There is a prominent televangelist from Dallas, Texas who is featured on every Christian television network. As you watch his program, you will typically see the crowd roar as this individual, who unfailingly incorporates the dramatic into his presentation, assures the masses that the Lord will fulfill each one of their destinies. There is no mention of God-fearing conviction nor the necessity for a changed life in Christ. And in January 2021, this same preacher expressed jubilance over an administration that, among other atrocities, has vowed to perpetuate abortion.
The aforementioned televangelist is far from unique, for indeed much of the evangelical world has prioritized relevance, prominence and revenue over the Lord. It wasn’t always like this. In the early 1980’s, shortly after I accepted Jesus as my Savior, Godly righteousness and accountability were ofttimes topics of discussion from within those particular pulpits.
As a college senior in the spring of 1977, I had no personal familiarity whatsoever with the evangelical sphere. I was aware that two mainstream Christian doctrines existed...my own and Protestantism, which in itself held several denominations. With some exception, those in the latter category appeared strict - did not the Baptists prohibit dancing, alcohol, television, and virtually all that was pleasurable?
I and so many others referred to them as 'holy rollers'. Moreover, I laughed outright at their mandate against premarital sex...were they truly serious? For each one of those reasons, I was wary when a friend invited me to a meeting of such a group on campus known as 'The Seekers'. Ordinarily I would have refused, but Carl (whom I then regarded as a possible conquest) had promised that he would take me to lunch afterwards at Armstrong’s, a local eatery on Manhattan’s West Side.
That sounded feasible and so I went. I don’t remember much of that warm May afternoon except that I was embarrassed and therefore uncharacteristically quiet. Why on Earth did I agree to congregate with these individuals? I was Catholic! Within the hour it was over and as we left the building, Carl had a serious demeanor as he remarked “Margaret, I felt something.” My irreverent self retorted “You’re hungry...that’s what you felt!” as I steered him towards Armstrong’s. Although lunch was had, there was minimal connection and Carl was dropped from the acquisition list.
I started graduate school that September and moved to Manhattan where I shared an apartment with two other students. Life went on as before, but perhaps in a much more accelerated fashion as now there were nominal restraints. Except for my religious identification, I had an infinitesimal knowledge of the Savior and therefore acted accordingly. St. Paul the Apostle parish was in the immediate vicinity on Ninth Avenue and as a matter of obligatory rote, I went to Mass one Sunday morning. The priest spoke about lust in his homily and without shame, I silently mocked him.
That was March 1978 and two years later, at the soon to be age of 27, I realized that my overall manner of life, had brought nil satisfaction nor a marital prospect. On one particular Sunday morning in April 1980, I arose with a strong sense of depression and loneliness. Professionally I had done well and was soon to receive my masters degree in criminal justice. However, on a personal note, I found it hard to fathom that I was still single despite my strategies, which in hindsight were very much misguided.
I moved home the day before graduation. That fall, I was invited to attend a Catholic Charismatic retreat. By the end of the weekend, some semblance of Godly persuasion had settled over me and I purposed to change my life. Almost immediately thereafter I became involved with my parish and was soon installed as a Eucharistic Minister. I changed jobs the following year and my new coworker Bernice was delighted when I told her that I distributed Communion at Mass.
Bernice, an evangelical, had been baptized Catholic and raised Presbyterian. Nevertheless, she participated in Catholic prayer groups as she joyfully recalled her encounters with priests who were truly impassioned for the Lord. She frequently spoke of the Savior, and at her behest I attended a Saturday night singles event which was hosted by a Baptist church that she periodically visited. For whatever reason, she did not appear that evening - but I did. I was infuriated with the minister when he began to describe the pitfalls of premarital sex. Indeed that very Monday morning, I expressed my indignation to Bernice, who remained silent.
In that fall of 1981, I now had a vehicle - and with my AM radio, listening options were limited. Yet on a few Saturday nights, I tuned into what appeared to be a Pentecostal station. Sadly I mocked what was said, but inwardly I was drawn to the words. I did not change the station.
