As the year 2011 comes to an end, I begin my yearly December reflections on the year by publishing my 2011 Easter Conference Report. This was the most significant event of 2011.
In the months leading up to this conference and report, my spiritual life had become stagnant. I had been alone with my family in Detroit for about 7 years. We had survived financial hell, our son’s epilepsy, several job changes, distressing PhD politics, and far too many house moves. My wife and I were at a loss as to how to help our four children to learn faith in Jesus. My soul was tired and weary as I continued to “keep face” with UBF, inventing glorious words to report what “work of God” had been occurring in our UBF house church. I tried desperately to uphold the UBF ideals and secretly covered over my broken relationships with some UBF leaders.
Then came the 2011 Easter Conference with Toledo UBF. Through this conference, my spirit suddenly came alive. My love for Jesus revived and my purpose from God became clear. I was filled with a great desire to see justice done. Alarm bells rang through my mind as I recalled some horrific events in the past; events I had once called “acts of faith”. Suddenly my soul was flooded with peace, joy, power, purpose and longing for Jesus. But there was a problem–a big problem. What I experienced did not fit in with Toledo UBF.
I wrote an honest conference report, perhaps for the first time in 24 years. I knew what kind of reaction it would invoke. I knew it would spell the end of my UBF life. But strangely, I was filled with more peace and power than ever before as I wrote it and sent it on.
So here it is, the report that started it all, the report that sparked me to write My Confession, to discuss issues in over 800 email conversations, to write more than 80 articles on this blog and eventually to resign as Detroit UBF director, leave UBF entirely and seek out a new, healthy Christian church.
Below are a few observations I had from this conference and also some issues I am dealing with here in Detroit.
For the first time in the past 24 years, I didn’t find a word of God to take with me from the messages at the conference. My daughters said they enjoyed the car ride to the conference more than the conference. I was in fact disturbed by part of [the main] message, where [the messenger] asked everyone to replace Jesus with their own name, to ask God to glorify us. The Lord’s Prayer is indeed a model, but I think Jesus’ high priestly prayer has much more to teach us than a framework. I also did not prepare the question sheets for the Bible study this time. I found the questions confusing and limited to the answers I’ve already learned over the years.
Over the past 7 years since coming to Detroit, I’ve noticed that it is increasingly difficult to adopt the Toledo UBF messages. In the recent months, the schedule of passages has been confusing and difficult to discern the reasons for studying the passages in the order they are presented. For our spiritual good, I am not able to follow the Toledo UBF messages closely, as I have done in prior years. So in Detroit we began studying Genesis. We are praying for a new direction in what book to study.
During my visits to Toledo UBF the past 7 years at various times, I’ve sensed a growing deadness in the ministry. I cannot explain this nor do I know why I’ve sensed this. Visiting Toledo UBF has begun to remind me of my days in the Catholic church, where there was a lot of religious practice, but little or no life or spirit of God.
From this conference, however, I did find John 16:7 from [a PowerPoint] presentation: “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” Working with [fellow coworkers] and listening to this presentation was inspiring to me and expanded my thinking and view of God. It was the freshest presentation I’ve heard since coming to Detroit. I learned that to know God I must get to know all three Persons of God. Otherwise, my view is largely incomplete. I was renewed and refreshed to understand that the Holy Spirit is a Person of God; someone I can go to for guidance and counsel. Scripture clearly does not present the Spirit as merely energy or power. Jesus in fact promised to send the Spirit intentionally to believers who ask. It is especially enlightening to know that as a believer I can seek out the Holy Spirit as a Person who is a counselor, advocate, intercessor, transformer and teacher.