Hello. My name is Paul Hayden. I am nothing in this world, and the
sooner that all of us realise this about ourselves the better.
"For what is your life? It
is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth
"If a man think himself to
be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." Galatians 6:3.
"God is in heaven, and thou
upon earth: therefore let thy words be few." Ecclesiastes 5:2.
But the Lord has been good to me. I will be dead soon, praise the Lord,
and I will no longer be in this sinful body, nor indeed in this present
world, but be transformed to become like Christ. Indeed I will be with
which is far, far better. What a glorious, sure hope the true Christian
"For we must needs die, and
are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again" 2 Samuel 14:14.
"Beloved, now are we the
sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know
that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him
as he is."
1 John 3:2.
"having a desire to depart,
and to be with Christ; which is far better" Philippians 1:23.
How about you, reader? Do you think that the Lord will just let things
carry on as they are in this world for ever? Can you not see how evil
this world really is?
"And GOD saw that the
wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of
the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5.
"The heart is deceitful
above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9.
"For from within, out of
the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications,
murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an
evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come
from within, and defile the man." Mark 7:21-23.
Praise the Lord there is going to be a judgment, and because the Lord
is the only one who can see into the hearts of men, that judgment is
going to be made in perfect righteousness.
"It is appointed unto men
once to die, but after this the judgment" Hebrews 9:27.
"He hath appointed a day,
in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom
he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that
he hath raised him from the dead." Acts 17:31.
"For we must all appear
before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the
things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be
good or bad."
2 Corinthians 5:10.
If the Lord was perfectly fair and just, all of us would be condemned
to be punished for ever for our sins.
"The day of the LORD is
great and very terrible; and who can abide it?" Joel 2:11.
"And if thy hand offend
thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than
having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be
"For the great day of his
wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" Revelation 6:17.
I know modern psychology, even in the church, teaches that we should
good view of ourselves, but this is terribly wrong. We all deserve hell
fire for ever, because we all really are that bad.
"Then Job answered the
LORD, and said, Behold, I am vile" Job 40:5,6.
"Behold, I was shapen in
iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psalm 51:5.
"For all have sinned, and
come short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23.
So, what can we do? Recognise our inability and repent.
"I have heard of
thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore
I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:5,6.
that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of
heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17.
ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when
the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" Acts 3:19.
Maybe the Lord will answer us. The prerogative in salvation is always
with the Lord. But our great hope is that He is a merciful God.
"Therefore also now, saith
the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and
with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your
garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and
merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of
"Seek ye the LORD, all ye
meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness,
seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the LORD’S anger." Zephaniah 2:3.
"And the publican, standing
afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote
upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner." Luke 18:13.
Now, whilst we are waiting to be translated to glory, we have to live
in this world. This testimony is how the Lord has dealt with me, and
kept me through the vanity that we call life in this world.
I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour
that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of
spirit, and there was no profit under the sun." Ecclesiastes 2:11.
Chapter 1: Before going to
I am not from a church-going family. My first notion that there was
something wrong in the world was around 1963 at the age
when I saw people in the street not using zebra crossings correctly.
They were not pressing the button and waiting for the man to turn
but cutting corners, crossing away from the black and white stripes
and/or when the man was on red. I couldn’t bear it. I remember
screaming once, to an unknown deity, “Take me away!”
Another incident was when I was about thirteen. I hated sport because I
couldn’t see the point of it. I remember being forced to play football
at school, and in one match I was the only person apart from the
goalkeeper between a rapidly advancing member of the opposite team and
the goal. I just stood there and made no attempt to stop him. My fellow
team-mates were screaming at me, “Why didn’t you try to stop him?” To
which I replied, “Why?” They all looked at me as though I was
completely mad. Yet, nobody actually answered my simple,
straight-forward question. It was not a difficult question to
understand. Neither did I mumble, I spoke clearly so that they could
all hear. I really, genuinely wanted to know the answer. I am still
looking for an answer to that question today.
About this time, I started a club (as most children do at that age). It
was called “HARUS,” which stood for “Hayden’s Anti-Religion Society”
(sorry, I can’t remember what the U stood for). I couldn’t see the
point in any religion. I thought they were all a waste of time. None of
them seemed logical. Nobody joined my society, but I got opposition
from some children from church-going families. None of them, however,
said anything to convince me to change my mind on these things. They
just showed disapproval, without telling me why. Again, I found that so
frustrating. Just answer my question, “Why?” and I might reconsider.
But nobody did.
My grandfather, who died when I was nine, gave me a Bible for Christmas
shortly before his death. I liked the colour photographs and charts,
never read it, and it was left on my shelf. I remember asking my
parents later for a Koran, simply so I could “have the set,” because I
didn’t believe any of these religions.
At the age of eighteen (1974), I went to university. Immediately I left
school, I lost all my friends; none of the few people who put up with
me at school was in the slightest bit interested in continuing a
friendship after leaving. I went to the University of East Anglia in
Norwich, to study Chemistry, which was my favourite subject at school.
I spent three years at university, but didn’t do any work at all in the
final year, because I had come to the conclusion that even studying
Chemistry, my favourite subject at school, was pointless. Why learn all
these things? Why? So I didn’t get my degree.
In 1977, with three other friends who had also “dropped out” of
university, we all decided to start a new life in Bristol. One of them
professed to be a Christian, and took me along once to his church, a
Charismatic Anglican church. To anyone who knows Bristol, I only need
mention the name “Pip’n’Jay” and you will know exactly which church I
mean. The (Anglican) church of St Philip and St Jacob was a great
success story (at least numerically) as lots of young people flocked
there for its lively Charismatic gatherings. But I saw that it was all
an outward show, and again began to question the whole thing. At this
point I did try to read the Bible, and started, logically I thought, at
the beginning in Genesis. By the time I got to Exodus, I had given in.
the point of all these animal sacrifices, and seemingly pointless rules
and regulations? My friend who invited me to church in the first place,
turned out not to be a true Christian after all, and left the church,
becoming a member of a gay club for a while, before moving in with
a woman elsewhere in the city and claiming to be a white witch.
On December 25th 1977, one of the four of us having left Bristol for
his home by then, the three of us who were still there had “Christmas”
lunch together. Unbeknown to each other, both of the other two had
arranged other things in the evening. They did feel genuinely sorry for
leaving me on my own that evening, but it was obviously not
deliberate on either part, so it didn’t bother me unduly. I went
back to my small bed-sit. Having nothing else to do, I picked up the
Bible my grandfather had given me all those years ago, and started
reading it, this time from the
beginning of the New Testament. I had never read anything like it
before. I just knew that this Jesus that I was reading about had the
right answers. Even though I did not know any theology, and had no
background in any church matters whatsoever, I could see that He:
“….taught them as one
having authority, and not as the
I prayed to God at that moment (something I had never done or thought
about before) that if He existed He should let me know. This indeed He
did. I suddenly realised that, not only did He exist, but also that
everything He said in this book I was reading was true, good and right.
later, I told someone about my conversion, and they were amazed that I
had never come across the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) before. They
assumed everyone had
heard of them, as they had been brought up in a church-going family.
But that isn’t
hadn’t come across them before, for a start! And I thought they were
Now I was a “Christian” I started to read my Bible every day, because I
loved it. I copied out the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7)
by hand and put it on my
wall. I loved it. I had not wanted to do any of these things before,
such as read my Bible or pray, but the new life given by God to the
believer really changes his behaviour to stop doing things he enjoyed
before, and to start doing things he would never have
otherwise thought about. This is the life of the
truly converted Christian, when God grants him faith and repentance to
cease from wanting to sin and to rather seek righteousness and to love
the very law that otherwise would have condemned him if God had not
granted these gifts to him.
Chapter 2: Early Churches
Church, Oaklands Road, Bristol (March 1978)
One of the things I now wanted to do was go to church. Oh dear, the
problems began here! I had never before been to a church meeting except
handful of weddings and funerals, so I had no idea about all the
different denominations, what they taught, why they existed or how
they operated. I assumed that everyone in the churches had had exactly
the same experience as me, and been brought to love their Bibles too!
