I was converted to Christ while a member of the Methodist institution (certainly in spite of, and not because of, Methodism itself!). Arminian Methodism has never been sound in the faith; but in the 1970s it was moving relentlessly into more and more error. Ecumenism was a growing evil; liberalism was spreading; worldliness was prevalent in the majority of the members; political radicalism was increasing, with support being given to southern African terrorist organisations; women were being “ordained” as ministers; and the influence of the Charismatic movement was beginning to be felt. Of course, many within the denomination understood little or nothing of these developments at that time, and certainly I, a youngster, was ignorant of most of it, although I was deeply disturbed by the worldliness of most of the members.
I received no sound teaching from the Methodist preachers I heard. But the Lord was teaching me through His Word, and in my final year of high school in 1980, I believed the Lord was calling me into the ministry. But how and where? There was much false doctrine that had to be forsaken, and true doctrine that had to be embraced; and this process was to take a number of years. At the time all I knew was Methodism, and the local Methodist leadership was eager to get me into a course of theological training for the Methodist ministry. I preached my first sermon just before my 17th birthday, and soon afterwards I started to preach regularly in the local Methodist church, and was also put in charge of their “youth church” meetings. And I began studying for the Methodist “lay preaching” exams. But by God’s grace, and in His providence, I never entered the Methodist ministry. For, around the same time, through a series of events which were compounded by an utter lack of sound teaching, I was introduced to the Pentecostal movement, and became a Pentecostal. A case of out of the frying pan into the fire!
Pentecostalism, when I was first introduced to it, appeared to me (as it has to so many other youngsters) to be biblical. It seemed to follow the Bible, to be alive, to preach (as it boasted) “the full Gospel”. How wrong I was! It appeared to fill the void which I felt within Methodism. I was a regenerated young man trying to fit into a false religious institution. It could not be done. I was a fish out of water. But sadly, going from Methodism to Pentecostalism, I went from one ecclesiastical error to another.
Encouraged by a man I looked up to at the time, I dropped the Methodist theological studies and enrolled in the theological college of the Assemblies of God, one of the more conservative Pentecostal denominations (although “conservative” is a relative term when it comes to Pentecostalism). It was also around this time that I was baptized, in the biblical manner, by full immersion.
Always deeply interested in missionary work, I was excited to learn about an organisation called Operation Mobilisation, which owned two “missionary ships” and took in young people from all over the world to do what they called mission work for a year or two. I signed up – until, in undergoing the required course of study in preparation for the work, I learned that they distributed Roman Catholic Bibles in Roman Catholic countries, believed that many Roman Catholics were Christians, and were far more ecumenical than I at first realised. By this time I had come to understand something of the errors of Roman Catholicism and of ecumenism. I wrote to the South African branch and pulled out.
I graduated from the Assemblies of God college, and became associated with a church belonging to a small Pentecostal denomination, the South African Evangelistic Mission. In time I became the assistant to the pastor, and a teacher in the church. But through it all, I was studying the Word of God for myself – and keeping my eyes open. And, step by step, the Lord in His mercy began to lead me to see the errors of both Arminianism and Pentecostalism.