The Pentecostal Minister

By Frank Jansen

A Pentecostal minister works in two worlds. On the one hand, he’s trying to get to the top of the corporate ladder. But on the other hand, the real challenge for him personally, covert and unacknowledged even to himself, is how he is seen by his congregation. He would rather be remembered by history as a great clairvoyant, although that’s not a word he’d use, than as chairman of the board. But he can’t admit it, to himself even, because his belief system doesn’t allow him to acknowledge it. Don’t forget that the great man of the church is not the president or accountant, it is the man who bears gifts … those who are weak on gifts tend to be good administrators.

Their challenge is always to themselves. In the gifting the personal question is always “Will it work tonight?” And then the question comes … “Why did it work tonight when last week, when I staged it with music and so on,… it didn’t work? … For the Pentecostal minister the unction of the Holy Spirit takes him out of himself; it is not he who is speaking, he is “channeling,” to use a spiritualist term. In this he can behave aberrantly but define this as sanctioned by God…. The divine sanction is required only for situations that are abnormal. There’s no question of self-doubt because it’s not the self that’s speaking.

When I was in a trance, and that’s not the right word for a Pentecostal preacher, there was a definite shifting aside of the self. Yet Scripture says that the prophecy is always subject to the prophet. You had a confidence to say things that you didn’t really know you were going to say next. In a natural frame of mind I wouldn’t have said it. I would have been riddled with self-doubt…. We would have moments of this, but we wanted more; they were never enough. But we’re asked or expected to be in that state all of the time. Some people believed that had I been in the right spiritual state, I could turn it on at will. But I couldn’t.

Revivals stir sexual energies. Where there is a heightened revival, there is a heightened sexuality…. [Take] tent evangelists … there is a long tradition of parodying the leading charismatic figures as highly sexual people…. Almost every Pentecostal minister of note I can think of has had some kind of sexual aberration, mild perhaps, but odd nevertheless. What isn’t known is far more interesting and widespread than people realize. It doesn’t seem to happen where they have staid and stoic people…. [Take] Aimee Semple McPherson: she used sex, preached of the Song of Solomon with seminude blacks and diaphanously clad girls…. They use sex, there is a sexual component to their practices and teaching.

Pentecostal ministers are as much performers as preachers. It’s nothing to hear of a bunch of them getting together after a meeting to let their hair down at the local motel. And they do all sorts of things, from leaving one of their number without his clothes in the motel pool—harmless stuff like that—to calling up demons and talking to them and things like that. It’s a situation of very high energy. But at the time I never felt sexual, although I could easily transform it. I did once… at the point of orgasm I’ve become prophetic. I gave Ann [not her real name] a reading of what it was like to be in her womb. Poor Ann wondered what the hell was happening. There is a prophetic mode. It’s the shift of the ego or self. The ego stands aside and the channeling of the message that comes through is free to come through. I had an explicit feeling of being in the womb. I gave a free, spontaneous flow of words, couched in King James English, about her womb. It was like rebirthing but it wasn’t. It was just a very detailed description of her womb.

When you are in this mode, your voice changes, all sorts of modulations and so on affect others. Hyperventilation. It affects others and they go into it, too. There’s a distinct physiological component to the response. And people then go to churches to get this kind of experience and it becomes meeting dependency.