So I simply went to the church six doors down the road from where I was
living at the time in Bristol. Being the nearest church, this was the
logical place to go. It was a Unitarian church. There were only six
people at the service, including the minister, the organist and myself.
I remember the sermon being about the difference between the “supernatural”
and the “supranatural,”
but that is all I can remember about it. I did not know at the time of
course, but Unitarians deny the deity of Christ, a fundamental doctrine
of the faith. If Christ is not God he is not to be worshipped and
adored, which is clearly a wrong teaching. However, not knowing any of
things at the time, I moved from that church straightaway to an
Anglican church nearby for no other reason than that I wanted to go to
church with a few more people in it. God even uses our carnal reasoning
in His providence to His own ends, to the praise of His glory.
Church, Clifton (Anglican) (1978-1982)
I went to this Anglican church, Christ Church, Clifton, for nearly four
years. It called itself “evangelical” in that the Bible was used and
studied to some degree, so I received some teaching, if only on, what I
would describe now as a very superficial level. The church was very
organised. New people in the church were encouraged to go to a
Basics” class in midweek, of which there were two, each lasting one
(ten weeks). After going through “Christian Basics I” and “Christian
Basics II,” I was then put into the nearest weekly Bible study group to
home. There was also a meeting on a Tuesday night for “young people”
like me. However, I didn’t like going to these, because they were just
large social meetings, which I found miserable, because they seemed to
be solely for people who wanted huge social lives. I would just have
been grateful for one or two friends. So I soon gave up going to these
The church was so big that after three and a half years in it, people
were still coming up to me after the service and asking if I was a
visitor. In any case, shortly afterwards I moved to Bangor, North
Wales, with my work, where I lived for the next twenty years.
Methodist Church, High Street, Bangor (Methodist) (1983)
For some reason unbeknown to me, I thought that all of the Anglican
churches in the Bangor area did not use the Bible, or at least didn’t
believe a word of it, so, I went to the English Methodists. Again, as a
“young person,” I was encouraged to go to the Sunday evening
“fellowship” at the manse. I only went twice and couldn’t stand any
more of it. Unless you love huge social events, which I didn’t, it was
complete waste of time. The people who regularly attended these
meetings live for an enormous social life, and love to be seen to be
and full of life by as many people as possible. I really find all this
false, and rather longed for one person to be a real friend. So, again,
One day, I was listening to a sermon in the church, and the speaker
told us that the book of Daniel was written in the time of the
Maccabees, long after most of the prophecies in it had been fulfilled.
He also told us that it wasn’t a real history, but just a book of
fables written to spur the Jews on in their faith during the Maccabean
period. I thus found out that the Methodists in Bangor didn’t believe a
of the Bible
either, so after a few months in this church, I moved on again.
English Baptist Church, Bangor (Baptist Union) (1983-1988)
I decided to go to Penrallt English Baptist Church, which was then in a
building just off Glanrafon Hill (I understand that they have since
moved to Holyhead Road, and the Welsh Evangelical church now occupies
building). These people seemed to use their Bibles, even more so than
in Christ Church, Clifton, and certainly more than in the Methodist
church. So I started going there, and indeed became a member, and was
there for nearly five years.
Again, church people just seemed to want their enormous social life.
Nobody seemed to want to befriend anyone properly,
talking about how we should love one another. I went to the social
events, and indeed made a few acquaintances there, but it always seemed
like they just tolerated me, rather than really wanted me around. I
didn’t complain though, but was grateful for any fellowship.
At Penrallt, I had noticed a distinct decline in the worship of God in
the five years I was there. When I first went there it was all
traditional hymns, with maybe one of the more modern “choruses”
introduced during the morning service as a sort of innovation. By the
time I left, there was a twenty-minute slot led by the “worship band”
which was all choruses. After I left, they
introduced a new Baptist
hymn-book which incorporated some of the more popular “choruses” into
its very pages. Some of these were popular for a time whilst the book
was being compiled, but upon publication were going well out of fashion
already. The hymns, even though they are a man-made imposition on true
worship and I wouldn’t sing them now, have at least lasted over 100
years, whereas the modern songs don’t seem to last 100 days before
people are bored
with them and have to invent new ones. Nowadays, people just want their
sixty minutes of getting a “high” (like being on heroin) and that will
be enough to keep them going for the rest of the week. This is not true
Towards the end of my time in Penrallt, I went
weekend “houseparty” organised by the church at Living Waters Christian
Conference centre in Dolwen, near Colwyn Bay. (I understand that this
since closed down). I went with everybody else on the coach. The Friday
was awful, as we all had to play silly games to get to know each other
(we knew each other anyway, because we were all from the same church!).
I nearly went home then. Saturday afternoon was all right, we simply
went for a walk in the hills, which was very enjoyable. But as they
were preparing for the Sunday morning service, I could see that I
wasn’t going to like it. They had put animal masks beneath every seat,
and I could tell that we were going to have to dress up as animals out
of Noah’s Ark, and jump around the room. That was it. I remember trying
to leave on Saturday, but I changed my mind, and came back after going
half a mile. But on the Sunday morning, I said to myself, “I’m really
not going to do this.” So I left, walked the four miles into Colwyn Bay
got a bus home.
The reason I finally left Penrallt was that I got to know some students
from Ebenezer Evangelical Church, St Paul’s Terrace, Bangor and they
started telling me about the difference between “Arminianism” and
“Calvinism.” Now I had not heard these words before (they are hidden
from public view in Arminian churches, making you believe that
Arminianism is the only form of Christianity there is), but I found
that the difference all boiled down to whether one believed that man
had free will or not. If he did, then Arminianism was the correct
system of doctrine (all the “points” of each doctrinal system hang
together, if one doctrine is right all the others in the system are
right, and if one is wrong all the others in the system are too);
whereas if man did not have free will, then Calvinism was the correct
system of doctrine. Now a lot of people say that doctrine does not
matter, it is love that counts. However, if that were to be so, then
people who call themselves “Christian” but don’t go to any church would
be just as right as the church-going Christian, as the Muslim and as
the Satanist. One has to believe some doctrine to
have any kind of
faith or belief system at all. Objectively, in the end, there is only
one absolute truth. Taking a ridiculous example to prove the point, if
the moon is really made of green cheese, we can believe that it is made
of rock and dust all we like. We can even believe that men have been
there and brought some of this rock and dust back to prove it, but if
that is not the truth,
then no matter how much we say we believe it,
and indeed can convince ourselves of any “evidence” we believe exists
to prove our position, we are still believing a lie if, absolutely, it
is not so. Now in the case of the moon, it is not particularly
important whether we know the truth about its constituency or not, but
in the case of eternal matters such as heaven and hell, the final
judgment and the things of God, it really is pretty important.
Now, nobody on this earth knows all things. We are all growing:
“...in grace, and in the
knowledge of our Lord and Saviour
2 Peter 3:18.
Also, we all come from different backgrounds. So there are always going
to be differences between individual believers if you look hard enough.
However, there is finally only one objective truth, and major doctrines
such as heaven and hell, the deity of Christ etc. are very important to
a knowledge of, if we are to understand what salvation to eternal life
is all about. Coming to a knowledge of the truth is vital:
“...who will have all men
to be saved, and to come unto the
knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4.
Anyway, back to the doctrinal difference I mentioned earlier. Because I
had been in an Arminian Baptist church for nearly five years (and other
Arminian churches before that) I had been indoctrinated into their
system of belief. So when these students from Ebenezer came along and
told me I
hadn’t got free will, I was rather annoyed at them! Of course I have
free will, I can freely choose to do something or not to do something,
that’s easy! Anyway, these discussions at least got my mind thinking
around these issues, and after six months of this, I woke up one
morning and realised that for five years at Penrallt, and several years
before that in the Methodists and Anglicans, I had been taught a lie.
