Years of Turmoil


There are many things that I can't say here on my website.  

I have made a conscious decision to be as overt as necessary about my own sin, nature and past to get my message across.  However, I do not have the right to make that decision on behalf of anyone else. So to describe to my readers what I have been through, without revealing something negative or private about someone else, will be quite a challenge.

Almost from the day I found Jesus, I have had a burden for the Church. That burden embraced the (missing) love and unity amongst believers which Jesus commanded, envisaged and prayed for (John 13 & 17).  He wanted it to be our testimony to the rest of the world, finally convincing them that God is real.  I think of John 17 as Jesus' wish-list, describing the things He is looking for in His soul mate, that bride without spot or wrinkle, to be presented to Him at the end of time.  Yet, the things He is looking for are only meaningful if they can be demonstrated before time ceases.

When I started in my walk with Him, I was so naive and ill-informed, I thought I knew it all, and now, knowing a hundred times more, I know I don't come close. Yet there are times when I look back on those innocent early days, nostalgically wishing for the passion, enthusiasm, energy and verve with which I tackled the things of God. If you think I am passionate about Jesus now, you should have seen me then!

Anyway, that burden has driven me ever since.  Apart from the deep desire to find a soul mate who would share this burden with me, few things have managed to capture my imagination the way Jesus' Gospel message has.  If I long for a soul mate, how much more must Jesus long for His? And He surely deserves His, more than I do mine!  He really has laid down His life for her! I have visited many churches, often by invitation to speak and sing. I have worshipped in whatever circle of Christians I happened to be with.  I met so many wonderful Christians, but I was dismayed at the things that drove them.  For the great many of them, most of their lives were centred on accomplishing their own agendas.  I just couldn't understand why they didn't share my eagerness to see Jesus' dream fulfilled. 

Then some friends, knowing my burden, approached me with a new initiative. It was a new Christian movement sourced in the USA, based on teachings by Watchman Nee.  No, I don't think I'm stepping outside the acceptable boundaries I have set for myself here, by naming an organisation and an author. It was called the 'Local Church'.  The idea was right in line with what I believed: that there isonly one church; that there is no excuse for any number of churches in the same street or even suburb; the only acceptable excuse for another church is that distance makes regularly meeting together impractical; we should all be one, as a testimony to His love. So the movement focussed on establishing one church in each locality - hence the name.  My friends asked if I would join them in this venture, and, needless to say, I jumped at the chance! We met together in our homes, sang praises to the Lord in many voices, shared what the Lord was doing in each of us. You could walk into the room where we met, and you would feel the presence of the Holy Spirit, often bringing tears to our eyes!

We read all the books written by Watchman Nee and much of the literature prepared by his disciple, Witness Lee, in America. We were encouraged to go around, calling on His name constantly.  "Oh, Lord Jesus!" was the catchcry that was supposed to bring us into His presence, so we all called it out dozens, sometimes hundreds, of times a day.  At the beginning it probably worked, but as soon as it didn't come straight from our heart, it became no more than just another ritual.  Some of the teachings, I, personally, thought were a little bit 'sus' (suspect), but I put up with it. After all, what did I know, having been a Christian for just a couple of years?

My wife had two miscarriages between 1971 and 1972.  Pregnant for the third time, she missed out on most of the agonising arguments. She was put in hospital with her uterus stitched up to prevent the baby from miscarrying.  And she was required to lie on her back for three to four months, which just happened to coincide with the time when the bottom fell out of the movement. 

I had sensed for some time that there was something wrong in the church, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was. We still spoke the same words, sang the same songs, with the same gusto and the same wonderful harmonies.  But somehow the presence of the Holy Spirit didn't seem as real and overwhelming.  As is my way, I brought the matter to the attention of the 'brothers', but they assured me nothing was wrong and my worries were unfounded.  It was several months before my fears were finally given substance. A young man, maybe 18 years old, came into a meeting excitedly and declared: "There is a group that believes just as we do, meeting down in Collaroy!" (Collaroy is a beach suburb maybe 5 km away from where we met).  My response was, "Wow! Fantastic! Let's go and join them!" In one voice, three or four of the elders replied, "Oh, no, we can't do that. They have to join us!"

It was the articulation of what I had been struggling to identify. Yes, there should be only one church.  Yes, it is the one Jesus is building. Yes, it is right to make a stand for this principle and do all in your power to share that message with all Christians you come into contact with. But as soon as you believe that YOU are IT, you have lost the plot, missed the boat, and you have become just another division in the body of Christ!  You have added to the problem, rather than contributed to the solution.

Two to three months of arguments followed. It was agony.  My hopes and dreams were falling apart, yet I couldn't compromise what I knew to be right. I desperately tried to steer them back onto the right track, but it was all in vain. Then I felt I had no option left, but to leave.  I couldn't support a heresy, no matter how wonderful the words that described it.  Some of my relatives were in this movement at the time, and stayed. Gradually the movement turned into a cult, slowly taking more and more control over the lives of the people in it.  Members were told they could not associate with relatives opposed to the movement.  Later, they were not allowed to mix socially with anyone not part of the Local Church.

