Leaving "God's Work" to Discover Christ
by Alan Levine
My journey in Christ began in 1971. September of that year, I was born from above. My natural roots are of Jewish origins. My being saved caused a minor uproar within my family. I was labeled a traitor and one who wandered from his faith. Yet I knew deep down in side I found the Truth and Life.
I was always a seeker. I was a jazz musician and majored in philosophy in college, which exposed me to various religious persuasions. After my initial salvation experience, I went full force into learning as much as I could in knowing Christ. I lost myself in His marvelous life, reading day and night from the scriptures and other books concerning Him. I was in involved in what was known as the Jesus Movement. I also helped at a church coffee house and bookstore in New Milford, N.J.
After reading "The Normal Christian Life" by Watchman Nee and other works concerning the Lord's purpose, I was apprehended for a greater purpose than just going to heaven. During that time, the Charismatic movement was in full orb and I jumped in with both feet. I moved to Florida to live with my Jewish aunt in North Miami Beach and attended the meetings in Fort Lauderdale held by Bob Mumford and other teachers. I could not get enough of His life. My heart yearned to know Him and His church.
Some of my friends heard about a move of God in Homestead with prophets speaking from the Lord in the meetings. We went to check it out and saw that the meetings were powerful with many being born from above and delivered from drugs and other strongholds . A few brothers and myself moved to Homestead, Fl, to be close to what was happening. Not only was the Charismatic movement in full bloom but also an insidious authoritative movement was in its embryo stages, known as the Shepherding and Discipleship movement. The leadership of the church in Homestead decided this movement was of the Lord. Unfortunately, the saints followed. To make a long story short, we all got in over our heads. Yours truly was in the front row. Through a series of events, I got out before things got crazy. Thank God!
A few years later, I met my future wife, Amy. She was in a Messianic singing group based out of a ministry from Long Island, NY. The group did a concert in the church of which I was involved. During the next six months, we corresponded and finally it was time for me to move to Long Island and be a part of the ministry. November of that year (1977), we got married. It was costly. Amy's parents did not attend our wedding because we believed in Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah. Our time with the ministry was fruitful.
After two years we felt led to return to Florida. Amy and I and two other families moved to Hallendale, Fl, with a desire to see the Lord establish a community of believers. We started meeting in a home and lo and behold, I became the pastor! At that time, I was a water treatment operator for the City of North Miami Beach. As the church grew in numbers I left my job and became "full time pastor."
I was not the typical pastor. Everything was low key and many did not call me "pastor Alan." There was no office, and no building. We daily shared our lives. We spent time together outside the meetings. We cared for one another and reached out to the community. On the surface, everything looked great, except me! I began to question the validity of my pastoral existence. I sought the Lord as to why the church was not a functioning priesthood. Were the origins of the modern pastor found in the scriptures or rooted in religious tradition? Did my pastoral position rival the functional headship of Christ and hinder every member functioning? A lot of soul-searching was going on.
I was in hot pursuit in knowing Him without the chains of religious tradition. I purchased books on church history, specifically those saints that stood outside the institutional church to bear His testimony. In addition, during this time some well-meaning saints were sowing divisive doctrines, causing division and strife. The time was ripe for me to leave the "ministry." I shared with the church that I was moving on and encouraged them to continue to meet. Some did, others went their own way.
My family and I moved to Alabama and we stayed for about one year. Eventually we moved to the West Coast of Florida. For many years I was in some leadership capacity. Now I felt it was time for me to give it all up -- walk away from it all, devote my time to my family, seek His heart concerning His eternal purpose and see where I fit into His plan. In addition, I learned to be a simple brother in the House of God and work a job like normal person. One of the life-changing principles woven into my being throughout the years is this: I was given over to the work of God, yet when I was no longer in the work, I lost my identity.
Over the years the Lord has been gracious to reveal to me my true life and identity is not just what I do, but who I am in Him. To quote T. Austin Sparks, "It is very possible to have a wonderful grasp of the scriptures, a comprehensive and intimate familiarity with doctrine; to stand for cardinal verities of the faith; to be an unceasing worker in Christian service; to have a great devotion to the salvation of men, and yet, alas, to have a very inadequate and limited personal knowledge of God within. So often the Lord has to take away our work that we may discover Him. The ultimate value of everything is not the information which we give, not the soundness of our doctrine, not the amount of work that we do, not the measure of truth that we possess, but just the fact that we know the Lord in a deep and mighty way."
The Lord took away my work that I would discover Him. In finding Him, I saw there is no ministry in one's life without a deep work of the cross. The cross makes room for His life and His work. When we work in our natural life, the Lord will rest. When we rest in His life and finished work, the Lord will work. It has been 18 years since leaving the "ministry." During that time I learned Him, and in the process my religious mindset was dismantled. I have not looked back in regret in walking away from being a pastor. I thank God for the marvelous revelation of His Son, realizing that the opportunities in serving Him will come from knowing Him.
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