Please forgive the irreverence with which I recount the following experience. Truth is I found nothing at all reverent about it and try as I might have in the days following the most reverent response I could find was a nervous chuckle. I know God has his flock in many pastures but the story I’m about to relate (as factually and as untainted by opinion as is probably possible for someone like me) reminded me much more of the lion David killed to protect his sheep than any green pastures or still waters.
On a whim and on an invitation given on short notice I found myself in what had once been the living room of a house. At the door a camcorder recorded and relayed the images of the main room, pewed out in chairs of blue upholstery much like those of my own church, into the other room or rooms of the house. Bibles open and ready for Bible study, worshipers filled the two rooms tight, two bottoms to a seat, as a team of four women led an emotional praise and worship session. The Pastor welcomed me to his humble church with a gentle and heartfelt squeeze of my hand and I decided to like him. I have since decided also not to hold against him what took place thereafter. There was much kindness coming off this teacher and I had heard a little of him from the friend who brought me to this place. The bottom of this friend and my own shared a seat at this very moment in the little pentecostal church.
But this Tuesday night was different – neither my host (nor the Pastor I’d like to think) had much clue about where the night would eventually end up.
During the music I looked around and saw quite a few faces I recognized. Mothers of some of my friends, one or two young professionals, domestic helpers, labourers, teachers, all mixed in but mostly humble and devout women. The music seemed to have possessed one lady over by the window and she chanted quietly to herself, swaying her slender back side by side against the wall facing me across the church. Two hands in the air and braids spilling long and pretty over each shoulder onto her long black and yellow dress. I remember looking at her furrowed brow thinking wow – that’s some pain she’s going through.
The music was ended by the signal of the Pastor up front in a space saved from the overcrowded seating for him to stand in. As the ladies took their seats he had the church greet each other. A sweet lady, one of the singers, came and greeted my host and shook my hand with genuine pleasantness that still lingers in the smile of my memory. I thought later, and in fact still think, she is a lady I would like to know.
Up to this point everything fit. I was in the house of God with His people and was most excited to break bread together and feast on some good Word.
A guest speaker was announced. There would be no Bible study tonight because we were blessed with the presence of Prophet Evan Macomb or something similar (but not quite). (The word “PROPHET” set off warning bell #1.)
A man about 5 feet 11 inches tall with a bald spot shining stark and small surrounded by hair that threatened to be an afro in the weeks to come stood to speak. He wore shiny black leather shoes, a black pair of trousers with white pin-stripes about four inches apart that you would find at a higgler stand, and a classy black shirt with white stripes, white collar and cuffs with onyx cuff links. A black alligator leather belt held the pants to his wiry frame. His watch caught my attention – I had seen one just like it in a recent sale at a duty-free store and balked at the price. The brown band and gold setting over a black face struck me as odd and I couldn’t figure out why immediately but the feeling lingered.
It was much later that it sank home to me. Nothing this man was wearing matched anything else. It came to me as he was speaking and the discord had become too powerful to ignore.
He began by complimenting the Pastor – the gentle greeter – for all manner of good purporting to have knowledge of the man that had been given him by the Spirit. He then went on to raise a frenzied response from the congregation and they were to greet the Holy Spirit. “Jeeeeeezus must be welcomed properly! You’ll get THAT by midnight!” The commotion that followed wasn’t good enough and so he called for them to try again. And involved the musicians – a man on a strange-looking electronic drum and another on the keyboard. He started to jump and shake like a man possessed and “speak in tongues” (warning bell #2). Then he drew his hand across his waist and the keyboarder missed the cue and didn’t stop. And then he called for more drums and the drummer could only find the sleigh bells setting. And the “Holy Spirit” took him on a rampage of biblical proportions.
“MUSICIANS KNOW YOUR PLAAAAACCCCCE! Play di drum man!” He was so pissed off he lost his accent AND his tongues and slipped into Jamaican patois (warning bell #3). At fever pitch he continued “I rebuke you! You may be what stands between a person in need and their HEALING! Don’t you know that MUSIC is what ushers in the HOLY SPIRIT?! Especially the DRUMS? The SPIRIT enters me through the DRUMS!” punctuated by foot stamps and jumping, and then turning to the congregation he hushed down to a half crouch and a cheeky whisper “You’ll get THAT by midnight.” (warning bell #4? Or did I lose count?) “PLAY DI DRUMS! Musicians you are ALL replaceable. ALLLLL of you. No matter how good you are or how well you sing God doesn’t NEED you. He ALLLWWAYYS has someone waiting to REPLACE you”, he continued with much animation in his spirited body to some nervous amens.
“This is not a rebuke my brothers but I am in the Holy Spirit. I will apologize for offending any of you later but not now, not in the SpiriT” (with a capital T and a rrrrolled Rs.) “So musICIANS. PLAY or get off the SPOT!” (warning bells and alarms and all hell breaks loose inside me at something sounding very much like the Caribbean phrase piss or get off the pot) “YES church, you’ll get THAT by midNIGHT!”
Then he turns his stern and angry eyes, to the palpable relief of the room not least of all the musicians, to the Bible. “Today I have been led to speak to you about Interceding.” And then some more “tongues” that sounded much too familiar now as they were clearly the exact same “tongue” phrases he’d enunciated at least twice now before this point. Now you see why I put quotation marks around warning bell #2?
His sermon went something like this:
- Selected verse with “interceding” in it, clearly pulled out of a quick internet search of a Bible.
- Some incoherent tongue speaking.
- An explanation or clarification that was clear as mud – e.g. “Christ is the only intercessor (interrrrcessaaaaa) so don’t let anyone talk to you about interceding for you. For they CANNOT DO what he has ALREADY DONE!”
- Some more tongues.
- Repeat steps 1-4 four times.
None of his “interceding” verses related to each other. Context was neither acknowledged nor discussed. At one point he was reading one version of the Bible and the version on the church screen was different so his verse said “interceding” where the screen said “intercession” and he yelled at the people out loud saying “it doesn’t say intercession, it says interceding. Interceding and intercession is two different things.” I looked at my friend but he couldn’t look at me for by this time my eyes were wide open as the wonders unfolded and his carefully held laughter was shaking his shoulders.
If the Prophet were to be believed it was Elijah and not Elias that was a New Testament church member, Isaac and not Abraham who was asked to sacrifice his son, Jesus alone can intercede, intercession and interceding are two different things (ok so tenses are different sure but COME ON) and he implored us to intercede for each other (see note on Jesus above) and for the church building project…
DONT. EVEN. TRY. TO. UNDERSTAND. That’s what I GOT by midnight!
Then the Prophet launched into the building fund that the Holy Spirit told him about. Didn’t take the Spirit for me to notice we were meeting in someone’s house, and I am no Mentalist! He asked the membership how many members there were. Pastor responded saying 100. He calculated swiftly that $1,000 from each member would equal $100,000. He called on members to pledge $1,000 a month right there and then. “I know you are all building and providing for your own homes but provide for God first and HE will provide for YOU”. He saw my coach handbag on my lap (Yes. I watched his eyes.) and called out “see you ladies who like your pretty handbags? Give your thousand dollars to the Lord and he will bless you with SIX HANDBAGS!”I was dumbstruck. Jaw literally dropped. And not a little annoyed. I saw domestic helpers and gardeners who make less than $800 most months walk up to the front of the church to pledge their thousand dollars because they were told by this fire-and-rebuke-breathing minister in the “spirit” that they would be given 100 times what they have given back.
And as my eyes widened even more the man turned on me.
More on what he said to me in tomorrow’s post.