My eldest son was born early in 1973 and I knew I had to find answers to tell him by the time he reached the age of understanding. My heart was burning with something I wanted to say to Christianity as a whole, but the answers hadn't, as yet, become clear in my own mind.  All I knew was that it centred on the prayer Jesus had offered up in John 17, but I was confused, and angry with God for letting me down, while at the same time having nothing else worth giving my life to.  My wife couldn't understand what I was trying to do or say. I was beginning to wish she had been present during all the arguments, so she could tune into the subtle distortions of the Gospel message I had been privy to.  

We started to attend a charismatic church, but there were things there also I couldn't tolerate. I recall seeing a dozen people standing around an elderly woman sitting on a chair, both her legs stretched out onto another seat. Apparently one of her legs was shorter than the other (an unfortunate condition 99.9% of the world's population has to contend with, I found out later. It's just a matter of degree). The problem was giving her a lot of back pain. Several elders plus a pastor were praying for the Lord to lengthen the shorter leg, to match the other one. I truly wanted to see the leg grow, as much as the others. But nothing happened.  Then they all started to thank God for the growth they had just witnessed! And I stood there, dumbfounded. The woman got up, walked around and started proclaiming that the pain was gone!  Praise the Lord!  I cannot say that I know her pain returned, because I didn't ever go back to find out.  

I believe God heals. I believe God heals miraculously.  But I don't believe in making up healing stories or deluding myself. On a scale of difficulty (if it is appropriate to apply scales of difficulty to miracles), I would say it is harder to lengthen someone's leg than to make a blind person see, or a deaf person hear.  The energy required in the generation of substantial bone and tissue would far exceed what is required to provide sight or hearing.  So I struggled with the question, why?  Why is it that we are invariably able to believe God to lengthen legs and cure back pain and sore toes, but we still have sign-language interpreters, so the deaf can follow the sermon, and the blind still use walking sticks and dark glasses? Is it because a lengthened leg or departed pain is easier to fake? How often do we claim healing of complaints that haven’t even been professionally diagnosed? Did Jesus say He had come to lengthen legs, or to make the blind see and the deaf hear? 

My heart was filled with despair.  Everything I had longed for seemed to have gone off the rails.  The unity of purpose I had been hoping for with my life partner was missing. The start of a change in the church had been hopelessly thwarted by evil forces.  Badly needed answers were not forthcoming.  I needed someone to listen to me, but there wasn't anyone.  I needed someone to tell me I was wrong, if that should be the case, and why.  I really needed someone who would pour out their heart to me, also.  

I refused to go to church and, in stead, I started writing my novel, "Leaves of the Fig Tree", (a copy of which can be downloaded free of charge from the 'Short Stories' part of this website).  I will write a further testimony later, to explain more about why I wrote it, and what I wanted to say by writing it.

Five or six years later, the Local Church split. Roughly half the people in it, including my relatives, at last realised it had gone bad.  I am still not quite sure, till this day, just what it was that finally turned on the light, but I guess it is not relevant to my story.  The friends who had invited me to join in the first place came to see me and asked if we would start meeting with them once more, and of course I agreed, eager to see the Lord at work again.  By this time, 1979, we had our three children.  Two boys were six and five years old, and my daughter one.  We met in homes, and it was wonderful, reminiscent of the start of the Local Church.  We were filled with love for Jesus and each other.  We sang our hearts out. Then we started meeting in a Motor Inn on Sundays. And it wasn't long before it became evident not all of us were on the same wavelength.  

Does it really matter what the problems were?  I don't think it does.  The problem is always the same.  We have private agendas, which take the place of God's agenda.  Again, I carried the brunt of the conflict, while my wife was busy looking after the children.  Boy, have I made many mistakes in how I handled things in life.I, too, have my own agendas. But it is easy to see in hindsight, how you could have done things differently.  I guess, as far as my burden for the Bride for Jesus is concerned, mostly, I have felt very much alone in my quest.

The new fellowship lasted maybe two years. It probably collapsed around 1981, but I can't be sure. It is funny how unreliable your memory becomes, once you pass fifty!! I have made efforts to re-construct the timeline of my life, and while most significant events have a definite date, other memories don't fit exactly into that timeline. That probably doesn't impact on the significance of the events themselves, but it bothers me, because I am a stickler for accuracy!

The episode described in my essay entitled "The New Commandment", and expanded upon in my next testimony, "Hearing from God", fits in towards the end of that personal era of fellowship, so it probably happened in 1981. It was to be another huge learning experience.



  • God has a purpose for each of our lives, and uses anything and everything, whether godly or ungodly, to achieve that purpose.
  • In any move from the Holy Spirit, private agendas almost invariably take over from God's agenda, within a short time.