Hi, I am already recovered,
Growing up in a church that hosted a camp-meeting every year in Indianapolis, I wanted to be the big evangelist for notoriety only. I received my opportunity as a teenager to preach one of the morning sermons every year. That opened the door to preach at other churches and youth rallies. Every year, at our camp-meeting, something strange happened. The preaching was hot, the singing was more than plentiful, and the Holy Spirit was in the midst, but all of that was normal. What was strange was my pastors behavior. For one week, our church body was almost invisible. It was like we weren’t there. It was a hurt that would last weeks before I could overcome the abandonment. I followed my pastor, hung on every word, did everything he ask, and did everything I thought that he would ask for, but at the Liberty Baptist Jubilee, I was in the way. Fifty other pastors would praise the ladies for cooking & serving but that would be our only interaction with them. Our camp-meeting was a hang-out for the preachers club. If you were a visiting “unknown” pastor, you would be left out of the conversations and networking.
After graduating high school I finally received enough approval to be ask to coffee with the pastors & evangelists. Even taking my vacation from work to attend other camp-meeting each year to be seen with the preachers that started to recognize me as one of them. I heard conversations that shaped my mind and heart in the ministry. I heard who had become a “liberal” and who’s kids were hurting their dads ministry. I learned that the SBC was so “liberal” that God had removed the candle stick and they were dead Spiritually. I was able to ask questions about the beloved KJV and why it is the only preserved Word such as that God had inspired it to correct the Strong’s Concordance. I learned how important it was to stay separate from any appearance of evil, like other Christians who have wine in their homes, or non-denom. church goers. I was able to learn why modern music, the Gather Band, and Billy Graham were all cracked doors for the devil to destroy your home and reputation.
After thirteen years of preaching, teaching, bus ministry, song leader, and volunteered assistant to the pastor he sat down and asked me of my plans for future ministry and if I wanted to be a pastor. I answered no because I was going to be an evangelist, the head liner… Our church voted on an assistant pastor soon after. Close to a week after the assistant moved and had his first full weekend my pastored died on Tuesday. In four months the new assistant had taken all authority as pastor and given himself a substantial raise and told me that I was not welcome to serve under him.
My young wife of six months and I began to attend one of our mission churches in Indianapolis and helped the pastor there. I preached, taught, lead the singing, mowed the yard, and did the visiting. And on a Saturday, two months in, the mission pastor called me. He informed me that I was unable to return to church. After much discussion I had learned the new pastored had lie about me and my wife, saying we split the church and have started our own congregation, to explain why the church had left him & his leadership in just six short months. The mission pastor new it was a lie because I had been serving with him, but said “I’m going to lose my support if you come back”.
After that, we visited every IFB church in the greater Indianapolis area looking for a place to belong. A couple of churches were inviting but not my flavor of IFB. However, my brand of IFB did all but ask us to leave. We were treated like out casts. People whispered, pointed and pastors who I had preached for refused to speak to me even if I approached them. I was broken. I had no pastor, I had no church, I had no God. I prayed and prayed for direction and understanding but had none. I began to question the author of the bible and even if he existed. I begged for help from God but couldn’t find any. After fasting several days and had exhausted my prayer time that night I decided to read my bible. Heb. 11:1 I read about faith and somewhere in those words the Holy Spirit spoke up “are you looking for me?” and I was. I wept like I had never wept before. I spent much of the evening listening to God as he spoke so clearly without words. That night, I had gave up on the IFB movement and found God waiting on me to have faith in Him.
I found a new group of Independent Baptist, the American Baptist Association (ABA), and became an assistant pastor there and later their missionary as we re-established a church near St. Louis. This is where my life changed significantly. I met a young church planter who had been burned in an IFB church and was planting a church through the ABA as well, but he was slightly further ahead in his recovering from fundamentalism and was already aware of the major flaws in the ABA. At lunch one day I started gossiping about preachers with both knew, he stopped me and challenged me. He said “do you know what would be a better conversation, tell me, who are you planning on sharing Jesus with this week?” I felt like a two bit preacher with nothing to say. Looking back, that was the biggest influential moment of my life. Later he invited me on a trip to Las Vegas for a thing called Idea Day back in 2016.
I received a salary from the ABA and designated offering from ABA churches that were all across the country. I attended every associational meeting and fellowship I could as I had been starving for friendship. I gained notoriety in the ABA and began to have the top notable men preach at my church while I was preaching several revivals and mission conferences every year. I became the Illinois Association’s Moderator, and had been the guest preacher in several State Associations. I knew there was a strange doctrine about the Bride and Communion in the ABA that I couldn’t get on board with but just didn’t say much when it would come up. I began to see the same crap in the ABA elites as I had saw in the camp-meeting evangelists. Some would say “If you have me in for revival and then I’ll have you in for revival.” And others would tell me “you can receive a much better offerings if you had a sending church in an Arkansas Association”. At a National Associational meeting in Daytona one year I witnessed pastors, in a formal business meeting, arguing about making a resolution to affirm that African-Americans were welcome in the association. As my fame rose in the ABA for close to seven years, God was calling me to Him at the same time. I wanted to please God and my ego at the same time. Five months later I dropped the Association’s salary, got a job and walked away from the ABA. I was alone again.
During Covid-19 I resigned from that ABA church we re-established and moved to greater Cleveland to pastor a SBC church. I have learned that the SBC has the same problems, but I learned it much quicker this time. I am an Independent. I belong to God and to no one else.
This journey has allowed me to learn a few things. One, God is enough. Two, choosing who you fellowship with is key in growing with Christ. Three, Being broken was a blessing. And Four, I still desire to preach on the big stage in those camp-meetings from ten years ago.
That’s my story and I’m not even mad about it.
Joshua Hargis, Pastor @ Elyria Baptist Church and a longtime member of Idea Network