Lessons From Controversy and Chaos

Publication:Pastoral Letter, July 2020

Dear Friend in Christ:
These are indeed serious times that present us with great controversy and too much chaos. How we
respond to events in our nation and world is very important. Trusting the Lord for help, I will offer
some ways to respond. Remember, spiritual issues require spiritual solutions. In order to offer some
counsel, I will draw from my own experiences of controversy and even some chaos in my own life. I
realize that my suggestions will be neither complete or perfect.

After a very deep and intense struggle with the Lord, I yielded to God’s calling for me to become a
minister, 65 years ago. I will not go into the details of why it was so difficult but perhaps I had some
notions of my own temperament and the demands that would fall upon me; nevertheless, I began to
preach. I was ordained as the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church in 1957. On that occasion, I was
presented with a Bible and charged to preach it faithfully referencing 2 Timothy 4:1-5, where Timothy
was charged by the Apostle Paul, his spiritual father, to preach it in all seasons, to convince, rebuke,
exhort with all longsuffering and teaching.

Paul also warned Timothy that he would be judged by God and our Lord Jesus Christ regarding how
he handled the Word and warned that the time would come when people would not endure sound
doctrine but would look for teachers who gave them a more pleasing message. Those verses became
my mandate. I cannot boast of always fulfilling that charge but it is always in my memory. To me, that
is extremely sobering.

We must walk by faith. Hebrews 11 is clear about the role faith played in the lives of our heroes who
served God. They were neither complete or perfect, but they had faith. That gave me some comfort,
because faith and some courage were about all I had to offer.

I was 20 years old as I began to pastor a small group of 32 people who attended my first message. The
church had five pastors in the previous seven years. In addition to pastoring, I commuted to college a
hundred miles away and later, to seminary 150 miles away.

At that time, I was a “fundamentalist” and a fighter, and that combination meant that controversy
would always surround me. I was controversial in college and seminary because I confronted
professors when I thought they were wrong about the Bible. In seminary, my New Testament
professor denied substitutionary atonement and the reality of Hell. I challenged him, went to the
president of the seminary and soon left the seminary. My father told me, “Son, you are not there to
teach, but to learn.” I could not learn from these professors, but my Dad was right about me; I needed
a much better attitude. After seminary, I focused on pastoring entirely for the first time. The church
had grown to more than 300 people attending. But if I thought that controversy would now be over, I
was very wrong.

It was a blessing to just pastor and “preach the Word.” But as I did so, I discovered that I was “out of
sync” with so much of the Early Church. I was dry, soon spent, and began to see my own need. I was
faced with the Gospels, the Book of Acts, and my lack of spiritual power. I began to study the work of
the Holy Spirit and come under heavy conviction, even as I preached to others.

I was baptized in the Holy Spirit in April of 1964, and that brought more controversy. I lost 30
pounds and the church lost more than 150 members. My friend Ken Sumrall, whose prayer meeting I
attended in Pensacola, Florida, had been fired from his 900 member Baptist church for his experience
with the Holy Spirit. I thought that I would be fired as well, but was not.

For seven years after my experience, our church was investigated by the Baptist association and
twice put on probation for our activity in the Holy Spirit. I began traveling across the United States
and other nations to give my testimony. Other leaders were doing the same and the Charismatic
Movement received international controversy; nevertheless, our church grew again to more than 500

I left our church in Mobile in 1971, to join Derek Prince, Bob Mumford, and Don Basham in Fort
Lauderdale at the Holy Spirit Teaching Mission. Things were moving fast! Soon we discovered
that the originator and leader of the mission was living an immoral, unbiblical lifestyle. I was asked
to confront him and did so with offerings of restoration and support. Nothing worked, but he called
other leaders around the nation to say that we were attempting to “steal his ministry”. We offered to
resign our positions as editors of our magazine (New Wine) and the board of our TV station, but he
resigned instead, and we were left to deal with the fallout.

In addition to that controversy, Derek and Don were heavily involved in the “Deliverance Ministry”
and often in large groups. Pentecostals and some Charismatics insisted that Christians could not be
oppressed by an evil spirit. The debate was international, but was soon overshadowed by another
debate; we began teaching on “discipleship” as Jesus practiced it.