By March 1984, I was 30 years old and with gnawing realization, I once again had to account for the fact that my choices remained dastardly. Up until that point, I had recently been involved with a married man as well as a priest, the latter of whom I desperately loved. At the beginning of the year, things had concluded with my espoused lover and following a trip to Peru, I was forced to acknowledge that my relationship with the cleric was also a futile endeavor. I grieved over the direction in which I had navigated my life and my emotional state was fraught. Moreover it was evident that despite my frenzied involvement within my parish, I was decidedly ignorant of most things as they pertained to God and His Word, particularly in regard to the issues of holiness and purity.
It was during that same month of March 1984 that Bernice invited me to a women’s fellowship hosted by the wife of her pastor at Gospel Outreach Ministries. The speaker was presented to us via taped sessions, and the dialogue focused on marriage. The words resonated within my spirit - perhaps it wasn’t too late for me after all.
The participants were affable and I was gratified when a few of them spoke as to how the Lord had healed them following breakups with men whom they loved. That Saturday afternoon as I drove home, I knew with certainty that despite my profound sense of grief, God would see me through the process, however lengthy.
A few weeks later on a Saturday evening, I accompanied Bernice to yet another event given by her church. The guest of honor was a prophet who spoke words of encouragement to many, including Bernice. I approached him afterwards and when I disclosed that I was indeed Catholic, his immediate response was that I was involved in apostasy. With that, I concluded the conversation and moved on.
Obviously my Catholicism was problematic for the prophet, but not for Bernice. Since we had met three years earlier, she repeatedly stated that the Lord would use me for His glory within the confines of the Church. Nevertheless I needed to mature in Biblical matters, and for that reason she suggested that I visit nondenominational fellowships as a supplemental endeavor.
In contrast to Bernice, our mutual friend and coworker Laura, who was instrumental in my newfound commitment to Jesus, did not view the Catholic Church in a favorable manner. To say that I was unappreciative for her encouragement would be lacking in truth. She was the one to explain the Word of God in detail, the necessity of my obedience to Him, and the prospect of His perfect plan for my life. However, as she oftentimes implied, all of that was contingent on my departure from Catholicism. I disagreed with her perspective, though I realized that I had much to learn in issues which pertained to the Lord. Ultimately I agreed to visit her church and a date was set for Sunday, June 3, 1984.
I was unsure what to expect as I entered the Sheepgate Assembly in Baldwin, New York. I had attended events hosted by Gospel Outreach Ministries along with Catholic Charismatic prayer meetings. Would this be similar? Upon Laura’s arrival, she introduced me to her family and other congregants. Minutes later, I took my seat as the service started with praise and worship. This was followed by exhortation decrees whereas one of the leaders assured all who were present that they could request anything from the Lord - anything - and expect it to be fulfilled to the most nanoscopic detail.
My curiosity was piqued, for at that moment I remained besotted with the cleric. Indeed, had he announced that he would leave his Order to marry me, I would have joyfully forfeited my goals and instead aligned my life to his. Shortly thereafter, the pastor gave his message. To this day, despite my exceptional memory, I cannot recall the content of his words. However what I do remember and always will, was that he eventually called those up to the altar who were in need of prayer. I rose willingly and when he reached me, his specific words were “The Lord has heard your cry of fear and frustration and He wants you to know that He has already taken care of it but you have to stop taking it back from Him.” His statement was concise to my situation and from I subsequently learned, the pastor operated in the gift of the prophetic.
Following the service, I was introduced to a couple whom, in our brief conversation, emphasized that their spiritual growth had been stagnant until such time that they departed from their parish. I listened politely but made no comment. As Laura and her husband had plans, I accepted an invitation to brunch by others whom I had met earlier. What could have been an enjoyable meal was marred by one of the participants who felt it necessary to inform me as to how much he despised Catholicism. This time, I did not remain silent but answered in a dignified and succinct manner which strongly implied that I failed to agree with him. Either he was dense or vindictive, for in a subsequent visit that I made to Sheepgate, he received permission from the pastor to speak, after which he proceeded to thank God for his release from the demonic Catholic Church.
This individual was not unique for the prevailing message that permeated from within the various nondenominational sects was that those from the evangelical world were Godly beings while the majority of Catholics were heretics. I dissented from this erroneous belief, yet I also realized that my spiritual growth would remain immobile if I limited myself to Mass. I needed an alternative house of worship, but where? And so the quest began.