It was like having my legs kicked from under me. Man has not got free
will at all. All he can do is sin. The depth of my depravity really
came home to me and I realised that in all conscience I must leave
Penrallt and go to Ebenezer Evangelical Church, as this was the church
in town that had the reputation of being “Calvinistic.” So I moved
Several years later, I came across some people from Penrallt, and they
invited me to a weekend of “Fun and Fellowship” at a conference centre
in Rhyd Ddu that they had organised. I wasn’t interested in going for
the whole weekend, but I went
for the walk on the Saturday. I am glad I didn’t go for the whole
weekend. I made the mistake of asking who their guest speaker for the
weekend was. There was an embarrassed silence. That is when I found out
that the “fun and fellowship” weekend was just that – fun and
fellowship. Nothing else. No teaching, just fun and fellowship. What’s
the point? All the churches are going this way. They only see “church”
as being “fun and fellowship” with each other, and God is completely
Ebenezer Evangelical Church
Evangelical Church, St. Paul’s Terrace, Bangor (Independent
In Ebenezer, they had a weekly Bible study and a weekly prayer meeting.
However, just before I started going there, the Bible study was
I should have noticed this as a warning sign then. Any church that
opportunity to study the Bible and thinks that the prayer meeting is
“the most important meeting of the week” is a church which has a low
view of God’s Word and thinks too highly of themselves. Prayer meetings
in these churches are more for people who like telling God what to do.
In any case, despite these things, I stayed
in Ebenezer for seven years.
There was regular expository Bible teaching in the pulpit
every Lord's Day, which was
reasonable, and some of the people there could at least talk about
Biblical things, although certainly not all of them by any means. But
as the months went by, I found out that, after my student friends (who
had introduced me to “Calvinism”) had left, having all finished their
university courses, the church was not as
“Calvinistic” as its reputation had led me to believe it would be.
Indeed I remember finding out that one of the most well-respected
ministers amongst the Evangelicals in North Wales, whom everybody
loved, showed himself to be a gross Arminian. And he was not the only
By the time I left Ebenezer, a decline in the worship, remarkably
similar to Penrallt, was beginning to happen, with the introduction of
just one chorus in the morning service to start with.... That wasn’t
the reason I left Ebenezer though. No, I left because I exposed
impropriety in the eldership, and they did not like me doing that.
I must mention what happened, but I have to say here that most
“Christians” today would not agree with me on this. Most of them would
consider it to be the unforgivable sin to complain about the church in
any way. It will be “rocking the boat” and a “bad witness” to
unbelievers. However, in my defence, I must say first of all, look at
John’s letters to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation chapters 2
& 3). John is
most of all concerned with truth and righteousness rather than whether
he is “rocking the boat” or not. Secondly, the whole reason that
Christianity exists is that it is primarily concerned with morality. It
is all about right and wrong. God defines what is right and what is
wrong. The true believer must love righteousness and hate wickedness. I
hasten to add of course that justification is by grace through faith
alone. We do not get to heaven by our works, because none of us can be
We are called to be holy for God is holy. Believers are justified by
Christ’s righteousness being imputed to them and their sin to Christ.
However, this does not mean that they can then do what they like, far
“Wherefore gird up the
loins of your mind, be sober, and hope
to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the
revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not fashioning
yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he
which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of
conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if
ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according
to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things,
as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition
from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb
without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:13-19.
We are to love righteousness and hate wickedness. That is the calling
of the true believer. Even though he still sins a thousand times a day
in thought and word and deed whilst he is in this wretched earthly
body, he is still called to have a heart that hates sin and that
hungers and thirsts after righteousness:
“Blessed are they which do
hunger and thirst after
righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6.
To love one another is of course a good, right and proper thing to do
as well, after all God commands us to do this, but what is love?
“Love worketh no ill to his
neighbour: therefore love is the
fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:10.
Loving one’s neighbour involves the law, i.e. righteousness, i.e.
keeping the Ten Commandments.
“By this we know that we
love the children of God, when we
love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that
we keep his commandments...” 1 John
Only when our relationship with God is right, which is expressed by
loving God and keeping his commandments, is our relationship with each
other then right also. So many “Christians” spend all their time
working at their relationships with one another, not seeing that this
is futile. They should be “working at” their relationship with God. If
this is right, the rest falls into place easily. Charity (i.e. love):
“...rejoiceth not in
iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.”
1 Corinthians 13:6.
That is my defence for the position I took when I stood up against
impropriety in the eldership of Ebenezer Evangelical Church in the face
of the vast majority who simply thought I was a troublemaker
The situation was that the church had a permanent minister and an
associate minister who was just on a three year contract. During this
three years, the associate minister had access into the upper echelons
of the “Officers Meetings” as they are called, where all the
decision-making took place. He discovered several places where the
“Church Officers” were not doing their duty properly as elders and
deacons, one of which was not visiting the flock. The point here is
that because he put his finger on a few inconsistencies in the
eldership, the elders were not really very keen on him.
Well now then, the permanent minister announced his retirement many
months in advance. Because an associate minister was
already in place in the church, the elders could not easily pass him by
when looking for a replacement for the permanent minister. So,
reluctantly it seemed to me, they asked the members' meeting if they
would vote on whether the associate minister’s name should be put
forward to be considered for the job as the next permanent minister of
the church (notice that it wasn't a straight-forward vote for him to be
the next minister, rather a vote as to merely whether his
name was to be put forward - which makes it so plain that
the elders didn't really want him). A two-thirds majority in favour was
needed, and as the
number of members in the church was somewhere in the thirties, each
vote counted for about three percent of the total, so every vote was
very important. As God is my witness I distinctly remember the
permanent minister saying just before the vote that any abstentions
would have to be counted in the total number of votes cast. This is
important, because depending on whether one counts the abstentions in
the total number of votes cast or not, it becomes slightly easier or
harder to get the two-thirds majority required. If you do count the
abstentions as part of the total, it makes it slightly harder to get
the two-thirds majority, as the total is still the total number there
eligible to vote. If you don’t count the abstentions as part of the
total, the total goes down to the total number eligible to vote minus
the number of abstentions, hence it is easier to get a two-thirds
majority because the total number decreases and each vote counts as
more of a percentage of the total. By the permanent minister announcing
that the abstentions would count in the total number of votes, he was
making it slightly harder for a two-thirds majority to be achieved –
which would have suited the elders very nicely as they did not want the
associate minister to win the vote.
However, there is still no real problem as yet, because at least they
announced how the voting was going to take place, and exactly what the
status of abstentions was going to be, before the actual vote, so the
rules were crystal clear. In fact, the vote fell just short of the
two-thirds majority required whichever way the abstentions were
counted, so the vote was clearly against the associate minister and
there was no
A couple of months later, another potential minister came along. He was
interviewed in the members' meeting and came for a couple of trial
sermons as usual. (Incidentally, just in passing, in the members'
meeting I asked what qualifications he had for the ministry, and the
answer was that he had a PhD in Geography – i.e.
no theological training at all!). Anyway, the time came for the vote to
take place on whether to call him to be the new minister. I assumed
that the abstentions would be counted in the total number of votes cast
as before, so I did not say anything about it beforehand, as I saw no
need to. When one of the elders came in to announce the result, he said
that there were so many votes in favour, so many against and three
abstentions. Now I had quickly worked out that if one did
number of abstentions in the total number then the candidate would
have got the two-thirds majority, whereas if one didn’t
abstentions in the total number he would have got
majority. So when the elder announced that result and then said that
the church will therefore be extending a call to the man, I had to
speak up and say that they had changed the rules since the last
occasion. An acrimonious exchange took place between various members,
and it was eventually decided to have a re-ballot.
to point out that they had changed the rules. I wouldn’t mind which set
of rules they stuck to, whether one counted the abstentions in the
total number or not, so long as they were consistent throughout, which
they were obviously not prepared to be (to their own ends). The funny
thing was that in the re-ballot, one of the abstentions changed their
vote to a “No” vote and the two-thirds majority was never reached
whichever way the votes were counted, so this candidate never
People’s attitudes to me were very interesting after this incident. To
the vast majority, I was the troublemaker, “rocking the boat” and
therefore bringing the name of Christ into disrepute in most people’s
eyes. To five others, they saw exactly my point, and it was a privilege
to know these people. The majority were worshipping the “church.”
Their beloved “church,” which they had either grown up in or at least
been in a long time, could do no wrong and the unity of their tinpot
little church in the back of beyond became their all-consuming passion.
“We must love one another and not divide at all costs” was their cry.
Whereas the five who agreed with me and myself would rather say:
“We ought to obey God
rather than men.”
