Thanks again for taking time to read my deconversion story. I hope that something I said has helped. If not, maybe in the entries to come. Today I am going to write about one of the most difficult periods of my life: my first year out of the United Pentecostal Church.
My wife and I left the UPC and started attending a non-denominational charismatic church. But this was no ordinary non-denom: it used to be a UPC church. So the church was full of people in the same boat as us: people trying to come to terms with what they believed. Sure, there were new members that weren’t ex-UPC, but they were in the minority. Those of us who were ex-UPC had a varying array of beliefs. Some, like us, held to all the UPC doctrine, less the “dress codes.” Others had come to see the eisegesis and bad hermeneutics of the UPC, and had therefore moved away from its doctrine altogether. I could spend a lot of time discussing doctrine at this point and why it was so important, but that would probably bore most and confuse some. Suffice it to say that, even within this great new setting, the “us vs. them” attitude was alive and well.
It just so happened that the pastor resigned the day we started attending. In the coming weeks, another man would step in. It was with this man and his wife that my wife and I formed a bond. We became the closest of friends, and I threw myself into his vision and ministry. I played the drums, I taught bible classes, I did administrative work. While I wasn’t the assistant pastor, I am quite comfortable in saying I was his right-hand man.
One of the great things he did was persuade me to question what I believed and why. He introduced me to several great preachers and teachers, one of whom was, ironically, John MacArthur (if you’re unsure as to why that’s ironic, I’ll get to it next time). I was the first man to be ordained under his ministry (as with my last pastor). It seemed like we were destined to serve together. And then, a mere eight months after we arrived, it happened.
One morning, my wife and I were lying in bed and talking. I was off work that day (it was a Tuesday, I think). An idea popped into my head: wouldn’t it be nice for my wife and the pastor’s wife to get together for lunch? My wife liked to get together with people, but she wasn’t the type to ask (still isn’t), and so I decided to do it for her. I then sent a text that would forever change my life. I texted the pastor’s wife and asked her what she was doing for lunch. Shortly thereafter, she responded with something like, “Bro. Beeson, you should know better than to text a married man’s wife and ask her out to lunch.”
I stared at that response in unbelief. I wondered if she were joking. Here I was, with my wife right next to me, trying to get them to go eat together and have fun. But she thought I was trying to hit on her. Now, the whole idea may seem ludicrous to some, but we were all in the UPC, and the UPC has very strict rules about male-female relationships. I quickly went from stunned to pissed, as did my wife. The pastor called me not long after and chewed me out for my “inappropriate behavior.” I tried to defend myself, but he wouldn’t listen. The whole thing was like a bad dream. I couldn’t believe what was unfolding before me. Over the next several days, the pastor and I exchanged many long texts. I thought I was being unjustly accused and attacked; he thought I was covering up a serious problem. He offered to discuss the matter with me in person…in his office, along with several key church members. One of these members claimed she had “sensed” there was something off about me. (On a side note, I would be vindicated years later when the pastor came to realize this “prophetess” was as full of shit as I declared her to be). I had done nothing wrong, and I didn’t think I should have to appear before a jury (so to speak) to clear my name. Within a week, I turned in my keys and laptop, and my wife and I left.
There we were, less than a year after having left the UPC, and we were about to have to look for another church…again. As I said before, it was like a bad dream. We couldn’t believe it was happening. To this day, it still doesn’t make sense. We were hurt, confused, angry, and so much more. We lost all trust in people and churches. I still have a difficult time trusting people, and this event happened five years ago. I’ve not been the same since, and I don’t think I will ever be completely healed of that pain.
I had been studying Calvinism for a month or so by then, so I wanted to give a reformed Baptist church a try, despite their completely different style of…well, everything. My wife didn’t want that, and so we went to a small charismatic church for a few months. It was far out there doctrinally, much like the church I attended in my teens. This proved to be too much for the both of us, so we left the week of Easter and began attending a reformed Baptist church. So much change in so little time.
Thanks again for your time. In my next entry, I’ll discuss my years in the reformed Baptist church and what led me to leave the church altogether.