MY CHRISTIAN LIFE – 50 YEARS ON

 

By Paul Christensen

 

This book is a mixture of my personal testimony of the events of my life that have been affected by God over the years, and the insights and ideas that I have picked up.  Some of my ideas are revelations that I know God has given me, and others are my own opinions based on my experience.   I admit that some of my views are the result of prejudice, and could very well be limited by my experience in the particular churches I attended.   If I had attended a different mix of churches, perhaps much of it might be completely different.  Who knows?

 

But I offer these things in faith, believing that God has given me the ability to remember and set things down in writing.   My motive is to share my life and experiences in the hope that someone else, maybe you, might be blessed and led of God into something fruitful and productive because of what you read here.

 

On 30 October 2006 I will have been a Christian for 40 years.  It has been a very long time since I first walked up to the front of the Lower Hutt Assembly of God and accepted Christ as my Saviour.  In those early days I spent a lot of time worrying that I would not make it for such a long time without backsliding.  The Assemblies Of God at that time had a doctrine about backsliding.  It centred around no longer reading the Bible, praying, and going to church. 

 

The theology is Arminian in that a person could decide to be saved and then decide at a later time to reject salvation and be lost again.  This happened because the person makes a series of decisions that are not in God’s favour.  This is in contrast to Calvinistic doctrine which states that it is God’s decision to bring a person to salvation, and once saved, the person is always saved no matter what happens.  The Arminian way brings a person to the assurance of salvation very quickly, but that assurance can be just as quickly lost.  Calvinist theology, on the other hand, makes it difficult for a person to reach assurance (read the testimony of John Bunyan who laboured for many years to achieve assurance of salvation after he made his decision for Christ).  

 

Therefore, the theology I was introduced to when I first became a Christian was Arminian in nature.  This gave rise to many worries and fears throughout the first few years of my Christian life, that I would lose my salvation if I made too many mistakes, or if I didn’t pray and read my Bible every day.   Of course, this changed when I started reading Puritan theology, which is Calvanistic in nature, and saw that it is by God’s grace that we are saved, and as long as we believe in the Lord Jesus, we are saved.  We can make mistakes, neglect to pray and read the Bible as we should, but God is faithful and reminds us often through the prompting of the Holy Spirit within us

 

So, according to Assembly of God doctrine, I should have been saved and lost many times throughout the last 40 years.   But I doubt that.  God is more sensible and practical than what some people think.   I would be more prepared to believe that some people in the Assembly of God at that time would have us believe that if we stopped going to their church we would be labeled as ‘backslidden’.  In fact, anyone who left that church and went back to a traditional denomination church like the Presbyterian Church would automatically be classed as apostate without hesitation!

 

 But enough of that.  I have made my point.  I have lived the Christian life for 40 years and still believe in the Lord Jesus, so I firmly believe that my salvation is still intact.  I think that it takes a complete change of attitude to reverse the salvation that God has given those who accept the Lord as Saviour.  There has to be a long history of disobedience and reject of the Holy Spirit’s promptings before a person can be classed as apostate.  The Holy Spirit works long and hard with us before He gives us up and lets us go.  Once God has got us into the Kingdom, He will not let us go easily, believe me.

 

I am prompted to write these memoirs (if you want to call them that) because I was discussing with friends in my present church (St Aidan’s Presbyterian Church in Conifer Grove, Auckland New Zealand), that a major difference between our church and others like the Assembly of God and Baptist is that we have no opportunity for people to give their testimonies.  Christian testimonies are a very powerful component in attracting outsiders to Christianity, and to inspire Christians already on their journey through life.  I guess that this is my testimony.

 

When I thought about writing it, I decided not to give a whitewashed version of my journey.  I decided to write about the interesting, unusual, strange, probably rude, and other honest things that I can remember.   These might shock some people, but I am that most Christians who read this will enjoy sharing the ups and downs of an ordinary Christian person who has never won thousands to Christ, and who has lived an ordinary, standard Christian life – although there have been some extraordinary situations at different points along the line.

 

Also, this work is not a series of lectures on how people should live their lives.  I save my preaching for the pulpit and my expository writing[1].  No, this work is an account of how I have lived my life and the different things that have happened to me as I have journeyed through four decades of Christian living.

 

I was exposed to some happy memories recently when I received an envelope through the mail.  In it were my old certificates and photographs which I though had been long lost.   The last time I had seen those photographs was in 1981.  They had been in the back of the wardrobe of a house I lived in at that time, and had been missed when I moved away.  The envelope had stayed there undisturbed for 24 years.  Then a new person moved into the house and found the envelope, and after finding my address through the electoral roll, posted it to me.   I hadn’t seem those photographs for all that time and there were scenes that I had not viewed since.  This brought back many memories for me and probably has prompted this writing.

 

Also, I want to tell you that what I am writing are my memories of events that happened decades ago.  Others who were with me in those years may have different memories of the events.  That doesn’t matter to me.  The idea is not to present a historical record of the events in my life.  What I am writing are the events as I remember them and how I perceived them then and now.   In providing these memories, I am filtering them through my theological and personal views as I had them then, and how I think about them now after living on for years and learning new things afterward.  I think that what makes these sorts of memoirs interesting.

 

I am intending to include my inner thoughts as I remember them, and my analysis of them now.  If these events happened to me right now, I may have a different response to them, and the people who were involved in them.  My father always said that he would write a book called ‘bastards I have met’, but Barry Crump, the New Zealand author, beat him to it.   Don’t worry, this book isn’t called that.  Not all the people I met were bastards, only some of them, as you will find out presently.

 

So, where did it all start?  Well, we will leave the obscure thoughts of my childhood alone, because I didn’t really start thinking seriously about life until I became a Christian,  and, this book is essentially a Christian testimony.  Therefore I’ll start with the events leading up to and beyond my decision to accept Christ as my Saviour.

 

 

BEGINNINGS

 

 

I started my working life in Wellington, after spending a year training in the Airforce at Wigram in Christchurch.  I had been in Wellington only a month before I decided to travel back to my home town (Blenheim) for the weekend.   Because there is a body of water called Cook Strait between Wellington and Blenheim, on Friday nights I usually took the Cook Strait Ferry to Picton, in the Marlborough Sounds, then traveling by bus the 30 km or so to Blenheim.   I traveled back to Wellington on Sunday afternoon to be ready to start work on Monday morning[2].

 

The particular Friday night I chose to travel was pretty calm, and there was not too much swell to rock the boat too much.  During the trip I usually wandered around the ship and leaned over the rail looking at the scenery drifting slowly past.  At some stage, I would go to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat.

 

It just so happened that I was leaning on the rail alongside a tall fellow in his late twenties.  I said a friendly ‘hello’ to him and engaged in polite conversation.  He said “Would you like to read this?” handing me a small brochure.  It was a Gospel tract named ‘Chicken’, written by David Wilkerson (who started the work of Teen Challenge amongst the gangs of New York in the 1960s).  I read the tract through and was challenged by the words of it.   I had thought right through my high school years that I was too young to become a serious Christian, and that there was plenty of time to have fun first.  This tract challenged both those notions.

 

Here was the dilemma for me:  I didn’t want to be accosted by a ‘bible banger’ and have my journey taken up by having to listen to a lot of religious mumbo jumbo, and yet I was challenged and intrigued by what I had just read.  When Max (that was his name) invited me to look through the Scriptures with him, I agreed, possibly because I felt too polite to reject him. 

 

I though I knew what the Bible said, but he showed me verses I had never seen before.  I knew after that I wasn’t a Christian.  I had always thought that everyone who lived in a Christian country were basically Christian, although to really make it effective, one had to become serious about it.  What I found out from Max was that I was actually lost – that I would go to Hell if I died without making a clear, conscious decision for Christ.  Max asked me if I wanted to pray and accept Christ right then, but I said no.  Why?  I don’t really know now.  Perhaps I was not quite ready to make that commitment.  You see, it takes me a while to think through something before I am prepared to make a commitment.   All this was too sudden for me.  I had to think it through.

 

Max told me afterwards that he hesitated before giving me the tract.  He didn’t think that I was the type to become a Christian.  It just shows that you cannot judge a person by appearances alone.

 

Max and his team were on their way to a Christian mission in Nelson.  That’s why they were on that ferry at that time.  Before we left the ship, I arranged with Max to attend his church the following Sunday night, 30 October 1966.

 

I didn’t think much about it while I was at my parents’ place in Blenheim.  I had remembered that before I left home at the beginning of that year, the Mormons had paid us a visit, and Dad spent over an hour arguing with them.  That stuck in my mind.

 

When I got back to Wellington, Max took me to where he was living and introduced me to his house mates.  He showed me a small boat in the garage (because Wellington has a big harbour, boating is very popular there).  He told me that the others were a little bit ‘worldly’ and that is why they had a boat.  This gave me the initial impression that genuine Christians were so dedicated to their faith that they did without many things that ordinary people thought were quite normal.   It reminded me of what I had heard about an Exclusive Brethren family who lived not far from us in Blenheim.  They didn’t have radios in their house, didn’t go to the movies, and never experienced television.  I remember thinking how terribly deprived those children were. 

 

I went out to Max’s church.  He called in at the hostel where I was staying and transported me out to Lower Hutt to the Assembly of God church.  He had his girlfriend with him (whom he later married).  We all fitted into his Morris Mini.

 

When we got to the church, I saw that it was the most brightly lit building in the whole area.  We got through the main entrance, and immediately people came up and shook my hand.  I had never had an experience like that in a church before.  It took a long time to get to my seat because of all the people who introduced themselves to me.  I was impressed by the friendliness of those people.   I remember thinking, because of the Mormon’s visit, that if I heard a single American accent there, I was ‘outa there’.  I didn’t want to be stuck in some weirdo outfit.   As it so happened, things were quite different.

 

When we got to our seats, the service started with a ‘chorus time’.  This is where short Christian choruses were sung, accompanied by clapping, foot stamping, and sometimes on-the-spot dancing.  This was new to me too, because here was a group of people enjoying themselves.  I had never seen Christian actually enjoying themselves in church before.

 

Now this is the significant thing:  The person who led the choruses had a broad Scots accent!   That made me feel much more relaxed about the place.  If there is a Scotsman up the front, then the place couldn’t be anything like a Mormon church.

 

As the service progressed, strange things began to happen.  The people around me started speaking in these strange languages when the prayer and worship time started.  This was explained by Max as ‘the gift of tongues’ in operation.  Every now and again, someone would stand up and announce something in a foreign sounding language, and this was immediately followed by an authoritative statement in English.  This was explained as ‘the ministry gift of tongues’ and ‘interpretation of tongues’.  Others stood up and gave what was explained as ‘prophecies’.  These seemed to make people really happy and excited.

 

There are some detractors who say that the operation of tongues and prophecy would put new visitors off going to a Pentecostal church.  I think that a lot of this is nonsense.  When God is moving by His Spirit, and people are responding to His leading, then seekers are drawn closer to Christ.   The reality is that visitors from other denominations who oppose Pentecostalism use these things are excuses to decry the church.  It is an example of religious jealousy and intolerance.  Just because their own churches have passed their use-by dates as far as the moving of the Holy Spirit goes, it doesn’t give them the right to put down the churches who are allowing God to move how He wants to.   The Lower Hutt Assembly of God was gaining seven or eight new converts every Sunday night through the type of services they were having and the quality of the preaching of Trevor Chandler and Frank Houston[i][1].  How many converts a week were these other churches getting?   I would say very few.

 

As a person who had never been to a Pentecostal church before in my life, I was certainly not put off by people speaking in tongues and prophesying around me.  I wasn’t even put off when people were screaming when demons were cast out of them.   These were all fully explained by the leadership of the church, and we knew that what was happening was the work of the Holy Spirit.  Accompanying this was a general environment of love, joy and peace, and an enhanced level of faith in God.  Above all, the Scriptures were honoured, and Jesus was presented as being supreme.  Everything pointed to Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

 

The other thing that I remember was that they sang the hymns and choruses with gusto and enthusiasm.  The music had strong rhythm in it.  The only instruments were a piano and organ.  That was all that was needed.  These days some churches have music groups containing a whole range of instruments, but they do not compare to the quality of the music and singing that came from Lower Hutt church that Sunday night!

 

Those were the things that convinced me that I had come to the right place to accept Jesus as my Saviour.

 

I must say that the joyfulness and excitement was natural and did not seem forced in any way.  The chorus leader did not whip the congregation up into any state of frenzy.  I saw it as a large group of people having fun worshipping God.  Of course, this is the way it should be;  not like some of the things I witnessed later on in my journey through different branches of the Pentecostal church.

 

The preacher that evening was Trevor Chandler.  He described himself as an ex-Baptist minister and Insurance Assessor.  He felt that the Baptist church did not give him what he wanted in his Christianity so he became an Assembly of God minister.  He preached on David and Goliath, a Bible story that I was very familiar with.  His theme was ‘give me a man’.  Goliath said that to challenge the Israelite army to a fight.  David happened to be the ‘man’ that God provided.   He beat Goliath through the strength and grace that God had given to him.  Trevor’s argument was that God wants men with courage to become Christians and stand up to the world’s standards.  Being a Christian is not a weak kneed thing.  You have to be a real man (or woman) to be a Christian.  This struck a chord with me, and as a result of that sermon, I wanted to be a Christian.

 

When Trevor Chandler preached he was not like any other preacher I had ever seen.  He used up the whole stage to act out what he was preaching.  He gave a dramatic impression of David whirling the sling to hurl the rock at Goliath’s head.  In short, Trevor was excited about what he was preaching.  It seemed that it meant a lot to him personally.  I concluded that if his Christianity meant that much to him, then it would mean a lot to me too.

 

Here is a point about demonstrative, Pentecostal preaching.  Many conservative people criticize it.  They say that it devalues the Gospel being preached.  I disagree.  Trevor’s dramatic and enthusiastic way of preaching made the difference to whether I wanted to accept Christ as my Saviour or not.  To me, Trevor’s style drew me near to making a decision for Christ.

 

After the sermon, there was a thing they called in the Assemblies of God an ‘altar call’.  This is where people are invited to walk up to the front of the church and accept Christ, or, in the case of Christians, be prayed with for any needs they might have.   I knew that I needed to walk up there if I was going to accept Christ as Saviour.  But I was too shy to get out of my seat and go up there in front of 400 people.  I’d never done anything like that before!

 

So I sat there, thinking that I was too young.  Immediately Trevor said to the people, “Don’t think that you are too young to accept Christ!”  Then I thought that I wanted to have a bit of fun in life first.  Trevor said, “Don’t try to have your fun first, because you might never get another chance to accept Christ.”  Then I thought that I was not quite ready.  Trevor said, “Don’t wait until you feel ready.  Do it now.”  I thought then that I felt too scared to go up the front.  Trevor said, “Don’t let your fear of embarrassment stop you from receiving God’s gift of salvation.”  One by one Trevor demolished all my arguments, and I was finally left with no more excuses.

 

I got up and walked to the front.  Halfway there Trevor said, “I hope that there are no hypocrites here tonight!”   I felt like walking back, because I didn’t feel sorry for my sins.  I didn’t feel repentant.  But I kept going because I knew that I was doing the right thing even though I didn’t have the ‘correct feelings’.  Of course I have learned that it doesn’t matter how you feel.  It’s what you decide to do that counts in most important decisions in life.

 

When I got there, I was led into a vestry room at the back and some guy took me through the sinner’s prayer.  I prayed it as sincerely as I could.  Then I was told that I was now a Christian because I had asked him into my life.  I felt no different.  But I believed it, and that’s what saved me.

 

It’s very strange at the start when you first accept Christ (at least I found it so), because events and decisions happen very quickly, before your brain has a chance to catch up.  I think that a lot of new Christians fall way because they think twice about it after their brain does catch up.   I think that right then I knew I wanted to be a Christian and I obediently followed the instructions I was given.  After all, these guys were the experts, weren’t they?

 

I have an eye condition that makes my eyes red at times, especially under artificial light at night, so my eyes were a bit red when I came out of the prayer room.  I was met by an enthusiastic lady who said that she observed that I had had a little weep while accepting Christ.  That made me feel embarrassed and I wanted to explain about my eye condition, but she moved on to someone else before I had a chance to say anything.

 

However, I walked back to my seat feeling rather disoriented about what I had done and what I had let myself in for.  Max and his friends were naturally pleased and excited that I had accepted Christ.

 

After church we went to someone’s house in Mornington, Wellington for supper.  These people were quite interesting.  I’ve forgotten their names now.  The last time I saw them was at the Hastings Assembly of God where they were a husband and wife pastoral team.  Anyway, I remember that they served coffee in the biggest cups I had ever seen.  I remember that they had no carpets on the floor of their lounge, and had young children.

 

Max Sloper kept taking me out to the church for a while, but then the practical thing to do was to get myself out to the services without depending on him for transport.  There were others he wanted to take to church to get them saved too.  I lost contact with him after that, and I have always wondered what happened to him over the years.  The last I heard was that he was pastoring the Te Awamutu Assembly of God church.  When I finally arrived in Hamilton in 1990, I couldn’t locate him.  He was 29 years of age in 1966.  This would make him around 69 years of age now.

 

I remember the first youth group outing. It was a progressive dinner and car rally.  We traveled all around Wellington and the Lower Hutt area, and had different courses in different places.  We ended up at some place in the back of beyond for supper and a prayer time.  I had never seen anything like it before.  It was a big lounge room, and there were chairs all the way around the four walls.  People knelt in front of those chairs and prayed out loud in tongues.  It was really noisy with all those people praying out loud together like that.  Every now and again someone would pray over the top of the others in English, and the others would support the prayer by saying “amen”, and “hallelujah”.   Here was a large group of young people who loved praying, and did as much of it as they could at every opportunity they got.  We need more young people like that today.

 

I remember going to a church prayer meeting in the middle of the week.  I had never been to a prayer meeting before.  When I got there, I found that it was help in an upstairs Sunday school room.   It was populated mainly by the older members of the congregation.  I remember only one thing about that prayer meeting, although I went to it a number of times.  There was a lady there who prayed in the manner of a racing commentator.  As she prayed, her voice got higher and louder until she reached the climax of her prayer and then she subsided as she ended.  The others spoke fairly loudly in tongues and there were plenty of ‘amens’ and ‘hallelujahs’.

 

In fact, ‘amen’ and ‘hallelujah’ were words that everyone used often when worshipping God.  People used it also in ordinary conversation.  Instead of saying ‘that was great’ they said  “Halleluah!” to anything they responded positively to.  After a while I did it too, and for many years it was second nature to me.

 

I remember seeing a demon cast out of someone for the first time.  After being ministered to, the man started screaming like a stuck pig.  He screamed for a long while and then went silent and seemed to collapse on the floor.  I thought he was dead.  The last time I heard a sound like that was when a pig was being slaughtered at the local freezing works[3].

 

Two weeks after my initial conversion, I was baptized by full immersion in the Lower Hutt church baptistry.  Trevor Chandler was the person doing the baptizing.  I noticed that a lot of people came out of the water speaking in tongues.  I thought that this would happen to me too, although I didn’t know how it would.  I got into the water, and Trevor said, “I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son… and THE HOLY GHOST!”  Then I went down into the water.  When I came up, I didn’t speak in tongues.  I did that a couple of weeks later.  I’ll tell you about that in a minute.   I saw the Scotsman who was leading the choruses walking around speaking in tongues.  But the main things was that I had obeyed the Lord and was baptized.

 

 

BAPTISM IN THE SPIRIT

 

 

Two weeks later, after borrowing several books from Max about being baptized in the Holy Spirit, I was on my bed in the hostel.  One of the books I was reading had a paragraph that stood out for me:  ‘Why are you struggling and begging for something that was given to you 2000 years ago as a free gift.  Stop begging for it and just accept it!’.  Immediately, I said to the Lord, “I accept the baptism in the Holy Spirit.”  Then I thought that if I was now baptized in the Holy Spirit, I could speak in tongues.  I tried to form some words that were not English.  I felt very strange at first trying to doing something that appeared to be baby talk.  Then I started speaking a flowing, articulate language.  I knew that I could speak in tongues then.  I have never stopped speaking since[4].

