The following true story was so poignant, timely, necessary, and clearly illustrative of why I no longer partake of common expressions of organized charismatic religion, I asked my good friend, Bryan Corbin, to guest-blog for me.
A recent incident, involving a young woman that Corbins have known for years, served to reinforce Bryan’s and my belief that much of what we call “church” misses the heart of God completely.
This woman is in her mid-thirties, has three children (ages 9, 13, and 21) and is a heroin addict. For her, a childhood filled with abuse (at the hands of her father) led to motherhood at age thirteen, and adult years marked by pain and tragedy. The week before her visit to a local ministry, her 21 year-old son, who is also a heroin addict, had overdosed in front of her (and his sister) in the kitchen of their home. As blood poured from his mouth, his mother and sister furiously tried to get his heart to start beating again; after several minutes, a shallow pulse returned. Though his heart stopped multiple times on the way to the hospital, he miraculously survived the episode, and reached out to us for help. As we focused our attention on the restoration of this young man, his mother went to a local church for assistance with her overwhelming feelings of grief and despair.
The ministry that she chose is a well-attended Charismatic church, which specializes in deliverance ministry. At the point that she stumbled through the door (with her daughters in tow) she hadn’t slept for days, and was battling withdrawal symptoms. Though it was in the evening, the church was filled with people who had gathered to hear an associate pastor speak about his new book on deliverance. In what must have seemed to some as divine timing, her lengthy deliverance session eventually made its way to the platform, where everyone got to see and hear the powerful display of God’s authority over the demonic. Thunderous applause rang out as she eventually declared that God had set her free, and many a prophetic voice confirmed to her that her life would be forever changed.
However, as the congregation began to file out at the end of the service, the young woman found herself completely drained of energy. Drug withdrawal, combined with days of sleep deprivation, and hours of screaming, crying, and vomiting had finally taken their toll and she felt unable to make the 30-40 minute drive to their trailer in the next county. Though everyone seemed to have hugs and good wishes for her, no one was willing to take her and the girls in, or even spend the night with them at the church.
Faced with the choice of spending the night in a downtown parking lot (with the girls), or braving the dark and winding roads in her impaired condition, she chose the latter. By the grace of God, they made it home without incident. She later told me that there were parts of the trip that she could not recall, even as she was pulling up to her front door.
I cannot testify to the validity of the ministry that occurred that night, and I will admit that I have dear friends who are part of that church. But logic dictates that if you call something a peach tree, it ought to produce a peach at some point. In the three months that have followed that evening, this young woman has remained addicted, has lost custody of her two daughters, and has been admitted to a mental hospital with “suicidal intentions.”
When I spoke to her last week, she seemed to be doing a lot better. She told me that the hospital’s outpatient counseling program was really helping her, and that she was finding a meaningful connection with the other people in her therapy group. While I was pleased for her, I couldn’t help but be grieved by the thought that what she’d found in the world was seemingly more potent than what she’d experienced in the “church.” Maybe that’s not a fair assessment, but at the very least I’m guessing that if she needed a place to sleep for the night, one of the other recovering addicts would gladly let her crash on their couch.
Steve Crosby Postscript:
Saints, if we have not love, we are nothing. If people are little more than commodities for our gift expression, if we care so little for them as human beings apart from a “meeting” and the dynamics in a “meeting,” we betray Jesus. We have utterly lost our way.
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