As a Charismatic disgusted with the False Prophetic and seeking the truth, I struggled (and still struggle) so much with my prejudices about those in Reformed Circles: I saw them talking much about What Jesus Said, and did not see them as those who have come from sitting at His feet with words that He has just said to them. And a person who has been with Jesus is filled with Spring, one wonders, “What is all this juice and all this joy? ” and you want to be around someone like that.
The gulf between our two worlds kept me from such a person–I describe him here: I think it is the best thing I ever wrote. And not because of the writing, but because of the man.
It is such a grief to me that all the years when I attended a church growing in idolatry, there was the loveliest little Baptist church down the street. We never thought of entering it, until we were out of every other option, because the water is so wide between our worlds. And we can convince very few friends similarly disenchanted by Charismania to join us in worship there. It is such a shame, because the moment I entered First Baptist, I cried. The Spirit was so present there, and the worship was so clean and God exalting, and I had so missed that kind of worship, the kind that is in Spirit and in Truth.
But I wonder, Reformed pastors: Is your church a place that makes a heartsick former Charismatic weep with joy during your worship? Phil was on the platform, leading the parade, giving his people permission to really exult. It was humbly done, and lovely to see, and I really miss that man.
Another question: Would those with whom you vehemently disagree theologically give an eulogy at your funeral? Many of the pastors who prayed regularly with Phil disagreed with him about lots of things. But they interceded together for this sin-saturated city at the prayer meetings Phil had initiated, and this meeting included my former pastor. He spoke movingly about him, recalling the day when Phil led his parishioners in another kind of parade, streaming down the sidewalks to the newly-opened charismatic church down the street, in a funny sort of welcome wagon to the newcomers on the block. I remember that day. They came in at the end of our service, and I thought they all looked a little nervous–I never guessed what Phil was risking. But we weren’t that weird then. My pastor wasn’t running with the crowd he runs with now, and we weren’t aligned with Bethel Redding. Things were done decently. Pretty orderly.
And would you call your opponents your friends? Phil did, when I told him about leaving that church, and why–because of Lakeland, and Bill Johnson. His face became very grave. “He is my friend” Phil said. “We pray together for this city.” He wasn’t going to let me talk smack about his friend. I said I hate the False Prophetic but I love the man. Phil reassured me that he knew of Lakeland, and its falseness, and was in dialogue with his friend. Go figure what that means. But I know Phil had a love of the truth.
Some would argue that he went too far in his spanning of divides. But the men he prayed with, and the men who joined his wife in that hospital room to pray for him in those last moments, that God would stay his hand, were men who loved the Lord and preached the Gospel. They were like all of us in our various confusing stages of sanctification. Oh, how we all prayed for Phil. But he died. As we grieved together at his funeral, I said to my former pastor and his friend, and my friend, “oh, my father, my father! The chariots and horsemen of San Francisco.” He knew exactly what I meant. He had torn his clothes, too.
Kevin DeYoung asks these questions best, and I finish this interrogation with him because you will hear him better than me. I think it is the essence of my concern:
“Do we possess deep and pervasive piety? I know that pietism is a bad word in some circles. It conjures up notions of anti-intellectual sentimentality. But we got pietism because Protestant scholasticism had gotten dry (or at least many of the churches of the time had). If we want to be more than intellectual people who happen to be into theology, we need to cultivate deep affections and deeper sanctification. As Reformed Christians (assuming many of you are), let’s lead the way, not only in theolgocial integrity, but also in meditation, Scripture memory, intercession, and earnest worship. What our families, friends, and churches need most from us is our own personal holiness.” And I would only add that those outside the church, and those orphaned by the destructive cults that are your unpaid bills, need it too.
I desperately needed that winsome holiness Phil displayed. But he was not a perfect man, he had but a breath in his nostrils, just like me. Lest any think I am constructing a hagiography of a defenseless man, I am not. I was fully ware of some theological weaknessess, and they were enough of a concern that my husband and I were preparing ourselves to talk to him. But then he died, and so I have no idea how he would have responded, and so I will bury those concerns, and thank God I never had to deal with them at all. Only God does, now. And I imagine that from Heaven Phil is chuckling and fully agreeing with me.
All I know is Phil finished well. Would that our own hospital rooms become a sanctuary, and we leave our people with the most important words that can be said, and we meet our Savior with the songs of praise that are the custom of our lips. And that we could prophetically speak a blessing from our deathbed, as Phil did.
He said that the sufferings in his body were for the healing of God’s Body. And First Baptist suffered terribly, and almost died. But look what God has done! A courageous young man from Arkansas, who understands fully the challenges ahead, and with humility and boldness in one necessary move, just took us through a week of prayer and fasting for revival at FBC, and for the city . Such deep affection I have now, not just for him, but for all the saints in this church, and I have greater faith, that the people of God can at last be a bridge to this city that is a proverb for sin-sickness. In the abounding grace of God, He hears the cry of His people for help, and He will always provide for Himself a remnant. He is so good.