 

 

GROWING IN GRACE

 

 

On the night that I was converted, the other pastor, Frank Houston was away preaching out of town.  When he came back, I was able to hear him preach.  He was different to Trevor, but no less exciting and interesting to hear.   He didn’t act out his sermons like Trevor.  He spoke loudly and fervently, spitting his words out like a machine gun.  He often left the pulpit walked down the middle aisle, still preaching flat out.  He would walk as far as the microphone cord would take him, which was about halfway down the length of the auditorium.  Then he would walk back, still preaching non-stop.

 

Frank used to be an officer in the Salvation Army.  He too, found that this did not satisfy him.  Consequently he became baptized in the Holy Spirit and joined the Assembly of God.  At the time I was there, he was the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in New Zealand.

 

Another notable ministry that was introduced to me at that time was the ministry of A. A. Allen, an Assembly of God tent healing evangelist in the United States.  Graeme Dillon, who I met at Thompson Street, had a set of recordings of his meetings.   It was exciting listening to his preaching, and then what happened during his altar calls where he prayed for the sick.  There was an account of a person being delivered of a demon, and then being spoken to afterward.  There was another account of a person being healed and told to get out of his wheelchair and run;  which he did, round and round the tent.  Hearing this ministry convinced me that God was in the business of healing the sick and delivering souls from the powers of darkness.

 

I remember also going out with Max and company to Midnight Rescue Crusade in Wellington City.  This was when groups of Christians went on the streets at Midnight until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights visiting the city’s coffee bars and witnessing for Christ.   I don’t remember a lot more about it, except that I enjoyed it and made quite a few friends.

 

After a few months of going to the Lower Hutt Assembly of God, I was transferred for two months to Blenheim Airport in my Civil Aviation communications job.  During that time I went to the Blenheim Assembly of God church.

 

I found the Blenheim church fairly quiet after the action at Lower Hutt.  I suppose that it was an ordinary church while Lower Hutt was something unique in the way churches went.  As far as I know, there was, and never has been, any church that was as much fun and enjoyment as Lower Hutt Assembly of God.

 

I didn’t get to know many people in the Blenheim church, although I went there every Sunday.  They were a hard group to get in with.  They didn’t seem to accept strangers readily.  Anyway, I was there only for a couple of months.  I remember some important preacher came and took a Sunday service, and the only thing I remember about his sermon was the description of his new suit.  There are sermons and there are memorable sermons I guess.

 

When I got back to Wellington, I discovered that I could not go back to the Oriental Bay hostel, and ended up being in a flat (or apartment) with some civil aviation friends.  After a short while, I got a telephone call from a fellow with a Scots accent.  That’s when my discipleship chapter began, and some great and funny adventures.

 

It so happened that the Scottish gentleman’s name was Derek Bound, and he lived in a house with other Christian young men in Mornington, somewhere in the south suburbs of Wellington.   Coincidentally it was right next door to the couple whom Max and I went for coffee the night I accepted Christ.   We were to have the house on a temporary basis.  The neighbour on the other side was a man and his wife, David and Maire Coughlan.  They were to feature in my life in later years.

 

I remember when I first moved in, I heard Derek on the telephone to a friend.  He was in the process of describing the different Pentecostal churches in Wellington.  I think that he was looking for an alternative to Lower Hutt church at the time.   He found fault with every church in town, describing some as not up to standard, and others as absolutely dead!   Unfortunately, this coloured my views of the Pentecostal churches in Wellington for a number of years to come.  On reflection, one has to be very careful when having conversations like that in the hearing of impressionable newbies to the faith.  Derek might have been quite justified in what he was saying, but I heard only his side of the conversation.  His friend might have been saying things that might have brought a better balance to the conversation, but I was not party to those things.  What I got out of hearing the conversation was that all the Pentecostal churches in Wellington were dead and decaying and not worth attending.

 

The other housemate was a Solomon Islands chap called George.  This was the first time I had come up close to such a dark skinned person, let alone lived with him.   We got used to each other in time, after a few conflicts not worth mentioning here.  George was in his last year at Victoria University, and went back to the Solomons at the end of that year (1967).

 

I was still a smoker in those days, and I used to try and hide it from the others by doing my smoking in my bedroom.  Of course they knew about it, because I have learned that a smoker has a distinctive smell about him.  I couldn’t smell it myself, but the others could.   I had tried to give it up, because I knew that to go on for Christ I needed to get rid of the habit.  Max had told me that I didn’t have to keep trying to give it up, because in God’s time, He will ‘give you up’.  But there came the time when I knew absolutely that I had to give it up.  I finished the packet I had at the time, and then decided to buy no more.

 

The first three days were the worst.  Then the cravings left me.  I found that I could breathe easier and without coughing first thing in the morning.  I felt relieved that I had beaten the habit.  It made a lot of difference to my attitude to myself and my feelings of success in living the Christian life as it should be lived.

 

I remember one night, three weeks later, I was in the suburban train traveling to Lower Hutt to the church prayer meeting.  Everyone in the carriage was smoking except me;  and they looked as if they were enjoying immensely.   My tongue was fair hanging out by the time I got off that train.  But I didn’t succumb to the temptation.  From that day until this, I have never had cravings for cigarettes.  God ‘gave me up’ by His grace and in His time.

 

It was while living at Mornington, that I met some Christian nurses from Wellington hospital.  They also went to Lower Hutt church.  One was named Sally, and the other, Jenny  (these names have been changed for privacy reasons.  I will write a little more about Jenny later.

 

I didn’t have much to do with females up until that time, in fact, I was a little shy of them.   Max was good in explaining the types of relationships that Christian men should have with Christian ladies, and this helped me a lot at that time to overcome my shyness and awkwardness.

 

But because I was in the early stages of Christian discipleship, I was pretty well ‘raw material’, and some parts of me were more raw than others.  I didn’t have many social graces, and this disadvantaged me a lot in those days.

 

Also, I was led to believe, or maybe it was my mistaken perception, that if a girl and I developed a friendship it meant that God was meaning for us to get married.   I remember going through a few problems like that with Sally until I was sorted out.  I made the mistake of misquoting Scripture and doing all the other things that earnest and inexperienced young Christian men do when trying to find the right relationship with women.

 

Before I became a Christian, it was a lot more simple.  If I found a girl friend, we just went out together and had fun.  There was no thought of marriage or anything like that.  I hadn’t got into sex at all at that time, so that was not an issue for me.  But when I became a Christian, I was exposed to a teaching that I couldn’t have the same sort of relationships with women.  It was either platonic, or leading to marriage.   It seemed that I couldn’t have a girlfriend in the same way as I understood previously.   I can understand now that this was a stupidly narrow teaching which causes serious problems with young men making erroneous assumptions about unfortunate young women who strike up a friendship with them.

 

I had a very interesting conversation with an older member of the youth group of the Lower Hutt church one night on the way to a youth group meeting.  He was discussing the nature of Christian marriage.  His view was that the only purpose for marriage was to legalise sex for the Christian.   I lost contact with him after that, so I don’t know if he changed his views once he got married himself.

 

Nowadays, most churches teach more down to earth and sensible principles concerning boy-girl relationships.  It’s a pity that I didn’t have this teaching when I needed it.  It would have saved me from some really embarrassing situations.

 

After our time was up at the Mornington house, we moved to another house in Thompson Street, closer to the centre of town.   There were two others living there.  Peter Cooper and Graeme Dillon.  These two became good friends after a while.   I had to share a room with Graeme, and this wasn’t too strange after sharing an open barracks with 13 guys at Wigram Airbase.  The problem for me was that I was on shift work at the Wellington Communication Centre, and had to either get up early in the morning, or come home late at night.  After a while, I had to give up that job because I couldn’t get enough sleep at night because the others didn’t quite understand that I had to do some of my sleeping during the day and kept on waking me up with their noise.

 

But those problems were minor compared to the fun and fellowship we had during the time we lived at Thompson Street.

 

Peter Cooper was an interesting person.  I first met him at Marlborough Boys’ College when I was a pupil there.  His father was a science teacher in the school.  After about a year, the father went to teach at Hawera High School, so I didn’t see Peter again until we met again at Thompson Street.    Peter had a rather unique idea for evangelism.  He would invite some of the homeless alcoholics back to our flat to give them a meal and witness to them for Christ.   I am not aware that he actually gained any converts, but we sure had interesting times talking to them and dealing with their funny ways.

 

Peter was also studying French at Victoria University, and every Friday, a woman would appear at the door, and she and Peter would disappear into the lounge and talk French to each other for an hour or two.

 

Although I looked a lot to Derek to give me the discipleship I needed, I feared that he could not get beyond seeing me as a problem case who could never be truly discipled.  That hurt me sometimes, because I felt that I was doing the best I could with what I knew.   Peter decided that his mission was to disciple me, and to encourage me to lose weight at the same time.  He did it through constant criticism, which irked me because I did not see him as a good model for me.  It seemed that he was forcing himself on me in this regard.  Of course, we came to understand more about each other in time, but it was a lengthy and conflicting process, especially while I was going through the first stages of trying to be the type of Christian I felt I should be.

 

Sally and Jenny continued fellowshipping with us at Thompson Street, and because I started to get to know them more, I decided that Sally was ‘the one’ that God has chosen for me.  I started praying that God would bring this into reality.   I don’t think that Sally knew what was going on with me, because I didn’t actually tell her at the start, and didn’t start the courtship by asking her out on a date, which ordinary people might do.  It may have been resolved sooner if I had have done that.   However, I found out through hard experience that Sally was not God’s chosen one for me.

 

Because the Lower Hutt church was a long way out of the City, our group decided to decamp and attend the Wellington Assembly of God.   This church was even worse than the Blenheim one!   It was made up mainly of older people, and before our young group arrived, there were no young people there.

 

As we got to know some people, I discovered that the church pianist was a man called Walter Cantrell, and he was Smith Wigglesworth’s pianist when the evangelist visited New Zealand in 1922 and 1927.  Walter was a lovely, faithful Christian man who was an inspiration to us all.   He told us wonderful stories about the things that happened during the ministry of Smith Wigglesworth.  I could see that these were the golden years of his life.  He was well into his seventies when I fellowshipped with him.

 

There was another little old lady who was also in the Smith Wigglesworth campaigns.  She often talked about them.  I forget her name now.

 

We met Mrs Rickard, who managed a children’s day-care center in Cuba Street,  just around the corner from Thompson Street.  We spent a lot of time at her home.  She became a sort of mother to us young people.

 

There was another notable figure in the church.  His name was Mr Mohe.  He did a lot of fancy talking, but didn’t seem to do much that was significant in making the church a better place to worship.

 

The pastor at that time was a Mr Ashford, who was the chief elder.  The church was in the process of calling a new pastor.   I remember his sermons as containing things like “when the big move of God comes…” as if life was standing still while revival was tarrying.   Their reality was that while they were sitting waiting for the big something to happen, the church was decaying as the members were getting older and dying off.  The arrival of us young people might have been God injecting new life into the church, and may have been the start of God’s move if they were prepared to recognize it.  But I don’t think they did, because they gave us no ministry opportunities, and did not try to give us training so that we could take a greater part in the life of the church. 

 

There were two journeys that we made during that time that were notable.  The first was to Palmerston North where we stayed with Mr Clarrie Hunt and his wife.  He was the pastor of the Open Door Mission, an independent Pentecostal church.   At first sight, the church was a funny little place, situated in a shop front in the central business district.  The congregation was made up of old and younger people – an interesting mix.  Pastor Hunt preached in the morning service, and his son-in-law Rodney Francis preached in the evening service.

 

The Hunts lived in a great big old house.  It used to be the main homestead for one of the biggest farms in the area.  As the city of Palmerston North grew, it took over the farmland, and the homestead because just another house in a suburban street.   I joked that it reminded me of the type of haunted mansion I had seen in films.  I remember my bedroom being on the second floor.  It was a new and unique experience staying there.  Later on, in 1970, I moved to Palmerston North and lived there for seven months, but more of that later.

 

Brother Hunt had the reputation of being a man of God, who knew what it was like to walk with and to hear from God.   I was in awe of him at first, because of my perception that the power of the Holy Spirit moved through him in ministry.  My respect for him never diminished as long as I knew him through the years.

 

Edith Hunt, Brother Hunt’s wife was a unique personality.  She was totally devoted to God and her husband.   She bubbled over with joy at every opportunity.    She was a typical country farmer’s wife and her cooking showed that.   I came to respect her highly as well as a woman of God and a ‘mother’ in the church.

 

The Hunts had owned a dairy farm in Rongotea, about 30 km from Palmerston North.  Years of early morning milking had made Mr Hunt a very early riser.  When they retired from farming, they sold the farm to their son-in-law and daughter and moved into town and set up the Open Door Mission church in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  By the time we visited, Mr Hunt was 66 years of age, and his church had a very interesting and varied history, which I will try and remember when I get to the section where I am writing about my time with them in the 1970s.

 

I don’t remember much else about that visit, other than that I was very impressed with Mr and Mrs Hunt and accepted the model they presented of what it was to be committed to Christ and have effective ministry in the Holy Spirit.

 

The other journey we made was to Levin, about halfway between Wellington and Palmerston North.  This was to the Levin Assembly of God where the pastor, Benny Finch was inducting a new pastor.  Benny Finch had been called to Wellington Assembly of God, and the purpose of our trip was to visit his church and be introduced to him.

 

Benny Finch originally came from Grimsby in England, and was a firewatcher in London during the Second World War.  This was a very brave thing for him to do, especially in the middle the air raids at that time.  Many firewatchers, who were up on the roofs of buildings, were killed by falling bombs.  Mr Finch attributed his survival to the grace and protection of God.

 

The service started, and I can’t remember who was to preach.  I think that it was the new pastor.  However, the old pastor who was to pray the opening prayer was profoundly deaf and wore hearing aids.  He misunderstood what he was supposed to do – that was to pray the opening prayer.  He got the idea that he was to preach the sermon.  He spent almost an hour dribbling on about something or other, and Mr Finch ended up pacing up and down the middle aisle pointing at his watch.  It was the most boring service I had ever been in, because no-one knew what was going on.  It was the typical snafu.

 

There was another journey, but not with Derek.  Graeme had a small Ford Prefect, and we journeyed to Wanganui.  We went so slow, it seemed that we were journeying to the other side of the world.   We had Graeme, Lynette (his girlfriend at the time), another guy whose name I’ve forgotten, a girl called Dianne, a friend of Lynette, and me all squashed in the car.   Unfortunately I had been working in hot and sweaty conditions all that day, and I didn’t know that underpants had to be washed every day (enough said).  When we finally got to Wanganui, I realized that my undies were in a very grotty and smelly condition.  I felt very embarrassed to think that I had been sitting squashed in a small car with four others and my undies stinking to high heaven.  It must have taken a lot of grace from the others to put up with that for all that time.   I had a shower that night, and I changed my undies every day from that day on without exception.  I learned a very valuable lesson the hard way that weekend.

 

However, the time at Graeme’s mother’s was interesting and fun, and I got to be able to drive her car around Wanganui a lot.

 

Life became very interesting at Wellington Assembly of God when Benny Finch arrived to take over the pastorate.   When setting up his conditions of employment, he was very particular about being paid $40 per week, which was the going basic salary rate for general workers at that time.  He was determined that he was going to be paid a living wage for his work.

 

I remember that he was the most exciting and effective preacher I have ever heard.   When he preached his first sermon, he jumped up on the table in front of the church, yelling “Jesus is Supreme”.  This was electrifying.   He preached inspiring sermons that made you feel that God was real and alive and a joy to worship.  He preached an expository series on the Book of Ephesians and this was great teaching for a young Christian like me.

 

Benny Finch was a Pentecostal minister of the ‘old school’.  He believed in the power of the Holy Spirit;  that God was present in every meeting;  and that when he preached he believed that he was preaching in the Spirit.  He encouraged the use of the spiritual gifts, and encouraged young ministry to develop in the church.

 

He told the story of someone who had gone to sleep during one of his sermons (hard to imagine when you heard him preach).   He went quietly up to the person and yelled in his ear, “Awake thou that sleepeth, and arise from the dead!”  Understandably, no-one ever went to sleep during his sermons again.

 

It was a part of the services to have a testimony time.  This gave opportunity for people in the congregation to get up and share with everyone the things that God had done for them during the week.  It usually was a fun and encouraging time for all.  One funny example was of a lady getting up and talking about her toilet making strange sounds.  She prayed to the Lord and the noises stopped.  Pastor Finch then got up and said’ “Well, the Lord is mindful of our downsittings and uprisings!”  That got a good laugh from us all.

 

Unfortunately, among the eldership of that church, there was jealously at his success and effectiveness.  Some withstood and hindered him at every turn.  No matter how hard he tried, he could not get the church to the place where he knew it could go.  These elders wanted the great move of God, and I believe it came in the form of Benny Finch;  but they rejected it because it did not come in the form they expected.

 

Finally, Mr Finch announced that he was leaving and going back to England.  He was sadly missed.  We heard that when he arrived back in Grimsby, he was made pastor of the biggest Pentecostal church in that city.  We lost track of him after that, but I think Derek still kept in contact with him over the years.

 

After Mr Finch left, Derek could see that nothing was going to happen at Wellington Assembly of God, so eighteen of us young people left and formed our own independent fellowship in the Newtown Hall, south of the city centre.

 

During the time of Benny Finch’s ministry, after being disappointed about my lost love affair with Sally, Jenny and I developed a relationship.  I still had not learned that I could have a girl friend without having to rush into marriage, and I proposed to her.  She accepted, and I bought her a fairly cheap engagement ring.  We went and visited her parents, but she did not tell them of our engagement.  I think she was too frightened.  I can understand that, because I don’t think they accepted me too well.

 

Jenny and I carried on for a while, and it was enjoyable while it lasted.  It could have been a great relationship if I hadn’t have tried to make it permanent too soon.   Courtship has to be undertaken with plenty of time and patience.  When Derek and Joy (his future wife) found out what was going on, Derek had a good go at me to try and talk me out of it, while Joy got hold of Jenny to talk her out of it as well.  Finally, one night just after we started at Newtown, Jenny came and handed me the engagement ring back.    That was a low time for me and I should have learned from it.    I heard later that Jenny had married and had three lovely daughters.   I saw her in a music shop in Wellington in 1982, but felt too shy to go up to her and say hello.   I should have made myself known to her because it was an opportunity to put the past at rest.  I think that she would have enjoyed talking with me after so many years.

 

This brings me back to Mr Mohe again.  After Jenny left me, I met him on the street, and he launched into this criticizing lecture about how my behaviour was beneath the standard of what God expects.  He said that he had received information from a friend (presumably Jenny).  It was a great mystery to me.  After that encounter I never saw him again, because by 1970, I had left Wellington to live in Palmerston North.

 

While I lived in Thompson Street, I met some interesting and strange characters.  A couple of these were the ‘bastards’ I was talking about before.

 

There are people who are Christians, and then there are people who behave like Christians but something is not quite right about them.   I was not able to distinguish one from the other in those days because of my inexperience and  naivety.

 

The first guy I want to describe is a fellow I shall call Tom.   He appeared in church during Mr Finch’s ministry.  He conducted himself as if he was a very experienced Christian, and one who was being continually led by the Holy Spirit.  He turned out to be a con artist of the highest order.  Even in normal speech, he talked as if he was delivering a sermon.   He cleverly hid the deficiencies in his life by taking on ‘the mantle of the expert’ in terms of Christianity.

 

He would say things like “I knew you were going to say that”, after I said something that interested him.  He wanted to give the impression that he was in touch with the Holy Spirit, having spiritual ‘second sight’, or a prophetic gift, when in fact he was spouting a whole lot of rubbish.

 

He had a big nose which gave him an air of importance when he moved around public circles.  I remember that in the Billy Graham Crusade in the Wellington Town Hall in 1969, I was an usher.  Then I saw Tom with a counselors badge striding along with his great nose in the air as if he were the most important person in the room.  How he got to be appointed, I don’t know.

 

He didn’t like Derek much, because Derek saw through him.  Derek was able to see through people like that because of his years of experience in the Pentecostal church, both in Kenya and New Zealand.  He knew the difference between true and false Christians.   He wouldn’t have a bar of Tom.

 

When we moved our fellowship to the Newtown Hall, Tom followed up and kept up his antics.  One day, Derek let him have it with some honest home truths, and Tom disappeared never to be seen again.  The last I heard of him was that he ended up in some mental institution somewhere.  I wasn’t surprised.  If a person is a living a lie, then he has to be honest with himself and change himself around, or else go balmy.  Tom obviously went balmy.

