By Lawrence “Buddy” Martin
This entry is going to be a bit long. If you decide to follow it, you will likely find some answers about Oneness Pentecostalism that you may be looking for.
However, I wish it understood that none of what I have to say is directed to individual members of Oneness churches. I care deeply for my Pentecostal kinsmen. I believe there are many truly born again, God-fearing, Jesus-loving people throughout the Pentecostal movement.
My Earnest Hope
With all that being said, I do have sorrow.
My earnest hope is simply that my testimony will help others to see how Oneness Pentecostalism has managed to mismanage the gospel of Jesus Christ. (I speak as a former United Pentecostal pastor and evangelist.)
Let’s begin with…
Some time back I did research on issues of mental health to better educate myself for the purpose of pastoral ministry. I came across findings that had been conducted on mental patients in California. It stated that the largest religious groups of patients in mental institutions in California were from a Pentecostal background.
In picking up my research again I came across a major study by K. G. Meador and others. It was reported in ‘Hospital and Community Psychiatry,‘ a monthly journal of the American Psychiatric Association.
Having researched several thousand cases, Meador concluded that there was a greater rate of depression in Pentecostals than in any other religious affiliation. Here is the quote:
“[We found the] rate of major depression in Pentecostals was three times greater than for any other affiliations.”
According to the statistics, Pentecostals also have the highest rate of divorce, in addition to the highest rate of emotional and mental disturbances of any Protestant group.
Note: Place your cursor over a Scripture reference and it will appear.
The big question is Why?
Why do Pentecostals suffer greater mental duress than other Christian groups? Hopefully, I can offer some things to think about. It should be understood that Pentecostalism, in general, have some of the same troublesome issues. (Not just Oneness groups.)
Before we look at the why, let me share from my background.
My family roots are in Louisiana. The Martins have been here since Billy Martin, a Revolutionary Soldier and his wife, Elizabeth, came here in 1804. Billy and Elizabeth were from South Carolina and both were most likely Scot-Irish.
My mother was born into a Oneness Pentecostal family in 1920. (Oneness Pentecostalism is a branch of the early 20th Century Pentecostal movement. It is often considered as a sub-culture of the movement. The UPCI organization was formed in 1945.)
As a young woman my mom played the piano for an evangelism team made up of her family. Her older sister was an evangelist.
After mom married at age 15, she soon left the world of the Pentecostal. Mom and dad moved to Portsmouth, Virginia during World War II, where they worked in the Naval shipyards in support of the war effort. (I was one month old when we moved.)
Later mom and dad divorced, and she moved to California where some of her siblings had located. (My mom was from a family of twelve children.)
Mom always carried in her heart both a love and a concern for the things of the Lord. She wanted me to know the Lord, but not in the way of Pentecostalism. (Many people do not care for the emotional extremes that Pentecostalism is noted for.)
Several of my mother’s siblings had also left Pentecostalism. (Seven of the twelve.)
A Mother Teaches her Son
My earliest childhood memory is of my mom teaching me to pray, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” In this childlike way she taught me to call upon the Lord. Some years later I would come to fully experience Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I would also come to realize who I had called upon as a child.
That childhood prayer holds a special place in my heart. As a child, I could sense the goodness of the Lord in those moments of prayer. My mother had taught me a Davidic type prayer.
“You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.” (Psa 4:7-8 NASB)
There is no question in my mind that ever since childhood the Lord has kept a watch over my life. My name had already been inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life. Yes, I am one of the ‘beloveds’ of the Lord. (All true believers are.)
The Early Years
I was born in Louisiana, yet I spent much of my first eight years of childhood between Louisiana, Virginia, and California. I was too young to remember Virginia. My earliest childhood memories are of California. We lived there five years.
We moved back to Louisiana in May 1949. (I was eight at the time.)
I had my first meet with Pentecostalism in 1949. It was mysterious and strange. People were falling out, and shouting, and dancing. The preaching and singing was filled with passion. Pentecostalism was an awesome world to me.
The emotionalism was captivating. It did not dawn on me until years later just how many of these dancers and shouters would take their leave from Pentecostalism and be later found in more traditional churches. I think this was due to the emotional burn out such as my mother experienced.
During the next ten years (1949-59) my exposure to religion would alternate between the United Pentecostal Church and the Church of God – Anderson. But like many young people, my interest in religion began to lessen over time. I enlisted in the Navy at age 18 and served from 1959 to 1963. (Age 18 to 22.)
