by Theodore Wright.
After a few years attending the Church of God, I got married in 1990 and became a minister with that denomination. I was serving as church evangelist during the beginning of this time as well as also pastoring children’s church. My lead pastor knew my belief in “one Spirit baptism for all believers while being pro-active about Spiritual gifts”. (If you desire to read more about this, please see the article “Holy Spirit Baptism into Christ and the Spirit-filled Life“.)
During my time there in this Pentecostal church my specific pneumatological beliefs did not become an issue there. We were much too busy winning souls and building up believers in the faith of Jesus Christ. There were a few people there who knew my beliefs and said, “Well Ted isn’t really Pentecostal.” but then, who is?
In various denominations there is always some variance between people’s beliefs. In Pentecostal churches there are central beliefs but even these get disputed on certain points. During its older days, how long did it take in Church of God to sort out the old issue of those teaching a rainbow of Spirit baptisms called “The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Lucite, and the Holy Dynamite”? There always needs to be safe way to search out such matters without causing strife. My belief was not a difficulty. I got along well with both Pentecostals and Conservative Evangelicals and I was yet searching the Scriptures on these matters while keeping an open mind.
At the time when I was going to be taking the test for the ministerial license I was commended by the lead pastor for my being submissive to his leadership. In light of this he told me to follow his instructions about the testing process. I was told by him that the test was not about my own beliefs but about my knowledge of Church of God doctrine and I was to answer the test questions accordingly. It is not that unusual for a minister to not agree literally on every point of doctrine. As I said this never became an issue there because I was not making one. I simply believed that the Spirit of God could work through any believer.
For the matter of the point, though, please let me mention that I do not believe that someone must first speak in tongues before manifesting other Spiritual gifts such as prophecy. What does a Pentecostal do if this is seen? The audience would be divided. Yet, I have known people such as this. I understand now that believers in Jesus may manifest in any of the 9 mentioned Spiritual gifts as God chooses to impart them when and how He wants. However, no one believer will manifest in all the Spiritual gifts at one time for we are a body. Let God freely use you as He wants.
It was the late in the decade of the 1980s when the lead pastor told me at the time “There is a denomination that believes as you do. It is called Vineyard which is in California” which was where he was from. He continued to say that he never saw such churches as these in New Jersey. I continued with Church of God and received my ministerial licensure shortly after my wife and I were married.
I preached the main sermon at times during the Sunday daytime at Church of God but mostly gave exhortations at that time with more times of preaching full sermons during the evening. Times when I preached were both before and after I was licensed in ministry. An increasing number of opportunities to give sermons were afforded to me.
My first full sermon at Church of God was during an evening service. I did not feel easy about it so I prayed to the Lord saying, “Lord, these believers are quite committed to you already. How do I lead these people on further in you?” The Lord gave me the message “Addicted to the things of God”. The message was received with excited shouting. Not that I was using hype or calling for any hype. People were excited about going on further with Jesus. This led to my developing a short webpage on this topic titled “Addicted to Jesus“. I was spoken of well in the church and written up about positively.
After the lead minister left the local Church of God, in time, the new lead pastor arrived. In a short time, I became the assistant pastor. During that time I was put in charge of the church for a week while the new lead pastor was away. I was to preach the Sunday morning message. I was used to preaching messages while getting the word from God first so I wouldn’t be preaching my own word. There was a problem this time, though, since I was not getting a message from the Lord yet. I thought to myself that I had waited on God before and He always came through faithfully. One time I had to wait up until 3 minutes before I had to preach before I got a message. I had some close calls before but God would come through. One time I even had to wait until I actually got into the pulpit to give an exhortation before God gave me His word. This time, though, I had to preach a full sermon and God made me wait. All week went by and no word yet from the Lord. Do I manufacture a message simply from study without the Spirit’s unction, I thought? NO! I was not going to do that.
That morning, I still waited on God. I went up to the pulpit and led the congregation during worship and still waited on God. No message yet. Then came time for me to preach. It came down to the wire and I STILL DID NOT RECEIVE A MESSAGE FROM THE LORD! Yet, I noticed that the congregation was being especially moved during the worship, therefore, I signaled the worship team to keep going on. I kept the worship team leading worship during the time of what would have been preaching time. I could see that everyone was actively leaning on God and this must have been what God wanted. At the end of what would have been sermon time I addressed the congregation saying, “Well, it doesn’t look like the Lord has given me a message to preach this morning. So let me just encourage you all to act on what God has already said.” Then with that I dismissed the congregation. I could have let myself sink into feelings of inadequacy but I did not do that because I knew God did what He wanted. God was in charge of His church. When the new lead pastor returned from his trip, the people of the church told him that, in his absence, the church broke out into revival.