 

There was something I learned about Christian houses.  People come and go.  At Thompson St, when Derek finished his degree, he married Joy and they moved to a small two roomed apartment, and then to Auckland.   Tom, and a guy called Taylor, and homeless street guy moved into the house.  During that time, my briefcase with my 21st gold signet ring in it was stolen.  I came to the point where I didn’t wish to live there any longer, so I moved out to another Christian house in the city.

 

I slept in an outhouse at the back of the house.  It was quiet and private.  I had changed my job from the Civil Aviation to Taubmans Paints by that time.  I was still going with Jenny at that time as well.  There were nice guys living there, and we had a lot of good fellowship.  But the good guys moved out, and the no-hopers moved in.  Then we had a great storm in which the interisland ferry Wahine sank in Wellington Harbour.  This storm was so fierce that it blew the roofing iron off many houses in Wellington.   I woke up to feel the whole force of the wind against the back wall of my sleepout.   The ceilings had all come down in the front rooms of the house.   I took the opportunity to move out, and took a single room in the city.

 

I found that hard going living by myself like that.  I remember getting up in the middle of the might to use the toilet and being confronted by an angry guy who objected to me flushing the toilet in the middle of the night.   I telephoned Dad at home and he arranged for me to live with my aunt for a year.   She lived in Mirimar, a suburb on the outskirts of the city.

 

My aunt did not like me going out every night to be with my friends.  I think she saw me as a little child who should be staying home each night.  But I didn’t want to give up my fellowship with the others.

 

During that time, there was a bust-up between Derek and another leader in our Newtown fellowship, and there was a major division.  We were left with seven people:  Derek, Joy, Graeme, Mrs Richard, a recent arrival called Vivien, Lynette, and me.  Derek said that at last we had seven normal people and no ‘bunnies’.  I was so glad that he counted me as one of the ‘normal’ people at last.

 

We hired a disused coffee bar in Willis Street, and set up our fellowship there.  We had a good two years there before Derek left for Auckland.  After he left, Graeme took over the leadership and we continued until the end of 1969.

 

During our time in Willis Street, we were fortunate to have the support of a number of experienced Christians who gave us some valuable ministry.  One person was Walter Cantrell, who visited us regularly and enjoyed fellowshipping with us.  Another was an elder called David Coughlan, who spent quite a bit of time giving us valuable teaching on many parts of the Bible, especially Nehemiah and Ezra.   We also had a strange Anglican minister complete with black clothing and clerical collar minister to us on the Second Coming, in which he told us that we would all end up as martyrs.  Somehow I wasn’t too inspired by that!

 

We had a strange visitor one day who seemed to be more interested in the piano than anything else.  I think he thought the place was still a coffee bar.  He played this complicated piece on the piano, reminiscent of the Moonlight Sonata.  And then he was gone as suddenly as he came, never to be seen again.

 

We also went to different home groups in the city.  We regularly went to a home group hosted by David and Maire Coughlan, and these were valuable times for us.  When we first met them, Maire was in the first stages of rheumatoid arthritis.  This is a progressive disease that eventually causes all the joints in the body to seize up, making it extremely painful to move around.   She was very young to have contracted the disease, and it was not a pleasant thing to have to cope with the idea that she would live a whole life of painful suffering.  But she was a great Christian woman who bore her suffering with great courage and faith.   She was prayed for to receive healing many times, but no healing ever came for her.  This didn’t stop her exercising her ministry and using her knowledge and wisdom to help others.  In later life she went blind, and this added to her burden.  They had a son when everyone thought it was impossible for it to happen, but faith wins out over adversity when God wants to provide a child who was to be a blessing to them.[5]

 

We also went to another one hosted by Mr Henderson, a male nurse at Wellington Hospital.   The time was mainly spent playing Keswick Convention tapes.  Some of these had a major impact on my life.

 

We also went to one run by a Samoan group.  We had great fellowship there as well.  All these contributed greatly to our Christian growth and discipleship.

 

 

A LIFE CHANGING EVENT

 

 

During this time, I had a major change in my Christian life.

 

After my initial conversion in 1966, I tried for two years to be a good Christian;  but I never felt that I made it successfully.  I always seemed to have problems, saying and doing the wrong thing.   I had received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues three weeks after my conversion.  I really believed that what I had received was genuine, and I still do.   I received it by faith, believing the Word of God, and that made it genuine to me.  But the spiritual gifts don’t bring greater personal holiness;  walking and fellowshipping with God does.

 

I felt that over that two years, people had been able to introduce me to the Bible, church, Christian fellowship, prayer, etc., but not to God Himself.  After that two years of trying, I started to realize that I did not know God as a person, and I didn’t know how to start getting to know Him,  I tried all the normal strategies, but nothing seemed to work.  I was getting frustrated.  I started taking long walks at night around the coast roads in Wellington, praying and trying to resolve the problem.  It came to a head one night when I cried out to God that something was stopping me getting to meet Him in reality.

 

It was a couple of weeks later that I went to an Easter convention, run by the Open Door Mission church in Foxton.  Brother Hunt, and another ministry, Henry Jones were heading up the preaching.  This was the first of these conventions I had been to.  It wasn’t to be the last.

 

On the Saturday night, the meeting started off in an unusual manner.  It was Brother Hunt’s turn to take the ministry.   Things started with the musicians playing chorus which the congregation joined in with.  Then Brother Hunt started walking down the middle aisle, speaking in tongues.  Then his language changed to something that made the atmosphere electric.   People started praying.  Then many started weeping.  Tongues messages and prophecies started to come forth.   Then I saw some really tough looking Maori guys breaking down in tears.  God was starting to break hearts that night.   Someone asked Brother Hunt if he was going to preach.  He told the people that he didn’t need to preach because God was doing His work by his sovereign power.   God was getting through to people’s hearts without the need for a sermon to bring it about.  Brother Hunt wanted to stand aside and allow God to move.

 

This ministry of Brother Hunt was unique.  I had read about it through the ministries of Charles Finney and David Brainerd where the Holy Spirit would fall in a sovereign way on congregations and groups of people, but this was the first time I had actually seen it in operation.  Why doesn’t it happen more often in our churches?   Because men will not allow it.  It takes the control away from them and puts it in the hands of God Himself.  In most of our churches, God is made to stand in the corner with His hands tied while men do all the ministry;  and yet these same men are stating that they are ministering in the Holy Spirit!   I wonder if they really are.

 

Suddenly, Brother Hunt was behind me with his hand on my shoulder, praying in his dramatic tongue.   I knew something was going to happen to me.  I said to God, “Do with me what You want.”   Mr Jones came over and cast a spirit of pride and piousness out of me.  As soon as he said that, I had a mental vision of Jesus standing there.  I fell on my face and cried my eyes out for quite a while.  After the meeting I went to bed and slept like a log all night.

 

I heard the next morning that Rodney and a few others had a prayer meeting later that night, and the Holy Spirit fell on them and they spent the night laughing until their stomachs hurt.  Rodney said later that his personal and missionary ministry became really effective for a much wider range of people after that night.   I slept through the whole thing!

 

I was pretty disoriented in my faith after that night, and I spent the following week seeming to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  After that, I was due to have my annual holiday from work, so I went back to Blenheim.  I continued my walking and prayer to get into contact with God.  One night, I became really frustrated and told God that everyone had been able to introduce me to church life, but no-one had been able to introduce me to Him.  Therefore I have come out here (on the golf course) to introduce myself.  I said “You are God, and I am Paul, I’m very glad to meet you.  If you are within earshot of my voice, please acknowledge.”

 

After saying that, I felt as if I were all lit up inside like the trans Atlantic liner The Queen Mary.  One second I was in darkness, the next I knew that God was real and that He was present.   I can’t explain how it happened, but I knew for sure that it did!

 

The first thing He said, and it felt like a little voice in the back of my mind, “We’ve been waiting for you to do that for a long time.”  I have never heard the voice of God like that before.  It was a quiet, reassuring voice that I ‘felt’ rather than heard.  It did not come through my ears.  It came into my mind.  I didn’t consciously think it.  It just appeared there.   I know it wasn’t my own thoughts.  It was something new.  The ‘thought voice’ was familiar, non-threatening, yet definite and confident.  I have experienced it many times since.

 

Some people reporting experiencing voices in their heads telling them all sorts of strange things.  My experience has never been like that.  When God has spoken to me it has always been according to Scripture, and it has always been like receiving fresh understanding about a situation or principle.  I have never experienced it to be directive in the way of telling me to do something in all the 38 years that I have been experiencing it.

 

I have since learned that God does not directly tell us to do things.  He reveals situations through the Word of Knowledge and the Word of Wisdom and then allows us to make our own decision about the action to take.  We are not robots.  We are rational human beings who decide our own actions.   God just gives us the information and wisdom we need by revelation to allow us to make spiritually informed decisions. 

 

I get suspicious and skeptical when I hear of people being directed by God to do weird and strange things.  Tom (whom I have mentioned before) reported this type of thing and he proved to be a false Christian).

 

I have had the experience of God telling me that He would back me if I went in one direction, but would not back me if I went in the opposite direction.  I had to make a decision on that basis of whether I would obey God’s will or not.

 

God’s will is plainly set out in the Scriptures.  He would never state anything that does not agree with his Word.  Also, I learned that anything that makes me feel like rushing into anything, or makes me depressed, or have a weird feeling, or causes anger or fear, is not the working of the Holy Spirit, nor is it God’s voice.

 

God’s voice is quiet, assuring, and gives us plenty of time to make informed decisions.  Satan is the one who is brash and hurried, wanting us to make quick, uninformed decisions.  Every time I have been influenced to make an impulsive, hurried decision, I have always made an error.

 

I spent the rest of my three week break, discussing many issues with God and getting answers.  It was the greatest time of personal fellowship I have ever had with God this side of heaven.  I have had many wonderful times of fellowship with Him since that time, but that time was the most memorable.

 

The Bible came alive to me during that time, and was the start of a developing expository ministry which I am moving into more completely now.

 

I bought many books to show me the way, and I read the biographies of the major Christian preachers throughout history to see if I could discover important things about their relationship with God.  I discovered many important things which influenced my direction in my spiritual life.

 

It was a sort of honeymoon period with God.

 

I remember a night where it seemed that all the awareness I had of God disappeared.  I felt and sensed nothing.  This frightened me because I thought that having once found God, I had lost Him again.   I remember telling Him that I hoped that He was within earshot of my voice because I wanted to say things to Him.  So, I was going to just believe that He was out there somewhere listening to me even though I could not sense His presence at that time.  Later, the sense of His presence did come back to me, and the insight that I received was that I didn’t need to see visions or have audible voices to know that God was with me.   I did the right thing by believing in spite of my lack of sensory awareness of God, because that is what faith is all about.  What a great lesson to learn!

 

This lines up with a sermon I heard years later at Awapuni Baptist Church preached by Jim Hurn.  He spoke that it was easy to have faith in favourable circumstances, and a little harder to have faith in unfavourable circumstances;  but the hardest and most challenging of all was to have faith when there were no circumstances at all.  I have never forgotten that sermon, and it has been a guiding principle in my life through some of the most challenging chapters of it.

 

 

BACK TO HAVING TO CONTINUE GROWING

 

 

When I got back to Wellington, Vivien (who is very astute at these things), noticed that something about me had changed.  That was before I said anything about my experience with God.

 

Derek, on the other hand, treated me still as a problem case.  Prejudice takes a long time to go away.  But I understand that because no-one can expect people to be mind readers.  We are all human and see things from the outward appearance.   I had the initial experience with God that was going to set up the changes that were going to take place in my life from then on, and it was going to take time before those changes could be observed.  Derek moved to Auckland soon afterward, so he did not witness the on-going development in me.  I am sure that if he did, he would have acknowledged it with joy and gladness.   He was very supportive when we met again in 2001 when he was visiting his parents in Howick, and I was living in Takanini, Auckland.

 

Some things changed straight away.  I stopped trying to be super spiritual.  I asked God how I could become a real Christian.  He told me to stop trying so hard and to be myself.  I argued with him and said that everyone would see all my sins and everything.  He said “If I don’t like you, I will change you.”  That was good enough for me.

 

I started to read Puritan literature, and gained a much deeper understanding of the Gospel and what it meant to me.  I bought an eight volume set of Charles Spurgeon sermons which I read to Graeme, Peter and Vivien regularly.  I don’t know how they took them, but they sure did wonders for me!  Actually, Spurgeon become my pastor for a long while when our fellowship didn’t have a proper pastor who could teach us what we needed.

 

We had planned to rent a larger venue for our fellowship, but the deal fell through.  Also, Mrs Rickard announced that she wanted her and her daughter to go to a standard church with young people that her daughter could relate to.  Lynette had broken off with Graeme and she disappeared, so we were down to Graeme, Vivien and me.  We decided to call it a day as far as a fellowship was concerned.

 

 Also during 1968 and 1969 I was involved in Teen Challenge in Wellington.  I never got to the badge holder stage.   The leader during those years was Ray McNee who later went away from the mainstream Pentecostal church and became involved in the Branhamite movement or some branch of it.  He dropped out of sight after that and did not appear be develop into a notable figure in the life of the Pentecostal church in New Zealand[6].

 

Teen Challenge was housed on the second floor of a building halfway up Cuba Street.  You went up a very long staircase to get to the coffee bar[7].  My involvement was just to go to the coffee bar on Friday nights, and perhaps the odd Saturday night.  I got to know quite a number of Christians there.  But my involvements with our own fellowship did not allow me to attend any of their teaching or fellowship meetings.   I think that given Ray McNee’s attitude to me at that time, I wouldn’t have been accepted as a badgeholder there.

 

I used the place as a fellowship point mainly and don’t remember doing too much witnessing for Christ to non Christians.

 

The one thing I do remember is one of the leaders always talking about ‘the flesh’.  It reminded me of a butcher’s shop.  Of course, he was talking about the natural man as contrasted with the spiritual man.  The natural man is in ‘the flesh’ as described by the King James version of the Bible.  A lot of this teaching comes from Witness Nee in his book The Spiritual Man.   This teaching was very much in vogue in those days.  You don’t hear much about it these days.  Fashions have changed.

 

It was there that I met a whole group of people from Teen Challenge in Palmerston North.  Notable figures were Percy Campbell, Colin Campbell, and  Gary Prime.   Colin and Percy offered to help me move my belongings to Palmerston North.  That was a great help.

 

 

THE NEXT CHAPTER 

 

 

By June of 1970, I felt the need to leave Wellington, and go and live in Palmerston North.  I wanted to sit under Brother Hunt’s ministry and learn from him.  I felt that he was the person to lead me on the next chapter of my Christian journey.

 

 I arrived in Palmerston North at the end of June 1970.   I moved in with Brother Hunt and his wife.  They put me in a large outside room attached to their laundry.   It was big enough for me, and private.  I could come and go as I wished without disturbing the household.

 

 I made contact with Percy Campbell and the others when I got to Palmerston North, and this was the start of a very fruitful chapter of involvement with Teen Challenge there.  I will get to that presently.

 

Brother and Sister Hunt were a bit hesitant with me at first.  Sister Hunt explained later that it took a little time for them to love me.  I found this a bit disappointing because I believed that people of God like that should have been able to recognize that I was genuinely wanting to develop my discipleship and that I had come all that way to sit under Brother Hunt’s ministry.  Maybe I didn’t express my thoughts and intentions strongly enough.  Anyway, it is the same with Derek.  I shouldn’t expect ordinary humans to have extra sensory perception when it comes to evaluating someone new.   I had to prove myself with them.  There were no short cuts in that.  Maybe I did prove myself eventually.

 

Relating to Brother Hunt was quite difficult in many ways because naturally he was a shy man who didn’t always share his innermost feelings with people.  It was quite different when he was empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The transformation in him was remarkable.  When he was moving in the Spirit, he radiated the authority of God and miraculous things happened.   But in his natural state, he was reticent about sharing his feelings unless there was a crisis and he had to do it.

 

Often it was Sister Hunt who jumped in and said things that needed to be said.  She was more outgoing than her husband, complimenting Mr Hunt’s personality.  Together, they were an effective pastoral unit.  I felt privileged to be associated with them during that time.

 

I started off with being involved in the Open Door Mission, with Brother Hunt teaching me the principles of the Holy Spirit ministry.  He related a lot of his experiences, and I will try and repeat what I remember of them.  It is worth my time and effort on this because I would not like Brother Hunt’s ministry to be forgotten.

 

Brother Hunt’s defining document was the Bible.  He taught that if someone wanted to be involved in spiritual ministry, they had to be fully conversant with the Word of God.   He would not allow anyone to minister in his presence unless they showed that they knew the Word of God comprehensively.  He was known to order speakers to sit down if they started speaking things which did not agree with the Word of God.

 

He had very high standards of personal holiness.  His defining document for this was J C Ryle’s book on holiness.  I have tried to get hold of that book to read it through but I can’t obtain it these days.   He would never allow anyone to minister in his church if they did not come up to the proper standard of personal holiness.

 

He always felt that many rejected his ministry because of his high standards, but he definitely was not going to compromise them for the sake of having greater numbers in his church.  

 

His background was as a nominal Methodist parishioner, working his dairy farm and going to church on Sundays.  During his 40s, he developed a serious heart condition and was sent home from hospital to die.  The doctors could do no more for him.   In this state at some stage he turned to God for help.  He felt instructed by the Holy Spirit to throw away his medicines and trust wholly on God.  He did this, and was completely healed.

 

This had a major impact on his life, and somewhere along the line he came to a closer relationship with God and was baptized in the Holy Spirit.   Eventually he started to preach in various places, especially to Maori congregations on their Marae.

 

It was at one of these meetings, just outside of Foxton, about 50 km from Palmerston North that he discovered that God was going to use him in a ministry of healing.  He had finished preaching the Word to the people when he had an altar call for individuals to come to the front for prayer.  He had not preached healing, although he might have given his testimony about his own healing at times.   A mother brought a little girl forward.  The little girl had crossed eyes.  Brother Hunt prayed a blessing for her and suddenly the little girl’s eyes straightened, and stay straight.  This was an outright miracle that surprised everyone, including Brother Hunt.

 

Another little girl was brought to the front and she had a club foot.  Brother Hunt prayed for her and the foot immediately straightened and became normal.  These were sovereign acts of God.  Brother Hunt did not ask God for these things to happen.  God decided to do this because He wanted to show Brother Hunt, and the others, His glory by healing those little girls.

 

There was another instance of healing that took place in the Open Door Mission church itself one day.  A friend had an accident and broke both his legs.  He hobbled into the church for prayer.  Brother Hunt prayed for him and the guy walked out with his crutches over his shoulder.

 

Those are the actual instances that I can remember.  Perhaps there are others who are reading this can tell me of other examples of healing through Brother Hunt’s ministry.

 

Brother Hunt was also used in the ministry of deliverance.  This is the more modern way of talking about the casting out of demons.   He and Sister Hunt both had stories to tell about it.

 

They both told of experiences ministering on Maori marae and dealing with demons.  One demon spoke through a Maori lady and said to Sister Hunt, “You can’t cast me out!”.  Sister Hunt immediate quoted the Word of God and said, “Yes I can!” and the demon came out immediately.

 

Brother Hunt was a travailer in prayer.  He didn’t practice it in public.  It was a very private thing with him.  He told me that when it came upon him like that, God often moved by his sovereign power when he ministered.  I saw it once when we went to a convention in Hastings, on the East Coast of the North Island.  He and Sister Hunt had a caravan on the site.  In the afternoon of the night when he was to preach, I heard groaning and weeping coming from that caravan.  Brother Hunt was travailing in prayer.  I also witnessed the results later on in the meeting.

 

We had traveled from Palmerston North to Napier on the Saturday morning of the Easter Weekend.  It was in 1971.  They had meetings through the day.  Brother Hunt was invited to preach on the Saturday night.  During the day meeting another preacher preached up a storm about healing, and there were two disabled ladies present.  They ended up carrying these ladies around the tent hoping that God would heal them.  It didn’t happen.  Brother Hunt was not impressed by this type of ministry.  I think he sought God about it, and God showed him that He was going to move in a different way to what everyone else expected.

 

It so happened that I was seeking the Lord about moving into the area of prophecy, and I had received quite a bit of teaching from Brother Hunt about it.  For some reason I interpreted most of the tongues messages that took place during the time of the convention.  I was pretty nervous about that, because of what Brother Hunt would say about it.  I knew that he would have no hesitation in telling people to sit down and be quiet if he thought they were acting outside of the leading of the Holy Spirit.