After I got out of the Navy, I relocated to Colorado, where I was to meet my beautiful wife to be. My wife’s father was a UPC minister.
I served on the police department in Grand Junction, Colorado, and afterward as a police officer in Moab, Utah.
My Call to the Ministry
Oddly enough, even from childhood, I had always felt a call to the gospel ministry. I guess it began when my mom would kneel beside my bed with me, in those moments of prayer.
In 1964, I answered the call of God. Then in 1965, we moved from Colorado, back to Louisiana.
For the next ten years, I would fill various roles in the United Pentecostal organization. During those ten years, I served as a youth pastor, had a gospel singing group, directed evangelism projects, preached out from the local church, took up our first pastorate, and then went into the full-time evangelistic ministry.
The Moment that Set the Stage
It was in 1971. Betty and I had pastored a UPC Church and afterward went into full-time evangelistic ministry.
After evangelizing for a time, there was this tug in my heart to begin a home missions work for our organization. The mission work found us in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Much of what changed my thinking about Pentecostalism began there.
It was in Los Alamos that we became acquainted with some non-Pentecostal believers. While they did not attend any of our services, oddly enough they befriended us. (One of those God arrangements. They happen often on the path of life.)
I could not help but notice how these non-Pentecostals seemed so different. They had a spiritual composure in their life that stirred me deeply. Little did I know that these believers were carrying the signs of a composed walk of righteousness.
It reminded me of what the Prophet Isaiah said,
“And the work of righteousness will be peace, and the service of righteousness, quietness and confidence forever.” (Isa 32:17 NASB)
I thought to myself, ‘How could these people who did not speak in tongues know Jesus?’
The Lord was going to use these believers to put me on my knees.
How could this be? I loved God with all my heart. He was ever-present in my life. I never questioned my salvation. Yet these believers seemed so unusual. They carried all the signs of a true walk with the Lord.
Something Just Did Not Fit
I knew something did not fit. I have always been very studious, so I began an intense heart search of the Scriptures. The more I studied the more I began to realize that the gospel we Pentecostals were preaching was not what the apostles actually preached.
The doctrine of the need to speak in tongues as the Biblical evidence of salvation, or that it was the definitive sign of having received the Holy Spirit as a second experience, was never taught by Jesus. It was not taught by the apostles, or by the early Christians. It came out of Pentecostalism short and simple.
(Many do not realize that the Pentecostal doctrine of speaking in tongues is based almost exclusively on three detached incidences in the Acts of the Apostles, where in each instance the speaking in other languages was without forethought or expectation. All three instances were sovereign acts of God. All three instances were in a group setting and involved several people at one time. In each of these instances, the speaking was in real languages. Acts cover 35+ years of early church transitional history.)
Paul explained the gospel that was preached by the apostles in Romans 10:8-13. Compare this to Galatians 1:8,9.)
After studious searching with an open heart and mind, I began to realize that the gospel message of salvation is based entirely upon faith in Jesus Christ. True salvation can only be measured in the heart. Salvation is a heart exchange.
Out of the cross comes a life exchange. Jesus exchanged His life for our life. He took our place and in turn gave us His standing with heaven. (The heart exchange is why you will find born-again believers in every Christian denomination.)
Why had I not seen this before?
The Beginning of the Turn
Troubled in spirit, Betty and I and our two sons left the mission work and evangelized for a short time. Our last revival saw twenty-five plus people baptized.
As the altars filled, my heart was breaking. I knew this was all wrong. Seekers were begging God to save them. It wasn’t as though you could kneel by a seeker and explain how true salvation works. The seekers had largely been brought up under the influence of Pentecostal teachings.
This last revival is where another step was taken.
Our son, Nathan, said to the Sunday School teacher, “My daddy don’t believe you have to speak in tongues to be saved.”
This was a shocker for the teacher. The issue of speaking in tongues was and is a cardinal doctrine in that organization, and so the teacher went to the pastor with this information.
I was totally unaware of what had taken place in the Sunday School class. Later that day the pastor asked me to take a ride with him to visit some families.
When the pastor and I were alone, the conversation went this way. (This is as close as I can remember it.)
Pastor: “Brother Martin, I would like to ask you a question, if it won’t offend you.”
Me: “Brother, if it is not intended to offend me, go ahead.” (I thought it was a strange way to approach a question.)
