It’s a Package Deal

By Francis Frangipane
(En Español)

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. In my mind, I was a shepherd who failed to heal a sheep. I had failed this woman, her family and God Himself. The only honest thing to do was leave the ministry.

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. It was three years before I received the invitation from the pastor of the Faith church.

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

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 seem to be a complete distortion of a "faith" Scripture.

In our dark sanctuary, illuminated only by the light of our projection television, I quietly uttered an angry complaint, "Lord, these faith preachers are constantly misusing that verse!" Hardly was the thought out of my lips when, like a lightning bolt, the word of the Lord flashed into my mind. He said,

"At least they're using them!"

It was true. I had never taught from the verses these preachers were using. Until that moment I hadn't realized how void of real faith my heart had become. There was almost no expectancy in my voice of prayer.

In the very next moment the Holy Spirit spoke again to my heart. Reproving my self-righteousness, He said, "I will always speak to you through imperfect people. The moment you judge an imperfect person you simultaneously disqualify yourself from receiving from them."

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! I am thankful to God for what He restored to me through the faith movement.

Through Imperfect People

The Lord used this situation to teach me a great secret: much of my spiritual progress does not come directly from God. I have learned to humble my heart and hear Him speaking through imperfect people. It has pleased Him to hide His manifold wisdom in a variety of denominational perspectives. I know that the more I humble myself to others, the broader my understanding 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 privately. And if I know for certain that a minister is a charlatan, I will follow Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 18. But God knows, there are enough critics 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 treasure hidden in a field. I have discovered a great find: we are the field in which is hidden the treasure of Christ. If we want the treasure, we cannot be offended by the dirt that surrounds it. It’s a package deal.