The Chapel was running like a well oiled machine, the oil being God’s word, prayer and Alva’s unending supply of contagious love.
There was one problem, though. We were getting more and more crowded as the congregation kept growing. As we approached our fifth year at the Chapel, the Trustees knew something had to be done. A meeting was convened with all the leadership present. We desperately needed more Sunday School classrooms and another assembly area. After much discussion and prayer we came up with an idea.
The Chapel would build a Parsonage on the lot east of the Sanctuary. This would put Alva and me right next door to the Chapel for greatly increased efficiency. One small classroom, one medium sized classroom and one large class or assembly room would be available in the parsonage to help our problem. The idea was approved by the congregation.
I drew up the plans, and with three contractors in the congregation the project was completed in just a few months. We moved in and everyone was delighted with the results. The Sunday School space problem was solved for some years.
This also constituted our first raise, as the use of the Parsonage was a perk and we were saved the expense of owning or renting a house. We would finish raising our children and get them all married off before leaving this wonderful home!
The Charismatic Movement
As the Chapel grew, Alva and I had greater and greater responsibilities. We began to feel that we were behind the curve, that the needs were getting past our human capabilities. Sometime during 1961 I was having a serious talk with the Father, and told Him that if something didn’t happen to lower the demands, or increase my spiritual energy, or both, I felt I would have to resign and have the Chapel get someone else who had more of the right stuff.
I reviewed the Bible’s account of the birth of the Church to see if there was something I should be doing towards getting more of the right stuff. The twelve apostles had lived with and been trained by Jesus for three years, and had gone on evangelistic missions during which they healed the sick and cast out demons and preached the gospel. Yet Jesus, risen from the dead, gave them these instructions: (Acts 1:4, 5 “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, which you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now”)
· Don’t depart from Jerusalem;
· In a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
Further instructions were given: (Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”)
· You shall receive power;
· You shall be witnesses.
Sure enough, just as Jesus promised: (Acts 2:1-4 “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”)
· They were filled (=baptized) with the Holy Spirit;
· They spoke with other tongues.
After this, they went out and accomplished the “Acts of the Apostles!” Could this be the right stuff I needed? But isn’t this what the Pentecostals emphasized? And aren’t they a fringe group that can’t be trusted?
I didn’t know. The Baptists sure didn’t say much about it. So I filed it in my mind for possible future reference.
Then a strange thing happened. Christian Life magazine began to print articles about Christians from old line denominations getting baptized with the Spirit and speaking in tongues. Wow! Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists. These were at least sort-of Calvinists (you can’t lose your salvation), while the Pentecostals were at least sort-of Arminians (you can lose your salvation). Could this happen?
This news began to crop up in all the Christian publications, and soon even the secular newspapers picked up this phenomenon. The more I read these testimonies, the greater the sense in my heart that it was real and I began to hunger for the experience. This resulted in some action on my part:
· I went to meetings where this phenomenon was promoted;
· I prayed a lot;
· I wrestled a lot with Jesus over speaking in tongues, seeking a special baptism with the Spirit without the tongues;
· Jesus gently rebuked me for trying to modify His plan;
· I repented, and asked Him to please give it to me His way;
· I went to an Episcopal church that was active in this movement, the Pastor laid hands on me and Jesus baptized me with the Holy Spirit, tongues and all. It was a sweet but unspectacular experience, in keeping with my very unspectacular persona. Thank you Jesus!
So, in 1962, before the one year trial was up, I was baptized with the Holy Spirit. Did I now have the right stuff (power)? I didn’t tell anyone what had happened. I had prepared the message for the next Sunday service before I received the Baptism. It seemed to me that my preaching was no different than usual. But after the service was over, Bessie Feroe, an old line Pentecostal who was a prized member of the Chapel family, came up and stuck her face right into mine and audaciously announced, “I perceive that God has answered prayer!” Then she turned around without another word and left. Somehow she felt that I now did have the right stuff. I was amazed.
What about Alva? She didn’t know anything about all this. She was a life long Baptist. I was only a since-I-met-Alva Baptist. I decided to tell her indirectly, to hopefully minimize any violent reaction.