 

However, Saturday night came around, and people entered the tent for the evening ministry.  Soft music began playing and people started singing the choruses.   Brother Hunt entered the tent and quietly paced up and down the middle aisle.  I had a certain sense of déjà vu.

 

Then he started speaking in his dramatic and authoritative tongue.  Others started praying and worshipping God.  Then Brother Hunt said in a loud voice: “Let the Word of God come forth!”.  Immediately there was a succession of tongues messages some of which I interpreted and others interpreted as well, and prophecies from people all over the place.  As these happened, people started breaking down and weeping everywhere.  Then people spontaneously started going up the front for prayer.  Brother Hunt prayed for some, and the Maori leaders prayed for others.  This went on for the whole evening.  Brother Hunt didn’t preach a sermon.  God did it all for him again.

 

Even on the Sunday morning, during the testimony time, people were still breaking down and weeping as they were relating what God had done for them the night before.   All this happened because Brother Hunt allowed God to do things the way He wanted to.

 

One thing that he would pray before a meeting was “Let every spirit that is not of God be silenced and be brought under the subjection of the Holy Ghost.”  He knew that he had the authority of God to say that, and the spirits obeyed him.

 

When we got back to Palmerston North on Easter Monday, we had a quiet tea.  Then he got out his big black Bible, and said, “Paul, I want to speak to you about the prophecies you gave this weekend.”  I thought, “I’m for it now.  I went too far.”  But he surprised me by telling me that I had done well, and never to give up the ministry of prophecy.   That meant the world to me, and I still operate that gift at times to this day.

 

The latest example is a recent prophecy I gave by email to Brother Hunt’s son Ian who is in ministry and goes to the Urewera Country near Gisborne on the East Coast of the North Island.  Ian wrote back and said that my prophecy really hit the spot because there was no way I was to know naturally the things I was talking about that were so relevant to him.

 

Brother Hunt told the story of a weekend of prayer for victory over the powers of darkness that were attacking his church at a particular time in his ministry.  After hours of prayer and travailing, a mighty victory was gained.  That night, when they went to bed, Brother Hunt said that a black entity came through his bedroom door and got him around the neck and started to strangle him.  The entity was consumed with anger and revenge.  Sister Hunt woke up and heard what she described as a ‘death rattle’.  She prayed against the evil spirit and it departed leaving Brother Hunt recover.   They told me that story just as we were ready to go to bed for the night.  I must say I had a careful eye on my door that night before I went to sleep!

 

Both Brother and Sister Hunt were not afraid to correct me if I was going to make a mistake.  Here are two examples which I remember clearly.

 

Brother Hunt was diametrically opposed to the Jesus Only movement.  This is another name for the followers of William Branham, called ‘Branhamites’.  Once I went to a church service in Feilding, just north of Palmerston North, which turned out to be a Branhamite church.   There I met quite a nice couple who befriended me and invited me to a meal at their place.  When I told Brother Hunt about it, he told me in no uncertain terms that if I went and fellowshipped with those people, I would have to leave his church.   I was surprised and shocked by his seeming intolerance.  I decided to cancel the dinner appointment, because the whole point of me being in Palmerston North was to be in Brother Hunt’s church and to sit under his ministry.  I wasn’t going to throw that away, and I told him so.   I think now that he had previously had very negative dealings with the Branhamite movement and it was instrumental in some division in his church.  I think that the memory of those negative experiences influenced him in his dealing with my situation.

 

Another example was when I was in a relationship with a woman who was pregnant by another man.  She had recently moved to Palmerston North from Hastings.   I was thinking of marrying her at one stage.  Sister Hunt called me on the telephone at work and asked me to come to their home for a talk.  When I got there, Brother Hunt got the big black Bible out and went through a lot of Scriptures to show me that I was making a big mistake that could cost me my ministry in the Lord if I married the woman.  I obeyed the Hunts and curtailed the relationship.  I have always had doubts about that in view of circumstances that happened later on, but I felt I was doing the right thing at the time.  I trusted Brother Hunt that if he prayed to God about it and felt he had to take that action, then it was a good indication that God was not wanting me to go ahead with something that might prove to be inappropriate for me.

 

There were other things that were said, mainly to others about me when I left the Open Door Mission in 1973, that I didn’t think were right, but I am not going to relate them here.  Brother and Sister Hunt were good to me, and I had great respect for them – enough not to share anything negative about them when they are not present to defend themselves.   I heard about some things well after Brother Hunt’s death, and it was too late to deal with them face to face, so I moved on and left those things behind.

 

Early in the morning, Brother Hunt used to get up and go into a small bathroom at the back of the house, just across the courtyard from my room.  He used to sing and praise God very loudly during those times.  It was a bit like an alarm clock for me in the mornings.   He loved God, and was not hesitant in showing it, even though he was a shy man with other people.  He certainly was not a shy person when worshipping God.   I think all the immediate neighbours knew it too.

 

Brother Hunt believed that sickness was result of the Body of Christ (the church) was not in the place where it should be in God.  This was the reason he believed people were not getting healed after being prayed for.  When the church was moving in the right place with God, people would be healed and demons would be cast out.

 

He often prayed that God would raise up holy men who would go up and down the country preaching the Word of God in the power of the Holy Ghost.  I am sure that while he was alive and praying like that, God was doing just that.  There were many good ministries in Palmerston North, preaching the Word of God effectively while Brother Hunt was alive.  After his death, I noticed that much of that started to go into decline.  Perhaps the community lost a prayer warrior and they didn’t know it.

 

Brother Hunt was older than what I am at this present time, when I, as a young man, first met him, yet he had a profound influence on my life as a Christian.  It shows that age doesn’t matter with God when He wants to use someone for ministry.   It gives me hope that the chapters of my life are not over yet.

 

In the late 1970s, Brother Hunt had a stroke and was unable to speak, except for a word or two.  This was very sad to witness.  He carried on for a while afterward and finally died of pneumonia.   Sister Hunt moved into a country house opposite her son-in-law and daughter’s farm (the original one they owned previously).  I heard much later that she remarried.  Her second husband was a good and supportive man, but things just were not the same as the time she had with Brother Hunt.  This leaves me with a tinge of sadness as I write this, but also a sense of joy and victory knowing that both Brother and Sister Hunt are with the Lord now, enjoying the fruit of their labours.

 

I have digressed quite a way from the central thread of my story, but I think it was worth it to give a short account of the ministry of a man I consider to be a man of God comparable to the likes of Charles Spurgeon, Charles Finney, Smith Wigglesworth, or any other great man called of God to minister His word.  Brother Hunt was a faithful pastor and teacher, and one of the unsung heroes of two generations of ministry.   I think so because he was one of the only people I knew who let God do things the way He wanted to.

 

Another example of a man who allowed God to do things His own way is the story of Brother Haig who used to minister with Brother Hunt in the old days.  One evening Brother Haig got up to preach, got a couple of words out, and then started laughing so much that he had to sit down.  The power of God swept right through the congregation and many lives were touched and changed.  Brother Hunt asked him why he didn’t finish his sermon.  Brother Haig said “God told me to get out of His way so He could move!”   That’s the sort of attitude that turns mediocre ministries into power men of faith and power.

 

I stayed with the Open Door Mission for three years.  Then I got married and my wife wanted me to go to the church of her choice.  I think that was a disappointment to the Hunts, and possibly one of the regrets that I have had about a decision I have made over the years.  Then perhaps, God was leading me to new pastures.

 

Some people felt that I was ‘Hunt bound’, in that I couldn’t make strong decisions because I was too much subject to what the Hunts wanted of me.  But they didn’t know of the relationship I had with them, and my reasons for going to Palmerston North in the first place.   I think that I was immature and I needed the type of discipleship training that the Hunts gave me.  No-one else could have given me the quality of training and experience that I gained while under Brother Hunt’s ministry.

 

I know that when I went on my own to an Easter Convention at Putiki Marae in Wanganui, on the West Coast of the North Island, and ministered there, I was nervous about what Brother Hunt would say when he found out what I got up to.  But I had the Maori elders’ blessing on what I did and said, so I wasn’t pushing myself forward in areas where I was not meant to go.   I think that we are always nervous of our mentors and teachers.  It is human nature.

 

While I was going regularly to the Open Door Mission, I would go around to Rodney Francis’s house on Saturday mornings.  He was a postie at that time, operating the Gospel Faith Messenger ministry part time.  He would have a group of other posties around there playing table tennis.  We had a great time.  I remember one guy who used to smash hit the ball as hard as he could at Rodney, and Rodney standing still, just blocking the ball back over the net.  This would happen time after time, and Rodney would parry the ball without moving his bat, laughing all the time.

 

I remember a Sunday night service when Rodney was preaching.  He usually preached at the top of his voice.  He was great for deaf people, but not so good for people suffering with nerves.  No-one suffered with nerves at the Open Door Mission, thank goodness.  This night he was preaching with his usual gusto, and his young son, Mark, who was about three at the time, let out a mighty yell in response.  This made everyone laugh and stopped the sermon for a few seconds.

 

But the loudness aside, Rodney’s preaching was always true to the Word of God and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  I have seen his ministry developing over the years, and he is now one of the most effective ministries in the South Pacific and beyond.  He had a great apprenticeship with the Hunts’ ministry.

 

Another character in the Open Door Mission was Mac Rauhihi.  Mac was a very enthusiastic Christian and preacher who was always well respected and received wherever he preached, whether it was in a standard church or on a Maori marae.  He was right in there when all the moves of God were happening, and he lead the music, playing lead guitar.   He became a pastor in his own right, and faithfully ministered for God right until the end of his life.  Sadly, he passed away a couple of years ago.  He is now rejoicing with the Lord in heaven.

 

Colin Penketh was another faithful soul who was a notable worker in the Open Door Mission.  He led the choruses most Sunday nights.  He was not a great preacher, but he always had positive things to say.  He loved God, and was well known for his faithfulness and support of the Hunts’ ministry when others were critical and rejected them.

 

There were a group of elderly ladies who fellowshipped every Wednesday and made soft toys for missionaries.   I used to go over to the Mission during my lunch hour and eat with them.  They were also supportive, and were a pleasure to mix with.  One lady told me when I was leaving the Mission to go to Christian Centre, that it didn’t matter where I fellowshipped as long as my spiritual state was right with God.

 

I remember another lady who used to play the piano every Sunday morning and evening.  There were other, better piano players, but this elderly lady could be depended on, and played, although she was pretty shaky (she might have had Parkinson’s disease).  I will also remember and treasure those old hymns she used to play.  I am getting to the stage with my piano playing that I can play them too.  That brings back memories of her every time I play them.

 

However, during that three years, I was involved with Palmerston North Teen Challenge, where I became a badge-holder (committed worker) and finally a leader.  This was possible at that time because Teen Challenge was an interdenominational organization and I could quite happily continue fellowshipping at the Open Door Mission while working with it.

 

I started my involvement with Teen Challenge in 1970, and finally left it in 1977.  Over those years, the organization changed from being interdenominational to being the evangelistic arm of Awapuni Baptist Church.  When Awapuni Baptist Church moved into the centre of town and became the Christian Centre, Teen Challenge moved from its premises in Broadway to the ground floor of the converted picture theatre that was the home of Christian Centre.

 

 

 

A CHANGE OF DIRECTION

 

 

This happened in about 1974.  Because I was a leader of Teen Challenge by then, I was automatically made a deacon of Christian Centre.  There is a story behind that, because up until 1973, I was a member of the Open Door Mission, which I left during early 1973.   I’ll pick up that story a little later on.

 

It was around this time that I met a committed Christian couple, Rod and Jill Forbes.  Rod worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, and was an enthusiastic member of the Christian Centre.  We quickly developed a friendship, and spent much time sharing our divergent views and interpretations of the Word of God.   We became leaders of Teen Challenge together.   I was able to show Rod some of the things about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and he was able to lead me into ways of ministry that I needed to learn.   There were times when Rod had to correct me because of my impulsiveness, but he never gave me up as a bad job, even when I got into a theological area which disagreed with him.

 

It was over a teacher called Gordon Olsen.  This was someone that was advocated by Winkie Pratney.   Gordon Olsen wrote a theological manual which I got hold of.  The premise of his teaching was that God did not live in a timeless space where past, present and future were all one (the traditional view), but that God was aware of the succession of events (which we call time).  He taught that God has a past, present and future where He dwells.  He also taught that the past only exists in our memories, and in God’s memories too.  The future doesn’t exist yet and therefore it is impossible to know it.  Not even God knows what is going to actually happen in the future.  He may know all the possible alternatives, but He doesn’t know which possibility someone would choose until they actually chose it.  He cites the events in the Bible where God changed His mind about things when they didn’t work out according to His plans. Olsen quoted many scriptures to support his arguments, and I felt that he had proved his thesis through scripture to me.[2]

 

Of course, when I discovered this, I discussed it with Rod.  It was quite natural to do so.  Rod would not agree to it.  Our discussion became an ongoing debate for some months.   I think we agreed to disagree on the issue.  However, Rod felt that he had lost confidence in me as a leader because he felt that I had ‘gone off the rails’ with this doctrine.  I felt somewhat hurt over that because Rod and I had known each other and fellowshipped for a number of years and I felt that he should have known me well enough to see that I was committed to Christ and wanted to follow him in the best way I knew how.  The particular doctrine at issue was not a major one that would affect ones salvation, or a person’s ongoing Christian life.  A person was no less holy because he believed that God didn’t know every detail of the future.   I think that this was one of the factors that caused me to fall out of favour somewhat with the other Teen Challenge leaders.  I know that the withdrawal of the closeness of fellowship by the other leaders was a contributing factor to my decision to leave the Christian Centre.   I think that it was another burden on top of all the others, including the impendent breakdown of my marriage that contributed to my decision to finally leave the Christian Centre in 1978, and go back to the Open Door Mission.

 

But our personal friendship was stronger than anything that would threaten it.  We remained good friends and brothers in Christ, and I was really thrilled when he called in and visited me at my home in Christchurch while I was at Teachers’ College in 1984.

 

The one thing about Rod that I respect most of all is that he was not afraid to correct me when I made mistakes that affected his ministry, especially the time when I got too enthusiastic during a church visit somewhere where I knew the people[8].  Rod was leading the ministry group, and I upstaged him in some way.  He had to correct me, and he had every right to.  I had to swallow my pride and accept his leadership, because I was the one out of order at the time.   Good friends are able correct their brothers, and good brothers are able to accept the correction and move on.

 

He and Jill moved to Wellington somewhere around 1990 or thereabouts, and I have had the privilege of visiting them twice, and have been in touch through email.   He and Jill have always made me feel welcome at their home, and I think they always will.   They are one couple that I miss, and those feelings come back as I write this.[9]

 

The first time I met Ken Wright was when he preached a sermon about the Judgement of God during a Monday night fellowship and training meeting.  Ken was also a father-figure, but quite a lot younger than Brother Hunt.  His ministry was quite a bit different.  He was an effective Bible teacher and trainer of young people.  He made young people feel confident around him.   He had practical ideas of how to train young people in ministry, and that made him an ideal person to lead Teen Challenge.  He was later involved with Youth With A Mission and continue with that until the end of his life.

 

He had a crazy sense of humour at times, and a twinkle in his eye.  He was also very professional in the way he went about his ministry, and he was aware of the total importance of holiness when relating to God and others.   He was also profoundly deaf and wore a hearing aid.   He often remarked about the mysteries of the healing ministry, that others were healed through his prayers but he remained deaf.  This is not unique though.  Smith Wigglesworth was perhaps one of the greatest healing ministries of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century with thousands of testimonies from people he prayed for and were healed, yet his own daughter had a disability of which she was never healed.

 

Some young people connected with Teen Challenge and Awapuni Baptist had just previously been involved in inappropriate relationships before I arrived in Palmerston North.  Consequently there was a very hard policy on boy-girl relationships in the first two years I was there.  It seemed to relax somewhat later on as those young people grew older and got married.

 

There was a well known personality at Teen Challenge in the early days I was there.  His name was Fred Faulkner.  He was short and British.  Also, he could stand up to Mongrel Mob members without any fear, and they respected him for it.  He threatened them if they came up to Teen Challenge to fight, he would throw them down the stairs.  They knew that he meant it, and never gave him any trouble.

 

He had been profoundly deaf, and originally wore a hearing aid in each ear.  He was also a strong believer in God’s will to heal.   One one occasion he journeyed to Auckland to have an ear operated on to restore some of his hearing.  On the journey back to Palmerston North, he realized that he could hear in spite of his hearing aid.  But it wasn’t the ear that had just been operated on.  It was the other ear.   God had healed it during the journey.  He never wore a hearing aid in that ear again.  He could hear perfectly through it.

 

A few of the Teen Challenge younger committed workers came into the things of the Holy Spirit from the Open Brethren church.  They tended to bring a more legalistic approach to Christian living than those who came from other denominations.  Ken Wright was a Presbyterian elder, and Rex Pinkney was an Anglican.  Richard Colpman was Brethren, but didn’t seem to have the same intensity of legalism that some of the others had.  John Walton came from the Exclusive Brethren church.  He had an experience with an angel, and this led him out of the Exclusive Brethren and into the things of the Spirit.  I found him a very committed leader with very high standards of personal holiness, and he expected others to have those same high standards.  There were others, but I didn’t get to know them so well.  They were all good leaders because they encouraged us younger ones to train for preaching, testifying and witnessing.[3]

 

We often went to other churches as ministry teams, and had good experiences of ministering to others.  Some of the stories of these will come out as I remember them more clearly.

 

It is to the credit of the Hunts that they did not stop me being involved in Teen Challenge.  I think they saw the importance of my involvement with other young people like myself.   I was in Teen Challenge for a long time, and have many stories which I want to set out in this book.

 

Ken Wright used to often turn up in shorts and Roman sandals to Teen Challenge meetings, except in the middle of winter.   I remember once when I was leading the Monday night chorus time,  that he didn’t think that people were enthusiastic enough, so he started lifting his feet up and down to the rhythm of the song.  He looked a funny sight with his shorts and sandals  He wasn’t the type of person to be too concerned about formalism, although he was very professional during formal occasions.

 

Our Monday night meetings started with a meal, supplied by the Royal Dutch, a pea, pie, and spud restaurant down the road.  I don’t think that it’s there any more, sadly.  Usually the meal was braised sausages, onions, mashed spuds, and peas.  We ate it on our knees with just forks.  Then we had a singing time, and then the ministry time.  There was sometimes a prayer time when needed.   I looked forward to those meetings every week.

 

The people I met while at Teen Challenge have become lifelong friends.  I don’t see too much of many of them these days, but I know that when I go back to Palmerston North and visit them, I am welcomed as a long lost friend.  That means a lot to me.

 

During the early days, Percy Campbell, Gordon Moore, Wayne Robinson, and I were formed as a singing group.  Our signature song was about the three men in the fire.  Gordon played the guitar and Wayne played the Banjo bluegrass style.  We sang at Christian conventions and different churches around the Manawatu.  It was a fruitful and enjoyable time.  Percy, Gordon and I became leaders of Teen Challenge, and we worked well together. [4]

 

We had a guy join up with Teen Challenge in about 1972, who had become a Christian after a very difficult and eventful life, sometimes on the wrong side of the law.  He was an expert rhythm guitarist, and sang in what I would call Country Nashville style.  He took a leading role in music for a number of years.  Because of the challenges of his former life, he was a dominant person, and quieter people seemed to be swamped by his personality.

 

There were darker sides to this guy’s personality so I will refer to him as Roger (which is not his real name).   But God is not too particular about who He saves, and discipleship is a life long process.  He had been a Christian only a couple of years when he joined Teen Challenge.  He used to dress in the latest fashions, and not be in too much of a hurry to pay the resulting debts.  But he had an amazing testimony, which involved a prison experience, that not many of us had, and he proved very effective in the team ministry to other churches.   I last saw him in 1995 when I went back to Massey University for a course.  He seemed to be happily married and settled in his life.

 

Another notable personality that came to Teen Challenge was a young guy by the name of Harvey (not his real name).  Now this fellow was a very earnest Christian.  He reminded me of what I was like before I had my experience with God in the park.  He was wanting to use the gift of prophecy, and he used this regularly and loudly.  Many people were put off by his manner and his bad breath at times.   He struck me as a person who earnestly wanted to be a good and effective Christian but tried to do it by copying others, rather than getting alone with God, meeting Him, and developing his own natural personality.  He tried to adopt a ‘Pentecostal persona’ which others criticized as being false.  I really don’t think that his heart was false, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that he has developed into an effective man of God in his mature years.  I hope so.

