The Church I go to bills itself as “Not a Church for EVERYBODY, but a church for ANYBODY”. I think that’s a clever way of putting it. It gets wild here. We have nightclub lights and choir that will knock you to the ground with their powerful voices. Whoever gets the Lead Singer position riffs his or her way through each and every Praise song like they were in concert at the House of Blues. There are cameras every where and they sweep across the audience for the benefit of those watching on the internet. The lyrics to the songs are up on to monster sized liquid crystal High Definition panels that digitally project psychedelic fire flames and bursting balls of color perfectly in sync with the beat of the music. We shout and he spin and we clap and we dance until God shows up and brings blessings the “From the platform to the door – From the Ceiling all way down to the Floor” as one of my favorites is belted with enthusiasm all across the congregation.
This is – after all – Orlando – Home of THE Mouse and every theme park you have ever heard of. We are a little jaded and hard to impress. I don’t think God really needs all that drama, but it sure does make going to church fun. In fact – I have been known to call it “Church Lite”. Sort of a spiritual diet drink. But there have been a lot of changes in the past few months. The church has really made a commitment to the community to which it serves and I think the drama helps us all feel at home. There have been so many changes in fact that even though I have been going there for 4 or 5 years, it has just been the last few church services where I have been recognized by other church members and they have given me a little wave and even come over to say hi while we wait for the service to begin. It’s like we switched from “Tab” to “Jolt”.
They had been promoting a speaker who was going to be there last Tuesday night named Tim Storey and he seemed to have a bit of Hollywood on him. The preacher to the stars, if you will. Usher, Stevie Wonder, Dog the Bounty Hunter and – one of my favorite actors – Robert Downey Jr., all professed complete faith in his ability to minister to their very different needs. I came home and told Michael about it and he thought he might like to go. I googled Tim Storey and the only thing I could really come up with was a service he did at the Church at South Las Vegas on a podcast. I listed to the whole thing and it didn’t answer a lot of questions about him, but I was certainly moved by his words and his thought process. I even cried a little and a little voice in the back of my head said he must be some kind of faith healer. But then I thought – no – surely my home church wasn’t going to sign up for any of that nonsense. Growing up in the Assemblies of God, I had seen more than a few of those and was never quite “signed up” for that practice.
In fact – if I would have known that was what he was I would have never gone.
My experience with Faith Healers and Evangalists had never been all that positive. I do remember one specific incident quite clearly though. I don’t remember my sisters being there. Paula was 14 months younger than I and was probably at the Kids Camp winning a Nobel Prize for General Kindness, and Jodi – 5 years my junior – claims she was probably eating crackers under one of the chairs. Mom and dad and I had been ushered to the equivalent of the VIP section of this huge camp meeting – revival – general council type of setting. I remember it as a huge gym with a make shift platform and we were all seated to the right of the platform. I was bored and mom and dad didn’t seem to blown away by the whole service but at the end there was lots of speaking in tongues – falling under the spirit and shouts of “Be HEALED in the name of Jesus”…
I remember watching the main speaker ramming people in the head with his hand until they fell over and some of his assistants were shoving them to the floor with their hands on their shoulders.
Now? Not so bored!!!
And then I remember looking up to my Dad – who had completely ceased his participation (never really all that enthusiastic to begin with) in the events – and he had that crease in his forehead that usually meant I was going to bed early. He ushered us to the nearest exit and into the car for the ride home. I don’t remember any of the conversation but they were both pretty irritated. Since our parents had obviously developed some sort of foreign language communication for when we kids were visible, I wasn’t sure what had just happened but I was a little gleeful about the obvious fake we had just witnessed. Whatever doubts I may have had up to that point had been proven to be true.
It was a while later that in the old Greeley church – immediately after the offering had been taken, an older lady behind me burst into a loud speaking in tongues episode and dad bum rushed the podium and started everybody singing a pretty peppy praise song. The lady behind me muttered “Forgive him Lord, Forgive him.” – and I turned around to see just who I was dealing with. Never had seen her before but I was pretty sure that he didn’t need any forgiving coming from her. I asked him later why he had interrupted her and he said something about things not always being from God, even though they may present themselves as such. End of conversation.
Now I had never spoken in tongues and I had never actually fallen under the spirit although I did sink to the floor a couple of times because – with my one eye open – I saw everyone else did. I remember a particularly emotional service where I literally begged God to let me experience what everyone else was and got nothin’. I started to think that maybe I had committed one of those sins that God just didn’t forgive and I was out of luck.
So with all that in mind, after the usual nightclub like praise Tuesday night, Tim Storey came to the stage and started to point people out to come up and he would just wave his hand in their general direction and say “BAM” and they would fall like limp noodles. My mouth dropped open. This went on for 15 minutes or so and there were several people who wobbled but didn’t fall down. He would to them “Go ahead – take it all – BAM!” One Church regular was especially resistant and I was kind of rooting for him for not being swept up in the drama. But right before he said he was going to speak – he pointed to the same guy and told him to come up on stage and to “Hurry – he didn’t have a lot of time.” The guy came up and as he was passing Tim Storey, Time waved his hand from behind him and he slid to the floor sideways. I still had my doubts but he called for all the people with arthritis to come up for their healing and one very tall black lady kind of made her way to the front and you could tell she was already suspicious. He healed (or whatever you call it) two or three people ahead of her and then told her – no “BAM” though – that she had been healed and she could go back to her seat. You could tell she was disappointed but as she got to the bottom of the stage, he called her back and you could the see the change in her face…”I’m HOT ALL OVER” she said “And the pain is GONE!” He said he could tell she wasn’t ready when she was on stage and he needed to catch her off guard. Yeah OK…Now I was really paying attention…
We did a lot of swaying and hand raising and I decided to take a peek at Michael because I figured he was going to be royally irritated at me over all this…but my husband was examining his shoulder and his fingers and doing his stretchy stuff that he does when he is hurting and I suddenly realized that HE had been healed from the pain in his shoulders. Oh come on now – I thought – you can’t be serious – he’s CATHOLIC for Christ’s sake! (Like God doesn’t heal Catholics?) By the time we got out to the car he was thumping his chemically raw fingertips on the dashboard of the car to prove it didn’t hurt any more.
Later during the service – for my benefit I am sure – Tim (I can all him Tim now because he healed my Catholic husband and we’re tight now) explained that the church had gone through a period of charlatans and “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that had made many unbelievers but that a new generation with a gift were rising up and taking their place so that the new generation and – clearly some of the rest of us – would know that God and his power is real – very real – and he wanted us to live lives that were free of pain and guilt and give us new opportunity to let the King and Queen in each of us rise up as it did in David when he went to fight Goliath and defeat our enemy on every battlefield.
Wow. That was a lot to take in.
Now – not only do I believe in Faith Healers – I want to go again and “Take it ALL” for myself.