We were due to go on vacation to visit our folks in the LA area. So I told her that after we had gotten reacquainted with our parents, we could go over to Van Nuys to a meeting where Jean Stone would be explaining the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. She could get Jean to pray for her and she would get filled with the Holy Spirit. “Over my dead body!” came out without a second of hesitation.
So much for that. So I just prayed. By the time of the meeting, Jesus had apparently had a conversation with her, and she agreed to attend the meeting. When we arrived at the address we found that the meeting was in the Stone’s home, and was a very informal gathering. I introduced myself to Jean Stone as the pastor of the Chapel, newly filled with the Spirit, and Alva as my wife and co-laborer at the Chapel who was interested in hearing more about the Charismatic Movement (charismatic from the Greek word for the gifts of the Holy Spirit).
They took one look at each other, and snapped together like opposite poles of two magnets! Their bonding was instantaneous, and, at least to me, actually visible! I praised God in my heart for answering prayer-I knew Alva was a goner.
She listened to Jean’s presentation of the Biblical purpose and facts about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, and along with a number of others in the gathering, she received this wonderful blessing for herself. And lit wasn’t over her dead body-she was more alive than ever before. Hallelujah! As we left the Stone’s home, we had no idea how embroiled our lives would be with Jean Stone in the days to come, but sensed that our vacation had been an enormous success.
On the long drive home we discussed what this was going to mean to our future, and to the future of the Chapel. After hours of talking and praying, we sensed the Lord’s plan for us:
· I would not announce what had happened from the pulpit;
· As individual adult parishioners came by either of us, we would share with them what had happened privately, and trust the Lord to take it from there;
· Thus it would spread as the Lord gave opportunity, and not by pressure from us.
Right from the start it became evident Jean Stone’s gift for leading people into “The Baptism” (short for receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit) had been imparted to Alva at their meeting.
Someone would come by the Chapel, we would give our testimony, I would go over the Scriptural basis, the person would eagerly desire to receive, Alva would lead them into The Baptism and he or she would go away rejoicing, later to return with someone else who was hungry. It was wonderful.
I soon realized that while the person to person approach was the right way to go, that it was taking a lot of time, explaining the same thing over and over. I prayerfully wrote an essay on the Biblical rationale for and process of receiving the Baptism. I entitled it, “Behold, A Little Cloud,” and made copies to pass out. When someone would express an interest I gave them a copy, told them to take it home and read it, looking up all the Bible references to verify what was being said and noting any questions they had. When they came back I (or Alva) would ask them if they had any questions. They never did. Then they would be asked if they were ready. They always were. Then Alva would give a few words of instruction and they would be speaking in tongues, the first evidence of The Baptism. Wonderful.
One day Alva was asleep and someone knocked at the door. I went to answer the knock and it was one of our college age girls to whom I had given one of my essays. I invited her in, found out that she had no questions and that she wanted to receive the Baptism. I didn’t want to wake Alva up, so I did the honors. She immediately began to speak in tongues in the most beautiful language I have ever heard, but as a tender whisper which I could barely hear. I sat and let here go on, being blessed though I didn’t know what she was saying. After a few minutes Alva came half-stumbling down the hall, rubbing her eyes, wanting to know who had awakened her with their words of worship! She absolutely could not have heard those whispered words, but the Holy Spirit in her of course was hearing the words He was speaking through our college girl. Sure enough, we were experiencing the right stuff-the Blessed Holy Spirit!
Even though my essay was speeding things up, it took about six months for all the Chapel congregation to be exposed to this “new” doctrine. Most of the adults and older children chose to receive the Baptism. Those who didn’t, were happy that the others in their family had received. Three families either weren’t interested, or for some reason did not receive after seeking. God had surely led us in how we made the presentation. A fellow pastor in the county who received the Baptism about the same time as I did, announced it cold turkey from the pulpit and was fired on the spot. Thank You for Your mercy to us, Jesus!
So how was the congregation affected? Without a doubt, the most visible change was a great infusion of JOY into our individual and corporate lives. It seemed like every service was electric. The Chapel offerings doubled. No one missed a service willingly. Gifts of the Spirit were manifested. Faith ran high, there were healings. We were transformed.
