Regarding The Rock of Panama City

REPLY TO ERICH’S QUESTION ( click to view)

As I proposed in both my original post and a private message to Erich, I would rather that both of us had removed these post from the outset instead of hashing this out in a public forum, as no Facebook comment–no matter how well written–can express the wholeness of someone’s heart. My response was to Erich’s question, “who would ever curse anyone?”  So, I replied with words; perhaps a simple posting of the real letters would have caused less push-back… however, it was not my intention to cause a spectacle but instead to answer one specific question by Erich.

As for ” tempered with an honest memory”, point taken. An offsetting recollection of the good would have been fair. I have certainly benefited and have been loved; if asked about my experience, that is what I would tell anyone and it is what I have expressed on many occasions. I continue to remind many people that aggression, despite whatever wounds they may bear, is not appropriate. I have encouraged MANY people by telling them that the quickest path to restoration is not through anger, but for them to sincerely position their hearts and to pray that the Lord pour his blessing, love, peace, and grace over anyone involved. The immediate restoration that I have witnessed as a result of this provides for an interesting conversation in itself…

As for “Messed up”, I did carefully consider the inclusion of that statement, but I figured that it was worth pointing out that I DON’T think it is acceptable for any church leader to speak of how a curse has come over my life as a result of my choice to leave his church.

Perhaps, this was a one-time, human error… I hope so. Regardless, I simply stated that it was “Messed Up” as an action toward me, which I stand by.

A  RELATED CONCERN

This does open up an interesting topic that disturbs me, and for that reason it is one that I can’t ignore. I ask that you hear me out, as my heart is sincere and I will not make any judgements.

As most of you that read this will know, there have been many to leave The Rock over the years. Several of these people claim “Spiritual Abuse” (definition) (additional reference)… What I mean is, there are claims similar to mine where people, after exiting the church, were spoken of unfairly or even ostracized by their friends despite their claims to exit with a pure heart and at God’s direction.

Perhaps these people are to blame; perhaps their hearts weren’t as pure as they claimed and anything harsh that came to them from the pulpit or from old friends was justified.

Perhaps biblical cases can be made for “publicly criticizing departing members,” or for “warning of curses based on people’s actions,” or even the “ending of life-long friendships.”

While our opinions may differ with regard to the treatment of departing church members, can we at least agree that this treatment isn’t acceptable in situations where a person or family exits with pure hearts and with peace in their spirits?

FEAR ENTERS

At 19, I certainly faced “fear” when considering my exit. Based on my observations, I could either move (whether it was to go to college or to work) or I could be sent away in ministry, but I hadn’t seen examples of people graciously exiting and remaining in PC with the blessing of Nolan Ball.

Certainly, there must be many stories of individuals and families going to Nolan, sharing their hearts about leaving to attend a different local church, and being blessed in their departure. Unfortunately, at that time I hadn’t observed any such examples, and so I wrestled with “fear” and eventually sidestepped the issue altogether.

My present concern is that people who have a conviction in their hearts and a knowing in their spirits that it is their time to go will choose to remain because of “fear.” That is, the fear of judgment from the pulpit and the fear that a lifetime of friendships will be unsalvageable.

I assume we can all agree that no one should remain at The Rock out of fear, but only by the conviction of Holy Spirit. Am I correct in this assumption?

Those are my concerns.

If such events were limited to my past experience, then while I can’t apologize for being honest in my reply to Erich, I certainly can and would apologize for facilitating dissent among church-members.

THE ANALOGY OF TWO CAMPS

No good comes from building walls between two camps. In a real-world scenario, when two camps cut themselves off from each other, the walls get stronger as the internal communications and emotions of each camp flow in isolation. The walls become taller as emotion builds, to the point where each camp loses sight of the other. At that point, the two camps show no concern for each other, but are instead totally invested in themselves. Emotionally, both camps are disconnected and any communication is reduced to the metaphorical equivalent of lobbing hand-grenades into the other camp.


CHANGING THE DIALOG

If this is no way for an evolved society to act, then how much more heinous is it for the people that once worshipped together to act in this way? I can’t imagine a smiling God in heaven, looking down on this situation and rooting for one of these camps to “win”.

In conclusion, I don’t want to “win”.  I want open communication. I want restoration for friends and families. I do believe that there is a rhyme and a reason for things in this world, and so I wonder: How can so many people funnel through The Rock of Panama City, make childhood and lifelong friends along the way, and yet end up with nothing in terms of relationships? Where is God in that? Life is too short; you only get one childhood to make childhood friends, and as an adult time goes by too quickly to burn meaningful friendships. I don’t have clear answers, but what I sense is that there will be no peace in either camp without some effort at restoration, and there will be no restoration without inner healing, and there will be no inner healing without forgiveness, and there will be no forgiveness without sincere, open communication from both sides.

CLOSING

This is my prayer – “Lord, may there be forgiveness and restoration. May your love, grace, and mercy be evident in this situation.”

If this prayer were to become the heart of all parties involved, I know that the Lord would dissolve the walls of each camp despite their enormity.

Erich, Leigh, and extended Ball family, I do love you guys and I honestly do make a habit of praying that you all are blessed and that your families know no lack. This series will hopefully be my first and last discussion regarding anything that could be construed as negative about The Rock. I love you all and completely understand that you will always defend Nolan Ball’s honor… I would expect no less from my family.