7/15/08

An Old Man and A Church

About a half mile down the road from us some people moved onto a spot of land. It had originally belonged to Mrs. and Mr. Norris. They were elderly and in need of being cared for. Their nephew, Timer Nugent, moved to the corner of the property. He moved in an old single wide house trailer. He had a daughter who was close to my age. Her name was Brenda.

Brenda and I became close friends. She was sweet, thoughtful and so fun to ride bikes with. She was the only other kid on the road that I knew who had a bike. Timer was a preacher in the "Jesus Holy Church". This was a sect of faith that involved charismatic worship. Most preachers in this church were not educated but were filled to the brim with the "Holy Ghost".

Timer built a one room church building on this property as well. It was large enough to contain his congregation which was mainly his direct and indirect family. They would gather in that church on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings and just praise and worship in the most charismatic manner they could. They stopped just short of snake handling in this church. We heard them many Sundays as their services carried into the afternoons. They would speak in tongues and holler and stomp in that old building. It was frightening to an outsider. My mother never let me go but my curiousity never ended. There were many of these churches where I grew up. Each community seemed to have one close enough for everyone to attend.

I would ask Brenda many days about that worship and she would tell me how exciting it was to get caught up in the moment. I have since studied some on speaking in tongues and how we are told in the New Testament that it's no good unless there is someone to translate. But, the actual act of speaking in tongues does occur. Speaking in tongues is actually a gift were we to know how to properly utilize that gift, but there are so many gifts we do not completely understand - at least I do not completely understand them. I am not sure we are intended to understand them actually.

What I did find amazing about Timer and his congregation was the fact that they worshipped so freely, without inhibitions and without being judged for their lack of education or formal training. They simply worshipped! Perhaps they didn't know all the exact scripture. Perhaps more formal training would have removed their penchant for charisma. One thing was obvious however, when that church was rocking, there was something powerful going on inside! They were very simple country people who came together in their desire to honor and glorify God. What actually happened is still a mystery in my mind but I knew these people and I knew the purity of their faith.

Timer was a man of flaws as well. He liked to drink and he had other sinful attributes that lead many outsiders to judge him unworthy of leading a congregation. I prefer to believe that those who Timer lead to God through the purity of his worship were saved because he allowed himself to be an instrument despite his human flaws. I prefer to believe that his little church was a big deal in the world of the simple people who filled it to the brim. Perhaps these people would not have walked into the bigger churches fearing judgment from their inability to "dress up so nice" or their inability to comprehend the deeper meanings many try to pull from what is really a simple scripture. Then again, perhaps if someone from a bigger church walked down their little isle, they would not have felt a comfort.

I am not sure where this story has actually taken me short of the point that, in my middle years, I now realize that God leads us all to Him if we are willing to follow that path. He's there waiting for us and He doesn't really care if we walk down the isle of some elaborate, gold laden church or down the isle of a one room building full of the Spirit. Some of us probably walk down either one of these isles and never quite understand what our objective is. For those of us who get there and realize that it's only through His Grace and glory that we are saved, we know that it's not our right to question how anyone else got there. The victory is in getting there.

There's something to be said though for a man who liked to drink but knew that on Sunday, God would cleanse him. This man was humble enough to know he would never reach perfection but he was forgiven daily for his imperfections. This man was humble enough to show others the truth in that revelation. I don't know if Timer ever overcame his weakness. I do know that for years I have reflected on his life and his mission and for years I have felt honored to have experienced what little of his faith I was given.

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