On a spiritual basis, 1984 through early 1995 - an 11 year interval - represented a period of utter confusion. Though I returned to Sheepgate on a number of occasions, I never quite felt acclimated even during their social events. Added to the mix was a monumental conglomerate of other churches that I visited. I was unable to deny that the majority of these fellowships taught the Word in a manner which I had never heard in my own parish, and with that, my spirit bore witness. Moreover, the issue of holiness, coupled with other factors offensive to God, were routinely stressed. In essence, sin was a regular topic of discussion. However the discomfort was incessant. For instance, my demeanor during worship has always been one of reverential quiet...to kneel silently before my Savior, undisturbed by others. Oftentimes that was impossible, as the majority of congregants along with the preacher preferred to vociferate throughout the ritual. Indeed it was a distraction and much of the benefit that I may have derived from the message was lost in the thundering crescendo.
In late November 1985, I was a guest at a singles party hosted by a church in Nanuet, New York. I enjoyed myself immensely and at the urging of an acquaintance, I periodically made the 40-minute drive from Astoria to Rockland County on Sunday mornings. I actually made friends, attended some of their gatherings, and my Catholicism was never an issue of disparagement. Moreover, the co-pastors - husband and wife - gave an excellent message that was absent of the obstreperous incline that was oh so prevalent in other services. As I listened, I learned the truth of God’s Word including obedience to holiness as well as His many promises to those who professed Him as Lord. I continued with Mass, and visited other fellowships but Redeeming Love Christian Center became a mainstay.
For a multitude of reasons, I ultimately did leave Catholicism in February 1995. Initially I was exhilarated, and for the next six months I remained home on Sundays with my Bible and teaching tapes in hand. I would have continued in that status indefinitely had a coworker not challenged me regarding a commitment to church. With that, I headed back to Redeeming Love Christian Center where I stayed for the next 14 months. This was followed by Faith Fellowship in New Jersey, and then, in April 1998, a mega church here in New York City. I was home, or so I thought, as I faithfully attended service and signed up to participate as a volunteer staff member. I met my husband there a year later and we were married in November 2001.
By 2002, it became impossible to ignore the fact that the messages which now emulated from the pulpit, were deficient in Godly conviction and instead framed in a manner not to offend the masses particularly since those in attendance included the well renowned. Holiness was no longer a priority nor were Biblical principles exercised. Indeed, the mega church had evolved into a motivational center where many spouted platitudes that ran contrary to the Lord. As they did so, the multi thousand membership, bereft of discernment, clamored their approval. The magnificence of the Savior had ceased to be a prerogative and undoubtedly it was time to leave.
The deviation from God’s holiness within that particular mega church, appeared to be an exception for when my husband and I departed from there in June 2008, much of the evangelical world still seemingly adhered to Scriptural doctrine. We spent time in other fellowships, one of which was in Long Island, and the both of us matured in matters which pertained to God.
In mid-September 2011, it was my expectation that we would remain in Long Island. The Lord, however, had other plans as He jolted me out of my comfort zone and called me back to Catholicism. Clearly my 16 year absence was over. In the process, He led me to an amazing parish where I quickly became involved as a Eucharistic Minister, a lector, and a member of the prayer group. Nevertheless as I enjoyed the teaching in the evangelical church, the 8am Mass became a mainstay after which I would drive out to Long Island for the 10:30 service.
As my husband preferred a fellowship closer to home, we eventually left Long Island for a nondenominational church in our immediate neighborhood. My husband began to participate as a volunteer, and as the messages were good, I joined him on most Sundays, following Mass. In August 2015, my parish closed but I was immediately enmeshed into another where my level of involvement accelerated.
It was during the presidential race in 2016 that my perspective, as it pertained to evangelical fellowships, began to undergo an adverse shift. Perhaps it was because social media had advanced to the point whereas the thoughts of all, including the prominent faithful, were readily disclosed. One of the candidates, a presumed front runner, was a proponent for abortion and stated that Christians would have to adjust their beliefs regarding the acceptance of this atrocity. To my dismay, much of the Kingdom did not recoil in horror but instead expressed joy over her platform. Unsurprisingly, this politician was a guest at my former house of worship...the mega church...where the congregants extolled her presence more so than if the Blessed Virgin Mary had paraded in their midst. These factors caused me to reevaluate my spiritual opinion on her advocates within the nondenominational world, some of whom were friends.