Other churches in the county were caught up in the Charismatic movement also, and our relationship with them was greatly enhanced.
Being in a tourist area for the central valley and bay area, people and churches from all over who had also been impacted by the Charismatic Movement became aware of us and we were in a greatly enlarged spiritual family. It was wonderful!
The old-line-pentecostal Foursquare denomination scheduled a conference at their Old Oak Ranch conference grounds. Since Jean Stone was the best known spokesperson for the Charismatic Movement at the time (President of the Blessed Trinity Society and Editor of Trinity Magazine), she was invited to speak at the evening meeting that would close the convention and was open to the public. Jean’s gift of effortlessly getting people filled with the Spirit had become well known, and I had a hunch that she had been invited to get a bunch of their “perennial seekers” (church members who had often sought but never received the Baptism) filled with the Spirit.
Naturally Alva and I attended. Jean gave only a minimal talk, for everyone there knew all about the Baptism and had either already received or wanted to. She ended by pointing to the space in front of her and boldly stating that anyone who wanted to receive the Baptism should line up in rows and they would receive the blessing that night. Dozens sprang up and hastened to get first in line. Being used to this, Jean told them not to worry, she would pray for all of them and they would all be filled. Talk about confidence! And sure enough, the bulk of those coming up were older perennial seekers. When they were all settled into neat lines, without further ado, Jean slowly walked along the line in font of them. As she was passing each person she put her hand on the person’s forehead and said, “Be filled with the Spirit,” and moved on to the next person-no waiting to see what happened. She ministered to all of them in five minutes or so, and took her seat in the first row of the audience. No fuss, no rush, no bother. Jesus had done the work, they were all still standing, all speaking in tongues. The old Pentecostals and the new Charismatics were all blown away.
Of course Jean connected with Alva after the session closed, and enjoyed catching each other up with the latest. The Blessed Trinity Society was sponsoring “Trinity Advances” (Jean didn’t like the word “Retreat”) throughout the country to promote the Charismatic Movement, with her as the main speaker. She asked Alva if she could be her aide-de-camp on these trips. All her travel and living expenses would be taken care of by the Society. The Advances were held on days of the week that would not keep her away on Sunday. Alva and I agreed that it was a worthy cause, and that the mechanics could be worked out at home and at the Chapel. Jean was delighted when Alva told her it was OK, and a wonderful new relationship began. Alva was a great help to Jean, got a lot of opportunity for ministry and had her faith increased by seeing all the signs and wonders going on all over the country.
With this kind of exposure, centers of Charismatic activity in the central valley and bay area became aware of what was going on in the Chapel. We got invitations to minister in places like the 120 Fellowship in Berkeley, and from those outreaches we got invitations to come to individual churches. Alva and I would respond to as many of these invitations as we could manage. We would drive to Fremont or where ever so as to arrive at the church for luncheon. Following this I would review the Scriptural admonitions re the Baptism and share a bit about what was going on in the Chapel. Then Alva would take over and do the Jean Stone drill, and numbers of people would be filled with the Spirit. We would take off for home to end a full day.
In addition to her normal confidence, Alva had a lot extra confidence from working with Jean Stone so much. As a result, God gave her a continuing ministry of helping “hard cases” (those who, for one reason or another, were having a hard time receiving the Baptism). God would show her what was the trouble through her gift of the Word of Knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8) and the hard case would become a solved case. It was beautiful.
What about our children? Susan was a freshman at Westmont College when we got caught up in the Charismatic Movement. One of her professors, Dr. Frost, had been newly baptized with the Spirit, and she and a number of other classmates received the Baptism at meetings in his home. David and Stephen both received the Baptism during those early days of the movement. Janet came to Alva a little later, wanting the Baptism. When she began to pray in tongues, Alva told her this was the initial evidence that she was filled. Janet said, “Mom, I have been doing that for years!” In other words, she had been filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues not knowing of the doctrine or needing any outside help, thank you. Wouldn’t you know that something like that would happen to our precocious youngest? No way could it happen normally!