 

However, he made his mark on Teen Challenge and the Christian Centre for quite a number of years.  Many people tried to change him, counsel him, and cast demons out of him, but failed.  He probably didn’t have the demons in him to start with.   He had some interesting habits.

 

One Sunday morning at church, a friend, Jill Forbes, was sitting behind him.  During a holy prayer time, Harvey lifted his backside and farted right in front of her.  Of course, that holy prayer time was never the same after that!

 

One night the church had a full night of prayer.  Harvey was there, and he yelled and shouted for so long, that he could not speak more than a croak the next day.  Some were relieved at that and enjoyed the silence until he got his voice back.

 

On another occasion, during a camp at Forest Lakes, just north of Paraparaumu, Harvey was doing his usual thing, strutting around and showing off in front of the young ladies.  What he didn’t know was that his fly had broken on his tight jeans and his multi-coloured undies were poking out!   When he realized, he bent over almost double and scuttled off to his bunkroom looking very embarrassed indeed!

 

In the later stages of Christian Centre, Colin Campbell moved to Brisbane to be involved in a church there.  Reports were that Harvey turned up there one day.  Oh well, our loss is their gain…

 

Terry Coburn (his real name) is a friend of mine.   I first met him in Teen Challenge in 1971.   He has a simple, straightforward way of expressing himself and his faith.  He was a signal erector for the New Zealand Railways at that time.  He told me that the Railways were prophesied in the Bible as those things ‘that creepeth and crawleth across the face of the earth.’    When he got baptized in the Holy Spirit the only thing he could say in tongues was “kiarndai!  Seik kiandai!”  and he would say that over and over when he prayed in tongues.  I thought that was insufficient, but I’ll tell you a story about what happened in a prayer meeting…

 

He was sitting alongside a Ghanaian called Bardu.  They were all praying in tongues. Bardu became very excited while Terry was praying.  When the meeting was over, he turned to Terry and said to him, “I’ll tell you what you said while you were praying in tongues, because you were talking in my native dialect.”  God had used Terry to give Bardu a message of encouragement in his own native dialect, and that came from a guy who could speak only three words (or so I thought) in tongues.  Beat that!

 

The only experience I ever had in this was during a Sunday night service at the Christian Centre in Palmerston North.  I was praying in tongues during the altar call as people were being prayed for at the front.  Just along from my in my row was a Mrs Samuels.   After the prayer time, she leaned over and told me that I had spoken in the Maori language, and that she had understood what I was saying.  She said that God was encouraging her over something in her life.  I was not aware of speaking in Maori language.  All I was thinking about when I was praying that I was supporting the ministry at the front of the church.  God moves in mysterious ways, and in ways we don’t expect at times.

 

 

LOVE BLOSSOMS

 

 

During 1972, Teen Challenge decided to hire a secretary.  It was a pretty lonely job because the person worked in an office all by herself for the whole day.  A salary figure was agreed on and the person started on the job.  The main meeting room was used for the office.   Her job was administrative support for the leaders, and for the elders of Awapuni Baptist.

 

About this time, I was involved in the Growing In Grace correspondence course run by Teen Challenge.  This was a course designed to give distance training for new converts who made decisions during church visits and summer crusades.  At first, I worked at home, but when the office was set up, I moved my desk there.

 

The office person was a young lady called Melanie (not her real name as the rest of the story will show).   I think that Melanie resented me being there because she was not told that I was going to set up my operation in her office.  All she knew that this large fellow with a green jersey and grey trousers suddenly appeared in her domain.  Melanie was a refined piano teacher, while at that time I was a Ministry of Works clerk with no academic qualifications.  It transpired that our personalities fitted together like chalk and cheese.

 

However, over the passage of time, we developed a friendship, which blossomed into romance.  Melanie told me afterward that she was actually afraid of being left on the shelf, and, looking around Teen Challenge at the likely prospects, chose me as being the best of a bad lot.  I didn’t know whether that was a compliment or an insult!   I quite liked her, so I didn’t care at the time.

 

But my story of the romance with, marriage to and divorce from Melanie is a cautionary tale for those who are planning to rush into marriage without considering the mix of personalities, and also making sure that everyone is being completely honest about their feelings toward each other.  Melanie chose me because she didn’t want to be an old maid.  This was not sufficient grounds for a happy and last marriage; and I found this out the hard way eight years later.

 

But before we get into that, there were two other false starts in the romance arena. 

 

There was a young woman attached to our fellowship in Wellington who was a very committed Christian.  I will call her Patricia (not her real name).  We had fellowshipped for a number years as part of the wider group of friends.  In the secular world we would probably have been classed as ‘mates’.  When I left Wellington I kept corresponding with her, and through that I developed a shine toward her.  She didn’t know how I felt at first.

 

Here is the problem that many young Christian men have.  A young man can become ‘sweet’ on a girl and are afraid to share his feelings toward her in a natural way.  This is because of the unnatural and narrow teaching about boy-girl relationships in many churches.  A young man can develop the attitude that God can choose a girl for him, similar to a sort of arranged marriage, and make her love him through some magical process without having to go through the natural courtship process.  Churches that teach such narrow-minded versions of courtship and marriage do their young people a terrible disservice and expose both male and female members to situations of considerable embarrassment.  That’s what happened to me on a number of occasions until I learned how to go about things in a proper manner.

 

So, after six months of praying about it, probably convincing myself more than anyone else, I decided to travel back to Wellington and propose to her.  I was afraid to tell the Hunts about it.  They would probably have put me straight on the issue.

 

I got to Wellington, and with an air of mystery I invited her for a walk in Oriental Bay.  I proposed to her there, and she said no.  I wasn’t the right person for her.  We still remained friends, but I went back to Palmerston North and she went on with her university studies in Wellington.   I didn’t see her again until 1982.

 

I couldn’t really understand it.  After all, she was single and wanting a husband, and I was single and wanting a wife.  We were both committed Christians.  I couldn’t see how it couldn’t work.  But obviously it was not meant to be.  I probably would have found that out without having to go through the embarrassing process of proposing and being rejected if I had gone through a natural courtship – ie, asking her out on dates and getting to know her through a more patiently developing friendship.  If that friendship was going to develop into a mutual sense of love, affection and commitment, then it would be a natural outworking of God’s will for us.[5]

 

The second false start was my relationship with Amy (also not her real name). She was the woman I mentioned before who was pregnant, and the Hunts dealt with me quite firmly about it.

 

I first saw her during the first Transdenominational Convention at the Palmerston North Stadium in 1972.   I noticed her because she was sitting by herself crying.  I didn’t go over and talk to her because I didn’t feel that it was any of my business, and she obviously wanted to be alone.

 

She appeared at Teen Challenge some time after that, and we became friends.  We used to meet at a lady’s house in Ferguson Street.  I don’t remember the lady’s name now, but she was Canadian and a member of Awapuni Baptist Church.  Amy went and boarded with her.

 

I found Amy to be a bright, positive person who appeared to be committed to Christ.   I enjoyed the time I had with her.  We had a more natural courtship and our feelings for each other were mutual.  The lady she boarded with was friendly and helpful and this provided a place for Amy and me to be during our spare time.   As our relationship became a little more physical (it never involved sex), she wouldn’t allow me in the house with Amy unless she was present.  This was a wise attitude for her to have.

 

However, when it appeared that our relationship was developing into something a little deeper, Amy informed me that she was pregnant by her last boyfriend.  This was a big disappointment for me, because I knew that this was going to create problems with my involvement with the Hunts, and also with Teen Challenge.   In those days, a woman who became pregnant outside of marriage was treated as an unholy person, quite unsuitable for being a partner for one of the Teen Challenge leaders, or a young member of a Church dedicated to holiness and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

 

I remember as the news got around that Amy was pregnant, different elders came to me to counsel me.  Ken was the first.  He was not going to force me to give her up, but he counseled extreme wisdom and care about what I was going to get myself committed to.  John Walton was more forthcoming.  He said that if I married Amy, the marriage wouldn’t last more than 10 years, and she would be off with someone else[10].  He expressed a deep disappointment in me that I would be involved with a girl like that.  I know that it was his Exclusive Brethren background talking rather than the grace of God, but it hurt me all the same. 

 

It was during that time that I got the call from the Hunts.  After agreeing with them that a marriage with Amy was not going to be appropriate for me, I had to go and see her and tell her that it was all off.  She cried her eyes out and this made me feel terrible.

 

We carried on our friendship for a while afterward, because it was hard for us to let go completely, but we both could see that if we were not going to get married, it was best not to keep a romance going.  So we parted company.

 

That was a low point in my life, but I moved on, and things got slowly back to normal.   The last time I saw Amy was her leaving with a guy called Greg Brightwell who was starting up a community house in Masterton.[6]

 

All this time I had been developing a friendship with Melanie in the Teen Challenge office.  She couldn’t understand why I would want to get involved with whom she described as ‘a horrible woman like that.”

 

Over a period of time my friendship with Melanie was developing into something deeper, but I wasn’t going to make any moves toward her romantically because of my recent bad experiences with the other two romances which proved disastrous for me.

 

About halfway through 1972, I was invited to participate in a three-week mission to Wellington with Youth With A Mission, under the leadership of Ken Wright.  We were to visit a number of churches in the area, supporting youth groups and taking services.  This was a great training experience for me, and I got the opportunity to preach on a couple of occasions.

 

Melanie also came on this mission. What I didn’t know was that she was having thoughts about me, and was praying quite definitely about it.  While struggling with the decision whether to communicate her feelings to me or nor, she was nearly put off by another member of the team.  Her name was Lois.   We were traveling out to a prison in Lower Hutt to take a service there for the prisoners.  I was driving the lead car.  I took a wrong turn because I didn’t know the area very well.  Lois and Melanie were in the car following.  When I got us lost temporarily, Lois said “Trust old Porky Pig to get us lost!”  That nearly put Melanie off the whole idea of a romance with me!

 

I told Lois about that about a year later, and she was quite embarrassed that she had said that.  She married a really nice guy called Barry, and they live just outside of Palmerston North.  They made me feel really welcome the last time I visited them in 1995.

 

One night, she visited the house where I was billeted.  She had to talk to me about something very important.  It was there that she expressed her feelings for me.  This was quite unexpected and contrary to anything I had ever experienced before.  I felt strongly that something like this had to be the work of the Holy Spirit.  For many years after, I had no doubts that what happened was the will of God for both of us.

 

Things progressed and we became engaged soon after we got back to Palmerston North.  Some people in Teen Challenge were surprised that Melanie and I had struck up a relationship because they thought that it would have been impossible for our two personalities to be reconciled to each other.

 

Melanie’s Christian background was in the Anglican Church, and she had come into the things of the Holy Spirit through the work of Anglican Charismatics.  This was at the time when there was a new move of God through the traditional denominations.  They called this the Charismatic movement.

 

 

PENTECOSTAL/CHARISMATIC

 

 

The Charismatic movement had many similarities to the Pentecostal movement to the degree that many did not make the distinction between the two strands.  There was still the doctrine of the baptism in the Spirit and the operation of the spiritual gifts, and the greater freedom in the use of music and singing within its groups.

 

The differences were that Charismatics did not put the same emphasis on the necessity of the gift of tongues.  Many believed that a person could be baptized in the Spirit without speaking in tongues.  Pentecostals held that speaking in tongues was the evidence that a person had been baptized in the Spirit.  Also, Charismatics had a softer approach to holiness and morality, and dealt with moral problems from a more of a counseling rather than a disciplinary approach.  The ‘purely’ Pentecostal movement arose out of the Methodist and other Holiness movements in the United Kingdom and United States, therefore there was a strong emphasis on personal holiness attached to anyone who wanted to minister in the Holy Spirit.  The Charismatic movement rose out of denominations like the Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptist churches where the definition of holiness was not as clearly defined.

 

The Christian Centre was a mix of Pentecostal and Charismatic.  The congregation was made up of people from different denominational backgrounds.  This gave rise to some dissention about secondary issues to do with Christian doctrine and the right way to minister in the Holy Spirit.  Also, I think that there was not the depth of experience in the ways of the Holy Spirit among the leaders (with the exception of Ken Wright).

 

Some astute people detected an attitude of spiritual pride with one or two of the leadership – that the Christian Centre was at the cutting edge of what God was doing in New Zealand, and that the other Pentecostal and Charismatic churches in the city were not up to the same spiritual standard.

 

Of course this was nonsense and the attitude of those leaders somewhat blunted the work of Christian Centre in some circles.  There were other churches in the city that had greater experience and depth in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the leadership of Christian Centre could have learned from them instead of being so independent and parochial.  But then, that it just my personal attitude towards things.   To be fair, the Palmerston North Christian Centre, with all its faults, was a unique place of fellowship and ministry, and a lot of Christians today remember it with the same fondness as I remember Lower Hutt Assembly of God.

 

The Palmerston North Christian Centre was set up as a venue where God was glorified and Jesus presented as Lord and Saviour.   The majority of the leadership were of one mind and intention, to bring the Gospel to Palmerston North and beyond with power.   The leaders of Christian Centre were the ones who set up the Transdenominational Conventions every Easter for a number of years, and imported some of the biggest ministry names in the Christian world.  Thousands of people throughout New Zealand were converted, baptized in the Holy Spirit, taught, blessed and uplifted in their faith through the work of the elders of that church.

 

Therefore, although it had faults, even grievous ones at times, anyone who loves the Lord and the Gospel of Christ would wish to remember that church and its leaders with the utmost respect and gratitude.

 

Unfortunately, the Christian Centre started to go into decline in the 1980s.  By 1985 it was consigned to history.   The first division took place when John Walton felt that his new direction was to start a separate church.  He was commissioned by the other elders to that ministry with their blessing.  As far as I know, the New Life Centre in Palmerston North has been a thriving, successful church since that time.[11]

 

The next division took place soon after, and this one was more acrimonious.  One of the recently appointed elders decided to start his own church without consulting with the others, and drew many members of the congregation away with him.   Some called his action ‘treacherous’.   He could have consulted the elders in the same way John did, and they would have supported him, but he chose not to do that.   I wouldn’t hold out much hope that his church would last very long.  God supports honesty, openness and integrity.   A person cannot turn around and throw all the support and assistance given by others over the years and then expect God to give him His blessing.

 

 Basically, that division was the death knell for the Christian Centre.  It closed its doors, and those who were left, including Ken, went into new premises and called it the Palmerston North Christian Fellowship.   The last time I was there (1995), it was growing steadily and moving along with God’s blessing.  I would know because when I helped with the altar call, I sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit working amongst us.

 

Academic or intellectual ability did not count for much in Pentecostal churches.  There was the universal belief that even the simplest person could have a ministry in the Holy Spirit and be used to win souls for Christ.  In fact, in many churches, people with academic qualifications were looked at sideways as if their degrees were something that blocked the operation of the Holy Spirit in their lives and ministries.  Of course that is nonsense too.

 

In Charismatic churches, academic and intellectual ability is welcomed and encouraged.  There was the general belief that God could use intelligent people, and that a university degree was an asset to God’s work.  Consequently, people without academic ability were sometimes passed over for leadership responsibility in favour of those who had ability.  There was the sense that if a person wished to aspire to ministry in a Charismatic church, they had to go through a degree-like academic training course, sometimes lasting up to three years.   It was very rare for a non academic person to be the pastor of a Charismatic church.  Where it was common for such a person to be the pastor of a Pentecostal church.  But then, job security was a greater issue in the Pentecostal church because a person could be the pastor and then be toppled at the whim of the congregation without warning.  This happened in many cases over the years.

 

This leads me to the differences between Melanie and me which eventually put our marriage on the rocks.

 

 

MARRIAGE

 

 

Melanie was a piano teacher who was just short of completing an L.T.C.L. in piano.  That required years of hard work developing her piano and musical skills.  I think that she had aspirations of marrying a professional person who matched her intellectual ability.   Instead, she ended up with a Ministry of Works Clerk with no academic qualifications.  I think that this was a continuing disappointment to her over the years, and made her depressed in the end.

 

We got married in February of 1973, and set up home in a farm house in Bunnythorpe, 18 km north of Palmerston North.   The rental was very cheap and served us well for about nine months, until we moved back into the city.

 

While we were out at Bunnythorpe there was one funny situation where we had two young men from the church for Sunday lunch.  It so happened that we had only enough food for the lunch and for Melanie and me for tea.  We did not plan on having guests for tea.  The local dairy was about two kilometers away and it was closed on Sundays.  We were going to stock up on groceries on the following Monday.

 

The guests were Terry Coburn and Wayne Robinson.  We had a nice time of fellowship over lunch, and Terry went out into the paddocks with his .22 rifle to shoot hares.  They decided to stay for tea.  All we had were Sesameal crackers and eggs, so they got a poached egg on a crackerj each.  Wayne said, “That was the entrée, now for the main course.”  We had to tell him that there was no main course.  After that, I made sure that we always had the ingredients for making scones on hand just in case it happened again.

 

After nine months of living out in the country, we felt that it was too isolated for us, so we moved back into the city.  We moved in with another Christian couple and shared their home.  They were going through a phase that communal living among Christians was the ‘in’ thing.  We found it a disaster.   Melanie and the wife of the house did not see eye to eye about things and serious conflicts arose.  Eventually we knew that we needed to get our own apartment.

 

Christian community living might be a great idea in principle, but serious consideration has to be given to the personalities of the people involved.  If you get the right mix, then living is wonderful and supportive.  But when there are personality conflicts, life can be hell on earth.  We didn’t own the house.  We moved into a home owned by someone else, so it was not truly a 50/50 arrangement.  This meant that Melanie had to give up some of her independence in favour of another person’s ways of doing things.  Even though the other person was a good friend of Melanie, living together proved to be a burden neither of them wanted

 

We found a nice second story apartment and set up house.  We lived in that apartment for a year before we bought our own home.  This was the time when I started having discipleship meetings in our home.

 

 

 

MINISTRY IN THE SPIRIT

 

 

As the Christian Centre grew, there were a lot of young people who wanted to be baptized in the Holy Spirit but didn’t know how to go about it.  There were others who had been baptized in the Spirit, but did not know how to operate in the spiritual gifts.   Melanie and I decided to form a home group that would cater for their needs.

 

We started off with a small group of people we knew well.  There was Terry, Bruce Jacobs, Harry Harris, a young guy called Mark, Ron Bethune, and June (not her real name because I can’t remember it).   We started off on Wednesday nights with a fellowship meal and the teaching time afterward.   We had some great times in those meetings.

 

One time quite early on, we studied an exegesis of 1 Corinthians14.  This took a very long while, and most were feeling like falling asleep.  We decided to take a break for supper and have a short prayer time after that.

 

When we got to the prayer time, the room suddenly came alive.  The Holy Spirit inspired a couple of the group with the gift of prophecy and I was able to encourage them to exercise the gift.   Harry said that he needed more freedom in the gift of tongues, and after he was prayed for, he launched into the most dramatic language I have ever heard.  It made us all laugh for quite a while.   Overall, it was a very fun and interesting evening, and everyone learned a lot from it, including me.

 

We had other great times with many of the church young people gaining good skills and gifts in the Spirit.  Melanie and I had a good ministry together, and we both shared a good understanding of how the Holy Spirit operated.  This was very important for the young people in our church.

 

There was one evening when we had a visitor from Germany to our home group.  He expressed a desire to be baptized in the Spirit and to speak in tongues.  We took him into a bedroom away from the main group and prayed for him.  He began speaking the most beautiful language we had ever heard.  That made us laugh a lot as well.

 

It seemed that laughing was a by-product of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I think it was an expression of joy at witnessing a person being baptized in the Holy Spirit for the first time.   It happened to me every time I was involved in that ministry.

 

It became apparent after a while that I had developed a ministry of praying for people to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.   I had a 90 percent success rate.   I think that it started when I witnessed a group of people praying for a person to come through in the Spirit.  Half of the group was saying, “Hold on, brother!” and the other half were saying, “Let go, brother!”  The poor person in the middle was quite confused as to what to do.  Obviously he did not receive what he wanted in that session.   It made me think and pray about the act of ministering to someone to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

 

One of the problems that I could see was that too many were being pushed into trying to receive the Holy Spirit before they were mentally ready for it.  Some of them were only doing it to please the very enthusiastic person who wanted to pray for them.  This did not seem acceptable to me.