Doing what is right is a million times more important
unity in any organisation. I stand firm on this, and if I am
misunderstood by being thought of as a troublemaker, there is
I can do about it. I would rather be in my shoes on the Day of Judgment
than the shoes of those who worship the great god “church.”
After the incident of the meeting described above, I wrote a letter of
complaint to the elders, most of the contents of which I have forgotten
(I wish I had kept a copy now, so I could have reproduced it here), but
one phrase sticks in my mind and that is I stated that “this
political manoeuvring stinks.” This was true, it does. I do
not regret writing a word of it, because it is the truth. However, the
elders did not like it at
all. The following Lord’s Day, after the evening service, one of them
took me into the church library on my own and harangued me for half an
hour, giving his take on things. I can’t remember much of what was said
now, so I don’t want to put words into his, or my, mouth, but I
remember afterwards almost feeling like I had been dragged along the
carpet backwards and dumped in a heap. It was an interesting experience
actually, because it showed me the power the more dominating sorts of
people can exert over other people. If I had taken him seriously, as
many people could so easily have done, I would have been a quivering
heap of jelly on the floor afterwards, believing that everything I had
done, the unrest in the church etc. etc., was my fault. That indeed was
his intention, but the support I got was excellent, and I know that
what he said was just a psychological ploy to get me to shut up and
stop rocking the boat in his cosy little church.
Consequently, I was summoned to appear before the elders to explain my
letter. At this meeting, the other elder used modern psychological
techniques with the
intention of breaking me. This is a warning to anyone reading this who
may cross the path of someone with management or psychology “skills”
(so-called), so I carefully enumerate them here:
(1.) He began by letting me say whatever I wanted, so I did.
really listening beyond maybe trying to catch me in something overtly
obvious I might have said, but this was a classic attempt to try to
make me believe that I was being listened to and given a fair "trial"
(which of course I wasn't).
(2.) Then, he said that he was really hurt by what I had
was using emotional blackmail in trying to make me feel guilty.
(3.) He then came out with the statement, “I am not
manoeuvring” (a denial of my basic criticism). This was in
my mind an
amazing statement because he had worked as a Consultant
at the local hospital for many years and had a reputation
the staff there of being just that - a political manoeuvrer!
can never accuse anyone of anything just because people say it, I have
no evidence to back up this claim, so I cannot accuse him of this at
but it seems more than coincidence that nearly everyone who knew him at
the hospital thought the same way about him, and here he is telling me
he is not capable of it! Anyway, after this,
(4.) Looking me straight in the eye as if to hypnotise me, he
performance by coming out with the statement, “The problem is
me, it’s with you!” These were his exact words. This was his
final throw -him -on -the -floor -and- leave -him -like -a-
lump -of -jelly
All of this is a classic piece of management/psychology
them have their say, make them feel guilty, deny everything, then
harangue them until they are squirming on the floor. If I had not known
he was using a technique on me, I would have believed everything he had
said and really would have ended up in a psychiatric hospital. But God
is good to His people and keeps them in the truth and in righteousness,
and I walked away from that meeting unscathed, knowing that the only
way forward, with such elders in the church, was to resign.
Over the next few months all six of us who saw through the sham left
the church. We did not do it in a great show of protest all at once. We
did it individually, in some cases without any of the other five
knowing we had done it, for a while. I can only vouch for my case, but
I know it was the right thing to do. I sent a letter of
resignation to the Secretary of the church, stating that my having come
to a position of embracing Presbyterianism and Paedobaptism makes my
membership in an Independent Baptist church not in keeping with my
beliefs. I also stated that I had nothing against the ordinary members
as individuals there. Maybe I was wrong in writing the letter
like this and not
mentioning the problem with the elders. The reasons were true of
course, and indeed legitimate reasons for leaving when my beliefs no
longer tallied with the Confession of Faith of the church, but I still
wonder whether I should have also stated that I could no longer
tolerate being in the same church as these elders. Maybe I should have
Some people have since suggested that I should just forget the
differences I have with these elders and return to the church. The
thing is that my Christian faith teaches me that I should not do that.
Many people think that Christianity is all about forgiving everybody,
everything, unconditionally. But this is just not true because God does
not do this. God only forgives repentant sinners. In the case of
salvation, of course, God gives to the elect the faith and repentance
necessary, which otherwise they would not have. But the point is that
there is never any forgiveness in God without repentance in man, and
therefore there should never be any forgiveness in us without
repentance from the other party either.
Many people quote the following to back up their claim that we should
“Take heed to yourselves:
If thy brother trespass against
thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass
against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again
to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”
However, the three little words “if he repent” are
usually glossed over without being noticed. We must only forgive
someone “if he repent.” Of course we must then
accept a simple verbal statement of repentance. We cannot tell if they
have truly repented from the heart, and we are not called to discern
such a thing. In the case of the elders of Ebenezer and myself, I have
done nothing wrong in this matter, so I can’t repent because I have
nothing to repent of. The elders refuse to even give a verbal statement
of wrong, let alone repentance, so I must in all conscience not forgive
them. To ask me to bury the hatchet and come
back to the church,
assumes that the church has done no wrong, i.e.
the church is elevated
above truth and righteousness.
Also, as I found out in my case, the vast majority of ordinary members
in a church will always blindly side with the elders because they are
terrified of “rocking the boat,” or at least being seen to do so.
After these events someone wrote in Evangelical Times extolling the
virtues of Congregationalism, so I felt I had to respond. This was
published in September 1996:
having read Bill Clark’s article “Church discipline –
a case for independency” in the August issue of your paper, I feel I
must point out that the Presbyterian church government is clearly the
biblical approach, as witnessed by the early church in Acts 15 forming
a synod to discuss an important matter affecting the church as a whole.
In the independent church system, if anyone has a complaint against
someone, especially against the leadership, and if the leaders either
will not listen or fail to deal with the problem properly, then there
is no other court of appeal to go to. Elders can therefore behave like
little Hitlers in their own patch and there is nothing anyone can do to
stop them as they are answerable to no-one. A complaint against the
leadership could be taken to the congregational church meeting, but
usually the bulk of the congregation will back the elders and regard
anyone who criticises them as being a troublemaker. These people are
worshipping a church rather than God. In any case, congregations are
not qualified to judge matters of church discipline and should never be
allowed to do so.
Some of the more dominating personalities, men who can attract a
following behind them, end up solving the problem by ‘splitting’ the
church and starting their own little empire down the road. England and
Wales especially have a plethora of tinpot little evangelical churches
of all shapes and forms, which have sprung up everywhere, each one
having no or very little relationship with its neighbour. This anarchy
cannot be a good witness for the gospel to the people outside of the
church, and is surely grievous to the Saviour.”
Two responses came, one saying I wasn’t being very gracious, and the
other (also from Gwynedd, as it happened) again in praise of
Congregationalism. Neither response refuted any of my arguments; they
just ignored them.
Without a Church
Reformed Churches of America (PRC) (1995-1998)
During the latter part of my time at Ebenezer, finding out things were
not right, I got involved with the Protestant Reformed Churches of
for a while. This was due to the fact that the British Reformed
Fellowship had been started, and they were beginning to hold
occasional meetings in Wrexham. So I went along. This seemed to be far
better than going to Ebenezer. So I started inviting other
people from Ebenezer to come along to the meetings in Wrexham. The
Ebenezer did not like this at all. In fact the situation arose such
us from Bangor were attending the meetings in Wrexham than people from
the Wrexham area itself, so the PRC minister who was speaking at the
Wrexham meetings suggested starting meetings in Bangor. So we started
them, all the time still being members of Ebenezer. We held about eight
or nine meetings in Bangor altogether, culminating with the visit of
minister’s father, who was a professor in the church’s seminary, who
one summer. Whilst the minister we had dealings with was fairly
easy-going with us, his father certainly was not. He did not like the
fact that we used the Westminster Confession (he preferred the "Three
Forms of Unity"), and he particularly
did not like the fact that we would not blindly follow him but insisted
thinking through things first. We therefore did not take on
board some of the peculiarities of the PRC such as their denial of a
“Covenant of Works” with Adam, or their view on Divorce and Remarriage,
or their view on musical instruments in worship and so on, as he would
have liked us to.
