This is the first in a series on my life as a flaming Pentecostal; well maybe not so much flaming as in Holy Roller, but my life in the Charismatic/Pentecostal fold. It all began, strangely enough, in Portland, Oregon with what happened down at the local Odd Fellows Hall.
Two blocks from the family home in Northeast Portland, on Deacon and Durham Street, was the Odd Fellows Hall, which was rented out by different groups. It no longer exists, and probably the huge old wooden, two-story structure burned down. When Pentecostal meetings were sweeping Portland one met there and it was wild. We kids, my brothers and I plus a kid named Topsy, would sneak in and watch. We slipped in the back doors, found seats in the back, and got our entertainment. Since that day I have never seen anything quite like it. There was actual rolling around on the floor. My dad said nothing too bad but nothing too good about it all. I don’t know that he ever went in there, but he definitely went to the North Baptist Church about a mile from the house.
My dad had not yet become a Christian, a real one I mean, and I think he attended church out of tradition, because his folks were the quiet, serious kind of Baptists.
Jumping now to 1963 and the First Baptist Church of Fairfield, California and my conversion at age 21. I will not walk us through that here, but after a period of nine months of sporadic listening to the Gospel preached by Pastor Bob Lewis, I experienced the new birth. It is still mostly a mystery to me. Pastor Bob was in his mid-thirties and was serious about discipleship. A book he gave to all of us new believers was on the Bible-based American cults. It was a small volume and discussed only five such groups: Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Science, Adventists (Seventh Day), and Pentecostals.
Back then Pentecostals were rightfully included in such a book, but today that is not the case. Most people do not understand that in the early years of the 20th century Pentecostals earned the designation of “cult,” because they believed that they were the only ones really filled with the Holy Spirit and that speaking in tongues was the only sure mark of a real born-again Christian. This took them into the cultic realm.
So then, reading that book I was convinced that Pentecostals were cultic, and I gave them and their doctrines wide berth. This was my mind set all the way to 1968 and the Jesus People Movement.