 

I decided to seek God and ask Him to show me the correct way of praying for someone to receive the Holy Spirit.  This is the wisdom I received as a result.

 

There are four stages to receiving any gift from God, including the Baptism in the Spirit and the gift of tongues:

1.    You have to believe and accept that this is God’s will for you.

No further progress can be made until this issue is settled.   If this stage is rushed, the person may receive something approaching the Baptism, but will not persevere with it unless he or she has an absolute assurance that what is being received is definitely the will of God for them.

 

2.    The next thing is that you have to ask for it.  The Apostle James said “You have not because you ask not.”  Even though God knows what you need before you ask it, He loves having you exercise your faith and trust in Him by asking Him for the things you need.

 

3.    Because you have already gone through the process of finding out that this is definitely the will of God, you will have the strong assurance that God will give you what you ask for.  In this stage, you can confidently accept the gift from God in Jesus’ name.   This is possible because there is no delay between you asking and God responding by giving.  “He that asks receives.”  There is no other word between asking and receiving.  Receiving happens instantaneously when you are asking for something within the will of God.

 

4.    At this stage you can confidently believe that you now have the gift of the Holy Spirit and the ability to speak in tongues.  You take this position through faith in the Word of God, even though you may feel absolutely nothing at this stage.   Many people, in fact, have an immediate response to doing stage 3 and start speaking in tongues right away with no further prompting.   It is a wonderful experience to witness that, believe me.

 

 

But what you have to do in this stage if the gift of tongues does not come spontaneously is to make the effort to try and speak words that are not English.  You have already read how I had to do it when I first received the Holy Spirit.   You will find that if you start speaking syllables and words, your faith will increase and the language will start to flow out of you.  But don’t be satisfied with a few halting syllables.  Keep persevering until you are speaking a fluent language.

 

Then, once you are speaking in a fluent language, start to put expression into the language by thinking of a need in your life, or someone else’s life and expressing that need through the tongues language.  You may find that the language will change and become more intense.  You may sense a feeling of burden leading to a release of victory.  If you sense those things, you will know that the Holy Spirit is helping you to pray through to a resolution in your spirit concerning the need you are praying for.  This is the correct use of the gift of tongues in your private prayer time.  This gift is not meant for public use, unless all of you are praying in tongues together.

 

Because I was a leader and counselor with Teen Challenge, and a deacon of Christian Centre, I had opportunities to put this into practice.

 

Rather than use this method in an altar call situation, I invited candidates to move to a counseling room where I could ascertain whether they really understood what they were getting into.   There needed to be a bit of counseling before I could pray with them.   I decided to use the cold-blooded counseling approach with candidates because receiving the Holy Spirit has an intelligent, cognitive part to it.  It is not just a matter of blindly following a counselors instructions without thinking it through.

 

I started counseling people this way in the 1973 and 1974 Transdenominational Easter Conventions at the Awapuni Racecourse.  Each night, people would be invited out the back to be prayed for to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.   I would wait until the majority of candidates were prayed for and received the gift.  The ‘chronics’ were left.  These were ones who were having difficulty coming right through to the gift of tongues.  When a counselor gave up and the person was left alone, I would approach and say that I could help them through if they wanted me to work with them.  Usually they agreed.  Some of them were quite desperate because they had been prayed for by a number of people without success.

 

Every time I prayed for them using the method that God showed me, the candidates received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.  I would take them through the first three points, and then tell them that they can now speak in tongues.  I would tell them to start speaking in the Name of Jesus.  Most would start speaking right out in tongues.  Once or twice I had a failure on the night and it was mainly because the person was too shy to try and speak in tongues in front of me.  Often they came back the next day and said they started to speak in tongues.  

 

There were some who didn’t seem to know how to get started to speak the initial syllables needed to get the flow going.  For some, the exercise of speaking an unknown language is so foreign that they become ‘paralysed’ in a sense.  I asked God about that and He said, “You have the gift of tongues, don’t you?” I said, “Yes I do.”

 

“Is it the true gift of tongues?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“If someone else spoke your words, would they be still speaking in tongues?”

 

I had to think about that.

 

“Wouldn’t they be just copying me?”  I replied.

 

“Yes, and what’s wrong with that?”

 

“They won’t have the true gift then, Lord.  It would be false.”

 

“Yes, it would be false if they kept on speaking your words, but you words are there to prime the pump.  Once their faith grows, their own language will come out.”  God replied.

 

“I’ll try it.”  I said.

 

So, I did.  The next person I counseled who had problems listened while I explained what I wanted to do to help them.  His name was Gordon.  He agreed to go along with me.

 

We worked through the first three stages and he came to the understanding that he had the gift of the Holy Spirit after accepting it into his life.  Then I explained that he could repeat my tongue words to ‘prime his pump’.   I gave him some words like “rindibasakunda,  rabadunda, sikiwakundu”, etc.  When he was repeating those words confidently, I told him to put them together and speak without stopping.  His faith grew right away, and after a couple of attempts to copy my words, he was speaking a completely different language, very unlike mine.  Then I knew that he had received the gift of tongues for himself.

 

What God told me came true.   Since then, every time I have prayed for people using my tongue words as the ‘primer’, they have always come through in their own unique, distinctive language.

 

Here is one story where God showed me that Jesus is the baptiser in the Holy Spirit and not me.

 

This was Mark.  I first met him at Teen Challenge when he was 14 years old.  He came and asked for prayer to receive the gift of tongues.   I took him through the first three stages and made sure that he understood them, and then told him to speak out in tongues in Jesus Name.  Silence.   I then gave him several words in my tongue and he spoke them perfectly.  I told him to put the words together and speak without stopping.  Silence again.  I repeat the exercise.  Still silence.  He just couldn’t get from speaking my words to getting a fluent language of his own.  After twenty minutes of effort, I prayed and said to the Lord: “I give up.  You are the baptiser in the Holy Spirit.  I leave Mark to you.”  Straight away, Mark cried “Oh!” and started to speak a fluent language.   I learned an important language through that.  It doesn’t matter what technique is used, Jesus is the baptiser in the Holy Spirit, and nothing will happen until He does it.   But it was a dramatic way to teach me that.

 

Later on, Mark was an enthusiastic member of my discipleship group, and when he became a baker, he contributed very well to our fellowship teas with the items he made.

 

There was the time during a counseling session at a Transdenominational Conference that I prayed with a young woman for the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We had only got to stage two and had asked for the gift.  Suddenly she broke out in a beautiful tongues language right then.  We didn’t have to go any further.  That was one of the most enjoyable times of praying for people.

 

I feel sorry for those who don’t believe that tongues is not the initial evidence of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  They may go through the first three stages, and genuinely believe that they have the gift, but they miss out on the fun and joy of being able to exercise a spiritual gift.  It seems that they miss out on that extra assurance that God can give them.

 

It seems to me also that those who say they are baptized in the Spirit and don’t speak in tongues don’t show a lot of attributes that are different from those who have never received the gift.  They certainly don’t have the same vitality in the spirit as those who exercise the gift of tongues.   I believe that there is something about the gift of tongues that makes a believer ‘come alive’ in the Spirit like nothing else can.

 

After a while, we realized that we needed something more than just the teaching about spiritual gifts if we were going to continue our discipleship group.  It was at that stage that I discovered Winkie Pratney’s book Youth Aflame.   We decided to make this our text from then on.

 

Youth Aflame is a systemic discipleship manual that contains practical guidelines on how young people can live successful Christian lives.  It is also very useful in giving youth leaders and counselors good guidelines to help young people have good relationships with God.   My original copy has just ‘died’, but I have a photocopy of it to use for teaching.  Even though the manual was first printed in the early 1970s, the truth it contains is still just as relevant today.

 

I was in contact with Mr Pratney recently by email and asked him whether a new edition of Youth Aflame was going to be printed.  He said that a new edition was being planned but he didn’t know when it would come out.   I’m looking forward to buying another copy.

 

Our discipleship group went for two years, and we had no more than 20 people at any one meeting, but we ministered to more than 100 young people in our church over that period of time.   It finally finished when the church decided to change the home-group structure.

 

I applied to have my group recognized under the new structure, and it was approved by Ken Wright, because of the uniqueness of it.  But another elder (I won’t name him) telephoned all the members of my group and instructed them to attend the ‘official’ home groups.   I didn’t think that was a very nice thing for him to do, knowing that I had permission to continue with my group.  I guess that he didn’t agree with Ken’s decision and decided to act on his own initiative.  I think that this is a case of the abuse of power in getting his own way at the expense of others.  This sort of thing happened sometimes at Christian Centre, and it was a factor in its demise in 1982.

 

This has started as my personal testimony of how God has led me through my life.  It is starting to contain historical elements, as I remember them.  You must remember that the historical parts of this book are not presented as objective fact.  They are my subjective memories of events that affected me at the time.  Others in the same church, and even in my discipleship group might see the whole thing from a different perspective.

 

In 1977, Teen Challenge started showing that it was starting to get past its use by date.   The Wellington and Auckland branches had closed down.  The leadership of the Palmerston North branch had gone through two ‘generations’.  The original leaders (1970) had gone on to become elders of Christian Centre.  One or two of those leaders disappeared to greener pastures elsewhere in the country.

 

For example, Jim Hurn went on to become Dean of Faith Bible College in Tauranga.  He was sorely missed at the time.   His departure to Faith Bible College influenced a few young people from Christian Centre to go and study there.  Terry was one of them.  He also went to the Philipines on a Youth With A Mission crusade.

 

During that time, certain criticisms arose over the conduct of some in Teen Challenge.  Pressure was put on me over this because Melanie was accused of making the bullets and me of firing them.   The problem was that some were appointed as leaders and they did not show the standard of professionalism and holiness that would have been expected of people in positions of authority over other people.

 

Also, Teen Challenge was no longer being invited to other churches to conduct services.  Possibly it was because it was no longer seen as interdenominational, and no longer had a real message for the new generation of young Christians.

 

People viewed Teen Challenge as merely the vehicle for getting young people into the Christian Centre.  To other churches in the city, this was unacceptable to them.  Not many new converts to Christ were made at that time.  New members of Christian Centre usually were recruited or ‘poached’ from other churches.

 

When I left the Open Door Mission and joined Christian Centre, Ken Wright received a telephone call from someone well known to me, accusing him of poaching me from their church.   Ken waited for a long time until he told me about that.

 

I also started to become disillusioned with Christian Centre because I was seeing that it was departing from the original principles that caused it to be set up in the first place.

 

They had a rule in Teen Challenge that no significant decisions were to be made unless there was unanimous consensus among the leadership.  This caused some individual pet projects to fail, but it preserved the integrity of Teen Challenge for as long as they had that rule.

 

In later times, that rule was ignored, and decisions were made in spite of objections from some of the leaders.  When Teen Challenge became the subsidiary of Christian Centre, many potential leaders left because they did not wish to be associated directly with that church.  I think that Teen Challenge was hurt by that.

 

In hindsight, I believe that Teen Challenge should have been left alone to continue as an interdenominational organization.  There should have been a policy drafted that the leadership should have an equal balance of leaders from the representative churches, and that it should not have been shifted to the Christian Centre premises.

 

Also, most of the young people who were leaders and badge-holders were being inducted into membership of Christian Centre.  There were no personnel from other city churches.  Other churches were setting up their own young people’s groups and Teen Challenge was no longer relevant to them.

 

The organization would have had to re-invent itself to cater for the new generation of young people.  The coffee bar culture has now changed to a night club culture.  This might have been possible for Teen Challenge if someone had the vision for it.   Unfortunately, I was still inexperienced and did not have the maturity to make anything like that happen.

 

Also, I was having problems of my own.

 

 

MY STORM AND STRESS YEARS 

 

 

I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with Christian Centre.  I always enjoyed it when Ken Wright was there and in charge of proceedings.  He become involved in Youth With A Mission, and spent an increasing amount of his time ministering overseas during 1976 and 1977.  This left the others in charge, and another pastor (I don't want to name him), being a dominant personality, took the role of ‘senior pastor’.

 

I disagreed with the increasing legalistic way he ran the church and related to those who did not reach his standards.  One glaring example of this is how he treated a particular friend of mine.  I wasn’t in the service where this took place, but after discussing things with my friend and others, I think I have a good impression of what took place.

 

My friend had issues with a personal relationship, and, without sharing personal details, went through a very stressful and emotional episode while trying to make sense of it.

 

He went to one of the pastors for advice.  I don’t know now what advice was given, but it did not resolve things for my friend.   Finally, after more weeks of confusion, he went to see another woman in the church community to try to get some answers.  This person was a close friend in the same sense that we all were.  There was no evidence of  inappropriate behaviour by him while visiting her.  But the mere fact of visiting a single woman while being involved with another prompted the pastor to publicly block my friend  from receiving Holy Communion at church the following Sunday.  This rebuke took place in front of the whole congregation.  It caused my friend to leave that church and never go back.

 

I think that the pastor was out of order because:

 

1.    There was no evidence of immoral behaviour from my friend with the other woman.  He visited her for counseling advice.

 

2.    He ignored the Scriptural instructions that Paul the Apostle gave when dealing with disciplinary issues.

a.     The pastor should have approached my friend on a personal basis first to put his concerns to him, and to allow him space to put things right.

b.    If my friend wouldn’t listen to him, a second session should have been arranged and the pastor should have taken another elder with him to put the concern once more to him.

c.     Only after it was clear that my friend was not going to comply with those measures it should have been taken to the church community.

 

3.    In my view, if my friend had not have listened to the person correcting him individually and not listened when that person repeated the correction with another elder as witness, my friend should have been required to attend an enquiry meeting with the elders and deacons to examine his case.

 

4.    Instead, the pastor ignored those principles which would have preserved my friend's dignity and would have helped to resolve the suffering he was going through, and significantly added to his sufferings by bringing the whole matter out in a public forum in a very legalistic way.

 

 

This was one of the reasons why I lost confidence that particular pastor's ministry and his leadership.

 

I have since discovered that the Christian Centre was strongly influenced by the Shepherding/Discipleship movement where individual Christians were required to come under a "covering" authority of a pastor, elder, or house-group leader.  This meant that most important decisions that an individual believer was to make had to have the approval of the "shepherd".  This caused many to have more of a dependence on the leaders of Christian Centre than on Christ Himself.  It was a very subtle counterfeit of genuine pastorship, a deception of the enemy to get people's dependence away from Christ and onto mortal men.  Nowhere in the Scriptures, if one is prepared to study them, does it give that level of authority to anyone.  The Shepherding/Discipleship movement is actually another form of pries-tcraft and happens in pyramid structure churches where everyone is accountable to some higher than themselves until you reach the "senior pastor" who is accountable to no-one.  This is a form of neo-popery, similar to the structure of the Roman Catholic Church.

 

True pastoral ministry is designed to strengthen the faith of believers and to point them to Christ so they are fully dependent on Christ.  Genuine pastors do not interfere with believers' personal lives.  They can give guidance and advice concerning moral matters that are clearly set out in Scripture, but even then, their role is advisory, not authoritative.  The pastor does not replace the Holy Spirit in a believer's life.  Nowhere in Scripture does it show that Jesus or the Apostles directed believers where they should fellowship, whose ministry they listened to, what employment they entered into, who they married, what clothes they wore, or anything else on that level.

 

I have discovered some very good books on toxic discipleship and the damage it can cause individual believers, and I am happy to provide that list of books to anyone who wishes to email me.

 

All this happened while Ken was away overseas with Youth With A Mission.  There were other conflicts as well.   When Ken arrived back into the church, the others tended to go back to behaving themselves.

 

Finally, in 1977, I decided that enough was enough, and that I had served my time at Christian Centre.  It was time to move on.

 

Melanie and I moved back to the Open Door Mission.  Perhaps the motive was that I wanted to recreate what I experienced before during the Hunts’ ministry.  It didn’t work out very well because Melanie was not able to cope with Rodney’s loud preaching.  She didn’t believe that preachers should preach that loud.  She seemed to miss the content of what he was saying.  It seemed that the outward manner of his preaching was more important to her than the words he was saying.

 

Also, I detected that there was a conflict between what Rodney was wanting for the church, and what other trustees were wanting.  A pastor was appointed to lead the fellowship.  He was a very experienced Pentecostal minister, but had themes in his ministry that others disagreed with.  This produced conflict among church members that did not exist when I was there under Brother Hunt’s pastorate.  After a year, I could see that I was not going to develop my ministry there and that I had the expectation that I was going to be a ‘pew sitter’ and nothing more.   In the middle of the night one night I knew that I didn’t want to go there any more.

 

The next Sunday night, I went to All Saints Anglican church.  I felt quite guilty about it, because ever since 1966 I had been conditioned to believe that the traditional denominations were so far behind the cutting edge of God’s work, that going there would do irreparable harm to my Christian life and ministry.

 

I sat through the traditional Anglican service, and then went out the back to the youth group meeting which started after the main service.  I was quite surprised to be welcomed enthusiastically and made to feel part of the group within five minutes of being there.

 

It was there that I met a friend whom I had previously met years before at Teen Challenge.  She was Glenda.   It was good to see someone I knew in a place where I had never been before.  It made me feel really at home.

 

Up to that time, I played the guitar in the church, but never felt that I had reached the standard of some of the other guitarists I had seen in Teen Challenge and Christian Centre.   I was invited to play the guitar on that youth service from the time I first joined it.

 

Later in the year, I was invited to a leadership conference at the Wellington Cathedral, and I ended up in a music workshop with William Southgate and his wife. They were such an inspiration to me that my guitar playing improved remarkably.  William had the gift of inspiring people with confidence in themselves and their ability in music.  He was also a committed and enthusiastic Christian.

 

Back in Palmerston North, I also met Amos Burrough and his wife.  Amos was a Methodist minister who was involved in different itinerate ministries around the district.   He was to feature in my life the next year.

 

Also in 1976, my first daughter Sonya was born.  This added a lot to our lives, plus more responsibility.

 

I continued with All Saints Church through the rest of the year, and taught a group of 11 year olds in Sunday School.   I also started an extra mural course of theology study through St John’s College in Auckland.  I did a total of five papers, and this helped me when I applied to do a university B.A. later on.

 

During 1981, my marriage started to fall apart.  Melanie started to go through bouts of depression.  It was probably post-natal depression, although it went on for four years after Sonya was born.  She suddenly started talking about having continuing doubts about our marriage from the first day we were married.  This was a great shock for me because for six years she behaved as if she was happily married.   So it seemed to me that she believed she was happily married one day, and then not happily married the next.

 

It would not help to go through all the ins and outs of the process, and I don’t feel like reliving it all through this book, so I will skip right to the point where she suddenly left home.

 

I had moved to a position with my job where I was relieving in offices around different parts of the region.  I happened to have a three-month assignment in Bulls, a small settlement about 30 km North of Palmerston North, which Melanie announced that she was leaving home.   I had to travel all the way back to Palmerston North because I was determined to be there when she left.

 

When her mother’s car disappeared down the road, I knew that I was not going to see her or my young daughter for a long time.  I was devastated.  This was not something I wanted to happen in my life.  It was not something I wanted for my young daughter either to be brought up without her father being there. 

 

As I saw the car going down the road, it seemed that the Lord stood beside me and said: “I am a very present help in time of trouble.”   I told Him that if there was a time that I really needed Him it was then, and that it would prove once and for all to me if my Christianity was actually real.

 

I can say now that the Lord did stand with me, and my Christianity is genuine and real.   It was the close of one of the chapters in my life and the start of a whole new experience which I didn’t expect to have to go through in my life.

 

Separation and divorce are such negative things to go through that I don’t wish to examine the aspects of that and how it affected my life, unless it has a direct bearing on my relationship with God.  I am describing my journey in the Spirit with God and how He worked with me to make my life meaningful. 

 

My wife’s motives for bringing an end to our marriage are her own business, and I am not going to speculate on what they could have been.  The reality is that she decided to live the rest of her life without me.  I had to cope with that and move on.

 

It took me two years to get to that point.

 

Amos, when I had just moved in to live at his house, told me that it would take anything up to seven years before I would finally get over what happened to me.  As it happened, he was right.

 

The first thing that I thought was that now I was separated, my ministry in the Holy Spirit had come to an end.  I had been conditioned to believe that God used men and women who were clean vessels.   I felt that because my marriage had failed, my ministry was over.

