It's a Package Deal

By Francis Frangipane

In 1983 I was asked to serve as pastor of a faith church. I had been away from the ministry for three years and I had no idea what a “Faith” church was, except that faith, as a biblical concept, seemed fairly sound. So, I agreed.

I should add, this was not just any faith church, it was a satellite-dish-in-the-front-yard faith church. Painted across the top of the dish in huge, bright red letters were the words, "Jesus Is Lord."

I should also explain that my three year hiatus between pastorates was due, in part, to a deep sense of failure I was carrying. A member of my former church died from a virus that, within four days, left her completely paralyzed. I had been with her, fasting and praying during this time. But when she died on the fifth day, the helplessness I felt crushed my confidence in prayer. It was the most traumatic experience of my young ministry.

After she died, I didn't know how to acknowledge my inner devastation, so I pretended my faith was still functional, but it wasn't. For months I still prayed for the sick, outwardly continuing to mimic the behavior of one who really believed. But, inside, my secret cry was not a prayer of faith, but a whimper, "Please God, don't let my unbelief make their condition any worse!"

Satan truly exploited my experience with death. In fact, I was so beat up, I took responsibility for her dying. I felt like I had failed this woman, her family and God Himself. In my mind, I was one of the shepherds Ezekiel rebuked for not healing the sheep (Ezek. 34:4). The only honest thing to do was leave the ministry.

So, it wasn't long after the woman died that my family and I left Michigan and moved to a little farmhouse in Iowa. Yet, even though I wanted to return to the ministry, the call to return would have to come from the Lord's initiative.

When the time to serve finally came, a full three years had passed. I was returning to ministry as the pastor a faith church. Yet, due to my difficult experience, I still carried within me a stronghold of unbelief. Here I was, trying to teach and lead a faith church.

It was an awkward time. Each month the church would watch special teaching seminars via satellite. Sooner or later, it seemed, every faith teacher in America taught us their truths; each sermon was structured upon either the mountain-moving faith of Mark 11:23 or the prosperity faith of 3 John 1:2.

At first I tried to appear polite and supportive, but inwardly I was growing more and more troubled. I was convinced that much of what we were receiving was either false or unbalanced teaching. By the ninth month, I found myself particularly agitated by what seemed to be a complete misuse of a "faith" scripture.

In our dark sanctuary, illuminated only by the light of our projection television, I uttered to the Lord a quiet, but angry complaint, "Lord, these faith preachers are constantly misusing these verses!"

Like a lightning bolt, the Holy Spirit’s voice flashed in my mind. He said, "At least they're using them!"

It was true. Ever since the death of our friend--a period of several years--I did not use these verses when I taught. The fact was, I didn't even see them when I read the Bible. Because of my personal inner battle, I had passed over great promises from God without any response in my heart to what God said. Yet now, I realized how void of real faith my heart had become; my prayers were uttered without any anticipation of fulfillment.

But the Holy Spirit was not done with me. The next moment He spoke again, reproving my self-righteousness. He said, "I will always speak to you through imperfect people. The moment you become critical of them you will not receive what I have given them to give you."

That night I repented, not only of unbelief, but of pride and fault finding and, as I did, my faith was restored. During that following year, our church saw people healed of cancers, deaf ears and arthritis. Even now, I am thankful to God for what He gave me through the Faith Movement.

Through Imperfect People
The Lord used this situation to teach me a great secret: I have learned that much of my spiritual progress does not come directly from God, but through my ability to humble myself and hear Him speak through imperfect people. Are there excesses among faith teachers? Yes, some. But I have discovered that it pleases God to hide His wisdom in a variety of people and denominational perspectives. I know that the more I humble myself to others, the broader my understanding of God has actually become.

Some will ask, "Aren't you afraid of being deceived by imperfect teachers?" When a teacher is truly off the mark, I will question him directly. But God knows, there are enough Bible experts to keep us all on the straight and narrow - and I am thankful also for them! But, if we truly expect to find the kingdom of heaven, we must remember, Jesus said it is like a treasure hidden in a field. I have discovered a great find: the church is the field in which is hidden the treasure of Christ. If we want the treasure, we cannot be offended by the earth which surrounds it. It’s a package deal.