Journey off the Edge of My Map

It’s 2 years now since I started investigating the culture behind the sucess of the Bethel Church, Redding, California. My interest was aroused when I heard the testimonies and listened to the sermons. Biblical stuff was happening and the bible was being taught…that’s big stuff for a Baptist pastor. The presence of God was honoured without the need for hype and sensationalism. That ticked a few boxes. Not only was God good…but he was also “in a good mood!” That rattled my cage for a while. Actually many statements rattled my cage…but it made me hungrier to seek out the truth.

Truth for a pastor is always paramount. We would all rather burn in hell than teach people wrong doctrine.

Back in Bible College it worried me that I could be so Pharisaically right that it scared me. We Baptists had dibs on the bible…but there wasn’t a whole lot of fruit. I love the word of God. Always have! It resonates as truth in every part of my being. That’s why it has become harder and harder to just read about the stories of Jesus back then – without seeing the same stories in my city today.

I’ve come to realise that the theology I have developed over the years was “experience” based theology…the very thing I have fought against. I thought I had based it on biblical facts. I was proud of that as a teacher.

The trouble with being a gifted “pastor / teacher” is that coupled with a need to be right is a truck load of emotion that travels with you when sit down to pastor and counsel someone whose world has just been shattered and you have no answers or explanations. You encourage people to have faith and believe…but still – loved ones die and you now have to conduct the funeral.

Being someone determined to be the master of my own destiny and being someone who avoids pain I charted a course that has developed my “experienced based” theololgy. It’s been my experience that when I pray for people to be healed – they just are not. There have been exceptions which I cherish but in the main I pray in faith and people still die. I do the funeral. My experience is painful and it overrides biblical facts and promises. But it has been my experience. My theology began to reflect it – God doesn’t do many miracles these days.

Bill Johnson and Randy Clark are my heroes today because they have wrestled with these issues and decided that there is no alternative to trusting the word of God for correct doctrine. Obedieane to Christ pushes me beyond a doctrine that discourages faith in the miraculous. I still have no answers for families who’s loved ones die after I have prayed for healing…but I no longer feel a need to give an answer. Christ has commanded me to heal the sick, cleanse the leper, cast out demons and raise the dead. I can’t afford to let a sad experience quench my faith or determine my doctrine. I refuse to believe that miracles just belong in either the past of the future. I live in the now!

Bill and Randy are also heroes because they have introduced me to the word “honour”. I will honour the presence of God in all meetings. I will nonour the church Jesus died for and all the denominations that call on His name. I will honour my fellow pastors and the gifts and callings that are on their lives. I will honour every person associated with my church family – the gifts and grace that are on their life. I will honour the living word of God. I will honour the grace and calling on my life to be a pastor and a city leader. I dedicate my life to serving well in this capacity.

It’s a Kingdom journey that I am travelling. It’s bigger than my denomination and it’s bigger than church. It’s off my map because most of my teachers have been just that – great teachers. We teachers are always suspiscious of the unknown. But then you find yourself pastoring people who get direct downloads from heaven like words of wisdom, words of knowledge, prophecies, dreams, tongues…Do you panic? Squash it? Control it? Stop it? Teach against it? Or do you encourage and embrace it? I am choosing to grow as a pastor and I am choosing to welcome and embrace all Kingdom gifts and encounters.

The journey off the edge of my map is both rewarding and exciting. I am looking forward to seeing more evidence of God’s Kingdom in my church and in my city in 2014!

Lloyd Ollerenshaw
Shellharbour City Baptist Church