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Our Stories - The Powerful Voice of a Dying Man

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Our Stories - The Powerful Voice of a Dying Man:

I was a member of a "Message" church in the South for a few years. Members of the church were very friendly, kind people who were genuinely sincere and devout. The pastor preached about the Bible, but usually preached about what William Branham said about the Bible. At the time, this did not seem so different to me than other churches, and I agreed with most of what was said. Our family was used to Pentecostal Holiness preaching. It seemed very real, very alive and captivating.

Every now and then, people of the church would give testimonies of God's work in their lives. I enjoyed this part of the worship service, because it made the religion feel powerful. It wasn't just a church with "lukewarm" members. It was an active part of everyone's life, and it seemed that God was blessing it in many ways.

One Sunday, a brother gave a testimony of how God had saved him and some other brothers during a violent storm while they were fishing. He said that one of the brothers was leading the boat and led them astray in the swamp. As the congregation listened, the "testimony" turned into a miniature sermon about "watching who you follow" and the dangers that can occur after being led astray.

I knew the brothers that went on the fishing trip. Most of us knew that the one who "led them astray" was the strongest, most capable person in the boat, with more experience than the rest of them in the wilderness. Yet everyone sat silent as this brother gave testimony about the one who "led them astray" as the wind and the rain started tossing the boat. I'm sure people in the congregation began comparing the poor brother to Jonah, how they tossed Jonah from the boat to save the lives of the others. In just a few moments, this brother "spiritualized" an ordinary situation into a "spiritual journey". He did so at the expense of one of his fellow brothers. It wasn't long before that brother left the church.

Before I left the "Message", I got the opportunity to speak with this man who "led them astray". I've always respected him, even after he quit coming. To be quite honest, I myself am not the wilderness type. If I were, this is the man I'd want to have in my boat above the others. After he described the trip, and how the inexperience of the others led to their being caught in a storm, I quickly realized that there were two sides to every story. It is sad to say, but I also realized that these "spiritual testimonies" also had non-spiritual explanations.

I also left that church, only to wander from "Message" church to "Message" church for a few years. It was hard not to think about this experience when I'd hear others give their unbelievable testimonies. I did believe that God was generous to them, but I started to wonder why people needed to over-exaggerate their testimonies to seem more spiritual.

Eventually, we started attending non-"Message" churches. I can remember the first time someone asked to give a testimony, I cringed. If they dramatized and spiritualized something, I had half a mind to walk out the door while they testified. Curiosity got the better of me, though, and I decided to sit and listen as a brother started talking about his battle with terminal illness.

He surprised me. He didn't claim that his illness was worse than any doctor had ever seen, or that he felt some sensation that gave him hope. He didn't claim to be healed of something that everyone could visibly see on his body. There were no confessions of sins that caused his illness, no repentance that gave him sudden cures. He humbly said that he had a difficult time, and God helped him through it. He asked that we all pray for the difficult times ahead, but looked forward to the outcome. He hoped that he'd get better, but if not, he'd be standing beside Jesus soon.

It touched me. I never really thought about it, but we were so focused on making other people excited about our stories that we lost touch with how people need reassurance and comfort. Brothers and sisters were pushed out of the church by the things that we said or did, and then we condemned them for leaving. Sick people were suffering with real pain, and we pushed them into denying their suffering without comforting them when they needed it most. I didn't know what guilt was until I sat there listening to this humble man give his testimony and watched others come to his need. I watched people come together and help one another.

I am no longer a "Message" believer. I understand now that there are many issues with William Branham's sermons, and that much of what he said was not true. For me, the research that sites like this and others are presenting is not that important. It is helpful to those controlled by fear, and helpful in making a decision to leave, but after leaving I believe we all need self-examination. I don't care what religion you follow or whether you chose no religion at all, there are certain moral values that all of us share. Somehow, we seemed to have lost focus of that. We wouldn't even treat our animals like we treated some people as "Message" believers. Even a child knows that a dog is eager to obey with encouragement, and scolding it just makes a disobedient animal. I am guilty as the rest, but I am in the process of changing myself for the better. I want to be that person who can bring people together when I tell my story. I want to be the one who lifts people up, and not by putting people down.

- A former "Message" believer