 

I remember a leader of Christian Centre telling me that in his opinion I would never be able to get married again.  I found that a very bleak prospect, and I had a long argument with God about that.  I felt that it was unfair of Him if I was unable to be remarried.  I didn’t choose to end my marriage.  My power of choice was taken away from me.  I could understand the consequence of no remarriage if I had been unfaithful to Melanie, but that wasn’t the case.  So then, why should I have to suffer the same consequence as someone who had committed adultery?

 

It was the first time that I had yelled and shouted at God.  I expected the big finger to come down and crush me, but that didn’t happen.  The answer came about two days later.

 

This was the answer:  Because the power of choice was taken out of my hands, God does not hold me accountable for the breakup of my marriage.  He does not make me responsible for the decisions of others.  Melanie will be accountable for the decisions she made that affected me.  The Holy Spirit will be working with her to sort out her motives for what she did.  I did not have to be concerned about that and that I could leave the matter on God’s desk for Him to deal with.  Even though there are references in the Bible concerning divorce and remarriage, they applied to people living at the time of Jesus when divorce and remarriage happened under quite different circumstances.  The Bible is a guide to how people could have fellowship with God without fear, shame or guilt.  It was never designed to be a law book to legislate on every situation a Christian has to encounter. There are things that God will take charge of Himself.  My responsibility to Him is that I keep myself living in His will.  John may give his opinions at any time, but they do not amount to the law of God.  We are not under law any more, but under grace.  God will lead me in the way He wants me to go, and when He gives up on Melanie in terms of our marriage, then He will bring someone else into my life at the appropriate time.

 

This showed me that we are often affected by the decisions of others.  I remember that the effective ministry of Brother Hunt was negatively affected by the selfish decisions of others in his church.   He had to contend with a major division in his church which seriously curtailed its effectiveness, not because Brother Hunt had done anything wrong, but because others decided to do what they wanted.  What they did might have been justifiable to them, but Brother Hunt was not accountable for their decisions.  This trouble happened long before I became associated with the Open Door Mission.

 

You see then, that things happen to us that are not our fault, yet can destroy our ministry for a time.  We have to cope with these events and seek God for new directions.   It is not healthy or spiritual to sit down and ruminate on what we might have done to contribute to the problems.   Don’t forget that there is a devil out there totally opposed to the will of God, and he will do anything to stop effective ministry from happening, even break up marriages.

 

Melanie and I had a very effective ministry in the Spirit for a number of years among a large group of young people.  Satan tried to stop it through the leaders of our own church.  When he couldn’t stop it that way, he worked to break up our partnership.   In the face of that we have to seek God for guidance and then move on.  There is no other way.

 

But I didn’t see that then.  I was grieving and angry for a long time.  But God worked me through it to the place of acceptance and new found happiness.

 

As if to confirm that He was still with me and supporting my ministry in the Spirit, He did something very special.

 

Because I was involved in amateur radio at the time, I fellowshipped with a fine Christian called Eddie Lowe.  He was very enthusiastic in the things of the Holy Spirit, and we attended a house group hosted by Peter Campbell, Percy’s brother, in the country near Shannon.   Peter knew about my ministry in the Spirit, and welcomed me into the fellowship.  We had some good times of ministry and fellowship.  It was there that Eddie produced a cassette tape of me teaching about the baptism in the Spirit.  I didn’t know that tape existed.

 

While I was staying at Peter’s home one week, I was invited to minister to a house group in Foxton.   It seemed that their normal speaker couldn’t make it, and Peter suggested that I went.   He warned me that they were fairly new to Pentecostal things and that I should take it easy with them.

 

I turned up at the venue after working in Bulls, and I was dressed in a short sleeve shirt and walk shorts.   One member of the group asked who was this school boy come to minister to us.  I must have been really young looking in those days.   The host was Ray Zinzli, who was the local car repair firm owner.

 

I started by ministering to them on Psalm 22.  After the ministry time, I put a chair in the middle of the room and invited anyone who needed prayer to sit on it and we would pray for that person.  It was then that I felt a strong urge to pray in tongues.  Before doing that, I asked the group if they would mind if I prayed out loud in tongues.  They allowed me to do that.  Ray told me afterward that he was surprised that a Pentecostal speaker would ask a group if he could speak in tongues.  That gave him a clue that I might be an unusual speaker.

 

I felt a sense of intensity about the tongue I was speaking and this gave me the indication that God was going to do something special with this group of people.  It seemed that God was telling me not to ask them to tell me what their needs were.  He would speak through my gift of prophecy what He wanted me to tell them.

 

As each person came for prayer I had a prophecy for them.  The prophecy came when I touched the person on the shoulder.   The group got a bit excited about these prophecies because I didn’t know anyone there yet the prophecies were totally accurate for each person. They really got excited when I prayed for one man to have a financial miracle.  I was not to know that this person was actually going through a financial crisis at the time!   We finally got finished at 1am.  It was an amazing time that started a very satisfying friendship with the Zinzli family and a group of new friends in the town of Foxton.

 

Also, it was God’s way of showing me that my ministry in the Spirit was not limited by my marriage circumstances.  This increased my faith a lot.

 

At one point, later on, while I was in Foxton I received a criticizing letter from my mother in law which said some hurtful things.   I went and had a good prayer time over that.  During that time the Holy Spirit took me right back through the principles of the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of Christ and how they affected me.  Then I had a minds-eye vision of the Lord sitting on His throne above all my circumstances, and He was supporting me!   This gave me such joy that I ran along the beach shouting and yahooing.  This was a great turning point in my life.

 

At one stage, the fellowship in Foxton wanted to make me their pastor.  I didn’t feel that I could do that.  I felt that they were putting me on a pedestal, so I prayed for God to show them that their idol had feet of clay.  In other words under the whitewash, I had my weaknesses and problems.

 

Soon after that I was transferred to Wellington with my job, and a series of circumstances there showed my weaknesses to that group, and many who zealously supported me, turned against me.  But my closest friends, including Ray, stood by me during that time.

 

It showed me that no matter where I would go, there would be legalistic people judging and criticizing others who did not live up to their unrealistic standards.  I don’t think that holiness is about keeping a set of rules or laws.  Holiness is to do with your attitude to Jesus Christ and His gospel.

 

At one stage, in 1982, the fellowship in Foxton grew to about 80 people, with some really hard Maori men coming to Christ.  The success of the fellowship attracted the Apostolic Church, who sent their ‘Apostle’ and Prophet down to  turn it into another one of their churches.   This was pushed on the group by one of the leadership.   Ray wasn’t one of those who wanted it.  After the fellowship became an Apostolic Church, the numbers dropped right back to under 30 people.  Becoming an Apostolic Church was a mistake.  I think that it happened because the particular leader who brought it in was going to the Apostolic minister’s training school and he had aspirations of being the pastor there when he qualified.   I don’t know what happened to that man.  The last I heard was that he might not even be in the ministry now.

 

I had six months of effective ministry among that group before I left the district to go to Wellington.  After that Ray took over the pastorate and effectively ministered.  That’s when the fellowship grew to over 80 people.

 

I was in the meeting when Pastor Worsfold, the head of the Apostolic church, and his prophet were there.  The prophet went and prophesied over many people in the congregation, and I prayed earnestly,”Don’t let that man come near me!”  And he didn’t!

 

At this point it would be fair to say that not every Apostolic Church had the negative effect on me that this situation had.  I remember in 1974 or 75, having fellowship with Pastor Belcher of the Palmerston North Apostolic Church.  He was very supportive and encouraged me to think about attending the Apostolic Training School and becoming an Apostolic minister. I thought about this very seriously until John Walton put the kybosh on it.

 

Also, just down the road from where Catherine and I lived in Hamilton in 1992, there was a small Apostolic Church.  Catherine and I went to a service there and really enjoyed it.  Catherine knew more people there than I did, because they were part of her neighborhood coffee group!

 

Also, Brother Hunt’s son, Ian was the pastor of the Palmerston North Apostolic church for a while, I think in the 1980s.   So, I think that it can’t have been that bad after all!   Possibly my view of it was negatively coloured by what happened in Foxton.   It shows that you can’t judge a whole denomination by just one church.

 

After that, I didn’t have much involvement in the fellowship.  I traveled back to Foxton a few times to stay with the Zinzli’s for the weekend, and enjoyed having fellowship with them.

 

Here was another example of this demonic "covering" doctrine.  The Foxton fellowship was a flourishing fellowship until some said it had to be under the "covering" of a recognised denomination authority.  Where does the Scripture teach that?  Nowhere.  It came from a demonic lying spirit, and when that fellowship believed the lie and went under the "covering" of the Apostolic Church, the Holy Spirit walked away from it, and the fellowship declined rapidly.  The Apostolic pastor installed in the fellowship believed in the Shepherding doctrine and required that every person come under his personal authority.  It did not work, and people left and went elsewhere, and quite rightly so.   I remember getting a word for that fellowship,  that "grievous wolves" would come in and hurt the flock.  This is exactly what happened when the Apostolic Church took over.

 

In Wellington, I made some unfortunate decisions concerning relationships which made me feel like stepping down from ministry for a while. I fellowshipped at a suburban Anglican church over that period.

 

 

MY ACADEMIC CHAPTER

 

 

At the end of 1982, I decided to go to Christchurch to do a university degree and to attend Teacher’s Training College.   This was another chapter in my Christian experience.

 

An interesting episode happened after I was accepted for Teacher’s College.  I was unanimously accepted by the selection board, and prepared to travel to Christchurch.  Then I got a letter stating that I couldn’t go there because I didn’t have university entrance, although I had provisional entry to university.  My application had to go to the Director General of Education to be accepted on his discretion.

 

I prayed about this and asked God why it happened.  He said that He deliberately held things up because He wanted to sort something out with me.  He needed me to know that if I went back to Wellington and resumed the relationship I was in, He wouldn’t support me;  but if I went to Christchurch in faith, He would be waiting for me there.   I said, “What choice do I have?  I can’t do anything except obey you.”   So off to Christchurch I went without knowing anyone there.

 

And God was waiting for me.

 

It is really difficult in a way when you travel to a new city and have to start from the beginning again.   In Palmerston North, I had built up relationships with other Christians and developed my ministry over eleven years.  Now I had left all that behind and was starting from base one in a new city.  I felt isolated and alone.

 

Also, it is important to say that we go through cycles in our lives.  We go through a cycle of training, of apprenticeship in the Lord.  Then we might go through a cycle of effective ministry.  Then things change, and you go into something else.  Nothing remains static.  At present, I am doing temporary office work after 18 years of teaching.  The thing about it is that I am enjoying it, and am reluctant to go back to the stress of teaching.  You see, things work in cycles.

 

When I got to Christchurch, I didn’t really know which church to attend.  I thought that I would continue with the Anglican Church, and was intending to find a good one to visit.  During my first weeks at university, I met a young lady whose parents ran a Christian home group near the hostel where I lived.  I started going there, and met a great group of young Christians who were to be my friends for the next four years.

 

They happened to attend Bryndwr Baptist church in the area, so my Baptist chapter was about to begin.

 

Because I was studying drama, I decided to set up a drama group in the church.  I wrote the plays and directed them.  We put on a play every two months at the morning service.  My violin playing had progressed to the point where I could play the hymns, and so I was involved in music and drama.

 

After a year of attending the church I was made a deacon, and took part in the leadership of the church.

 

Because of my loneliness, I fell in love with each of the young ladies one by one, but my experience and maturity kept me out of trouble (mostly).  There were episodes where I did make mistakes and got into relationships which were inappropriate for me, but there is no point in detailing them here because there is nothing about them that would add any virtue to anyone’s Christian experience.  Needless to say that I didn’t propose to any of them, so that saved me from embarrassing situations like that!

 

It probably would have been better if I had went back to a Pentecostal church, because that was where my foundations were, and I would have been better assisted to continue living according to God’s standards,  but the hurts I felt at that time prevented me from happily doing that.

 

It is very interesting that in my fourth year of living in Christchurch I went along to several Sunday evening services at Spreydon Baptist Church.  That church was Charismatic, not unlike Awapuni Baptist Church in days gone by.  The minister there was Murray Robertson.   The services I attended were not contiguous, but haphazard.  I attended five I think over a period of time.  The amazing fact about this was that Murray was preaching in each service, and the subjects of his sermons were to do with the Pentecostal church and the hurts that people received through some of the things that happened.  It felt like that Murray was preaching directly at me.  In fact, he was preaching in the Spirit, and the Spirit was directing his words at me.   Those five sermons brought about a complete healing of my heart toward the Pentecostal church, to the degree where I could go to one and enjoy the fellowship.

 

This healing was finally consummated when I went on a spiritual pilgrimage from Hastings to Palmerston North in 1995.   I visited my old Christian friends and renewed our fellowship.  I even telephoned John Walton and had a reconciliation with him after all those years.  It was a very satisfying experience for me at that time.

 

It was there that I heard that Ken Wright had passed away with cancer.  He was a great loss to his family and to the church family as well.  He would be counted as one of New Zealand’s foremost ministries, missed by ministers, elders and key people all over the country.   He was a man of God and a father to many, including me.  My disappointment was that I never got another chance to fellowship with him and tell him what God had done for me at Spreydon church.  He would have been thrilled at God’s grace toward me.

 

The last time I fellowshipped with Ken was in 1985, when I had a teaching practice time at a Palmerston North secondary school.  I visited The Palmerston North Christian Fellowship where he was an elder.  I assisted in praying for people, and he supported me in it.   I tended to laugh when people got touched by God, and he said that this happened to me when God was around me.  I treasured that remark.   I feel very privileged that God brought me into the lives and ministries of men of God like Ken Wright.

 

It seemed that the four years I spent in Christchurch were a ‘marking time’ period in my spiritual life.  This was mainly due to concentration on my university studies and my teacher training.   I was not involved very much in the ministry of the Holy Spirit while I was there.  But I continued in the life of the church in other areas which were good for me.

 

My first teaching position was situated in Dunedin, and I attended the Caversham Baptist Church.  I taught Sunday School, and was involved in a Christian singles fellowship group.  Again, I didn’t involve myself in the ministry of the Spirit at that church.  The Pastor, Roly Scott, knew about Pentecostal things, and was sympathetic to them, but chose to remain ‘on the fence’ as it were for the sake of the unity of his church.   I understood his position and found him a great and supportive friend.  We had many good discussions about Christian life and faith.

 

I carried on in that church for three years, until I gained another teaching position in Hamilton.    It was while I was at Caversham Baptist that I met the person whom I was going to marry.  Interestingly enough, it was six years after my first marriage breakup that I finally found someone else whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.  My second wife is a very private person and therefore out of respect for her I won’t be sharing any details that might embarrass her.

 

But meeting her and coming to a mutual understanding of how we felt about each other was a significant event in both our lives.  When I had arrived in Dunedin to take up my first teaching job, I decided that I was going to give myself to my new career and not try to form relationships with women.   I had too many negative experiences in Christchurch and so I felt it was better to forget about trying to find a partner for a while.

 

The reason why I got into so many scrapes concerning women while I was in Christchurch was because I was trying to meet my own needs in my own way.  God reminded me of that time after time.  He knew that it was a battle for me, and He promised to see me through it.  There were times when He had to carry me, and other times when He had to bail me out of difficult situations.

 

Obtaining God’s forgiveness is easy, because He is full of love and grace toward us.   He sent Jesus to died for us even while we were still sinners and rebellious against Him.   It was His Holy Spirit who led us and drew us to Jesus.  It was the Holy Spirit who put Max and I together on that Cook Strait ferry so many years ago, when I wasn’t looking for a Christian experience.   So, when we fall, He forgives us so we can get up and keep going.

 

The hard part is forgiving ourselves.  We tend to remember our sins long after we have asked God to forgive and cleanse us.  He cleanses us from the sin as soon as we ask forgiveness.  But we sometimes continue on in guilt, maybe to punish ourselves for our shortcomings and failures.  Also, there are plenty of legalistic Christians who will remind us of our past sins and continue to punish us through condemnation, gossip, and denial of our place of ministry, long after God has given us complete forgiveness and freedom to be used of Him again.

 

There is an erroneous doctrine in many fellowships that when a person falls from grace, he can never be used of God in the same way again.  This doctrine has caused many good men and women to lose their faith in the face of their failures, and withdraw from ministry forever.  It shouldn’t be like that.   It is the judgers and condemners in the fellowship who should be withdrawn from ministry until they repent of their pride and arrogance before God. 

 

It is true that some of the sins are catastrophic in our eyes.  For example, and elder of a church was caught one night in a public toilet propositioning other men.  It transpired that he had homosexual leanings, even though he was supposedly happily married.   The case was dragged out in front of the whole church, and the impression we got was that this man could never be an elder again.

 

In my opinion, no-one has the authority to say a man cannot be a leader in the Christian faith again after a fall from grace.  Only God has that authority.  If the man genuinely repents and turns away from the sin, there is no reason under heaven why that man could not be a church leader again.

 

The problem is, of course, the legalism and intolerance of many Christians who would refuse to accept the man’s ministry because he fell from grace.  However, they forget that the man in question is no different to them in the eyes of God.  We are all sinners saved by grace.  There are no small sins and no big sins.  A person who steals a pen from his employer’s stationery cabinet is just as accountable to God as a person who commits adultery.  There is no difference.  Sin is sin no matter how big or small it is.

 

This is what I laboured with after my time in Christchurch.  I fell from grace a few times, and God forgave me and bailed me out, yet it took such a long time to forgive myself enough to consider myself qualified for leadership and ministry.  But God is loving and patient.   He was leading me back to effectiveness and I would get there in his time.

 

I want to make another point at this time.  Many Christians perceive divorce and remarriage as the unforgiveable sin.  The Bible talks about the unforgiveable sin, and it is not that.   There are Christian groups who will not accept a preacher who is divorced and remarried, nor will they admit that person into leadership.

 

I disagree with their attitude.  Who are they to overrule the grace of God?  I think that their legalism and arrogance puts them in a worse place with Him than the person they are condemning!

 

I believe that there is always a way back for those who have grievously sinned and then repented.  It may take time, because there may have been attitudes and habit patterns that lead up to the sinning.  Perhaps it takes the time to unravel the antecedent factors, so the person, once put right with God, does not revert to those old habits.  But at no stage should a person’s journey back to effectiveness and leadership be hindered or blocked by intolerant and arrogant people.

 

I had tried to meet my own need for a partner in my own way. I think that God held me back for the six years because He knew that I needed healing from a very traumatic experience;  and also I believe that He worked with Melanie for a long time as well, trying to make her see that He could make things right for her if she was to respond to His leading and seek reconciliation again.  Of course once the initial trust has been broken, it takes a deep work of the Holy Spirit to restore things back the way they were;  but if a couple is prepared to trust and obey God and respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in them, the task is quite possible.

 

It was quite obvious that Melanie had made a strong decision not to seek reconciliation, and eventually she remarried.   Maybe the final decision was made at the time I met Catherine, my second wife.  I don’t know.

 

Here’s what happened:

 

 

A NEW BEGINNING 

 

 

I was boarding with Roly Scott and his wife in Dunedin, and one night they felt that there could be a match between church secretary and me.  The church secretary was an attractive, single woman in her thirties.  To achieve their ends, the Scotts invited her to tea one night, and then to lunch the following day, hoping that a spark would ignite between her and me.

 

What happened the next day was that Catherine was invited to lunch as well, and the spark ignited between her and me, and things went on from there.  

 

It was quite unexpected, but our feelings for each other were mutual.  As soon as we came to that understanding, she went on a pre-booked holiday to Australia for five weeks.  That gave me plenty of time to pray and meditate on whether I was making the right decision.   I missed her like crazy.  By the time she returned from holiday, I knew that she was the one for me.   I had not felt that about anyone since my feelings for Melanie.   It was very clear and definite.

 

Roly acknowledged that it was a good relationship.  Given Catherine’s circumstances, he felt that I was a God-send to her.   We had a long courtship over the three years, and we were married six days before we left Dunedin and took up my new teaching position in Hamilton.

 

We have been married for seventeen years now, and we are still strongly committed to each other.  We have been through many challenging situations, but have worked together to find the solutions for the difficulties we have faced.  Catherine is a very loyal person, and has a strong sense of ethics in the way she lives.  I’m glad that she’s my partner now.