We discovered a truth, “If you teach it, be ready to do it.” We had no model and thousands were
coming to our seminars. We discipled some people, who discipled others, but still other people we
did not know were also trying to make disciples. Yes, there were problems! Pat Robertson called
us a “cult” on national television. Reconciliation gatherings failed. Eventually, in 1986, the Bible
teachers associated with New Wine disbanded our mutual commitment. I cannot express my own

Our own family faced opposition in our community. Crosses had been burned in my front yard; one
of our children was assaulted by a group, and also repeatedly spat upon; and I was falsely accused of
being like “Jim Jones”, the terrible, murderous cult leader. In addition, our church endured a fiveyear
IRS audit of our church finances; the end of this arduous process resulted in our being fully
exonerated, without finding any errors or recommending penalties.

By the grace of God, most of my relationships with friends and ministry allies endured. I love and
appreciate them more than I can say! And I thank God for a wonderful wife who supported me
“through many dangers, toils, and snares.”

That is a brief summary of some of my controversies and chaos. But those are all minor compared
to where our world is now. This is by far the most intense battle I have ever witnessed, and the war
is intensely spiritual. People are killed, jobs are lost, and families are divided. One wrong word can
change a person’s entire future.

So, how do we handle this? I will offer a few thoughts gleaned from my own history and some
questions to ask ourselves.

  • Do you trust God even when you don’t know the plan or purpose? Or to put it another way, is your faith in God or circumstance?
  • Do you love God’s Word? Are there lessons for you there to apply now? What are some of those?
  • Do you love your enemies, even those who want to destroy you? Very difficult!
  • Do you understand that your battle is not against flesh and blood?
  • Are you seeking God for His perspective and guidance through this tribulation?

I suggest that if your answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you need to talk to the Lord about
it. He will hear, understand, and help you. It is a time to listen to the Lord before we speak to people.
A hasty word spoken in this climate can have harsh, unintended consequences. Pray for leaders who
are having to say something, even when not sure what to say. Wise words are priceless, and foolish
words costly. It is a good time to let our actions—what we do out of love—speak for themselves.
We are near harvest season; the wheat and tares are growing together side-by-side and are sometimes
difficult to discern. Like our Lord’s disciples, we want to pull up the tares or call down fire. But the
Lord said wait until the harvest and then it will be sorted out. Some will be burned with fire and
others will go “into the barn.” Meanwhile, we will often not know which is which—you cannot go by
labels—or classes.

I pray that I have grown and will continue to grow. We grow through studying the Word of God,
fellowshipping other believers, and by reaching out beyond our regular circle of friends and those who
are like us. It is good to hear their stories and that they hear ours. I am so blessed to have neighbors
with Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist backgrounds. I want to be a good neighbor to them and to show
the love of Christ to them. I have been praying with Catholic friends, and for a couple of weeks, I have
been going to a small prayer meeting with several Black Christians.

Some amazing and positive changes are happening. For example, I’ve been dealing with some very
painful indigestion that has lasted on and off for two years. When it occurs, it affects my heart rhythm.
Yes, I have prayed and had visits with doctors. But nothing has helped very much.

On my second visit to the prayer time with my Black brothers—some of whom I had not previously
met, and who knew nothing of my physical condition—I was asked by one of the brothers, “May
I pray for you?” I said, “Yes of course; please do.” Then he asked, “Could I lay my hand on your
stomach?” Again, I said, “Yes.” He laid his hand on my stomach and prayed a simple prayer,
according to God’s Word. I was healed and went home to some of the best sleep that I have had in
months! I am glad that I went to be with brothers that I did not know. We all have brothers and
sisters that we really do not know. Without them, we do not have “all the pieces to our puzzle”. Our
healing could be there!

It is very difficult for me to see beyond our circumstances; it’s hard to see beyond those things
happening across society that are obviously demonic. There are those who desire anarchy and
destruction because their motivation and motivator loves chaos. We must not be tricked into aiding
the enemy; we are called to shine in this darkness. Many of our brothers and sisters in persecution
around the world understand this better than we currently do in America.

Whatever happens, the last Word has not been said, but we know Who will say it! Let us humble
ourselves, repent, and seek the Lord until we hear from Heaven. Please continue to remember us in
your prayers and in your giving this month. As you can imagine, these have been challenging days for
our ministry. See the card enclosed for a very special offer for you. Thank you!

In Christ,
Brother Charles Simpson

Scripture references: 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Acts

About the Author:

Charles Simpson

Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.