To give you a basic idea of the time frame, Bible College days for me took place from January 1973 - December 1975
Well, Sherri and I lived in Boynton Beach (about 45 minutes north of Hollywood) and I was a local Ranch director [note: an evangelistic youth group]. We were also involved in Lake Worth Bible Church [church started by College grad and run by grads]. We had the whole Bible College thing going except that the founder of Lake Worth Bible Church had changed it from the one man setup to an elder-led format. After he left there was only one elder who created what he called the "Elder Advisory Board" ... now there's some nomenclature for you that ended up operating the same as the traditional pastor and elders. The whole setup played a large part in my path for I was on the elder advisory board which for a short while became unofficial elders, then official elders, then unofficial elders, and after I left it was back to elder advisory board.
On the one hand, it put me in the place of the inner working of the church, with this wide-eyed desire to see an operation of God in the lives of the believers in achieving a really active and living church. I remember having this unfulfilled expectation always nagging at me that we could be a living organism and not the artificial organization I had come to know and was terribly frustrated with (by the way, all of my Lake Worth Bible Church history was a short space between 1974-79).
On the other hand, I was stuck in this dead-end and unrecognized position at the time others from my class were getting their own churches! A real no man's land. What could I say when my family and friends would ask me about my future in my chosen profession? Well, serving God by preaching the gospel many times just didn't answer an awful lot.
As far as the youth group was concerned: My group was always small ... mostly guys, though, which was unusual. Oh, we tried so hard to become a successful work of God, but it just didn't seem to work. During the same period of time as Lake Worth Bible Church, my concepts of something more than superficial put me in the strange place where I began to understand that I needed to be satisfied with whatever was going on with the Ranch. We even had a name change to take away some of the stigma of ranch. Of course, I was really hoping that God would finally make something of it! haha! But as it was becoming more and more obvious that I didn't have it in me to build a large Ranch, that it would behoove me to concentrate on whatever it was that was actually happening. The ranch group finally died.
I was leading the Wednesday PM high-school class. We met in my duplex down the road from Lake Worth Bible Church since space was an issue. The elder and the advisory board came to regret that, because they were hearing all kinds of strange things about it. I began to concentrate on our life in Christ (what I knew of it, anyway) and was getting real with them. Ever since having graduated from Florida Bible College I was being moved by the Father into looking beneath the surface (as I was getting so sick and tired of that outward appearance crap).
Lake Worth Bible Church always attended Florida Bible College Family Conference. It was one of the smaller churches represented but always had the largest crowd there. It was a big thing to the head elder. I decided to take the Wed class down to attend that meeting at the conference. I can even remember how difficult it was getting the two car loads of kids in the cars so that as I was a couple blocks away from my place I realized I forgot my Bible. I wasn't about to start that fiasco over again by going back and having them get back out of the car and wander ... so, for the very first time I didn't have my Bible with me. Bro, this was a God thing!
We got there on time and got seated in some good seats about 12 rows back right in the middle (I wanted them to not miss what was being said). Lee Stanford was the speaker. It was about "Remembrances". It was a detailing of all the things we need to remember to do as Christians. He talked about how difficult it was to put this message together, but that the Lord wanted him to deal with some hard stuff. What an evening I will NEVER forget! It was so legalistic that it made me want to puke.
Here is the thing that hit me the hardest. About a half an hour into this hour and a half long message Lee Stanford was talking about how we remembered the things that were important to us ... "Like your Bible"! And he stared straight at me! He pulls out his keys and says, "I remembered my keys, but I forgot my Bible!". It was quiet enough that you could hear the sound of people turning around in their chairs to discover who didn't think their Bibles were important. I was burning hot ... not because I was embarrassed, but more so (which surprises me in hindsight) that he had just turned the whole gathering into little legalistic judges! All I could think was that it had been so difficult to get these kids here on time -- and for THIS? I didn't think his garbage would ever stop.
That was the beginning of the end for me. When we got back and had Sunday meeting, we did a traditional testimony service where everybody who went would get up and tell of their favorite meeting at the conference. I figured that most would have been made too guilty by Lee's message that nobody would mention it. But one by one, EVERYBODY but one girl came forward and praised the Wednesday evening message just because it made them feel guilty enough to want to do something about it! I got together with Norm (the head elder) that afternoon and told him of my concerns and he heard me. Our men's meeting (elder-whatever-we-were-at-the-time meeting, that is) was that evening and he wanted me to share with them what I told him. What an explosion! It began a series of meetings where we examined me for about 8 months! If it hadn't been that Norm was also impacted by what he was seeing in this I would have been kicked out right away. There was an ebb and flow where it was 2 to 3, then 3 to 2, then 3 and a half to 1 and a half. But time was running out ... the time to register for 1979 Family Conference was approaching! Norm needed to know what he was going to do. After all, this was his self-professed highlight of the year where he got so much recognition. So, after 8 months of seeing the condemnation of the whole approach, he went down to see Lee Stanford, and in ONE setting came to realize that this whole thing was Jim's problem!! Yikes! I had an April 20th concert set up to play at Lake Worth Bible Church, so it pretty much became my last thing with them.
I read a book by Miles Stanford called The Green Letters later in 1978 or maybe 1979. It was the first of a series of 5 books on grace. I was blown away. The reason I didn't pass it off was simply that I found that I had come to many of the same conclusions. [I stopped pushing his books as I later recognized his formula. I also had read one of his hit lists where he detailed the fallacies of everybody you could think of. When I first saw it, I thought it was so cool that he was so insightful, but at the same time it also bothered me that some fantastic stuff was being discredited in the process. He made it seem as if some Christians had it and most didn't. He's still around and though I still love much of what he has to say, I see his approach as divisive. I include all that because it was such a big influence in my life.]
From there, I started going to a church in Hollywood called Grace Bible Church lead by Jack Lannom. He had a lot of fantastic truth about God's grace. His need to control everything undid the whole thing and he got into reformed theology after we found another place to meet up in Lake Worth area where we lived.
Well, that's enough for now. You may not have wanted that much, but your question really got me going. Thanx for asking. Tell me more about your own story, please!!! :)