 

When we got to Hamilton, we both found that Caversham Baptist was a hard act to follow.  We didn’t hurry into joining another church.  Catherine had lived in Dunedin all her life until now and didn’t feel confident about going out and joining another group of people she didn’t know.  I didn’t want to go swanning off and leaving her at home on her own.

 

When our daughter, Aimee was born, this kept her at home even more.

 

So, I didn’t join any church while in Hamilton, but centred my life around my teaching job and home.  But I never forgot the Lord, and kept praying and studying His Word.

 

But I must say, that it is quite difficult to live a victorious Christian life without the regular fellowship of other Christians.   God was there of course giving us the opportunity to be involved with a fellowship.  We met a great couple in our neighborhood who attended the Assembly of God church, and we knew many people who were part of the local Apostolic church.  So we could have gone to church if we wanted to.   Those years in Hamilton might have been easier if we had attended one of those churches.  Going to the Assembly of God church might have been another step in getting me back into the things of the Spirit, and might have been a catalyst in getting Catherine more committed to the faith.  But we made our decisions and had to live by them.

 

God is always there to arrange circumstances to get us back to a more perfect life with him.  After three years in Hamilton, I was made redundant from my teaching positions, and spent the next two years in different places in the country.  I didn’t go to any churches in those places either.

 

One good thing that happened while we were in Hastings for a year, and that was meeting my eldest daughter Sonya again after all the years apart.  She was grown up and working as a hairdresser in Napier.  We had great times getting to know each other again.    When I took up a teaching position in Auckland, she came up and lived there for a year while she went to hairdressing academy, so we had another great year with her.  God is in the business of reconciling people.

 

It is amazing that through the different circumstances in life, each event has a purpose.  We don’t see it at the time, but God has a purpose in everything we do.  Nothing happens without a reason for it happening.  We don’t see the reason sometimes when the event is happening to us, but often we discover the reasons later on.  This brings the blessing of God’s faithfulness, even though the event may have been negative.

 

When I took up a teaching job in Auckland, Catherine put her foot down and said that we were not going to move house any more.  Here we are, and here we are going to stay!  Knowing that we were here for the long haul, I decided that I wanted to start going back to church.  Catherine didn’t really want that for herself, but she was not going to stop me doing what I felt I needed to do.

 

So, I walked five minutes down the road to St Aidan’s Presbyterian Church in Conifer Grove.  It was quite strange walking into the church, because I didn’t know what to expect.  The church was fairly traditional, yet evangelical.  They didn’t know much about the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues.  They tended to shy away from things that had the element of the unknown in them.

 

I didn’t make any secret of the fact that I had a Pentecostal background, but I assured them that I was not going to preach any of those principles at them, but just settle down and enjoy the ministry and pastoral care.  Immediately, I was grabbed for the choir, and then for the Sunday School, so, instead of pew sitting, I was put into service more or less straight away.

 

It took me a while to really get to know the people in the church.  I started there in 1996, and it is now 2005.  I have been there for nine years!   It doesn’t seem that long.   I was accepted into membership soon after I knew that this was the church for me.  I was ordained an elder of the Presbyterian Church about five years ago, in 2002.

 

I have had many opportunities to preach in the church, and have been given the freedom to preach anything that God has laid upon my heart to preach.  My ministry has been warmly accepted by the congregation.  I have preached mainly on forgiveness and assurance, and having faith in God that He loves us and supports us through life.  I have emphasized the Cross of Christ, salvation, and have encouraged people to accept Christ as Saviour as the way to become truly Christian.

 

I have had the opportunity to speak to two people in the church concerning the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit, and have seen both come through into the gift of tongues.  One or two have asked me about it, and I have been fairly low key, because I don’t want to be the cause of division in that church.  I believe that God knows my heart, and I have prayed that He will give me opportunities to speak to people about the ministry of the Spirit.  But it has to be in His time and in His way.  The old practice of marching into denominational churches with the message of the baptism in the Spirit is superseded by a new attitude of tolerance, love, grace and understanding.  God will do His work in His time.  All we have to be is to be open, and aware of what God is doing in our fellowships.

 

Just before I became and elder, we had Alpha Courses in our church.  When it came to the part about the gift of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts, I offered myself as a resource person in case anyone wanted to find out more about it.  Some ladies did want to know more, and I set about telling them, but the pastor’s wife was present and she hindered things by saying things that discouraged us from going too much further into it.  I think that she was frightened of the unknown.  The other ladies were quite enthusiastic about knowing more, but they felt restrained by the pastor’s wife’s attitude.  Quite unfortunate really.

 

I don’t think St Aidan’s is ready for a Charismatic revival.   It is quite obvious that it needs something more than what it presently has, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit has the tools to really enhance the quality of the worship and the ministry.  But it is the fear of the unknown – that something weird and inappropriate might happen – that stops people from wanting to find out more and to enter into that area of Christian life and worship.

 

I don’t think that the present day Pentecostal church is setting a very good example to the traditional denominations concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit.   Things are not the same as they were when I first became a Christian.  What attracted me to the Pentecostal church was the joy and friendliness of the people I encountered.  I was told that Christians accepted you for who you are, not what you look like, or your upbringing or background.  I needed to hear that, because I had a very low self-esteem at the time.  The group of Christians at Lower Hutt Assembly of God did accept me for who I was, and this was what kept me going there.

 

The other thing that I observed was that people sang with joy and enthusiasm without having to be hyped up.  The joy came from within their hearts.  The chorus leader led the chorus in a low key manner.  He didn’t have to whip the congregation up to get a desired effect.  Things happened because the Holy Spirit made them happen.

 

Also, there was a complete lack of legalism.  The dominant teaching about Christian living was that God saved us by grace, and He would change us by the power of the Holy Spirit into what He wanted us to be.  All we had to do was to be faithful to him in prayer, fellowship and reading of the Word.   No-one got up and legislated on how people should live their lives.

 

Things are quite different now.  Legalism is rife in the Pentecostal church.  There are lawgivers everywhere who dictate to others how they should live their life.  If you don’t subscribe to the articles of faith, written or unwritten, you are left to sit in a pew, left out in the cold.

 

Instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to generate joy in the hearts of people, there are music groups and song leaders whose job it is to ‘prepare’ the people for worship.  If there is a lack of enthusiasm, the crowd is ‘whipped up’ to achieve the desired atmosphere.  Sometimes a worship time can go on for over an hour to get the congregation to the required emotional level before the ministry can take place.

 

These days you can go through the doors of many Pentecostal churches and find that very few people will talk to you.  Many have a ‘stand offish’ attitude to strangers.  Some will not open themselves to you unless you have ‘proved yourself’ to them in some way.   These were never the attitudes in the early days of the Pentecostal Church.

 

It is no wonder to me that many Pentecostal churches are finding it difficult to get people converted to Christ;  and finding it even more difficult to keep them in the faith.  Churches are always looking for new techniques and methods to reach the ‘unchurched’ but are failing.  Some have become so frustrated and discouraged that they have given up trying to get people to accept Christ, and have turned their churches into clubs for existing Christians.  It is no wonder that the membership of traditional churches is declining.  They are no more than Christian ‘clubs’ in most instances, and without the input of new converts to Christ, their aging congregations are diminishing as the oldies die off.

 

The values of the early Pentecostal Church are fading away, along with the older saints of God who held them precious to themselves.  The younger generation do not listen to the old ones any more.  They are too interested in the froth and bubble and ear tickling sermons that make them feel good.

 

It would be rare to experience a sovereign move of God in the Pentecostal Church today.  The church is too dominated by men with great ideas.  They cannot keep out of God’s way so He can move the way He wants to.  We need more ‘Brother Haigs’ who know when to get out of God’s way so He can move.

 

We need a revival of the true ministry of the Holy Spirit, to show our young people what God can really do if given the chance.  What we have at the moment, is the ‘Macdonalds’ version of the Holy Spirit ministry, not substantial enough to sufficiently feed people in the Spirit.  Christians today are starving for the reality of God.  What they are getting in too many churches is the ‘junk food’ of cheap emotion, hollow laugher and man oriented principles roughly based on the Word of God.

 

The reality is, that if a man of God got up and preached the Word of God in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in many of our Pentecostal churches, he would be treated as someone who is old fashioned and quaint.   The old landmarks of the Holy Spirit ministry are being removed.

 

God is really there, and He is moving among people who love him and are prepared to let Him have His way.   We need ears to hear and eyes to see where He is moving, and move along with Him.

 

Now I have to be fair after my remarks about the Pentecostal Church.  What I have said are generalizations based on my experiences over the last 20 years, and what I have felt in my heart as I have prayed about it.

 

Just as the moves of God that I witnessed at Foxton and Hastings under the ministry of Brother Hunt were known about only among the hundred or so who attended the meetings, so there may be similar events happening right through the country where faithful Christians are praying and obeying Him. 

 

I would guess that hundreds, perhaps thousands of faithful, genuine Christians in the Wellington area were completely unaware of the things that were happening in the Lower Hutt Assembly of God.

 

Also, many genuine Christians would be unaware of the tools of the Spirit that are available to them, because no-one has ever gone and told them about what God can do for them.  How will they hear without a preacher?   And how can someone preach unless they are sent?  You will find those words in the Book of Romans.  What we need then are more teachers who will teach the truths of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

 

I guess that this testimony is part of what God is stirring up in me:  to use my computer and typing skills to do my part to broadcast the message that the Holy Spirit is available to equip us with spiritual gifts to make our ministry in Christ powerful and effective to win lost souls for Him.

 

Presently, I am content to continue as an elder of St Aidan’s church.  I sense that God wants me to continue having that church as my spiritual home, even though there is no expectation that I will ever be used in the ministry of the Holy Spirit there.   I am remaining there in faith, because that’s what God has told me to do.  I don’t know all the reasons for that, and I don’t think that I need to know at this stage.

 

But I know that I am being stirred up in my heart to broadcast the message that the Holy Spirit is here to do God’s work, and this testimony has been a strong reminder of where my foundations are.  I don’t need my church to become Pentecostal to move with God into getting people saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Ken Wright was a Presbyterian elder, and he spearheaded the Teen Challenge movement in New Zealand which got a lot of people saved and filled with the Spirit, and then turned them into evangelists to save others.   He heard the voice of God and did His will without leaving his spiritual home.  (In later years, because of the extraordinary revival that took place at Awapuni Baptist church in Palmerston North, he was asked to go and provide spiritual oversight there.  God gave him leave to do that.)

 

So where am I going to go from here?   I don’t think that my journey is over.  Every new day brings something fresh.  A new revelation, a new idea, a new insight into the nature of God.  God has not finished with us yet.

 

 

UPDATE (2007)

 

 

Two years after completing my testimony, I am editing it and taking the extra line spaces out so people can read it more easily.  Through this, I have made some new friends on a Christian forum site called Christian Forums.   This forum is an excellent way of sharing and ministering, and I have enjoyed sharing the things that God has shown me over the years and recently as He has guided me through the issues that affect me.

 

Since writing my testimony I have given up school teaching, and I was employed as a Court Registrar with the Family Court in Manukau, Auckland.  I had 18 months there, and now have a new job as a Victims Advisor with the District Court in the same building.

 

St Aidan's lost its minister 18 months ago, and I was given the task of providing the visiting preachers each Sunday.   I was able to slot times in for myself to preach as well. 

 

I have also been attending monthly Prophetic Equipping days, run by the Gospel Faith Messenger Ministry, headed up by Rodney Francis (remember him in my testimony?).  This has provided a strong link to the Pentecostal side of my faith.  I have been able to bring some of the principles I have learned there back to my own church.   I have been able to pray for three people for healing, and was able to give a prophetic word to another person who was prayed for in one of our meetings.   I was surprised that the people there were able to accept it.  I think it is because I went about it in a very low key way without a lot of fanfare.

 

So life goes on.   I had the pleasure of taking part in Aimee's baptism at the Harvest Church (AOG) in Papakura where I was given leave to give a tongues message and interpretation over her when she came out of the water.  I also laid hands on her head and imparted an Abrahamic blessing - that she would receive a double portion of all the good things that God had given me over the years.   It was a one-in-a-lifetime experience, and I feel honoured before God that I was able to be a part of it.

 

I think that my testimony proves that when the Holy Spirit comes into a person's life, He is there through all the ups and downs that happen over the years.   I have now got beyond 40 years.   The 40 year point was on 30 October 2006, and at the time of writing it is now May 2007.    The ministry of the Holy Spirit and the progressive sanctification we all are going through is a continuing work.    I am going to be 60 years old in October, and I can agree with the Psalmist when he says:

 

(Update 2011)

 

 

Since the last update, I received a prophecy at a GFM equipping day, that I was going to go through a shaking time where my dependence on God would become stronger.  This happened in 2008/2009 through challenges involving my daughter Aimee.  I'm not going to share the details because Aimee would not want things concerning her to be made public.  But I can tell you that I prayed more in tongues over that time than I have for quite a number of years before.  But God is good, and He has brought us all quite a way through those challenges and we are going up the other side of the valley.

 

There is an on-going reluctance of people at St Aidan's to accept the things of the Spirit, and after being made treasurer of the church, I can see that our finances are decreasing.  I believe that the reason for this is that the church is not fulfilling the commission of Christ to preach the Gospel, heal the sick and cast out demons.    I am getting more and more opportunities to minister in churches around the Auckland area, as well as becoming the Auckland coordinator for the Auckland Prophetic Days.  It may very well be that God may lead me away from St Aidan's in the forseeable future, and I am waiting on God for His Word in that respect.

 

It seems that the Lord has decided that I need a good training course in healing, spiritual warfare, church growth, and the prophetic.  Extra funds have been provided for me to go to Evermore Books in Ellis Avenue (Auckland) to buy a whole range of books of modern authors in these areas.  These have been a great blessing to me.

 

I went to Huntly and preached in the Presbyterian/Methodist church there on healing for the first time in my life.  It was when I discovered that God is sovereign and He is the one who decides whether a person is healed or not.  All He wants me to do is to preach on healing and pray for the sick whenever there is an opportunity.  This released me from the obligation to get the right results.  As a result of my ministry at Huntly, I spent an hour and a half praying for people after the service.  It was a blessing to me, and it showed me that when the preaching is in line with God's will, hungry people respond and are ministered to.

 

So it seems that God is not finished with me yet!

 

 

Update 2020

 

It has been a number of years since I last updated my story, and a number of developments have taken place.   I resigned my leadership role in the Conifer Grove Presbyterian church, and moved from Auckland to Christchurch.  I found a church down the road – a Union (Presbyterian/Methodist) church and was welcomed by the small congregation.  I actually increased the male membership by 100%!   Some may wonder why I would join such a small group where there is little opportunity to do the things I did before.  But contributing to a group is more important than being a leech, getting what you can out of it.   As I get better known among the cluster of Union churches in the Eastern Christchurch region I might get opportunities to preach, but I am leaving that to the Lord.

 

I decided to complete a Master of Divinity through Nations University, an online Bible college based in New Orleans, and found it was just a wonderful three year journey, and in the last year of my study, the college became accredited, so I ended up with an accredited M.Div. to add to my M.A.   But it is not the diploma on the wall that counts for me, but the journey getting there.

 

Also, in 2014, after 22 years of what I though was a good rapport with my eldest daughter, she suddenly informed me by letter that I had never apologised for not being around during her childhood and wanted no further contact with me.  That was sad, but there was nothing much I could do about that.  Actually it was history repeating itself, because her mother did the same thing to me – dropping a bombshell on me after eight years of what I thought was happy marriage – that she wasn’t happy after all, and never was.   Frankly, I can’t understand how a person can pretend that everything is okay for 22 years, and then suddenly decide that everything isn’t okay.  But then, as my other daughter explained to me, a person who has been brought up with stories from a family who were hostile to me and thought that I was a sorry loser in life, it is very hard to undo the attitudes that result from that.  All I can conclude is that something triggered her changed attitude, and I have had to just accept it.   What was encouraging to me was that my younger daughter told her that she was going to be loyal to me, and that I was a better father than what my older daughter thought I might be.

 

So, I haven’t made any moves to become involved in anything other than the Sunday morning service at church, and have been quite happy with quietly settling into our new home in New Brighton in Christchurch.   I have Dream Speak on my iPad, and have downloaded the works of Calvin, John Owen, and others to have the computer read them to me in a very pleasant British voice called “Brian”.   It is good to soak myself in good teaching.   I have also watched many video messages by Dave Hunt and John MacArthur, who are excellent Bible teachers.   John Macarthur is good for Bible teaching, as long as I ignore his Cessationist views;  but he, along with Dave Hunt, shows many of the faults of the Word of Faith prosperity and guaranteed healing preachers, and the invasion of the occult, New Age, and pagan Hindu mind-control positive thinking and confession teaching.

 

I have learned that using faith and prayer as forces in themselves to gain desired outcomes is sorcery and witchcraft, and are part of Hindu mind-control.   If we could use faith and prayer to achieve what we want, why would we need God?  In actual fact, faith and prayer are directed to God as requests to act according to His will for us in whatever situation we find ourselves in.  So, one can believe as hard as they like to achieve healing or wealth, but it will not come until God, in His sovereignty decides to either provide or not provide it.  Using faith and prayer as forces to achieve outcomes is nothing more than New Age humanism, paganism, and occult sorcery.

 

In many ways, I had to forsake some of the practices that I supported in my earlier Charismatic days, because when I searched the New Testament I couldn’t find them, and so, because I believe that “if it ain’t in the New Testament, it ain’t true”, then I rejected those ideas and practices that I could not find there.   But this doesn’t mean that I have become Cessationist.  Not at all.  I believe that the gifts of the Spirit are still to be manifested today, but in the right way according to the New Testament.   But the out-of-control “kundalini” manifestations of jerking, falling backwards, shaking, uncontrollable laughter, public babbling of tongues (contrary to Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14), bring the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements into disrepute, and are more likely to grieve the Holy Spirit than to show a sound testimony that the Holy Spirit is present and working amongst them.

 

I have started to upload videos to Youtube containing personal memories and my views on what is the true gospel of Christ, and how the Holy Spirit works in today’s church.

 

So, I am relaxed and happy in my retirement, and waiting on the Lord to see what He has next for me.

 

I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendents begging bread.  (Psalm 37:25)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


[1] Sorry.  I have written sections where I have preached a sermon.  It just comes out of me.

[2] Hey, if you are not from New Zealand and don’t know where these places are, get a NZ map and look them up.  Then it will all make sense to you.

[3] Incidentally, that particular fellow went on to graduate from the Assembly of God Bible college and become a pastor in a small town church.

[4] The way the Lord led me into the gift of tongues was significant in forming the technique I used to minister to others to receive the gift.

[5] Maire went to be with the Lord in the 1990s.

[6] He had all the potential to be a leading man of God in the New Zealand Christian scene, but chose to go off on a tangent that blighted his ministry.  It is really sad when good men make mistakes like that.  I hope that he has since seen the errors of his ways and returned back to where God wants him to be.

[7] When I went back to Wellington in 1982, I discovered that the premises was then a strip club.  It shows that where Christianity recedes, the devil comes in and occupies the space.

[8] I’m not sure about where it happened. I think it was in Wellington.

[9] They are getting a copy of this so they know what I have written about them.

[10] It is interesting to note that my first marriage lasted only eight years.  Perhaps if I had chosen Amy against all advice, I might have got more mileage out of her (chuckling to myself).

[11] I haven’t been in contact with anyone in Palmerston North in recent years.  I hope that what I said is still true.



[1] Frank Houston has since been discredited because of allegations made against him for historic abuse of a young man.  However, since he is now deceased, he is not around to defend himself.

[2] I have now forsaken Olson’s theology and accepted that God exists out of our concept of time.  Because He is in eternity, He views the past, present, and future all at once according to His foreknowledge, although He doesn’t determine the future in a way that denies individual free choice;  yet there are times when He has foretold what is going to happen and arranges circumstances to ensure that these things do happen.

[3] 2020:  John’s ministry has stood the test of time, and although I don’t agree with all this theology and his style of church government, I fully respect him as a sound pastor and leader in the body of Christ.

[4] 2020:  Gordon has his own church in Brisbane Australia and a successful ministry.  He is a sound and well-respected pastor.

[5] I made contact with her around 2016 by email and it was good to have the exchange to know that life is still treating us both very well.

[6] She was another one whom I made contact in 2018.  She said that she was a victim of domestic violence, which was sad for her and it has made me wonder whether things would have turned out differently if we had have been married.



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