It soon became evident that the PRC, particularly the professor, wanted
us to blindly follow, and nothing short of that would do. We couldn’t
do that, so after that summer was over, we did not organise any more
One of the PRC’s peculiar views seemed to be their believing that all
(such as myself) should be aggressively hunting for a wife. I
this attitude; it makes men's behaviour no better than the
animals. After an
editorial appeared in the British Reformed Journal that said that
single people like myself were not “normal,” I felt I had to write a
response, which was published in issue 39, Autumn/Winter 2003/4, and
which stated my beliefs on the subject:
seems to me that the editorial, together with all the
from the Protestant Reformed Churches I have ever read, definitely give
the strong impression that single people are second class Christians.
Of course this would be denied, but the fact remains that single people
are regarded as not being, to use a word in the editorial, "normal." I
must object to this in the strongest terms. The attitude seems to be
that if single people (especially men) are not aggressively hunting for
marriage partners, then they are sinning against God. This is at least
the impression given. I would say that exactly the opposite is true. It
is animals and godless men who aggressively hunt for mates, and I am
thoroughly convinced that such activity is truly and properly sin.
Christians should have no part in that sort of thing. It is the Lord in
His providence that either provides or does not provide a life partner,
not we who should go hunting of our own accord. There are plenty of
people, both male and female, who have never met anyone of the opposite
sex who would be in the slightest bit interested in even the thought of
having them as a marriage partner. There are plenty more who have had
someone interested in them for a time but have been let down or
rejected. None of these are sinning against God for not hunting enough.
Rather, they understand it as being God's providence that he has put
them in the position of being single. We should all praise the Lord for
whatever position he chooses to put his people in, whether married with
a large family, married with no children, single, widowed, etc. etc.
Whatever position the Lord puts us in we should learn therewith to be
content, knowing that it is for our good (Romans 8:28). It is against
tenth commandment to be discontent with our own estate. Paul said that
"I would that all men were even as I myself" (1 Corinthians 7:7). This
to mean that singleness is a better state than marriage, otherwise we
should all become monks and nuns! Rather this verse must be used as a
counterbalance to the verses mentioned in the editorial regarding
marriage as honourable. Neither estate is better than the other now we
have a fallen world. Both have their own peculiar miseries. Articles
stating singleness as not being "normal" and that "normality" is all
about getting married and procreating as much as possible, are
unhelpful to say the least.”
The only response I got to this letter was that in the same issue,
straight after my letter, an excerpt from Prof. David Engelsma’s book
“Better to Marry” was printed which mentioned that
the PRC did not
believe single people were second-class Christians. I never said in my
letter that the PRC did, but that they gave the strong
that was so. In any case, it was not the main point of my letter at
all, which they completely ignored. Again, another frustrating lack of
I was treated as an oddity by the PRC and BRF for writing this letter
forever afterwards. I still today can’t see what I said that was wrong
in it. Someone, please enlighten me!
at Home (1998-2003)
After leaving Ebenezer, I then spent the next six years worshipping on
my own at home, outside a visible manifestation of the church of
Christ. Labelled with all the oddballs who call themselves “Christian”
but believe all sorts of whacky ideas, and also don’t go anywhere to
church. Yet I would rather have been in my position despite what people
think of me.
“...The Son of man must
suffer many things, and be rejected
elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the
I do not think there is any virtue in not joining with other believers
just for the sake of it. That is not why I didn’t go to church. When I
come across someone who is truly one of God’s people it is an excellent
“Behold, how good and how
pleasant it is for brethren to
in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down
upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his
garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the
mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life
I worshipped God on His Holy Day by holding services on my own,
listening to tapes of sermons, reading Christian books and joining with
a few others later on in the day for a Catechism class, using the
Westminster Shorter Catechism. This was purely an informal meeting,
designed by one family to catechise their children, to which they
invited visitors such as myself. We did not try to make it any more
formal than this for fear of falling into the trap of becoming just
another tinpot independent group.
Why didn’t I join another church, you may ask? Well, show me a church
where God is feared, and truth and
righteousness loved and cherished. If one existed within striking
distance of my home I would have been there like a shot every
week. Sadly this was not the case. We see again the problem I
was mentioning earlier with regards decline in the worship. Nearly all
churches nowadays have not only declined in the worship, but they seem
to be worshipping a completely different god from the God they
worshipped 40 years ago. Their god nowadays is a big daddy in the sky
who loves all men, wants to give all men a gooey feeling in their heart
if only they would let him (which they think they all have the ability
to do), and exists solely for the worshipper’s sake (cf.
Santa Claus). In contrast, a
true church exists solely for the glory of God, not the worshipper.
No church I knew of in North Wales then wanted to take God seriously.
Where was there anywhere where the people feared God? Fear today is
thought of as a negative thing, but in the Bible the true believer was
known as the God-fearer:
“There was a man in the
land of Uz, whose name was
that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed
“Let us hear the conclusion
of the whole matter: Fear God,
and keep his
commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
In fact he who does not fear God is the unbeliever:
“The transgression of the
wicked saith within my heart, that
no fear of God before his eyes.” Psalm 36:1.
And where is humility? And the doctrine of Total Depravity, which keeps
one humble all the time?
“Seek ye the LORD, all ye
meek of the earth, which have
judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid
in the day of the LORD’S anger.” Zephaniah 2:3.
“He hath shewed thee, O
man, what is good; and what doth the
require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk
humbly with thy God?” Micah 6:8.
And, where is trembling?
“...to this man will I
look, even to him that is poor and of
spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Isaiah 66:2.
“Hear the word of the LORD,
ye that tremble at his word; Your
that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the
LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be
“Wherefore, my beloved, as
ye have always obeyed, not as in
only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with
fear and trembling.”
All of these things are now missing in today's church in favour of a
self-assertive, laid-back religion, which is not true religion at all,
but merely mimics the philosophies of this vain empty world that is
passing away. Self-abasement is the Christian way, not having a high
“Now I Nebuchadnezzar
praise and extol and honour the King of
all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk
in pride he is able to abase.” Daniel 4:37.
In Ebenezer Evangelical Church, after I had left, I
heard that on one occasion, a visiting preacher
asked the children a question. The question was “Who can tell me what
the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer are?” Nobody knew. Most of
those children had been going to the church ever since they were born,
and none of them knew the answer to one of the simplest questions that
could ever be asked. Most unbelievers could have answered that
question! What are they teaching their children in the “Sunday school”
these days? [By the way, the answer is “Our Father”].
In 2003, after twenty years in North Wales, the Lord miraculously
opened the door for me to move away from that area and gave me a job in
Burnley, Lancashire. This was, in the Lord’s providence, in order for
me to become a member in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
congregation in Barnoldswick.
Presbyterian Church of Scotland
Church, Kelbrook Road, Barnoldswick (Free Presbyterian Church of
Now, surely, I had arrived in a perfect church! Yes, purity of worship,
the Westminster Confession, a correct view on Sabbath transport,
seriousness in worship. What more could I want!
Yes, here I can go to church every week, and worship God in at least
outwardly acceptable manner. This was far more than I could do in
Bangor or anywhere else I had ever been. But….
Like every other visible church in existence, you
have to fit in with a certain way of saying and doing things. You don’t
really have fellowship in the church unless you are “one of
them,” i.e. all the airs and graces, putting on
the show that is
required. I can’t put on a show; I just can’t do it. I could be in the
church (any church) for a million years, and would never become like
one of them. I
want one person to be genuine
with me in church, and I still haven’t found one.
After a few years of being there, one minister in the church,
rightly or wrongly, dared to put his head above the parapet and
criticise the church. Oh dear! Whereas some good men tried to pacify
the whole situation by trying to find a common solution, it became
quite obvious that there was a small group of men, who were the power
base in the church – those who had been born and brought up in the
church, who bowed down and worshipped
their great god “church” above all else – who were not going to give up
until this minister was put out of the church altogether. They
eventually got sufficient majority
to get their wish in a series of secret sessions of Synod over the
space of a couple of years. And we, the laity, who are not party to
anything that goes on in the secret society called “Synod,” are
honestly expected to blindly follow the powers that be in the church
and carry on as though they were wonderful and that nothing had
In the few years before the split in the Free Church of Scotland in
2000, allegations of adultery were made against one if its professors.
