Unintended Consequences; Blowback and the UPCI Split
Within American political spheres, the term “blowback” is well understood.
Blowback signifies the unintended consequences that occur when our military and intelligence communities render technical and financial assistance to exiled political movements and guerilla armies in foreign states for the purpose of furthering US regional interests. Often the government of such a state is hostile or potentially hostile to these interests and the native insurgent forces are key in helping destabilize the unwanted regimes or to counter the intelligence activities of other world powers operating clandestinely in the region.
Sometimes, however, after the desired objectives have been achieved, the guerillas and their spiritual or political leadership, perhaps unhappy with US led reconstruction goals, in turn become themselves a threat to US interests and the stability of the region or even the world, often by means of the very training and armaments provided by Uncle Sam. Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin come readily to mind as examples of insurgent rebels who received aid, finance, weapons and training from US forces and intelligence agencies and then turned their guns and military instruction against the hand that had fed them.
It is entirely possible that a form of blowback has occurred following the recent United Pentecostal Church International splitting of the ranks. Far from slowing the UPCI down or teaching its constituency any lessons, this exodus may have strengthened the organization in a manner quite unintended by those who departed.
The split came rapidly after a UPCI voting membership passed a controversial television amendment resolution permitting the use of television advertising of church services. There ensued an exodus of disaffected UPCI ministers who, contending that the amendment would lead to the introduction of television in Pentecostal churches and homes where they had formerly been shunned, left the organization to attempt to build various new organizations or join a swirling nebula of loosely affiliated independent churches.
There is, however, a factor which may have been overlooked in the equations of the exiting ministers and churches as they formulated the outcome of this exodus: the people among them, licensed ministers themselves and often assistant pastors, who did not want to leave the UPCI but were required to do so by both the bylaws of the UPCI and the wishes of their pastors.
Some of these men and women are returning to the UPCI for a variety or reasons, and many are finding acceptance and encouragement after an unsettling experience that in the end seemed to lead more into the wilderness than into the Promised Land.
Some who were asked to allow their UPCI licenses to lapse by the pastor under which they were assisting did so only because they were unwilling or unable to leave the assembly at the time, often because of the scarcity of truth preaching churches in their area and sometimes because they had spiritual and familial roots in the home church that it seemed unthinkable to sever. Yet it is known to the present writer that in a sizeable number of instances, this directive was not followed without reservations or regrets.
Many of the former UPCI preachers in such straits, most of them only locally or generally licensed, discovered why the UPCI organization structure, for all of its attendant faults and in squabbling, was really not so bad after all. The post-resolution exodus has brought its own set of problems.
One such problem has been the sudden isolation experienced by many of the churches dis-affiliating with their pastors. Churches which had enjoyed a measure of unity and fellowship within a UPCI district suddenly found themselves cut off from such blessings. In many instances, grievances between the departing, dis-affiliated ministers makes fellowship even between newly independent churches strained at best and non-existent in many cases. Minimal attempts at youth conferences and conventions have been made by the offshoot churches, but resources are scarce among many of these congregations and quite simply, it has not been the same.
Another real problem was that within the UPCI, many who were licensed but not pastoring had aspired to the ministry and had known ministerial opportunities within the district, opportunities that had been readily accepted and treasured by their newly independent pastors in their youth. Many of the opportunities and challenges that come from belonging to a wide fellowship, such as the missions and home missions departments and the help and support offered to new preachers by such associations, suddenly vanished overnight. The landscape had changed, and some doubted it looked anything like the dream they had carried within their souls during the early days of their calling.
Finally, a very real issue was accountability. All of the newly independent pastors coud point to a board of elders they said they answered to, but in many cases these elders seldom if ever set foot in the churches they presided over. The aggression quotient amongst the ministers who spearheaded the UPCI split being well-known and admitted even in their own ranks, it is not unreasonable to say that to all appearances, some of these new independent congregants might surmise uncomfortably that they were adrift, answerable to only one man who claims to answer only to God and to a distant and unseen board of overseers.
Such an atmosphere may well be ordained of the Lord if He is leading a congregation to streams in the desert.
It might also become the opportunity for unscrupulous men to act in a manner not pleasing to God with little, if any, real oversight or accountability.
A dishonest man can relate a situation over the phone to a distant elder in any manner he desires. Ministers and other saints sitting under such leadership are caught in a terrible place , having no way to address any problems arising from such an arrangement in any way that will not get them thrown under the bus.
However, many of these people have seen that the UPCI offers a model of church authoirty much closer to the one described in the Book of Acts, and in that authority they sense safety. For this and all of the above mentioned treasons, many of these preachers are returning to the UPCI and seeking to be re-licensed.
They come with experiences that have steeled them against the certain censure and political damnation that such a return will buy them among their former comrades. Although they will be written off as “compromisers”, “rebels” , “wannabes”, “self-called”, “traitors”, “sinners” and many other such epithets , and although they will be accused of having mercenary motives by those who once encouraged them in the ministry, they will become better men and women of God for that. Having learned what comes of ascribing infallibility to any leader, they will become better and more compassionate leaders themselves when God does call them to the field. Even if they themselves have convictions against television and its use, they recognize that within the UPCI they may freely hold and preach such convictions.
It is ironic that many of these precious men and women of God were equipped and trained for the ministry by the very elders and churches who now disown them! But some of these very preachers will go on to build churches in areas where there was a UPCI work that disaffiliated, and the UPCI disticts in these areas will ultimately be strengthened and not diminished.
This blowback, unlike that associated with guerillas and political movements, will be beneficial since all churches who uphold the Truth , preaching and living it, whether affiliated with an organization or not, are strengthening the Kingdom.