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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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)
Sr. Pastor, Faith World