by Trueman Hurley

I was just nineteen years old when I attended the general conference of the United Pentecostal Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I was a young, newly wed evangelist.  I was booked solid, preaching for some very prominent pastors in some very large churches.  I had my roots in the P.A. of J.C.  My closest friends were all conservative.  Everything in my world was right.  I was in love, fulfilling my call, obeying the voice of God, making new friends.  For me, it was the best of times.

I guess I was a little na´ve at this conference.  I noticed the stickers that some were slapping on the backs of preachers when they would hug their necks.  Stickers that read “Sovereign Ministry-Autonomous Church”.  That was the big issue of the day.  I thought it was fun.  Seeing these men trying to convince others they were right.  I said I was na´ve, and here is the proof:  I didn’t see the bigger picture.  I didn’t know the kind of spirit that was motivating these people.  After a day or so I began to hear remarks like this one, “If Bro. Burr doesn’t get elected, we’re going to pull out”.

Somehow, I just couldn’t grasp the gravity of what was happening.  Of course, because of those who influenced me at the time, I became caught up in the spirit of it all.  “The organization is backsliding.  The organization is going to become like the Assemblies of God.  Look at these outrageous hairstyles.  They’re going to start telling us what we can preach and what we can’t preach.  They’re going to start taking churches away from preachers.  We better get our man in or pull out and start our own”.  All this was being said at a general conference thirty nine years ago.

Well, unfortunately for this preacher, Bro. Burr didn’t get elected.  True to their word, these men agreed to meet in Louisiana in a few months.  During that meeting they asked those who believed in an autonomous church, and a sovereign ministry, high standards of holiness, great strong preaching to cross the line.  A few hundred did, and the Apostolic Ministers Fellowship (AMF) was born.

In the beginning, it would never be an organization.  It would just be a fellowship.  They would never have a general superintendent; they would have a twelve man council of elders.  This would be a great beacon of hope to all holiness minded people who didn’t want to follow the backslidings of the great organization (UPC).

The things we preached were good and straight.  Over the years, perhaps a little too straight.  Many in this group did not believe in “end-time revival”.  Most of us were totally focused on holiness standards.  We were more concerned with who had the “cleanest” church, not the most far-reaching church.   Evangelism wasn’t about reaching souls, it was about convincing other Pentecostals to become more holy.  Evangelists were not trained, skilled or even encouraged to win the lost, but rather to help solidify the teachings of the pastor, to strengthen those things which remained.  Most of those churches never grew any larger than they were before they pulled out of the U.P.C.  A large number of them have disappeared from the face of the earth, or have stayed the same over all these years.

I am writing this because I have watched many good preachers and way too many wonderful preachers’ wives and children completely leave the faith because they just couldn’t “measure up” or couldn’t understand why it was so important to fight the UPC.   The thing most of these preachers never realized is that while they focused on preaching it “straighter than the UPC”, they were unaware of the kind of sprits that were gripping them.  Their families wanted acceptance, fellowship and friends.  The preachers wanted distinction.  Many of them wanted power, position and authority.  Hopefully, my story will help some young preachers see the spirit behind all this, and have the boldness to stay focused on winning the lost and not be side-tracked with today’s issue.  It’s really NOT all about what kind of standard the preacher in the next town is preaching.  It IS all about me reaching the lost souls in my town, my county, my reach.

I spent about a dozen years with this group.  I attended conferences all over the US watching them beg the UPC preachers in the audience to come to the platform and let them burn their fellowship cards.  I watched as the leaders of this group would bid sometimes hundreds of dollars for the privilege of tearing up a UPC fellowship card.  I watched them shout and leap for joy over one preacher being pulled from the beggarly elements of the U.P.C.

Along with the others, I developed a proud spirit.  Proud that I hadn’t compromised the message of holiness like everybody else was doing.  Proud that our preachers were better than those still in bondage.  Proud that I belonged to the few, the very few who were going to roam heaven’s expanse. 

Of course, this little “fellowship” that was going to be inclusive rather than exclusive, became just the opposite.  It became an organization with all the normal hierarchy and so exclusive that I believe there remains only a handful today.  Just a few of the proud and bitter.  They’re so proud they still preach it like they did fifty years ago.  “If it was wrong then, it’s wrong today, bless God!”  They just never get around to asking, “Who was the first one to say it was wrong?”  What was that all about?

I was sitting in the balcony in Las Vegas during their general conference.  I heard the leaders verbally criticize each other from the pulpit.  I watched two preachers yank off their coats and charge toward the platform to “whip that old preacher” who was criticizing their missionary.  I watched as some stormed out in such haste they almost wrecked their motor home.  I watched and I cried.  For the first time, I could really see the bitterness that was forming in my own spirit.  Finally my pastor, Rev. Lee Davis, leaned over to me and said, “Son, if God will get me out of here, I’ll never come back to one of these meetings.”  I agreed with him.  We left and we never went back.

It was only after I got away from their influences that I could really see how twisted I was in my own spirit.  I told my wife later, if we hadn’t gotten away from them we would have been lost because of the bitterness toward everyone and everything that had formed in our spirits.

Leaving the A.M.F. was my salvation.  Although leaving them is almost as difficult as leaving the mafia.  According to them, I’ve gone charismatic.  According to them, I smoke, drink, and bar hop.  According to them I don’t believe fat meat’s greasy.  I was looking myself over the other day standing in front of a full length mirror and I observed the only difference in me now and then is that my sideburns are an inch longer, and my sleeves are about six inches shorter.  I do own a computer with internet access, a DVD player connected to a TV screen and a Harley Davidson motorcycle.  According to them, I’ve totally gone to the dogs.  There’s no way I can be saved.

