When I got out of the Army in 1975, I returned to Pasadena and started going around to different churches to find one I liked.
One I went to for a few months was a little Pentecostal church. I saw the church's advertisement in the Star-News and decided to give it a try. The people there were impressed that someone had actually responded to the ad, which had apparently been running practically forever without a soul coming as a result.
Anyway, I rather rapidly found myself unimpressed with the service, about a third of which consisted of pleas for money and the rest of which was just sort of blah.
However, there were (and probably still are) some really godly, kind people there, and in the small congregation I was never lost in the crowd and several people made me feel really welcome, including one very sweet older lady.
One Sunday morning I made some grumbling remark about the service, and her response, somewhat to my surprise, was, "I know just what you mean," and then she invited me to an evening service at another church "where they really know how to worship," or words to that effect.
It sounded good to me, so that night I followed her directions and ended up at a small, wooden church somewhere in Los Angeles.
She met me outside and we walked in together, and it was a good thing we did, because otherwise I probably wouldn't have gotten past the door.
I had heard of such things, but always assumed they were exagerations. Not only were people speaking in tongues (which I can accept since it's in the Bible and I'd seen it before), but they were also shivering and shaking (it wasn't cold) and jerking around and generally looking pretty ridiculous. And the service hadn't even started yet!
When it did start, things really went crazy. People went up front where one of three or four pastors put a hand on their foreheads and, kerplunk, over they fell. No preliminaries, no nothing. As his hand touched their heads, over they went.
I was not enjoying this at all, and said as much to the sweet old lady who had brought me. She suggested I go up front and tell one of the pastors my concerns, so I did.
The scene was ridiculous, I told him. I couldn't see any way this craziness could bring honor to Jesus.
He asked me if he could put his hand on my head.
I said I didn't see any point in it.
"Are you willing to let God do what He wants in your life?" he asked.
I was stuck. If I was a Christian the answer had to be yes. I might have escaped if I could think of some Biblical command forbidding pastors from putting their hands on my head, but I couldn't think of a one.
So he put his hand on my forehead, but I immediately stopped him.
"No," I said, "Put your hand flat on top of my head." (I didn't want to be shoved over backward.)
So he did, and while he prayed I told God I was willing for Him do to me as He would.
It couldn't have been more than three seconds. Kerplunk! I fell over backward. I haven't the faintest recollection if somebody caught me or what. All I remember is laying on the floor.
The pastor (bless his heart) went back to his work.
As I lay there feeling a bit ridiculous, I kept thinking, "Am I sensing God's presence in a special way? What spiritual insight am I getting out of this?"
But the only thing I felt was being horizontal. Finally I got up and sneaked out a side door.
In retrospect, though, I think I learned a bit of humility.
Copyright 1996, Brad Haugaard.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
– John 3:17