Without going into the details, those making the accusations all
eventually decided to form the Free Church (Continuing) and separate
from the rest of the Free Church. Now,
within the depleted Free Church, no-one is making any allegations any
more, those making them have all left. And the church is continuing on
its own sweet way assuming the completely false logic that now those
making the allegations have gone, the allegations are therefore false.
No. It is very convenient for the professor that there are no more
people in his cosy little church making allegations any more, but
unless the allegations themselves are fairly, thoroughly and completely
investigated, we will never know whether he is innocent or guilty. The
allegations still stand until this happens.
Similarly in the Free
Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the minister who was deposed made
allegations against a fellow minister, accusing him of lying. Again,
look what happened. Rather that actually investigating the allegations
directly, they sacked the minister making the allegations on a
completely different charge. Now, conveniently, no-one is making
allegations any more from within the church, so it is assumed
throughout the church that the allegations
were false. But the truth is that they have still not been
anyone made allegations against me and I was innocent of them, I would want
the actual allegations to be
investigated until I had been thoroughly vindicated. If the church
out the person making the allegations, it would be nicely convenient
for me, but I would still insist on the allegations being investigated,
otherwise I could never actually ever be vindicated.
Church courts behave in this manner all the time. How can the ordinary
church member cope when this sort of thing is happening everywhere?
Whereas I agree with a vast majority of all the tenets of the
F.P. church in doctrine and worship (which is why I joined it in the
first place), their practice leaves an awful lot to be desired.
This has made me begin thinking about the concept of “church
membership,” and wondering if it is actually in the Bible at all. We
have examples of people being excommunicated in the Bible, but that
just means being banned from the sacraments, which should be the case
for all open profligates anyway. The F.P. church say that the only
criterion needed for membership is a “credible profession of Christ,”
which is true, but in practice, to get in, you have to take on board
all the other tenets as well. I do take these on board, so I get in.
But, take for example just two issues: exclusive psalm-singing and
Sabbath transport. On these two issues alone, 99.99999% of all truly
born-again Christians would be excluded from membership, simply because
they have not come to a knowledge of the truth on these particular
issues yet. There is something fundamentally wrong here.
All true Christians are growing in knowledge, and nobody will ever come
to a perfect knowledge of everything whilst they are on this earth. We
all begin the Christian life just as ignorant as I was in my years at
Penrallt and before. I remember in those days travelling home from the
morning service once and popping into a shop on the way home for a pint
of milk. An unbeliever with me was horrified, and told me that
“Christians shouldn’t go to a shop on a Sunday!” Now, I was thoroughly
told off, and never did it again, but I did it in my ignorance of the
fourth commandment, just as most people today would be ignorant of the
issues of psalm-singing and Sabbath transport, yet they would still be
truly born again of the Spirit of God. As it stands in the F.P.
church, because of their exclusivity, members are not meeting anyone
from any of the other churches who are truly born-again at all,
and when they do, it is often with an air of superiority. They
would never admit this, but that is certainly how it comes across. Most
of my true brothers and sisters in Christ I simply was
not meeting. And in the F.P.’s, unless you fit in with the
way things are done, the show that has to be put on, and the blind
obedience to Holy Synod that is required, you are sidelined. So it
looks like time to move on again.
Whilst at this church I was receiving the English Churchman, which is a
very good newspaper for news. After a letter appeared from someone who
stated that he had been a Christian for a very long time, but never
made any friends in the many years he had been in church, I felt I
needed to reply to agree with him:
a breath of fresh air it was to read the letter
EC7683 from "Nobody's Friend". It blew away all the cobwebs that so
easily beset us in the Christian life, and shewed forth the true human
condition as it really is. "For all seek their own, not the things
which are Jesus Christ's" (Philippians 2:21). The doctrine of total
depravity has been the one thing that has proved to me beyond doubt
that Christianity is the only true religion.
Put it this way. When God chose his elect from before the foundation of
the world, what did he see in any one of them that caused him to choose
them? The answer of course, to the true Calvinist, is: Nothing. Yet
when it comes to human relationships, we are so prone to thinking that
someone, somewhere will have something worth loving about them,
whereas, in reality, this is just not the case. If we think that there
is something lovable in anyone (including ourselves), we are seeing
something in them that God simply does not see. This is, at best,
delusion, and at worst, idolatry.
The sooner we cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils (Isaiah
2:22), the sooner we will see the utter wretchedness of this fallen
world, and the more it will make us pant after heaven, wherein dwelleth
righteousness, which is our true spiritual home anyway. We can never be
This letter was published in EC 7684 March 2006, but, extremely
annoyingly (although of course in the Lord's providence), when the
letter appeared in the paper, it had been
(probably mistakenly) edited. The end of the last sentence of the first
paragraph and the beginning of the first sentence of the second
paragraph had been cut out, thus rendering the first half of the letter
absolutely meaningless. So anyone who read it would think that I was
more stupid than I actually am. There was one letter on the subject
published after mine, mainly responding to the original letter from the
man who had never made friends in the church, but in passing they said
that my letter was “sad.” The person who wrote it mentioned that they
made teddy bears in their spare time. I wondered which one of us was
the sad one.
you've guessed it.
I felt a call to be a missionary to China, I packed my bags, renounced
my worldly life, and now I am winning souls for the Lord in an
exotic country far away. Well, if this was a standard paperback from my
local Christian bookshop, then that is what would be written. But it is
not. The truth is a little different.
2008 I met a lady on the internet. That is where people meet each other
these days. Anyway, she was from China, and to cut a long story short,
we got married in May 2009. She is a Christian, and we both know it was
the Lord's doing that brought us together. She came to the UK in August
2009, after getting her
visa, and quite quickly she could see very clearly the problems with
Church in Barnoldswick, which I was going to at the time. Between us,
we therefore tried to look for other churches in the area that we could
go to instead. That was easier said than done.
I had been in a "Reformed ghetto" for 20 years, and
now I was being forced out of that, as there were not really any other
"Reformed" churches in the area
to go to. We went to a series of churches and could not settle
anywhere. We maybe stayed a few months, then my wife just as much as
decided to move on. It seemed that all the churches had become worse in
twenty years I had been out of non-Reformed circles, but maybe that was
my imagination. Maybe it was me who had changed. Actually, it was
It would be wrong to give a list of
churches we have been to, as that would not be fair on the churches,
needless to say, they were all found wanting. My wife, with her
experience of the church in China, saw the worldliness in the churches
here almost straight away. No-one really wants to be serious or to read
study their Bibles properly at all in any of the churches in the
this to the church in China. I have been over there six times now. Most
of the the time I
went to the registered Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) churches,
and they were like the Anglican church in a way, as they were the
"established" church and they were all very similar, although far more
evangelical than Anglicans – the
sermon would be the centrepiece of the service, and would last for at
45 minutes. The
preaching was variable, depending on who was preaching. Some were
very good, others were really awful. I also went to one registered
independent church, which turned out to be one man giving a
two-hour sermon every week, who a lot of people went to hear. He was
they were all following the man. I also went once to an unregistered
church in the back of a hairdressing salon, which was also led by one
preaching, every Monday night, and he was excellent, and stuck close to
the text of the Bible passage. Good preaching, worth going to, but
should learn not to follow men.
Anyway, this is the sort of church scene my wife
to, and so coming over here to the UK, not surprisingly, she could not
into any of the churches around here, because they were of two types:
Most of the churches we went to were too worldly, none
of them preaching plainly from the Scriptures, or sticking close to the
text at all. And none of the people in these churches were taking God
seriously, but being
far too light-hearted about such serious matters. Two of the churches
we went to
were serious (Brethren and Free Presbyterians),
which was a breath of fresh air compared to the other churches around,
but the problem was that they were too
particular. For example, in the Brethren, you didn't have to
believe in Dispensationalism, but if you didn't you would definitely
on the edge of
things in all the fellowships. The Brethren have got rid of the concept
having a minister to lead the services. The Free Presbyterians, on the
other hand, are exactly the opposite and
think far too highly of
their ministers and almost worship them. So, again, what do we do? We
in the Lord for our spiritual food and life, which is what we should
doing all along anyway.
