The Lord began preparing me to leave religious Babylon (man’s church) decades before I actually walked away from it. Blow upon blow, hurt upon hurt, the only way I would leave man’s church is when the discomfort of it all obliterated any hope of remaining. I could recount a hundred such abusive experiences, any one of which should have motivated me to leave, but I was deeply devoted to “the church” since it was there Jesus revealed himself to me. That’s a ridiculous notion, of course, returning weekly to the place I met Jesus. He could just as easily have appeared to me in the dentist’s office. If He had, would I make an appointment to have my teeth cleaned every week in the hope of seeing Him again?
Perhaps leaving was more difficult for me because I was a performing song-writer of original Christian tunes, so the church was my defacto performance venue for half a lifetime. Yet even that was hurtful because my home church saw me only as a guitar-player for the praise band; none showed any interest in my original songs, even while I enjoyed a busy weekend concert ministry for many years in churches, schools and prisons all over western Washington.
Now if you’ve read more than a few of my blog entries, you know I love to laugh and make readers laugh. That you might understand my frustration with the churches I joined and their inability to acknowledge my songwriting and singing talents, I need to share a true story that finally, after 20 years, I can laugh about.
The pastor was planning to deliver a sermon on the difference between Jesus, King of Heaven and the (spirit of) Elvis, King of the World. It was a funny message, contrasting Jesus truth with Elvis image, substance with flash, charity with commercialism, etc. To introduce the sermon, the pastor asked the praise band to play a few bars of an Elvis tune. We chose “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and one by one each of us sang a few lines to see who sounded the most like Elvis. Now I had been telling my friend Gene, who was the keyboard player, that the music minister was oblivious to my singing talent and on several occasions ignored me when I volunteered to sing. Soon everyone had auditioned for the Elvis song except for myself and Gene.
About that time, the music minister needed a bathroom break and said “keep singing, I’ll hear you over the loudspeaker in the restroom.” Gene turned to me and said “sing it, Jack” and I dialed-up my Elvis voice. No sooner had I finished than the music minister reappeared and exclaimed “that was FANTASTIC, GENE! You’ve got the part.” Gene was aghast and said “that wasn’t me, it was Jack“. But the music-minister had already turned his attention elsewhere and mumbled “thanks Gene, it’s going to be great”. Come Sunday, Gene sang the part at both services after which the music-minister asked why he didn’t sing it like he had in practice. Again Gene said “it was Jack” and the music-minister simply looked at Gene like he was pulling his leg. When we walked out with our gear, all Gene could do was roll his eyes at the situation and sympathize with me.
I realize now it was all part of the Lord’s plan and that He had hidden me in Him to preserve me for His purpose. I’m completely at peace with everything that has happened and thankful for the wonderful place He has brought me to. There is contentment and joy in Him and with my wife, with whom I am one flesh. Having left the institutional church, Karen and I enjoy continual fellowship with the Lord and each other where He is growing us together, in Him. We have come to know His easy burden and light yoke and the fellowship that comes only with walking in the light.
About “walking in the light”, I have previously written about 1 John 2:27, which is a caution about false teachings and teachers, saying “you do not need a man to teach you”. For purposes of this writing, I want to focus on the last line of 1 John 2:27 which reads:
“Obey the Spirit’s teaching, then, and remain in union with Christ.” (GNB)
After leaving man’s church in 2000, the Lord led me in a lengthy study of the tithe doctrine and exposed the churches love of money. The study yielded 6 articles on tithing (link) that were posted on my web site LordYouAre.com (now defunct). When the Lord sent Karen and I to a small country church the fall of 2014 after we moved cross-country, I found myself becoming increasingly upset by the scrolling overhead presentation which called for people to bring their “tithe”. Even more annoying, was the animated graphic of an offering winging its way to the offering box. The actual offering box was at the door to the sanctuary and was engraved with Malachi 3:10, which is the very scripture the Lord began to teach me from. As often as I walked past the box and sat beneath the overhead presentation, I was upset and after several months, made an appointment with the pastor to talk about it. When I shared what the Holy Spirit had taught me concerning the tithe, he dismissed me and said “I love the tithe. I love to teach tithing; all 3 tithes”. And just like that I knew our time at the church was done.
How that relates to “Obey the Spirit’s teaching, then, and remain in union with Christ”, is this: the Spirit went to great lengths to teach me the truth about tithing and to share that truth with others (link). By submitting to the leadership of a pastor and church who taught and practiced otherwise, I put myself at odds with the Spirit (i.e., disobedience). And that disrupted my union with Christ.
Within weeks of beginning to attend services there, Karen and I started to feel the adverse effects of being out of union with Christ and each other. Strife entered our home, divisive church issues robbed us of sleep, church leaders manipulated us, members conscripted one or the other of us to perform church jobs which began to infringe upon our marriage relationship, etc. Only by leaving that church, did the peace, joy and unity we had known with Christ and each other, return to us.
And yet, our experience at the small country church was for the good (Romans 8:28); certainly it helped to rekindle my passion for writing!
As for the Elvis experience? It served to inspire one of the funniest songs I’ve ever written. Have a listen and I hope it puts a smile on your face!
“Just One King”
© 2006 Jack E. Helser, Jr. All Rights Reserved.
We was waitin’ for the service
While the praise band played some tunes
Ushers were gettin’ nervous
As they packed us in the pews
The excitation mounted
As the singers took their place
The “Hallelujah’s” sounded
As the preacher strolled on stage
And He said: “Good morning ladies
I’m feelin’ love here today
We’ve got a great service for ya
So stay tuned – don’t go ‘way”
With a quiver of his lip
And a toss of wavy hair
A shimmy of his hip (he)
Thrust the Bible in the air
Then came a strange gyration
That started in his pelvis
The preacher looked like Elvis!
And He said: “Don’t worry ladies
You’ll get used to the beat
You need a gimmick baby
If you want to compete”
My eyes were disbelievin’
And my ears weren’t far behind
I thought some folks were leavin’
But they formed a conga line
Well strobe lights started flashing
And a fog began to roll
He gripped the mic with passion
As the band cranked out the soul
And He said “Please listen ladies
There’s something you need to hear
This service is brought to you by
Our friends at Meuller Beer”
He ascended to the pulpit
And perched above the crowd
I started for the exit
He yelled “Stop! That’s not allowed”
The ushers had me cornered
And I couldn’t run away
He pointed and demanded
“What DO YOU have to say”
And I sang: Reverend Pelvis
You need to button your lip
There’s just One King for me Elvis
And He’ll be back with His whip