As a small boy, Job was regularly sent to the local Sunday School. The church in question was of a small, independent evangelical flavour. There were no ‘charismatic gifts’. There were no ‘words from God’ and there was certainly no laughing or drunkenness ‘in the spirit’. There was however a very good series of bible classes, divided by age, all of which focused on teaching the basics of bible knowledge and understanding. There were no quirky doctrines, esoteric interpretations or whacky theologies in sight. The majority of the teaching was based on the many narratives within the Bible for children love ‘a good story’ – Adam & Eve, Noah, the Patriarchs, Moses & The Exodus, The Judges and The Monarchy and of course the narratives of the life of Christ. Job experienced approx 10 years of these bible classes, and is consequently of the belief that there is much to be said for such an uncomplicated teaching of scripture to children.
Interestingly in all his years in Sunday School Job never encountered the terms ‘Baptised in The Spirit’ or ‘Speaking in Tongues’. It therefore came as something of a shock several years later when Job began attending the Anglican church alluded to in Part 1 of this blog series, to encounter these terms. Job was however quickly immersed in the Charismatic, although it must be said that his experience of this movement was very much at the tame end – modern choruses, unstructured meetings, lively youth meetings and the occasional claimed ‘healing miracle’ seemed to be about the limit. Once more there were little if any quirky doctrines, esoteric interpretations or whacky theologies in sight, at least initially.
Job does recall one particular incident that at the time he found to be a cause of frustration and failure but with the benefit of hindsight he can now view with a great sense of relief and of the providence of God. It was a Tuesday morning and Job was at the time unemployed, and perhaps more pertinently unemployable. Being somewhat bored and at a loose end Job decided to attend the mid morning prayer meeting at his church. It was a prayer meeting with a difference – there were no prayers made. Instead the vicar led a guided meditation. Those attending sat in a circle and were asked to close their eyes and imagine Jesus coming into the room and speaking to them. Job has always been useless at this type of exercise and try as he might he just could not conjure up Jesus at all. Perhaps he had sin in his life. Perhaps he was just unspiritual. Perhaps his faith was in vain. Perhaps he just wasn’t a favourite with God. To make matters worse many others who attended that morning reported all manner of ‘conversations with Jesus’. These individuals and others of the same ilk were subsequently to spend much time at the front of the church on Sunday mornings ‘giving words’, relaying messages that God had ‘laid upon their hearts’ or ‘having pictures’. These were the ‘spiritual elite’ who had a disproportionate influence on the future nature, character and direction of the church. And why not? After all they were clearly the spiritual ones.
The problem with the above of course is that, in the main, such activities are unscriptural claptrap. For sure there is meditation within the bible. There are visions, oracles and prophecies too. Such activities are very different however to what Job witnessed. Meditation on the word is one thing. Being guided into imagining Jesus having a chat with yourself is somewhat different. The reality is that those within scripture who experienced such phenomena were servants of God who generally had spent time and effort studying the Old Testament scriptures – consider Daniel, Jeremiah, Elijah or any of the OT prophets. Jesus himself was a student of the scriptures. Paul was a trained Pharisee. By contrast the people whom Job encountered within his church and elsewhere were in the main biblically illiterate-the sort who if you asked them to open their bibles in the ‘Book of Noah’ or ‘Elijah Ch. 3’ would actually try to do so. Yet Paul the Apostle exhorted the young man Timothy to ‘study the word to show himself approved unto God’. No study = no approval; and no approval should preclude any sort of contemplation of such a person’s words. In fact it seems that those who constantly seek ‘a word’ do so simply because they do not have ‘the Word’. Some years later a PCC member in fact confirmed this very point, stating publically from the front of the church that ‘God has told me that I don’t need a bible anymore as the Gifts of The Spirit suffice’. Job’s blood turned to steam and he had to be forcibly restrained by his good lady wife that morning.
The small black cloud was gathering and enlarging. From Job’s perspective a life changing event was about to occur that would effectively remove him from that church and take him on a completely different path for the next few years. This detour will be the subject of ‘A Crack In The Clouds‘.