Bao'an Christian Church, Liutang Road, Bao'an, Shenzhen, Guangdong,
China (TSPM) (2013)
As we could not settle into any church in the UK,
thought that maybe spending some time in China would be the right thing
to do, so
in 2013 we moved to China for a while. However, of course,
as we found out, the grass is not always greener elsewhere, but nothing
is a waste of time in the Lord's eyes, and I did
learn some very
important lessons whilst I was there. I knew these lessons already
really, but my time in China confirmed and clarified my belief in the
truths of them more completely. These lessons were:
(1.) A belief in the total depravity of man.
As a good Calvinist, I had learned from the Bible
"And GOD saw that the
wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of
the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6:5.
"The heart is deceitful
above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9.
But when you live in a Western
nation, it doesn't feel like that. There are plenty of people who will
be, at least outwardly, kind to you, even though they are not
Christian. They are just as totally depraved underneath their fašade as
anyone else, but at least several centuries of Christian influence has
affected society in the West outwardly to some degree. People
will help. They will queue. They will give way to you in a busy place.
Most of this influence is fast disappearing in the West, as true
religion disappears, but we should still be thankful for it, because
this is not the case in China. 4000 years ago, the Chinese walked
away from the tower of Babel, turned their backs on any kind of godly
influence, and set up their own society and religion in the east. True
godly religion has had absolutely no influence on them at all during
even though their writing system contains pictures which come directly
from the truth of God. Only recently has this situation begun to
change, after European missionaries penetrated China in the nineteenth
remember once, on one of my trips, I was so fed up with people pushing
in front of me, drivers not knowing the meaning of the phrase "give
way," people routinely lying and cheating to do their business and just
being generally disgusting and selfish in their
behaviour, that it was really getting me down. On the last Sunday
walking up the steps into church when a lady in front of me shook her
wet umbrella all over me. I thought this was typical Chinese, and had
got used to such behaviour by then, but she turned around and said
"sorry" and was profusely apologetic about what she had done. THIS is
what Christianity does to people. It changes them from the inside out.
(2.) A belief that our true home is in heaven.
We rented a flat within walking
distance of a TSPM church, which had an "English Fellowship" every
Friday night. We thought that at least I could get some English
fellowship there, whereas my wife would have to do all the translating
for me in all the other meetings. After a couple of months, we found
that there had been a huge problem in the church. Coming from the
outside into the problem meant that we did not have a clue as to which
side was right and which was wrong (if any) at all. This taught us that
church disputes are so stupid. Even if one side was right and the other
wrong, we should not get so worked up about the situation,
realise our true home is in heaven, and rather suffer ourselves to be
defrauded if necessary:
therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one
with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather
suffer yourselves to be defrauded?" 1 Corinthians 6:7.
I wrote an article about the whole
concept of church disputes, which I reproduce here:
"I was in a church last
week, and after the service one of the elders started shouting and
screaming at the minister for some reason. The minister, rather
annoyingly, just stood there with a serene smile on his face, trying to
keep calm in the face of all the people looking on. I got outside the
church and someone, presumably this elder, had scrawled graffiti all
over the notice board calling the minister “a devil.” Well, you don’t
see that every day. But it got me thinking.
Nearly every church I have
been involved with has at some time or other had some kind of dispute
rumbling on. This is nothing new. What usually happens is that the
powers that be in the church try to sweep the whole thing under the
carpet and pretend outwardly that nothing is amiss, but that only makes
things worse, and it festers under the surface without being healed,
and so gets worse and not better.
Most often the dispute is not even a matter of theology. If it were, we
could at least understand that:
“For there must be
also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made
manifest among you.” 1 Corinthians 11:19.
But rather, the dispute is usually a matter of some people objecting,
rightly or wrongly, to a decision made by the leadership or
decision-making body of the church.
Of course, in a church where everyone blindly follows the leadership,
and are trained not to question them or think for themselves, no-one
will ever detect a problem at all when one comes along. (Is this your
church???). But the Westminster Confession of Faith is very helpful
here when it says that:
“All synods or councils, since the apostles’ times, whether general or
particular, may err; and many have erred. Therefore they are not to be
made the rule of faith, or practice; but to be used as a help in both.
Ephesians 2:20 –
‘And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus
Christ himself being the chief corner stone’
Acts 17:11 –
‘These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they
received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the
scriptures daily, whether those things were so.’
1 Corinthians 2:5
– ‘That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the
power of God.’
2 Corinthians 1:24
– ‘Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of
your joy: for by faith ye stand.’
Isaiah 8:19-20 –
‘And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar
spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a
people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and
to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is
because there is no light in them.’
Matthew 15:9 –
‘But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the
commandments of men.’ ”
– Westminster Confession of
Faith, Chapter 31, Paragraph 3.
Needless to say that the people who become leaders in the church are
more often than not those that have a lust to be in control all the
time. Indeed the people who object loudest to them, tend to be those
who would rather want to be in control themselves. Having said that, in
the past, even as a truly regenerate believer, I have been caught up in
such disputes, especially when there is substance to the grievance in
question. Maybe a good minister has been unjustly deposed by the powers
that be. Maybe a bad minister has been put in charge of the
congregation. Maybe the leadership as a whole have decide something
dreadful, such as to allow practising, unrepentant homosexuals into
high places in the church hierarchy. All these things, and many more, I
have seen, and quite rightly I have had my soul vexed for the
righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his
righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds” 2
But whereas true believers should rightly hate wickedness wherever it
“Ye that love the
LORD, hate evil” Psalm 97:10
“Do not I hate
them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise
up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine
enemies.” Psalm 139:21,22.
Yet there is only so much we can lawfully do to stop it. Shouting and
screaming at the minister, even if he is in the wrong, is not the
Christian way. Most of the time, the decision-makers are far too
powerful for us, and we need to simply walk away and leave the whole
situation with the Lord:
avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is
written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”
On the one hand, we should indeed be sighing and crying over all the
abominations that go on in this world in the visible church, because
this is what the world thinks is Christianity (although we know it is
not real Christianity at all):
“And the LORD said
unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of
Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and
that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst
thereof.” Ezekiel 9:4.
On the other hand, we should not fret when the wicked are exalted in
this life, in fact we should expect it:
“Fret not thyself
because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of
iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as
the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in
the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.” Psalm 37:1-3.
“I have seen the wicked in
great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed
away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be
found.” Psalm 37:35,36.
Rather, we should realise that our true home is not in any visible
organisation which calls itself a church in this world. We are free,
free, free, from church politics. Hallelujah! Therefore we should not
get unduly stressed or surprised by anything that goes on
here. Yes, ordinarily, we should join ourselves to a visible church if
we can do so, and we should get actively involved, that is good:
“Not forsaking the
assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but
exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day
approaching.” Hebrews 10:25.
But let us cut our emotional ties to such organisations. Our true home
is in heaven, where Christ dwelleth:
“If ye then be
risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ
sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above,
not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with
Christ in God.” Colossians 3:1-3.
And no man is going to split that church!
“But ye are come
unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general
assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and
to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of
sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.”
not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth
corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for
yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth
corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where
your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew
not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In
my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have
told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a
place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that
where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3."
(3.) The greatest threat to the truth today is not Arminianism nor
Charismaticism, but Humanistic Psychology.
The "English Fellowship" on a Friday
night, was supposed to be the highlight of my week, where I could mix
with other English speaking believers. Most people there were young
Chinese who wanted to learn English. The format was that someone would
come to preach, then we would split into groups and discuss the sermon.
The groups were a bit too large, but apart from that, this is a good
pattern to follow, where people can think through things for
themselves and discuss with one another. However, most of the
speakers they had were American. Now, I must make it clear that I know
several truly Christian Americans, and they are excellent people to
know, they are humble, self-effacing, and a delight to know as my
fellow believers in Christ. Now, having said that......