Pastor: “Brother, do you believe you have to speak in tongues to be saved?”
Me: “Let me qualify that.” (This caught me completely off guard. I was still in the process of working this doctrine through.)
Pastor: “I don’t want you to qualify it. I just want a yes or no.”
Me: “No, I don’t believe a person has to speak in tongues to be saved.”
Pastor: “But how would you know you had the Holy Ghost if you don’t speak in tongues.”
Me: “Brother, if that is the only reason you know you have the Holy Ghost, you are in trouble already.”
I assured him that he need not be concerned. My preaching would center on Jesus. According to reports, this was the best revival they had ever had. And the revival was about to close.
My Three Years of Preparation
In God’s guidance and care, the next three years found us in a local congregation. It was a UPC church, but the pastor was a gentle and compassionate man. August 1971 through August 1974 was our season of healings. I preached out from the local church but my major need was to get my belief system fully in accord with God’s word.
An interesting thing happened. The church we were attending had just gone through a split. The pastor who was also a presbyter with the UPC, asked me to help him rebuild. When I told him that I could not, that I did not believe a person had to speak in tongues to be saved, he surprised me.
The pastor said that when the UPC first formed, many of the ministers of one of the forming groups believed the way that I believe, that a person did not have to speak in tongues to be saved. This belief eventually disappeared under the stricter, ‘you-must-speak-in-tongues-to-be-saved’, a teaching of the other forming group. We agreed to disagree. I worked with this godly man for three years.
It seems the United Pentecostal Church was not always as strict as it later became. The pastor shared with me why the organization’s fundamental doctrine included a term that placed salvation on two levels, salvation and full salvation. Here is the original Fundamental Doctrine of the UPCI.
It was also during this time that the Lord gave us a beautiful daughter. Shana came as a direct promise from the Lord. (A testimony of its own.)
I formally left the UPC in 1974. [In heart in 1971]
A Step Back in Time
I think it is important to share how I actually came to realize Jesus as my Lord and Savior. It was 1963. I had just gotten out of the Navy. A cousin kept insisting that I go to church with her. So I did. It was in church that I first saw my wife to be. In short order, I fell in love with this beautiful Pentecostal girl. We married that same year. (Fifty-three years, September, 2016.)
Not many months afterward I found myself in the world of the Pentecostal altar. Revival after revival found me in the altar. My heart was so thirsty.
Then it happened. One Sunday afternoon I am sitting in our living room with my Bible in my hands, reading from the book of John. When I came to John 14, I saw that the questions being asked of Jesus were my very own questions. I needed to know who Jesus really was and why I needed to place my faith in Him.
It seemed as though I was being drawn right there with the disciples. The Holy Spirit was opening my ears to hear.
When Philip asked the Lord to show them the Father, it was as if the Lord was speaking to my heart. Jesus said,
“Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Buddy? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, ‘Shew us the Father?’ Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me…” (John 14:9,10 kjv)
I heard my name in that Scripture.
At that very moment, I became suddenly aware of the divine presence. My childhood prayer of, ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep’, had become a reality. The Lord spoke faith into my heart. (Cf. Rom10:17)
Tears fell on my open Bible. Jesus was the very Lord that my mother had taught me to pray to as a child. But this time I knew who He really was. Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. Jesus was and is God.
That was when the Lord sealed my heart for eternity. And that very same consciousness of the Lord that I felt as a child was now fully manifested in my heart. I was birthed into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. He had placed a seal upon my heart. (Eph1:13)
Jesus made Himself real to me. I loved Him then. I love Him now. It remains my constant want to only do those things that He gives me to do, whether it is teaching, preaching or anything else that pertains to life. And even in all my failures, my love for Jesus never changes. (John 10:4,5,14,27-29)
I have carried the testimony of Jesus in my heart ever since that day. (Rom8:15-17)
That brings me to …
The Witness of the Heart
You cannot tell a person who has truly believed in Jesus Christ, that they are not saved. Their own heart witness is too strong.
Paul said it this way:
“For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.'” (Rom 10:10-11 NASB)
This accords with what God said through the prophet Ezekiel:
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit within you…” (Eze36:26,27 nasb)
And this from the prophet Jeremiah:
“But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days … They will not teach again, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them … for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jer31:33,34)
This is where Paul’s statement about Israel’s attempt to prove their own righteousness can be seen in Pentecostalism. Cf. Rom10:1-4.
