It’s Saturday morning and I’ve had a very fruitful campaign week but now I’m ready to return home. I stop at the breakfast bar for coffee after my morning workout. The area is full of black women in orange tee shirts. They are eating together and fully engaged in conversation. They seem like happy people. I know they are church folks, but as I glance upon the table closest to me I hear the Holy Spirit say one word; “CAUTION”.
Caution is how we are instructed to proceed when we are driving in a work zone or going around a dangerous curve. Caution is how we are instructed to proceed when danger is not noticeable with the natural eye. Caution is symbolized by tall orange barrels along roads. You can proceed if you want to, but you are not safe if you do, at least if you don’t move with an awareness that danger of some sort is present but not seen.
Well, by this time the women are looking at me a little and I can see they want to talk so I decide to make a move. I thought it was an innocent move, but I could hear the Holy Spirit say, “CAUTION”. Those reading this who have that kind of relationship with the Holy Spirit that you are able to actually hear the Lord speak, know exactly what I’m talking about. You also know exactly how valuable spiritual discernment really is for living in the “now” of God.
Back to the experience. I asked one of the women, “Good Morning, may I read your shirt”? She smiled, held up the top portion so I could read it and then here presents the DANGER. I was only two words into the reading the shirt when another woman, for whom I was not talking, just begins to quote scripture to me about going to church. “The bible says, the bible says, the bible says etc…” Then with an angry aggressive tone she asked me if I knew Jesus Christ. I said yes. Well, maybe I didn’t look saved enough to her since I had on exercise clothes but she continued to tell me that the bible says we need to be saved. I told her again; “I know”. Listen, this was an awkward situation and I was becoming annoyed. I wasn’t even talking to this woman and all I wanted to do was read the other lady’s shirt. The bible verses kept flowing as if some kind of spiritual stones. I finally said to the lady, “I know the Lord Jesus, I know the word, I go to church in fact I am a pastor.” That’s where Danger went off the charts.
Danger, and the other women who clearly belonged to the same sisterhood, all began to shake their heads rapidly, bulge their eyes, huff and throw more scripture at me. “Didn’t you read in the bible that a woman should not have authority over a man”. “I thought you said you read the bible.” This crew was pouncing on me like some hungry pit bulls who had been tied to a short leach and now had someone to sink their fangs into. Amazingly I remained calm, unflappable and here is the truth. As I stood there with these “experienced Christian witnesses” pouncing on me, I looked at them and thought to myself; “I sure hope the believers I teach don’t attack people like this, all in the name of the Lord.” When they exhausted themselves and finally came up for air, I took that pause moment and said in my clearly articulate Southern accent; “Ya’ll have a good day”.
I moved to the fresh fruit section of the breakfast bar to get something and as I stretched my hand to grab my fruit, I was again pounced upon by one of the women from the table. I guess she decided to use a softer pounce to deliverer me from error because the next thing I know she is in my right ear saying; “That’s right ma’am, God doesn’t call women to pastor”. I thought to myself, “Lord, you told me CAUTION but wow, some people will hound you with error. I didn’t bother to respond with words. I simply smiled and walked away. If you don’t know this about me, I try not to argue with irrational people. Besides, my grandmother told me that if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. I was done with these folks, or so I thought. Keep reading because this is where I saw the purposes of God in the midst of this danger.
Over an hour had passed and it was time for me to depart. I went to the lobby to wait for my driver and to my dismay there were still more of the orange shirt women in the breakfast area. I’d had enough of their version of evangelism so I decided to avoid ALL of them and sat in the far side of the lobby to wait. It would only be 5 minutes; I should be safe from their madness. Well, my driver was uncharacteristically late and slowly there were three of these orange shirt women who had come all the way over there where I was sitting. Hum…all these chairs and couches and you’ll have to come and sit on the couch with me? Lord Jesus! Well, I decided to sit quietly and keep my eyes on my watch, as if that would hasten my driver’s arrival. I would have gone outside to wait had it not been hot and humid.
One of the women noticed me eating my breakfast bowl and asked; “What is that? It looks like it might be healthy”. I smiled and responded; “It’s my breakfast and it is healthy”. You and I both know that question was nothing more than an opener for her to ask me if I knew the Lord. Yes, I know the Lord. Yes, I’m saved. Yes, I’ve heard of your denomination. No, I can’t attend one of your churches in my home area. I work on Sundays. Yes, I work every single Sunday. Yes, I know that God has given me life. Yes, I know I should serve Him. Come on…tell me where you work. No. Why not? I’ve already been attacked once this morning by members of your group when I told them where I worked, so that enough for me today. No, somebody attacked you today. Yes, one of your people…aren’t you with the orange shirt women? Yes, but God tells us to be kind to people. It doesn’t matter what you are bound by, Jesus can fix it. Yes, I know he can.
Now all of them sitting near me are thinking that I work in sin. I’m thinking this situation is ridiculous and where is my driver. One of the other ladies ask me if I was leaving. Yes, I’m flying home in an hour and I’ll be back at work in the morning. Then she shares how she is afraid to fly. She further shares that her son has moved to the west coast and really wants her to come and spend time with the grandchildren, but she will not go because she is afraid to fly. As I’m listening, I hear God tell me to minister to her and get her free from the spirit of fear. How exactly am I going to do that and not reveal the anointing? Crazy, but yes, I was trying to keep the anointing under wraps. I walk too closely to the Lord to withhold deliverance when God wants to set someone free. This was going to be a challenge.
I looked outside and saw a car pull up and I was sure it was my driver. Alright then! I can minister deliverance to her, expose the anointing and walk right out of here and get in the car before they have time to attack me for being a pastor. God had given me a way of “escape”. I went in straight, no chaser (as my members always describe my ministry style) and said to her; “Woman of God, how are you going to let a spirit from God’s enemy keep you bound and disconnected from your family?” All of them stopped talking and listened and I ministered to this lady. When I finished I asked if I could pray for her and she quickly agreed. I prayed, the power of God manifested, we rejoiced, I picked up my purse and said my goodbyes. The woman who had started the “evangelism of my soul” was now on the edge of her seat and insisted I tell her what type of work I do. As I rolled my luggage to the door I stopped, looked at her and said; I AM a pastor, now ya’ll have a good day. She almost jumped out of her seat and said; I knew it when you prayed!!! You have a strong anointing! What kind of church do you pastor? I pastor an AME church in Michigan. Here it is…the reason why you’ve stayed in my testimony until the end… She announces to me, I USE TO BE AME!
Well, there you have it, another USE TO BE AME. She didn’t want me to leave because she was now facing a collision between her spiritual heritage and her current denominational affiliation. She didn’t think there was spiritual power in the church of her spiritual origin. Now, as a woman she is bond by a mindset that God doesn’t use women to lead. I said my goodbyes and left her with her new spiritual reality that God is indeed moving amongst the believers in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
There is so much discussion about that congregation of I USE TO BE AME and why people are leaving our denomination. For those who thirst after the manifested presence of the Holy Spirit, they leave because they are yearning the power of God. My assignment amongst this group of women who had traveled to that city to evangelize, was perhaps meant to shake a crumpling foundation held in place against 50% of the human equation; women. God said, “CAUTION”. It was in fact dangerous and uncomfortable to experience their version of “Attack Evangelism”. But I learned another lesson on how to instruct those for whom I teach and mentor in the things of God. Don’t lead people to Christ in such a way that upon your approach the Holy Spirit has to say to your prospect; CAUTION.
Blessings to you and I trust you were inspired by my testimony.
Rev. Dr. Cecelia GreeneBarr