether they have a very elaborate computerized system of tracking; or keep no record at all. (Is it possible the statistics would look the same in The Way?!)
Our pastor uses the phrase, ‘Tell the people and trust God.’ He openly presents the need for funds to aid in the discipling of the world and the maturing of the saints. What we choose to do with that knowledge is between God and us. In the Old Testament, there was a DEMAND to pay. The children of Israel were “taxed” for their tithe. Today our motivation to give comes from our heart, as we each one respond with the overflow of our thanksgiving to the faithfulness of our Lord God Almighty! This is according to the biblical teaching in the New Testament. Any church or pastor who demands payment (or teaches that GOD demands payment) is not following the Bible in that regard. (“God loveth a cheerful giver. 2 Cor.9:7) “
This church offers communion at least weekly; open to all believers in Christ. They do not support sprinkling babies as baptism, but believe in baptism by immersion in obedience to the command of Christ (Mark 16:16) and as an open demonstration of our faith. This church has no written creed other than the Bible. They believe, as in The Way, that anything less would not say enough and anything more would say too much.
Perhaps my greatest joy right now is that since we have started attending this church, Brian’s interest in the things of God has been renewed. He, also, has begun to read the Bible with new understanding. He has begun to see as never before the awesome greatness of God and the privilege that is ours of giving Him the first place in our lives and living for His good pleasure. As Brian has become fully involved in our family’s spiritual growth, I am rejoicing for answered prayers. After over 7 years of walking the Christian life alone and being the only one involved in directing our three children to a knowledge and love for God, only someone who has been down that path themselves can fully understand the depth of joy in my heart to be able to share these things in my own home, with my own husband, again.
If any of you would be interested in listening to one of the messages from the church to know what we’re hearing, we could send you a tape. We are bubbling over with what we have found and can not keep silent about it. We are experiencing a new peace and joy; a new liberty in Christ and a new closeness with God, as He opens up the Scriptures to us in a fresh way.
We have often heard people say that the presence of God is not in a church building. I believe many people have put God in a box and limited His power. As believers, the Holy Spirit dwells within us–not in ANY room or building. If we don’t feel His presence at any given time, maybe – because of our own ideas and beliefs? – we are quenching the Spirit. Something I recently heard and have come to believe wholly: “The presence of God is here–if you will just put up your antenna and receive it.” There is no limit to where and how God can reach open hearts and seeking people! We rejoice in the wonderful fellowship we are sharing with these people who also love God as we do. We delight in every opportunity to meet together in order to praise God and be fed again on His word.
I do not write this as an endorsement of ALL churches. I recognize that there are definitely. churches, even entire religious organizations, which do not uphold Christ and do not teach God’s truth. No Christian would argue with the truth of the Scripture regarding wolves in sheep’s clothing. As we’ve seen repeatedly with the scandals in the news, they do indeed exist! (Christians with a knowledge of God’s Word were speaking out against the unbiblical teaching of these men before the scandal of their lifestyles came to light.)
In the past, I believed completely in the need for a way with no church building and the homeless, unpaid ministry. I “knew” these things were scriptural. Allowing God to lead me beyond my own understanding brought me finally to the point of examining these Scriptures again. (We have found that knowing more about the time and the culture in which a Scripture was written and learning about the Greek and Hebrew words used in the original texts has been a great help in illuminating certain Scriptures. We have come to realize that in the past we were often reading The Bible to make it fit our own framework of understanding rather than reading to learn God’s will.)
I could address the issue of women having long hair. Paul said, “If a woman has long hair it is a glory to her.” In that day, long hair was a woman’s glory and it was disgraceful for a woman to have short hair. In that time and culture, if a woman was guilty of some shameful act or of refusing to submit to her husband as the head in the marriage, her head was shaved. In our day and in our culture, we don’t have the same set of rules. When you pass a woman on the street with short hair or without a head covering, can you judge her – on that basis – to be immoral or lacking in submission to her husband? The issue Paul was actually addressing in his writing to the Corinthians was submission not hair length!
What about meetings in the home? It was necessary in that day for privacy and safety from those that were even stoning and crucifying the followers of Christ; much the same as the need that has existed even in our day in Cuba and other communist-controlled areas. When Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was risen, he found them assembled with the door locked “for fear of the Jews.” With the persecution going on at that time, even if there were enough of them in one area to require a larger meeting place than one or two homes and even if they could have come up with that kind of money, it would have been impossible for Christ’s disciples first to erect and then to worship in a “public” building.
I know the home was one place where we have record of Jesus’ followers meeting together. I just can’t find the scripture to support the thought that meeting in the home is the only possible way of fellowship. The church we have been attending recognizes that fellowship in the home was a part of the early New Testament church. They have many “open” homes where people come together for weekly home fellowship meetings, and the pastor encourages everyone to get involved in one of them.
And, what about the homeless, unpaid ministry? Jesus said, “The labourer is worthy of his hire.” He praised that little widow woman for casting in “of her want” at the temple treasury. We know from Scripture that at least some of the 12 men Jesus originally called were not homeless. The Scripture tells us that Peter had a home and family responsibilities (Matt 8:14, John 1:42:1 Cor 9:5).
It also tells us that John took Jesus’ mother into his own home after Christ was crucified. Jesus gave the apostles special instructions in Matthew 10. He told them to go without purse. He also told them at that time to go only to the Jews and to go healing the sick and raising the dead. What was the message Jesus sent them with at that time? Could they have been sent out with the full gospel story? Since Christ had not yet died and been raised to new life, the gospel story was not yet complete.
Christ was teaching the complete message, but the disciples didn’t yet understand what was going to come to pass and what it would mean for them and all mankind. (Later, in Luke 22, Jesus gave a different set of instructions than those he gave in Matthew 10). I don’t mean to insinuate that meeting in the home or going out homeless and unpaid is WRONG, but I do believe it is unbiblical to uphold it as the ONLY way.
Jesus said “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Later His disciples made the mistake of thinking they knew who was “Worthy” to come into His presence. Jesus was indignant! He told them, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not…” It has put a fear in my heart lest I would be found guilty of “forbidding” anyone whom God sees as a worthy child of His. It surely must grieve God to see the “in-fighting” of His children. Satan provides us with enough enemies to face. How sad if we would be counting as an enemy one whose fellowship could actually strengthen and encourage us. I have also come to appreciate more and more Paul’s admonition in I Cor. 11:14 “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” (NIV) He twisted God’s word to trip up Eve and he still works the same way today. (He even used Scripture when trying to tempt the very Son of God!) I believe Satan delights to see the struggling amongst believers and he uses it to further his evil cause.
God never gave us a guarantee of perfect unity amongst His people. Perfect unity does not exist in The Way and it doesn’t exist in any other church, either. We only need to read the New Testament to see there were continual struggles going on even in Christ’s day and amongst the early church. We are all to strive for unity (by seeking to be one with Christ) but as long as we battle with our human nature, none of us will attain that perfect unity. We’ve often had visiting pastors – from other churches throughout the U.S. and even from other countries – speak in our Sunday evening services. (We’ve also been listening to Christian radio and reading a lot of Christian literature.) It has been a joy to us to see the unity of thought and understanding that does exist from Christian to Christian… from church to church and from pastor to pastor.
“…present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Rom 12:1)
With love and prayers,