Ok, so let’s get a little personal today. I am a 53-year-old Black Puertorrican. I was born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Puerto Rico. Right after graduating from college, on July 8, 1991, I left my country with my late wife Ileana. We made Jacksonville, Florida our new home. All my three children were born in Jacksonville.
In Jacksonville, I was also born again; on April 26, 1997. I started teaching God’s Word to foster care teens right away. Not by choice, but because I worked with them, and they simply asked many questions as they saw me change. I was taught, from the beginning, to look in God’s Word for answers.
I became a member of a Pentecostal Church, an Assemblies of God Church, to be more specific. I joined the same church the man that led me to Christ attended. He was also my Executive Director at work.
Three months after I was born again, I had the honor of leading my wife to Christ. At the time we had two baby boys. Our church was all Caucasian members and the services were completely in English. Ileana wanted to visit another church, The Father’s House International, she heard about through her brother-in-law. This was a bilingual, nondenominational church. We made that church our home church. I did my growing up as a church leader while I was there.
By that time, I lost the friends I had in the world; I was no longer invited to their parties. Unfortunately, the relationship with the great majority of brothers and sisters in the church were limited to Sundays and Wednesdays Services. We sat there Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday to be led by a worship leader and then by the pastor, or whomever was to bring the Word that day. Outside of our services I had no real Christian friends. One of the things that irritated me was that there were people in charge of calling you when you missed a Sunday service. They would tell me “I missed you on Sunday!” I said to myself, what about Monday or Tuesday?
It did not take me too long after joining that church to question what seems to be the church’s universal format: 1) Sing a few songs 2) pick up the offering 3) maybe announcements, 4) the sermon and 5) maybe minister to people after the sermon. This is the same format in every church I have been a part of from Florida to North Carolina, from Alaska and now Arizona; from white Baptist to black Baptist, from white Pentecostal to black Pentecostal, from denominational to nondenominational, from boring to charismatic, from multicultural to Hispanic and from small to mega. The only thing that changes is the style, but the format is always the same.
Despite the way I felt, I concluded that there must be something wrong with me, so I kept showing up to the spiritual plantation. After all the Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (KJV) Boy do they throw this one at you! And if things get out of hand, they throw a good old-fashioned submission message on your butt and then you are scared to question anything or scared to leave all together. The problem is that they never define assembly from a Biblical point of view, but from a Constantine point of view.
To be continued…