Mercifully that individual lost the election and the United States was blessed with a president who strived on behalf of the Prolife movement as well as religious freedom. And yet, for the entirety of his term, the majority of his detractors were those within the evangelical sphere both as congregants and preachers.
When the pandemic commenced in March 2020, the church buildings in New York City were closed. Three months later, the Archdiocese ended the lockdown and I joyfully returned to Mass as well as my parish involvement. The local nondenominational sanctuary was still shuttered but by that juncture my desire to rejoin their services when in fact they reopened, had dissipated. I realize that no congregation or parish is perfect in any regard and that each individual is entitled to their own belief. However, when a house of worship consistently states that their values are Scripturally based, it’s difficult to fathom how the same Bible-thumping individuals could identify as proponents for those who have promoted atrocities as part of their platform. This was not limited to that particular fellowship but rather many communities that were classified as evangelical. In disbelief, I observed a post written by a Christian leader in which the statement was made that his vote in the presidential election would not be dependent on morality but rather issues at hand coupled with the individual’s ability to lead. Subsequently, upon the recent death of a Supreme Court justice, this same person commented that her life was to be celebrated as her accomplishments spanned beyond abortion. In response to my own remarks about the horrors of infanticide, I was rebuked by a number of “woke” followers of Christ who proclaimed that other sins existed. Yes that is true but should that serve as justification for the willful termination of the unborn? Undoubtedly it has become quite evident that various assemblies have evolved into spiritual complacency in their pursuit of gratification. By doing so, they have deliberately ignored Revelation 21:8 which clearly affirms that the fate of the murderer is the lake of eternal fire.
I continue to maintain the belief that the 2020 presidential election was rigged in favor of the Democratic candidate. I was grieved with the official outcome as well as the resounding cheers from those within the evangelical pews over an administration that has advocated for abortion. The pastor of the local fellowship seemed to take delight in the disparagement of the former president and implied that the Christian leaders who supported him, had no voice and were in need of repentance. I found this incomprehensible and stated such in a succinct reply. Were the allies of the 44th President ever made to atone for his numerous attacks against the church? What about the defenders of the current politicians in office who have vowed to perpetuate the slaughter of the unborn up to, and including the point of birth? Nevertheless a vast number of individuals in the church expressed joy at the inauguration of the incoming regime. Facebook invitations were received to wear pearls in commemoration of that day, all of which I deleted. In a similar manner, the State of Georgia, in early January of this year, elected a representative whom, despite his pastoral title, emphasized that he supports aborticide. With rare exception, he was not castigated by those in the church but instead received accolades from the seemingly faithful for his victory.
There is one particular Christian network that has hosted different activists, all of whom have spoken of various projects in an effort to combat feticide. Moreover, the Catholic Church, in its stead, has responded to the barbarity of abortion with Prolife groups, prayer, television programs, and additional various undertakings. There is no excuse for unawareness but several within the evangelical pews have preferred to sequester themselves in their pursuit of well-being and accolades.
It has become glaringly obvious that many who tend to scream the Lord’s Name at the top of their proverbial lungs as they prance around the evangelical sanctuaries, have a nominal concept of the Lord. Televangelists and pastors, who were once passionate for the Savior, now routinely deliver tepid messages that tend to focus on personal achievements. In that regard, a celebrated preacher proudly declared on television one evening that he owned the largest house in his state of residence. My immediate thought in response, was “Really? And how will your prideful boast help the individual who is desperately seeking God?”
I will always remain beyond grateful for the Biblical doctrine that I learned from the various fellowships that I attended. However at this juncture, I have yet to return to the evangelical sanctuaries and unless God states otherwise, I doubt whether that will occur. Unfortunately a compelling number from the nondenominational world, a stronghold of Godliness in prior years, have ostensibly made the decision to instead prioritize a Gospel that appeals to the senses of man. Atrocities are no longer addressed but instead there is a deluge of pulpit counsel as to how to believe the Lord for an increase in affluence. Unless the leaders purpose to change their course and pursue the Savior versus tactics that satisfy the masses, they will be called to account for their failure to lead the souls under their tutelage to sincere repentance and a passion for Christ.