My only answer to that is simply, “I’m not as good as some think I am and I’m not as bad as some think I am.”  The truth is, I don’t smoke, drink, do drugs, have any girl friends or any gay lovers, lie, steal or curse.  I’ve never defrauded a church, and when I did sell a church building, I put the money into another church, following the advice of my District Superintendent.  And the thing I’m most proud of is that I now love people.  Even those who disagree with me.  I have even learned to love the backsliders out of my church, and my ministry friends who have backslidden.  I love my superintendent, my presbyter, my neighbors, and a host of people who don’t agree with me on all points. 

I believe that any spirit that divides brethren and causes discord in the Kingdom is evil.  One of the seven abominable things God hates is one that sews discord among brethren. It has been my experience that those who want power and position are susceptible to evil spirits. 

Thirty nine years later I’m sitting in general conference in Tampa.  I hear the same things I’ve heard before.  “If the vote doesn’t go my way, I’m getting out.”   I heard that from both sides.  “If it’s approved, I’m leaving”.  “If it’s not approved, I’m leaving.”  I think both sides had a wrong spirit.  When I was a young boy and someone on the playground would say, “If you play that way, I’m going to take my marbles and go home.”  I didn’t like that spirit then and I don’t like it now.  If every one of these preachers making plans to go to Tulsa had to face this spirit in their churches next week, they would go to their pulpits and brand those threatening to leave the church with having bad spirits, and rebuke them.  But that’s the way it is with preachers.  It’s okay for us to have a divisive spirit and split districts and organizations.  But woe to the saint who has the same spirit and attempts the same thing.

Well, it’s history now.  The resolution was passed.  Some are happy, some are not.  But honestly, what’s changed?  I can honestly say, not one thing has changed for me.  I didn’t run out and buy anything, and I doubt if very many others did.  I’m still having church the same way I was.  I’m still preaching the same thing I always have.

Truth is, the UPC has always been a little liberal for me.  There have always been preachers who didn’t believe you had to speak in tongues to be saved.  We’ve always had preachers and their wives who cut and dye their hair.  Every year I see a little more jewelry.  And thousands of U.P.C. preachers and saints have been watching TV for years, even if they go to the internet to get it.  General Conference has always been a fashion show where the rich and famous come to show off their newest fashions.  But, they’ve never tried to convince me to be more liberal, or dis-fellowship me because I see things a little different.  They’ve never told me I couldn’t come on their platform unless I dye my hair or buy a ring.  And up until now, everybody going to Tulsa has been able to get along.

They were okay with Bro. Tenney going on TBN and promoting his latest book.  They were okay with Oral Roberts writing the forward for his book.  They didn’t go to Tulsa then, why now?

Nobody is going to make me go on TV.  Nobody is going to make me watch TV.  Nobody is going to take my license away if I don’t start preaching on TV.

So what’s changed?  Well, if you want to, and you can afford it, you can put a 30 second commercial on TV to let people know about your church or your revival, or your school.   Tsch, Tsch, Tsch, what a shame!

They say, “Well, being on TV is just going to make your people want to watch it.”  Please refer to the second paragraph above.  What’s changed?

Anyone who doesn’t believe the internet is more dangerous and ungodly than TV is, well…… Anyone who tells their people to get rid of their TV and buy a computer is, well…… 

And here’s another question for you.  In five years when every cell phone has complete internet and TV access, and all your saints are going to watch your church “live streaming” on the same device that show’s  “Law and Order” and “Debbie does Dallas” depending on which button they push, what are you going to do?  Those days are here, and there is no way to stop the flow of technology into our homes and automobiles.  We better be teaching our people morals, principles, and control, because you’re not going to be able to keep them from owning these devices.

Please, think long and hard about “living on Tulsa time”.  Please think about joining up with people whose ministry and mission is going to be to destroy the U.P.C. (even though they can’t see that now) Think about joining up with people who spend more time pointing out the problems of other oneness preachers and churches than they do winning souls.  Think about the bitterness your children and wives may pick up.  Protecting and saving your family is your first priority.  Think about the questions your saints are going to have.  Think about what your faithful saints are going to feel when they see you do what every other backslider has done as soon as they disagreed with you.

Take it from someone who’s already been to Tulsa.  Someone who almost stayed too long.  Someone who is happy to be in the U.P.C.  Even if something is happening I don’t totally agree with (and there have been many).  Someone who has learned that serving God is an individual affair, not an organizational affair.  I never did believe the U.P.C. was the “church” and I still don’t.   I cannot allow the U.P.C. or any other group to legislate my holiness or control my ministry.  I must answer to God for the things I live and preach.  For the way I lead my family.  For the spirit I possess.

Please understand, I have no position in the U.P.C.  I have no motivation to keep anyone in it.  I am not writing for that purpose.  It’s not about what I hope you stay in.  It is about what I hope you stay away from.  Above all things, keep your spirit clean and tender.  Preach the Truth.  Love souls.  Hate no one.

I beg of you, instead of sitting around trying to judge me and my motivation for writing this, examine yourself honestly.

 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.  - (1 John 4:1)

Be Blessed,

Trueman Hurley

Sr. Pastor, Faith World

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