After hearing their preaching for a while, it soon became obvious
that it wasn’t an “English” fellowship
at all, in fact it wasn’t even Christian. The Americans taught what
they considered to be Christianity, but they were not teaching the
truth. There was no mention of repentance, sin or salvation in Christ,
but rather only teaching on American values, albeit dressed up in
clothing. I expected Arminianism, but we didn't even get
that. Arminians would at least teach about
sin and repentance, but these subjects were totally
It occurs to me that this is happening all over the world. The
Americans come into a country and try to impose their American values
on the local population. We have seen this in the world, in Iraq and
Afganistan for example, but it is also happening in a big way in the
“international” churches are everywhere, which, when you look into them
more closely, are being run by rich Americans, not preaching the true
gospel, but preaching American values (the most notable
of which are Democracy and Self-Confidence) under the guise of
Christianity. We were invited to one of these "international" churches
in Shekou, and we saw this for ourselves. It is all very smooth and
well-presented, but one thing is missing – the gospel of saving grace.
Anyway, I wrote another article on
this subject, which I reproduce here:
do you think if a preacher comes along and tells you something like,
you need to “decide for Christ” or you need to “choose” Christ? Many of
us think that, well, it is not exactly the way we would put it, but it
is still preaching the gospel, so it is all right.
I have been
thinking about this a lot recently, especially because over the last
few months, I have been regularly attending such preaching. The more I
have heard what these people have to say, and the more I think upon
these things, the more I come to the conclusion that it is not just a
different way of preaching the gospel at all, but it is a completely
different message altogether, and needs to be exposed as such, not
least because it leads people into a false sense of security.
way it works is as follows: First of all, they say, we need to "choose"
or "decide" to follow Christ. Many Christians mistake this call for the
true call of the gospel, which is to repent and believe in Christ for
salvation, but the preachers of this message mean no such thing.
Repentance and salvation in someone other than ourselves, are alien
concepts to them. All the preacher means by “deciding to follow Jesus,”
is that we choose to follow Christ’s teachings. That is it. It is just
a decision we make ourselves to stop following the teachings of the
world any more and to follow the teachings of Christ instead, just as
we may “decide” to follow the teachings of Buddha or Confucius or some
other man. This “decision” involves no heart change, no repentance, no
salvation in a Saviour.
Once we have “chosen” to follow
Christ, we are immediately told that now we are a Christian, so
consequently all our sins past, present and future, are instantly
forgiven and we can relax. We do not need to think about sin any more,
and should not let it bother us again. In fact it is a sin to think
about sin at all from now on. We can now instead think positively, have
a sense of self-worth and self-acceptance, and be confident about
ourselves. This is nothing else but modern humanistic psychology
dressed up in religious clothing, and it is the complete opposite of
true Christianity, which should rather produce humility, meekness and
self-abasement. No wonder the preachers of such a message appear so
proud and self-confident.
If we really should not let sin
bother us any more, then we get further and further away from
seeing our real need of a Saviour. This message leads people away from
the true gospel, not closer to it.
But it does not stop there.
Now we have “chosen” to follow Christ, we must in future make sure that
we “choose” to live by every one of His precepts, taking each one in
turn. So, we must “choose” to stop lying and “decide” to tell the
truth. We must “choose” to stop cheating people and “decide” to live
honestly. etc. etc. Notice that everything is done by ourselves, there
is no concept of our need of the Holy Spirit to perform these things
in us at all. If the Holy Spirit is even mentioned by these
preachers, it is merely as a sideline to give us some secondary gifts,
such as joy in the heart, or maybe in some cases, exciting abilities to
perform miracles. The primary function of the Holy Spirit, namely, to
change us and make us able to keep the commandments in the first place,
is completely ignored.
I have heard this message spoken of in
this way: In the parable of the sower, some of the seed falls on stony
ground. We therefore need to remove the stones to make good soil so the
seed can grow good roots. The stones are described in the following
within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries,
fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit,
lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride,
these evil things come from within, and defile the man." Mark 7:21-23.
We, according to this message, need to remove these "stones" ourselves
first, then we can grow in Christ properly.
from the fact that this was not Christ’s explanation of the parable,
have you spotted the huge error in this false message yet? WE CANNOT DO
We cannot remove these "stones," they are too heavy for
us. Only God can. The whole point of Christianity is that we cannot do
these things by ourselves, we need a Saviour to do it for us. The
gospel is not that we should stop sinning by our own effort, because we
cannot. The gospel is that we need the Lord to save us from our sins
which we cannot get rid of ourselves, and then to work righteousness
from within us by giving us a new heart. Only then can we serve the
Lord, and not before.
By nature, we cannot "choose" anything, except sin. We must be born
"Except a man be
born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3.
We need a new heart:
away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed;
and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house
of Israel?" Ezekiel 18:31.
This is something that we cannot do ourselves, it is the gift of God:
new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you:
and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give
you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you,
cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and
do them." Ezekiel 36:26,27.
So we need to repent and cry to God for mercy:
ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when
the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" Acts
"God be merciful
to me a sinner." Luke 18:13.
THIS is the gospel. It is a gospel of God's grace, not a gospel of
self-help. With the true gospel, boasting is excluded:
"Where is boasting
then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of
faith." Romans 3:27.
this false gospel of self-help was true, then when we get to heaven, we
can always say that the difference between us being in heaven and our
neighbour being in hell is that we "chose" Christ and our neighbour
didn't. That is boasting, and so cannot be a true gospel.
need to expose this false gospel of self-help and the proud
perpetrators of it, and show how it is leading people further away from
the true gospel and from seeing their real need of a Saviour. Every one
of us ought to see our sin for what it is, and flee from the wrath to
come by embracing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the only Saviour
from sin. Only then will boasting be excluded, when we realise that
salvation is by grace alone.
by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is
the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians
These were some of the lessons
I learned, or rather have had clarified to me, whilst living
I have never doubted my faith for a moment. I have backslidden
times, and certainly I could have done a LOT more than I have done for
Christ. My sins are ever before me. May the good Lord forgive me. He
has kept me thus far, and I can be assured He will keep me to the end,
despite me being me. I have no doubts about my faith, and the fact that
I am one of Christ’s redeemed people. Hallelujah! But, all these
in various visible churches have almost brought me to the point of
despair. All of these churches will seriously
have to answer for that.
Church is not a game to play, which just gives the players a bit of
excitement and a huge social life. Going to church should be a joyful
thing, where I go to publicly worship my Maker and Saviour. But I’ve
been everywhere now, and there is nowhere left to go.
Can we find a perfect church on this earth? Not at all. Everywhere we
find elders with management / psychology "skills" who know how to
politically manipulate the direction of the church, other members who
blindly follow the great god "church" in all that it does, members who
have mental problems, members who are only in it for the social life
without an ounce of grace in them (usually the children of believers
who have grown up in the church and know nothing else). I found these
things in all these churches, and I have come to the conclusion that
the Lord has, in His providence, concluded all churches (at least in
particular age) to be like this. One
fundamental thing I MUST get across to everyone who reads this is that
not to worship the great god "church" wherever we are.
The true believer will always be “without the camp”
(Hebrews 13:13). I am convinced
that this is his lot in this world. It is no good searching for a
visible church that has all truth, for there is not one on the face of
the earth. Don’t take the advice I have been given in the past, and
move, giving up your job and everything, just to be near a decent
is not worth it. The Lord puts us all where we are for
a purpose, and
does not ordinarily move us on, unless in providence there is a good,
overwhelming reason to do so. Trying to find a perfect church is not
one of those reasons. We go, if we can, to a nearby public
assembly to worship
God. We are called to do this for our mutual edification if at all
forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some
is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day
approaching." Hebrews 10:25.
But if we cannot do this, then so be it.
in a visible church is
a waste of time, it will only lead to disappointment in the end. We
trust solely in God to keep His little flock to the end.
“Fear not, little flock;
for it is your Father’s good
pleasure to give
you the kingdom.”
“Be of good cheer; I have
overcome the world.”
“Let us go forth therefore
unto him without the camp, bearing
reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to
These promises, and others in the Scriptures, keep the true believer
from utter despair. We get to heaven despite
any visible church."
am not mad most noble Festus, but
soberness.” Acts 26:25.
If you want to read anything else I have written, this is the place to