Rather than fully trusting in Jesus Christ for their salvation, Pentecostals are being taught to place their faith in speaking in tongues. They have missed the gospel message of salvation by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone.
And so you have the sad note in Pentecostalism.
Concerning the Pentecostal altar
Pentecostalism has such a stress on having to speak in tongues to be saved that an altar service can seem to be a total frenzy. (Not sure how much or if any of this has changed over time.)
(At least to an outsider. There is nothing in a Pentecostal altar service that even faintly resembles what happened in Acts. The three times in Acts where people spoke in other languages, it was always in a group setting. It was always without expectation. — There was no seeking — Each instance was a sovereign act of God. That is not at all what you see in Pentecostalism today.)
It is not uncommon to hear seekers crying and begging God to save them. You can hear people shouting, “Just say, ‘Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, over and over, real fast.'” Or, “Say ‘hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah over and over real fast.‘“ Some are saying, “Turn loose!” Still others are saying, “Hang on!”
The person in the altar is being drawn into a highly emotionally charged atmosphere.
Sometimes a circle will form around the seeker. He finds himself being moved around. His eyes are often tightly closed. The very moment the seeker makes any sound that seems not to be English, someone will shout, “He’s got it! He’s got it! He’s got the Holy Ghost!” In turn, he gives in to all his emotions. So does everyone else.
Shouting and dancing are the norm. Laughter abounds. Then a moment of calmness starts to replace the emotionalism. Everyone is smiling. It is time to relax. The battle is over. But is it really?
The seeker is often told something like this; “Tomorrow morning when you wake up, the devil is going to tell you that you did not get anything. You just tell him that he is a liar.”
This is another part of the Pentecostal pattern. (Been there. Done that. Done it all. Been in the circle and one of those forming the circle.)
Why do they need tell the seeker this? The reason is the next morning the emotions will have subsided. It won’t be very long before the questions begin.
Where is the excitement? Where is the joy? Why am I having such doubts? It was so real last night. Why is it not real now? Was I really saved? Did I really speak in tongues?
A World of Uncertainty
These doubts are not coming from the devil. They are coming from within him.
The new Pentecostal has entered into a religious world where doubt and fear will pretty much be the norm. In Pentecostalism the idea of the security of the believer is never taught.
This person will now have to learn to live on these emotional pushes.
The point is why would you need to tell a person who has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, that the next morning they’ll wake up feeling like nothing has happened. Salvation is not an emotional work up. It is a heart exchange.
When the Holy Spirit enters the heart of a believing one, the Spirit will be there tomorrow, and the next tomorrow, and the next tomorrow. This is called the testimony of the Spirit. Every true believer carries this testimony throughout their life.
Why so Many Pentecostals struggle
When you are brought up in a religious system such as the UPC, you don’t know anything else. Everything a Oneness Pentecostal person is taught revolves around a single Scripture, where Peter said,
“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38 KJV).
Of course, they often tack on the end, ”…with the evidence of speaking in tongues.”
Many Pentecostals are surprised to find that the statement, ‘with the evidence of speaking in tongues’ is not part of Acts 2:38. It is not to be found anywhere in the Bible.
And this is a major part of what distorts the gospel message that is found in Oneness Pentecostalism.
I also need to point out that those who leave the UPC often enter a time of culture shock. The greater world of Christianity is unlike anything they are used to.
Oneness Pentecostalism is a sub-culture with its own distinctive control factors, where fear itself is the primary control cause. Fear of leaving the UPC is deeply ingrained in them. Fear of losing their salvation is instilled.
The ones who generally endure the most under the UPC yoke are often the women. The rules largely apply to them. Let me simply say that much of what the UPC calls ‘standards’ have little and often no real Bible base. Paul speaks of these rules as self-made religion.
Are You Struggling
I can simply tell you that the Lord knows exactly where you are. He knows what you need to hear. He knows what your next step needs to be. God has a plan for your life. Don’t be afraid to trust Him with all the details. He will show you what to do at the proper time.
If any of this fits your world and you need someone to talk to, feel free to contact me by email: Buddy@ChristianChallenge.org.
My personal Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BuddyMartin
I also have a facebook support group in place for those with a Oneness Pentecostal background who may be questioning certain UPC doctrines. Go to:
Perhaps You Would Like to Meet the Martins
My wife and I celebrated out 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2013. Here is a video that you may enjoy. It has pictures of our family.
The Lord bless you,
(Feel free to write me confidentially.)