I wrote this article (and most of the others linked to on this page) in the late 90's before I had come out fully from Pentecostalism. I had fully realized how wrong Community Chapel had been, but was still in an unsuccessful search within Pentecostalism for something to replace it.
From the late '70's to the late '80's, I belonged to a church named Community Chapel and Bible Training Center. Its members usually referred to it simply as "the Chapel." The Chapel was destroyed in 1988 as a result of a practice called "spiritual connections" that appeared in our midst in 1985. These pages tell that story, as well as a number of others.
I had found myself a member of the Chapel because I believed in Jesus Christ, and was searching for something more than the Lutheran Church in which I was raised seemed to be offering. I wanted to live the truth of the New Testament among other believers who were similarly motivated. But my life at the Chapel didn't turn out like I planned. For the first four or five years, I thought it had. Then everything began to fall apart, slowly at first and then faster and faster.
Looking back now, I realize that for me there were really two Chapels. One of them I couldn't get away from fast enough. The other is one that I still look back at with fondness, and wonder why it had to end. These two Chapels don't simply correspond to the pre- and post-1985 Chapels. I think the two Chapels existed side-by-side until shortly before the end. Then one of them disappeared forever.
One Chapel had all kinds of esoteric, even slightly bizarre doctrines with which I was always a little uncomfortable. I met this Chapel sometimes at evening fellowships when an earnest, sweating man would buttonhole me and relate to me every name and title of the numerous demons he had cast out of some brother at a six-hour prayer meeting he had attended that day. I would nod, grin, periodically say "Amen, brother," and wonder to myself if I really belonged at the Chapel at all. I also sometimes encountered this Chapel in the intrusion of a topic like "Why Jesus Didn't Have a Conscience" into the adult Sunday School lessons. I was continually bumping into things that troubled me because they seemed to justify the charges of cultishness that we frequently heard from outside the Chapel.
I met the other Chapel at nearly every Friday night and Sunday morning service, worshipping God to dynamic songs from one of the Chapel's many music groups. I also met this other Chapel in its Bible college classes during the week, sitting in classrooms under the teaching of committed, inspired men not too much older than myself, with dozens of other students who were motivated to be there simply by a love of Jesus Christ and His Word. At times like those I knew beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ was my Lord and my God, that He had led me to the Chapel, and there wasn't anything I wouldn't do for Him. No place seemed to teach and obey the Word as purely, as simply, and as clearly as this other Chapel.
How the first Chapel silenced and eventually drove out the second was a puzzle that preoccupied me for years afterward. I often wondered how the two Chapels ever came to co-exist in the first place. I think I see now that the two seemingly different experiences can be reconciled by an understanding of the unique combination of factors that existed there. To understand it one has to take into account the nature of the man who founded and pastored the Chapel, as well as the theology in which he was raised (Latter Rain Pentecostalism of the "Oneness" variety) and subsequently taught to those of us under him at the Chapel. To a lesser extent, one must also take into account the times in which the Chapel was founded. There were some inherent contradictions in that mix, and the strain of trying to keep it all under control eventually destroyed the Chapel. But I know that I took several lessons away from the experience.
I have an invaluable example of the ways a false understanding of the Word can corrupt and overcome a merely emotional commitment. I believe I have seen why certain doctrines are definitely false. And I now know some warning signs of a church that may be headed off the tracks.
This site exists as my personal documentation of these lessons.